Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Meeting the victims of the Hiroshima bombing

With the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Eimear Costello, and the visiting hibakusha at the official recption in the Mansion House

Patrick Comerford

Nine survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima visited Dublin yesterday [Monday 14June 2010], addressing a roundtable forum on nuclear disarmament, meeting officials of the Department of Foreign House, visiting Leinster House, laying flowers at the Hiroshima Peace Cherry Tree in Merrion Square, and attending a reception by the Lord Mayor in the Mansion House.

The survivors or hibakusha, who arrived from Bergen, Norway, are participants in the Peace Boat’s 69th Global Voyage and are travelling through northern Europe in the immediate aftermath of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, visiting 22 ports in 20 countries on a 101-day voyage.

On board their 38,000 tonne ship, The Oceanic, they have been taking part in a consultation on the nuclear arms race. The participants also include Kawasaki Akira and Meri Joyce of Peace Boat International, the Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller, Lisa Clarke and Alyn Ware of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Aaron Tovish of Mayors for Peace, and Dr Randy Rydell, Senior Political Affairs Officer in the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.

Visiting Leinster House with the visiting hibakusha, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing

Their visit to Dublin was co-ordinated by Dr David Hutchinson Edgar and Mary McCarrick of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND) and Krisztina Dragoman of World without Wars and without Violence Ireland.

After a brief visit to Leinster House, the seat of the Irish Parliament, we moved to Merrion Square, where I invited everyone to take part in a moment of silence and remembrance before two of the survivors laid bunches of chrysanthemums at the Hiroshima Peace Cherry Tree, which was planted 30 years ago on 6 August 1980.

Survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima lay flowers ay the cherry tree in Merrion Square, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Later the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Eimear Costello, hosted a reception in the Mansion House, the Lord Mayor’s official residence. The Lord Mayor is a member of Mayors for Peace and undertook to recruit more Irish mayors to this cause. Also present were representatives of Pax Christi, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance and other NGOs and peace groups.

The Irish Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, had planned to take part in the consultation yesterday until her detention by Israeli forces for being on board the Rachel Corrie during the recent flotilla that was intercepted on its way to Gaza. However, she sent a message of support and thanks for “participating in this global voyage to remind the world of its moral and legal responsibility to demand their governments abolish these suicidal/genocidal weapons of destruction.”

The participants on board the Peace Boat – including the hibakusha – have expressed shock and sadness at the Israeli attack on the flotilla, which was staged immediately after they visited a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. As an expression of their appeal for a nuclear-free and peaceful Middle East, over 100 people on board the ship have displayed a 15x20 metre banner that declares: “End the Blockade – Free Gaza.”

The banner was displayed on the side of The Oceanic as it sailed out of Dublin last night.

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