Thursday, 8 May 2008

‘Extraordinary renditions’: People’s Inspection Teams

Noam Chomsky: signed letter on “rendition flights”

The following letter was published in The Guardian (in an edited version) and The Irish News on Thursday, 8 May 2008, The Irish Times on Friday 9 May 2008, and in other newspapers:

Last month, the Republic of Ireland witnessed the resignation of Bertie Ahern as the leader of Fianna Fáil. He has been succeeded by a new leader of the party, Brian Cowen, who will now go on to become Taoiseach.

We believe that this transfer of political power presents the Irish government with a significant opportunity to review its policy on the use Irish airports by US aircrafts suspected of involvement in illegal kidnappings, the so-called “extraordinary renditions.”

Aircraft landing at Irish airports, such as Shannon in the west of Ireland, are suspected of regularly travelling to and from countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco where torture is used. Such aircraft, usually owned by commercial companies, but actually operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), are also suspected of heading for countries in eastern Europe, where secret internment camps exist.

However, since the inception of the seemingly endless and calamitous “war on terror”, the Irish government has merely accepted “diplomatic assurances” from the US administration that Irish airports are not being used as stopover points for aircraft carrying kidnapped individuals. Thus, requests by peace activists for the Garda Síochána to search suspected airplanes have been refused. We believe that this situation is no longer politically or morally tolerable.

For example, in April, the Council of Europe’s rapporteur on secret detentions, Dick Marty, castigated what he referred to as the “hypocrisy” of European governments in continuing to deny their involvement in secret detentions or illegal renditions.

Speaking at a Brussels conference about reporting on torture, Mr Marty asserted: “The United States made a choice… to fight the war on terror using illegal means, but they at least made it openly and defend it. European governments, on the other hand, have been entirely hypocritical since their complicity has been clandestine. Even now, they do not have the courage to declare their involvement, unless forced to do so.”

Furthermore, we agree with Mr Marty that governments “must also stop hiding behind the hypocrisy of diplomatic assurances … They are not worth the paper they are written on, and it is to be complicit in torture to accept them … European governments are not merely involved in violating human rights,” they are even embroiled in the “process of trying to sabotage efforts to find out the truth.”

We, the undersigned – comprising diverse groups and individuals living and working in the west of Ireland, elsewhere in the state, and in other jurisdictions – have now decided to form a People’s Inspection Team. From today, we are, therefore, beginning to recruit active lay inspectors, to aid the Irish government and the Gardai, in undertaking thorough and meaningful inspections of all aircrafts suspected of involvement in “extraordinary renditions” landing at Shannon.

We also want to have others, who are no longer willing to accept shallow “diplomatic assurances” and are keen to act and inspect, join the People’s Inspection Teams.

Rhuhel Ahmed,

former detainee, Guántanamo prison facility
John Arden,
playwright and fellow of the World Society of Literature, Galway, Ireland
Tony Benn,
former Labour MP, London, England
Ronan Bennett,
author, London, England
Richard Boyd Barrett,
chairperson of Irish Anti-War Movement
(Professor) Noam Chomsky,
academic and author, Cambridge, Massachusetts, US
Sarah Clancy,
Galway One World Centre, Ireland
(Rev Canon) Patrick Comerford,
President of Irish CND
Catherine Connolly,
city councillor, Galway, Ireland
(Dr) John Cunningham,
historian, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Margaretta D’Arcy,
member of Aosdana, Galway, Ireland
Mary Dempsey,
artist, Galway, Ireland
(Dr) Saber Elsafty,
Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Ireland
Niall Farrell,
Galway Alliance Against War, Ireland
Dennis J Halliday,
former UN assistant secretary general
Brian Hanney,
teacher, Galway, Ireland
Edward Horgan,
Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance
Paul Michael Garrett,
SIPTU Shop Steward, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Jimmy Kelly,
regional secretary, UNITE, Ireland
Frank Keoghan,
People’s Movement, Ireland
Marilyn LaRosa,
Galway, Ireland
Ken Loach,
film director, London, England
Donal Lunny,
musician, Okinawa, Japan
Patricia McKenna,
Green Party, Ireland
Dette McLoughlin,
Social Workers Party, Galway, Ireland
Phelim Murnion,
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
Joe Murray,
Afri: Action from Ireland
(Monsignor) Raymond Murray,
Armagh, Ireland
Treasa Ni Cheannabhain,
Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Ireland
Seosamh O Cuaig,
County councillor, Galway, Ireland
Laurent Pardon,
Galway, Republic of Ireland
(Professor) William A Schabas,
director, Irish Centre for Human Rights,
National University of Ireland, Galway.


Exhibition of Greek icons in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

The Greek Ambassador in Dublin, Mr George Alexandros Vallindas, and Mr Richard Gordon of Gordon Gallery at the opening of the exhibition of Greek icons in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Patrick Comerford

An exhibition of contemporary Greek icons is taking lace in the crypt of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, all this week. Although the exhibition went on display on Monday, it was officially opened on Tuesday (6 May) by the Greek Ambassador in Dublin, Mr George Alexandros Vallindas.

The exhibition continues until Saturday (10 May) from 9.45 a.m. to 4.45 p.m. each day.

The exhibition has been organised by Richard Gordon and the Gordon Gallery, Derry, in collaboration with the Hellenic Foundation for Culture and the Panhellenic Society of Iconographers.

The 40 icons on exhibit include icons written by Dimitris Kolioussis and other leading iconographers in Greece. They range in price from €2,730 to €50,000. This is a rare opportunity to see and buy icons written in the Byzantine tradition. Works like these have not been seen in Ireland since Gordon Galleries hosted an exhibition of icons written by Sister Aloysius McVeigh in Derry in 1993.

A richly-illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. I was delighted to be asked to contribute an introduction to the spirituality of icons. Other contributors to the catalogue include Dr Margaret Mullett, Director of the Institute of Byzantine Studies, Queen’s University Belfast; Dr Lyn Rodley of the Institute of Byzantine Studies, QUB; Sister Aloysius McVeigh.

When the exhibition was in Derry in March, it was opened by Dr Victoria Solomonidis, Minister Counsellor (Cultural Affairs) at the Greek Embassy in London and Representative of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture.

For my thoughts on the exhibition in Derry visit:

The Gordon Gallery is at: (telephone: +44(0)28-7137-4044).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological College, Dublin