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Fr. Dan Berrigan pays a timely visit to Dublin

On the evening of Wednesday August 14th the curiosity of passers-by on Denmark Street and on Dublin's Parnell square was aroused by the site of hundreds of people queuing outside the O'Reilly Theatre at Belvedere College. These people had gathered for the return visit of a man who had not appeared at a public meeting in Dublin for 20 years.

AfrI, along with our co-organisers, the Dublin Catholic Worker Movement, was not prepared for the incredible interest from people of all ages who gathered for the public meeting. Fr. Daniel Berrigan addressed a public meeting in Dublin over 20 years ago. It transpired that many of the hundreds of people, who were turned away from the overcrowded meeting on that occasion, were prepared to travel from all over the country again to attend the O'Reilly Theatre in Dublin. The Theatre seats approximately 700 people and unfortunately we had to turn away many hundreds more who were anxious to hear Fr. Berrigan speak.

Given the political climate it was not surprising that people would wish to hear the writer and speaker who has campaigned for the sanctity of life and the criminality of modern warfare. Fr. Berrigan expressed grave concern at Ireland's compliance with the Bush administration's use of Shannon airport as a pit stop en route to the war in Afghanistan.

For almost half a century Philip and Daniel Berrigan have been a prophetic thorn in the side of political, military and church elites in the United States. Their non-violent militant insistence on the sanctity of human life and the criminality of modern warfare has been non-negotiable.
From their 1968 burning of draft cards through to their numerous court scenes and prison sentences the Berrigans have spoken truth to power. In the early 1970's, FBI Godfather J.Edgar Hoover, who was obsessed with these troublesome priests, and their opposition to the Vietnam War, conjured a charge of "conspiracy to kidnap Henry Kissinger". A plan to perform a citizen's arrest on Henry Kissinger had been distorted and spun by the FBI into a criminal indictment. Today, Henry Kissinger dodges police warrants in South America and Europe related to his role in massacres in Indo-China and Chile. As always, the Berrigan's only crime has been to be ahead of their time.

In the 1980's, the Berrigans and friends entered a General Electric factory in Pennsylvania and took household hammers to nuclear weapons' components. They had embodied the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah to "beat swords into ploughshares" initiating a direct disarmament movement that continues to decommission all sorts of hi tech killing machines - B52 Bombers, Trident Submarines, Hawk Fighters et. al. In some cases juries have celebrated and acquitted the "ploughshares communities", in others the Berrigans and friends have been sent to jail for long sentences. The Berrigans have pioneered a style of assertive non-violence that engages the hi-tech overkill/low intensity conflict manner of waging America's wars post-Vietnam.

Sadly following Dan Berrigan's visit to Ireland his brother Phillip died of kidney and liver cancer in early December 2002 aged 79.

Daniel Berrigan is a New Yorker. The events of September 11th shocked him into an initial silence - refusing interviews or comment. He was roused once again by the failure of church leaders to offer any moral counter to the Bush Administration's exploitation of the event to unleash more death and fire, this time on some of the world's poorest people in Afghanistan. He addressed a hostile student audience at Fordham University following the U.S. Catholic bishops voting 140 - 4 to support U.S. military action in Afghanistan - a vote that had abandoned both pacifist and just war church traditions. Fr. Daniel Berrigan responded ".....the Bishops have abandoned us....maybe we should burn our copies of the gospels, process into our church sanctuaries holding aloft the Air Force Rule Book, with its command to kill our enemies and incense that instead. At least that would be more honest. It would express our fidelity to the gods of war, since we do not worship the God of Peace."

As part of the Irish Diaspora, Berrigan shares a concern with the rapid erosion of Irish neutrality, the transformation of Shannon Airport into a pit stop for the U.S. military en route to Afghanistan and Iraq and the arrival of weapons manufacturer Raytheon in Derry as part of the peace/decommissioning process.

Sharing the platform on the night were Ciaron O'Reilly of the Dublin Catholic Worker and Jesuit Fr. John Dear. Ciaron O'Reilly of the Dublin Catholic Worker shared his experiences as a member of the Ploughshares movement and his involvement in a number of non-violent direct actions. Fr. John Dear and Fr. Dan Berrigan spoke of New York following September 11th 2001 and the calls for revenge and war.

Fr. Berrigan gave a small press conference prior to the event and the meeting was covered by the RTE series "Would You Believe" who dedicated a programme to focus on the Catholic Worker movement and Ciaron O'Reilly's establishment of a Dublin Catholic Worker. The programme was aired on Thursday Oct. 24th featuring interviews with Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, Ciaron O'Reilly and giving reflections on non-violent resistance to the Vietnam War, Gulf War and the use of Shannon Airport by the U.S. military.

Maria Fleming (Afri)

We acknowledge Afri for the right to reproduce this and other articles, which are relevant to the current situation. Afri has a long standing association with county Kildare through the Féile Bríde Conference which it holds in Kildare Town and it's Hedge School/ Scoil Chois Claí held in The Old Mill, Victoria Bridge, Naas every Year.

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