Downpatrick Declaration Says Turn Swords To Ploughshares

Downpatrick Declaration launched at St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, County Down

Downpatrick Declaration launched at St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, County Down

As our world is in increasing turmoil with pressure from a deteriorating climate, political instability, health virus threats, wars and and human rights abuses, a group of civil rights activists have come together to call for and end to militarism and war.

The ‘Downpatrick Declaration’ was launched by Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, on Tuesday 7th December, the 1500th anniversary of the birth of Colmcille, in his burial place, Downpatrick, despite the wild weather and the worst Storm Barra could throw out.

This peace declaration challenges both jurisdictions in Ireland, and the respective governments, over increasing militarisation and involvement in the arms trade.

Rob Fairmichael, a spokesperson for the group representing Afri, Swords to Ploughshares and Innate, said: “While not a Christian document, the Declaration draws on the lives of Patrick, Brigid and Colmcille (all reputedly buried in Downpatrick). “It also seeks to build on the wording of the Good Friday Agreement and the Constitution of Ireland which respectively refer to “exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences….and our opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose” and ”the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination.

(l-r) Joe Murray, Director of Afri; Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who launched the Downpatrick Declaration; with Rob Fairmichael, a member of INNATE at the St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick on the 1500th anniversary of the birth of St Colmcille.
(Photo by Jim Masson /Down News.)

“War and militarism is destroying our planet and we must reject it. We want to encourage people to speak up and resist this trend of destruction.”

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairéad Maguire said in launching the Downpatrick Declaration: “We want for all children a wonderful world of joy, peace and love, not weapons, warriors and war.” Speaking about the situation more locally she stated “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement gives hope as it rejects violence and commits all and our governments to peaceful solutions to our problems.”

She added that while Ireland had been a light of hope, “this light has become dimmed since we are increasingly part of the militarised industrial media corporate world….The Irish Government has lost its neutrality and become complicit by allowing the USA military to pass through Shannon airport on its way to and from wars….”

Tommy Sands sang a couple of songs to accompany the event. A list of prominent signatories from civil society and the arts was published including Denis J. Halliday, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General 1994-98 (launch signatories are listed on the website).

The launch has been professionally filmed, to be online in a couple of days, and a dedicated website was launched at the same time which has the Declaration and further details: 

People can sign up their support for the Declaration on the website.

Joe Murray, Afri Director said: “This Declaration is not the end, but it is the beginning of a process. There will be events and opportunities taking place to make people aware of the Downpatrick Declaration and its fundamental objectives.”

Mairead Maquire’s Speech At The Launch Of The Downpatrick Declaration.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maquire said: “I am delighted to be here this evening on the anniversary of St Colmcille’s birth 1500 years ago to launch the Downpatrick Declaration.

“This Declaration is very important as it reminds us of the importance of the Belfast Agreement and its vital principles of recognising one another and of acknowledging and peacefully resolving differences. We in Ireland know the cost of violence and we know that violence is always wrong, that violence never works. We know that weapons, warriors, militarism and war are part of the problem and never the solution.

“We want for ourselves and all children a wonderful world of joy, peace and love. We refuse to waste our resources, human and financial on weapons of death and destruction. It is an insult and a denial of our humanity and is our responsibility to take care of each other… especially the world’s children, the poor and hungry.

“In 1976 at the height of the ethnic /political conflict in Ireland, the people both North and South, came out in their thousands demanding an end to violence and a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“In 1998 the Belfast Agreement committed to an end of violence and threats of violence and agreed that problems should be solved through dialogue and negotiation. The Belfast Agreement gave hope as it rejects violence and commits us and our governments to peaceful solutions for our problems.

The Republic of Ireland and UK governments are co-guarantors to the Belfast Agreement.

“However, both governments broke their word and through their membership with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), and involvement with the increasing militarisation of Ireland, North and South, through European battleship exercises, etc, put Irish neutrality aside and became part of the military/industrial/media complex.

“Our word is very important. When we give our word and keep it we are people of integrity, and we can be trusted. Relationships are built on trust, and once broken can be hard to reconcile, but forgiveness and reconciliation are necessary if we are to work together and solve our problems, as the human family.

“Ireland, although only a small country, has always been a light of hope. However, the light has become dimmed since we are increasingly becoming part of the militarised /industrial/media/corporate world. The Irish Government has lost its neutralityand become complicit by allowing US military to pass through Shannon airport on route to and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

“We are also increasingly, North and South, hosting Arms manufacturers, arms and drones, missiles etc going to UK and sold to Saudi Arabia etc to be used in the Yemen, a country facing poverty and destruction. Such wars and destruction are abhorrent and must be stopped. We CAN change swords into plougshares.

“The general collapse of values and ethics needs to be reversed and standards re-affirmed if we are to reject the bomb and bullet and all the techniques of violence of torture and cruelty and destruction of International Law set aside by many by the war on terrorism which in reality totally failed and ended up a war on people and their lives and values.

“Three groups… Swords to Ploughshares, Afri action from Ireland, and INNATE, chose the venue of the St Patrick Centre and Downpatrick to launch the Downpatrick Declaration because the town has a strong connection to its patrons – Saints Patrick, Brigid and Colmcille. Their lives of peace are our heritage and inspiration. Let us put down deep roots in our inspirational heritage of peace and demilitarism”.