Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Remembering the dead of Hiroshima

Canon Patrick Comerford addressing the Irish CND Hiroshima Day commemoration in Merrion Square, Dublin. Also in the photograph are musicians Máire Ní Bheaglaoich and Brenda Molloy

Patrick Comerford

Over 40 people gathered at the Hiroshima cherry tree in Merrion Square at lunchtime on 6 August to remember the dead of Hiroshima. This commemoration has been organised by Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND) each year since 1980. This afternoon, other groups represented included the Irish Anti-War Movement, Pax Christi, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), and Burma Action Ireland.

Music was provided by Brenda Molloy and Máire Ní Bheaglaoich, and white chrysanthemums in the shape of the CND logo were placed in front of the cherry tree by Fionn Fitzmaurice.

It is 28 years since I was involved in planting this cherry tree in Merrion Square on 6 August 1980 to commemorate the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In my address as President of Irish CND, I said:

It would be wonderful to think that 63 years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the world had learned its lessons and had turned its back on nuclear destruction.

It would be wonderful, a decade after the end of the Cold War, that we could say the nuclear arms race had come to an end.

It would be wonderful, with the US cooling down on its tirades against Iran and North Korea, if we could say the lessons of the nuclear arms race had been learned by all, especially the nuclear powers.

But, despite the British government’s claims in public that it has not yet made a decision on new nuclear warheads, and despite promises of an open and transparent debate about replacing the Trident nuclear force, it emerged within the last fortnight that in secret the British Ministry of Defence has gone ahead with plans to spend more than £3 billion on replacing its present stockpile of nuclear weapons.

As Nick Harvey of the Liberal Democrats commented, “this feels more like the cloak-and-dagger days of the cold war.”

The current Trident system is expected to become obsolete within the next seven years. But these plans to replace the Trident warheads commit the United Kingdom to a nuclear weapons system beyond the middle of this century, to the year 2055 – 110 years after Hiroshima.

More perversely, this plan comes just two years ahead of the key talks on Nuclear Non-Proliferation. Britain demands openness and honesty from other countries about their nuclear weapons programmes, but arrogantly makes its own nuclear decisions behind closed doors, in a cloud of secrecy. Britain is making sure that while it demands that other countries control their development of nuclear weapons, it can race ahead with its plans for nuclear warfare.

Building newer, potentially more dangerous nuclear warheads will breach Britain’s commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to work towards eventual nuclear disarmament. This decision sends out a destabilising and hypocritical message to other states, whether or not they have nuclear weapons at present.

In the United States, the Bush administration is insisting, against a tide of global opposition, on going ahead with plans to enhance the nuclear capabilities of India. And as if he was blissfully aware of past conflicts, Bush is also using money supposedly designated for “anti-terror funds” to strengthen Pakistan’s air force.

Almost $230 million in aid ear-marked by Congress for counter-terrorism has been diverted to build up Pakistan’s air force. Building up the nuclear and military capacity of two rogue nuclear powers that have already been at war with one another is not just folly, it is gross criminal madness.

What is our government doing about this? What is the Irish government’s strategy for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review? Are we going to be asked to sit back idly and accept the plans of Washington and Whitehall, just as we have been asked to accept assurances of the United States about the use of Shannon Airport for rendition flights?

In the last few weeks, the world has welcomed the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, who stands accused of genocide and the gravest war crimes of the past decade. But those who plan and develop a new generation of nuclear weapons are prepared to engage in the grossest and gravest war crimes imaginable, they are prepared to engaged in genocide for nuclear weapons will wipe out whole cities, and whole nations once they resort to using them.

We must remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not just today, but every day. Because, if we forget, the consequences are too horrific to imagine. Let us remember them in a moment’s silence, and in that moment’s silence commit ourselves once again to seeking peace and justice for the whole world.

Canon Patrick Comerford is President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament