Interview with Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, who after attending a public meeting and a protest outside the Dail against the bombing of Syria, got involved with the Irish Anti War Movement.
What was your reaction to the UK ‘s decision to bomb Syria?
I was not particularly surprised by the UK’s decision to bomb Syria given the Tory majority in parliament. However, I was very disappointed with the number of Labour MEP’s who voted in favour of the airstrikes. It was very worrying how the British government and their support have managed to quell the narrative which links the rise of Da’esh to the Iraq war. A lot of people who support the airstrikes are aware of this link, but do not make that mental leap of deciding that perhaps it might be time to try something slightly more imaginative than bombing.
What led you to become actively opposed to war?
In the last few years, I have been studying systems of oppression although not really been actively involved in opposition to war. This year I attended a number of talks related to the war in Syria and Iraq and the refugee crisis. I think it was at this point that I decided to become actively involved. For me, it has been a case of not only being horrified by the destruction inflicted by war, but also becoming more educated about the causes of war and the real alternatives to it. The more one becomes aware of these alternatives, the more likely it is that one will strive to implement them.
As you know, many thousands of US troops have passed through Shannon on their way to Iraq. Why do you think the Irish government flouts neutrality like this and how can it be pressurised to stop?
The Irish government flouts neutrality in order to maintain good relations with the US. I think it manages to do so because public opinion does not seem to view Shannon as having a major role in the bombing of Iraq in the grand scheme of things. People believe that the invasion would happen anyway and that our having a part in it will not make much difference. Raising public consciousness as to the number of planes that go through Shannon is important in order to pressurise the government. Mick Wallace and Clare Daly’s recent actions raised awareness of how these planes are not inspected for weapons, although many elements of the media did their best to portray their refusal to pay their fines as an act of petulance. It is important to build on their actions and to keep the focus on the issue.
Do you think that the Paris attacks have made the anti-war case harder to make?
I think Da’esh achieved what it wanted with the Paris attacks, which is to promote a war of civilisations. Many politicians in Europe and the US have also bought into this narrative, making it increasingly difficult to stop the polarisation of opinion on this issue. Any critique of France’s oppression of Muslims may be branded as victim-blaming by government mouthpieces. As a result, it more important than ever to highlight the links between imperialism, racist laws and radicalisation when making the case against war.
Governments have tried to use the Paris attacks to restrict the number of refugees entering Europe. Do you think this is right?
I think the fact that all of the Paris attackers were EU citizens answers this question. Da’esh do not need to send fighters to infiltrate Europe as refugees. The issue for Europe is the alienation of Muslims within its own borders who may go to join Da’esh in the Middle East or commit further attacks in Europe itself. The restriction of refugees is yet another symptom of the racism and xenophobia which many European governments continue to promote, and the Paris attacks are being used as a tool for these ends.
In 2003, many young Irish people including school children, came out to show their opposition to the war on Iraq. Do you think people can be mobilised again against war?
I think the context of this war makes it difficult to mobilise people to the extent that was done in 2003. The brutality of Da’esh is very apparent, and the feeling seems to be that something must be done, whatever that may be. Unfortunately, the imperialist powers have peddled the narrative that not bombing equates to doing nothing. As the war goes on however, I would imagine that the public will become less and less accepting of it. This is something we have already seen with the British public, with support for airstrikes falling consistently since the decision to bomb was made.