Magazine article The Progressive

A Call for Peace in Ireland

Magazine article The Progressive

A Call for Peace in Ireland

Article excerpt

Crossmaglen, Ireland

When I told Irish people I was going to Crossmaglen for a peace and demilitarization festival in September, most looked at me as if I had two heads. Crossmaglen is notorious as a site of violent conflict in the war between Britain and Ireland. The rolling farm country surrounding this small town of 3,000 along the north-south border is home to four military bases and nineteen watch towers with cameras, listening devices, and heat sensors.

Heavily Republican and anti-British, the residents of Crossmaglen have endured twenty-six years of house searches, summary arrest, strip searches of schoolchildren, and shoot-to-kill murders by British occupational forces.

Since the Irish Republican Army cease-fire last year, tensions have eased somewhat here between residents and British forces, but the militarization of the region, including regular helicopter surveillance and fortification of bases, has only increased.

It was into this environment that eighteen American social-justice activists came in mid-September to help with a peace festival, vigil, and protest.

The most dramatic event of the weekend was a silent vigil on Friday evening. Some 200 residents of Crossmaglen and nearby Cullyhana marched in the shadows of the watch towers that loom over the town square. At the conclusion of the vigil, townspeople placed candles and tied white flags to the wall of the base that houses British troops and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. …

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