Revolutionary tourists?

John O'Neill johnfergaloneill at
Tue Aug 13 15:48:11 MDT 2002

This is a smart arsed article from the Examiner a national daily newspaper
in the Irish Republic on Colm and other solidarity workers. Typical of
cynical newspaper journalists to belittle solidarity work. The same people
would see a starving child as a wonderful photo opportunity.



The Examiner, 12/08/02
Irish people take up cudgel for human rights abroad

By Catherine Shanahan REVOLUTIONARY tourist, left-wing
crustie, noble-minded philantropist or adrenalin junkie, whatever
way you look at it, there's a certain breed of Irishman making his
name abroad.

Take Colm Breathnach, a 38-year-old school teacher from Dun
Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Instead of sticking to the history of
schoolbooks, he decided to create some of his own.

On a study-break from a PHD in geography at Trinity College (after
15 years teaching at Coláiste Mhuire in Dublin's Parnell Square), he
headed off to Israel and now finds himself caught up in one of the
world's most complex conflicts. He has come down on the side of
the Palestinians and is currently occupying a house near the West
Bank town of Nablus, in an attempt to stave off Israeli rockets.

His 25-year-old friend, Salah Afifi, an architectural engineer from
Ranelagh, is awaiting deportation from Tel Aviv. He, too, offered
himself as protection to an elderly Palestinian couple whose son was
a suicide bomber and whose home was an Israeli army target. Both
men are members of the International Solidarity Movement, which
has the support of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Salah's involvement in Israeli travails is not too surprising given his
mixed Irish/Palestinian background, but Colm's is a little more
difficult to fathom. He insists, however, that it's nothing to do with
choosing the glamour of another man's war in far-flung climes, over
the mundane slog of local battles at home.

"I have long been a political activist. I was a county councillor in
Dun Laoghaire in the 1980s for the Worker's Party. I am now part
of a socialist network."

"What I've undertaken to do here is not some fad. I see a struggle
for people to live their lives and I wouldn?t need to be here if the
United Nations and other international agencies were doing their job

Caoimhe Butterly, a 24-year-old Dubliner, is just as strong on
human rights. In Israel for the past seven-and-a-half months,
Caoimhe, a member of the Irish Peace Alliance, has had a couple of
hairy moments since her arrival. She spent time at the Yasser Arafat
compound in Ramallah, when it was under siege by the Israeli army,
believing that the presence of a foreign national would improve the
safety of those inside. She is currently on her way to Jenin, where
she too plans to stay in a Palestinian home, as a deterrent to Israeli
rockets. Caoimhe will remain on until she is forced to follow in the
reluctant footsteps of 49-year-old West Cork nurse Mary Kelly,
deported in May for assisting Palestinians under-siege in
Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. Her actions put her swiftly on a
plane home. So did those of Cork backpacker Jonathan Joseph

He narrowly escaped a stint in jail Down Under after being found
guilty of aiding and abetting the escape of refugees from the
Woomera detention centre in Australia.

So what draws this peculiar breed of Irishman into foreign battle and
why not stay and fight the wars at home? Some do, eventually.

Older and wiser political activists Christina Ní Dhurcáin and
Micheál Ó Cadhla used to sail the high seas with Greenpeace trying
to prevent plutonium shipments from reaching Sellafield. Now the
husband-and-wife team from Co Waterford are busy translating their
green skills into running their fledgling business. Bia, the Real Food
Company, is conscientious about whether or not it uses free-range
eggs in its egg-and-cress sandwiches, even though it does cost more.
But sometimes the little battles can be brutally hard to win. "Last
week we had to finally give in to using plastic bottles for our drinks,
following the closure of Irish Glass in Dublin. We still have the
same ethics as we had when we were involved with Greenpeace, but
sometimes commercial considerations take over."

There's nothing like a reality check to bring the revolutionary tourist
back to earth.

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