There are many reasons for hosting a blog carnival this week on civil disobedience and the policing thereof in Ireland. Yesterday was the 55th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ decision to disobey the order to sit at the back of a bus, an act which became a symbol of the American Civil Rights Movement. This week saw the release of the US Cables via Wikileaks, which includes content relating to the protests at Shannon over the landing of US planes during the War on Terror. Tomorrow sees the nationwide release of The Pipe, the film which follows members of the community in Mayo which has been involved in resisting the building of an on-shore gas refinery. And this month An Bord Pleanála is due to give its decision on the building of the on-shore pipeline in Mayo, the final stage before the piping and processing of gas can begin at the already built terminal in Ballinaboy.
The protests in Shannon and Mayo could be considered the most significant acts of civil disobedience in Ireland in recent times. Large sections of the media have been highly critical of these activists. Many have been heavily policed, prosecuted and convicted of crimes for which they have spent time in prison. Both centre on real issues of human rights – the rights to health and life are at stake in each case.
The mention of Rosa Parks above is to remind us that sometimes breaking the law is necessary; lawful protests may not be sufficient to achieve ends which are right and just. What we wish to achieve with this blog carnival today is to begin a debate about the role of civil disobedience in Ireland and to create a space in which we can start to think about whether or not these are instances where we should recognise such a necessity. It will also question what interest the State is protecting in policing and prosecuting these individuals. The range of posts in the carnival will consider the concept of civil disobedience, Shannon and the Ploughshares, policing in Ireland and the protests in Mayo.