Comhlámh was founded in 1975. A 40th birthday year is a major milestone for any organisation. To kick things off, we’re launching a video celebrating our work.
If you’ve ever had anything to do with us over the years, you’ll know that Comhlámh works best when our members take the initiative. It’s that type of space.
In this spirit a members group is leading out on how we mark this momentous occasion. A huge amount of ideas have been thrown into the pot and we’re keen to see what brews.
We’re going to raid our archive for multimedia content to feed social media over the next few months to highlight the range of activity that has come from us over the years.
Be that pioneering development education, to introducing Fair Trade to Ireland, doing solidarity work with asylum seekers and new communities in the 1990s to climate justice and anti-globalisation activity in the noughties and today’s trade justice work. It’s going to be an interesting period of reflection.
We’ve an exhibition organised for #CultureNight, and perhaps a large debate followed by a hooley further down the line. This is a chance to build our membership and promote the solidarity circle. To reach out to members old and new, form exciting alliances and forge new friendships in the struggle for a just and equitable world.
For now we’re saying watch this space and get in touch if you’ve something to add.
In the early 1980’s there were multiple references to the long two and a half year Dunnes Stores strike against apartheid. At an AGM in February 1985, Comhlámh passed a resolution calling on the organisation and its members to give practical support to the workers in their stand against apartheid. Members were encouraged to join the pickets and make monthly contributions to their strike fund. When we moved to our new building in May 2014, we were delighted to have Cathryn O’Reilly, one of those who went on strike over the handling of South African produce join us to share memories of their bold and principled stand.
In the last edition of Third World Now/Ireland and the Wider World (before the name changed to FOCUS), the editorial collective unequivocally called for an increase in the Irish government’s ODA allocation while also pointing to the shortcomings of international aid. The above illustration by John Byrne, a talented illustrator who regularly lent his graphical pen to our lofty polemic, boldly calls out aid agencies’ on their rhetoric of equality and empowerment. It featured alongside a submission by Mary Van Lieshout to the Advisory Council on Development Co-Operation on the role of women in development.
This photo of a rally at the G.P.O. taken by Derek Speirs, made for an apt front cover of the 1986 August-September edition of Third World Now. With ‘Unemployment in Ireland’ as its theme, this issue sought to shed light on the conditions of poverty in Ireland. Its editorial notes: “if we are sincerely interested in addressing ourselves to poverty around the globe it is hypocritical to ignore it in our own country”.
Here’s a taster of John Byrne’s cartoon strip “Democracy Street”. It featured in a special editon of the magazine. The “Democracy: Diversity or Diversion?” issue was produced by the Joint Solidarity Forum, an umbrella body consisting of the solidarity groups: the Irish Nicaragua Support Group, Irish El Salvador Support Committee, the Guatemala Support Group, the Filipino Irish Group and Irish Mozambique Solidarity.
The second half of John Byrne’s comic strip “Democracy Street” holds no punches when it comes to dismantling any notions that the concept of democratic rule is linked to the existence of a free market in economics.
In an issue dedicated to raising awareness of the critiques of Ireland voting yes to the Maastricht Treaty, the editorial team focused on its effects on trade and the movement of people, particularly refugees. This illustration by John Byrne captures one of the major critiques of the Treaty. It looks at how the overly complicated language of its provisions made it difficult for the majority of European citizens to understand. Something especially problematic for the countries that had to vote on it – Ireland, France and Denmark.
This edition from 1985 took a look at expansions in communications technology and world media. It directed readers to publications from the global south via this go-to guide on literature from Africa, Latin America and Asia. In doing so it connected readers in Ireland with a variety of media alternatives from across the globe.
In the first ever Comhlámh News, Myra Donnelly reflected on her experience as a volunteer in India. She shared her thoughts on the role of volunteering and placed her experience within the broader context of global development. This process of reflecting and sharing knowledge gained as a volunteer has since been included as one of the core principles in Comhlámh’s Volunteer Charter which sets out guidelines for responsible volunteering.
So why have Comhlámh members been going to the trouble of producing a regular publication for the past forty years? Well this volunteer call-out that appeared on the back page of Comhlámh News provides some answers. From publicising events to providing a forum for the exchange of ideas, Comhlámh publications have played an important role as a platform for members to engage in public debate. And if you’re wondering how much work goes into producing them, then this illustration by Terry Willers speaks volumes.
In this edition of Third World Now, the editorial collective sharply criticised the then government’s ‘scandalous’ record in overseas aid. It raised the point that by neglecting Ireland’s international development aid commitments, the government were disregarding the wishes of the general public. The publication also brought the aid debate to the attention of its readers and discussed the shortcomings of international aid in a book review of Graham Hancock’s ‘The Lords of Poverty’.
With Shell coming under fire following the execution of poet Ken Saro Wiwa, Justin Kilcullen of Trócaire wrote about what was happening on the ground in Nigeria. He focussed on Shell’s denial of military collusion and outlined the paltry amounts spent on community projects. At the time, the Trócaire campaigns office were calling on Shell to immediately withdraw from Nigeria.
This issue looked at “the green revolution” which took place in the 1970s. The term was used to describe the development of high yield varieties which it was believed would transform the lives of the rural poor. Again John Byrne’s cartoons lent a humourous edge to the visceral critique written by Colin Sage. In his article Sage looked at the environmental impact of the Green Revolution and how it displaced rural populations.
In the same issue, Sadhbh O’Neill wrote about the threat of genetic modification calling it “Engineering out of Control”. She described how the process of genetic engineering was unpredictable and that scientists were incapable of knowing the knock on effects of their work. She linked it to the model of industrial farming and food production based on chemicals.
Comhlámh has always been an organisation led by its members. This membership update from the turn of the millenium captures a hugely busy period in the organisation’s life, with a whole range of activities happening across the organisation. Oddly enough, many of these issues are still on the cards today. Judging from the photographs accompanying the piece, it looks like they weren’t adverse to a bit of craic too!
Comhlámh’s publications have always aimed to bridge a cerebral gap between thinking on the global south and disadvantage and inequality right here on our doorstep in Ireland. This issue put refugees and the Irish unemployed in the same sentence, speaking of an experience of displacement that could unite people no matter where they come from.
There’s no date on the cover of this magazine, but a bit of detective work allows us to deduct it’s from late 1989. In a suitable move, given that the issue was dedicated to co-operation, two publications called Ireland and the Wider World and Third World Now, came together as one to produce this jam packed issue looking at workers co-ops, the movements in South Africa and Nicaragua and once again John Byrne delivered the goods with this starry-eyed view of intergalactic development in 1999. How do the predictions hold up?
This double issue put the treatment of refugees in Ireland on the table. It interviewed some well-known refugees such as Kader Asmal and Marius Schoon, both characters who were at the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement. Elsewhere in the magazine, Deirdre Clancy, a former head of the Irish Refugee Council’s legal project gave a thorough-run through on the legal treatment of refugees within the state. Solidarity with refugees dominated Comhlámh’s work during these years.
Comhlámh’s John Byrne once again proved his prowess with the pen by providing this graphic accompaniment to a Deirdre Clancy article on debates over refugee status in Ireland.
Comhlámh was a pioneer of the fair trade movement in Ireland. Under Julius Nyerere, then President of a socialist Tanzania, the government were trying to improve the value of their export crops, especially coffee beans. While Comhlámh was under no illusions that we were going to dramatically change the lives of the Tanzanian people by introducing this coffee into Ireland, we recognised that we could get a strong educational message across to the Irish public that there were alternatives available in terms of trade and produce. This poster was part of that message.
Comhlámh provided many members with a social outlet upon their return from lenghty stints in the global south. Sometimes this even led to life-long partnerships forming, as evidenced by the congratulations contained in this column.
In this issue of Focus from the early noughties, the organisation reflected the concerns of the broader anti-globalisation movement with Ciaran McKenna of ATTAC Ireland outling the need for a Tobin Tax. It takes its name from a Nobel Prize winning economist called James Tobin, who in 1972 proposed a small tax of 1% on international currency speculation. Once again John Byrne stepped up with the laughs.
According to some observers of world history, there will always be a pre-September 11th and a post-September 11th. Dr Jean-Pierre Eyanga Ekumeloko from the Democratic Republic of Congo wrote a piece looking at how unfair wars imposed by the US in the pretext of security effectively provide cover for resource grabs. A premonition of events to unfold in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ronald Regan’s visit in 1984 visit led to a vast coalition of groups coming together in opposition. Among them were the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Irish Friends of Palestine, Irish Sovereignty Movement, Pax Christi, The Union Of Students Ireland, and of course, Comhlámh. Roscommon poet, writer and translator Kieran Furey provided us with this lyrical expression of the sentiment at the time.
The Development Education Group in Comhlámh produced a special edition delving into critiques of the United Nation’s role in several conflicts during the early 1990s. As always John Byrne used his wit to sum up in a few images what others took pages to do. In the magazine’s editorial, the group said “we in Focus come down on the positive side in our assessment of the UN and its achievements but we call for an immediate restructuring of the organization to take account of the requirements of world peace”. The magazine contained an article by Proinsias De Rossa arguing for new powers and traced conflicts in Cambodia and Somalia, as well as outlining the strucures of the United Nations.
Sitting opposite a page called Comhlámh News we found this advertisement for a “Consumer’s Guide” to development agencies made available for sale through Trócaire. Underneath it sits a poem by Cecil Rajendra tackling the exploitative nature of tourism. Rajendra is a Malaysian post-colonial poet and was nicknamed ‘The Lawyer-Poet’ because of his work addressing human rights. He was a sharp critic of his government.
Where would we be without a bit of humour? This caption competition captures some of the anti-war feeling within Comhlámh one year on from the invastion of Iraq. It sat alongside pieces looking at EPAs as a rather dishonourable European tradition, female genital mutilation and efforts at reform in the United Nations.
The Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Hong Kong, China, from the 13th – 18th of December 2005. In general, ministerial conferences are the WTO’s highest decision-making body, here the Focus editorial group made great use of comic satire to outline imbalances in how the negotiations were framed.
Many great writers have passed through our publications over the years. None more so than Paul Foot. He is best known for his campaigning journalism, and his prominent role in overturning the convictions of the Birmingham Six which eventually succeeded in 1991. Here he is lacerating the rightward turn of UK Labour.
These were the years of the anti-globalisation movement, Comhlámh was deeply involved in mobilisations during this period and produced many resources to educate people about how global trade policy was making our world a less equal place. The anti-war movement was also in full swing, with this edition carrying a letter from Fintan Lane who was jailed in Limerick Prison for refusing to pay a fine related to protest.
Here’s an example of a Comhlámh postcard campaign which was distributed with Focus. It looked at how subsidised canned tomatoes from the European Union caused producers in South Africa to be pushed out of their home market. On the back, people could sign a statement calling on Deputy Joe Walsh and Commissioner Franz Fischler to reform Common Agricultural Policy. The cards were then sent to their offices en masse. Could something similar work today?
Conall O’Caoimh and Micheal O’Brien of Trócaire are pictured here as part of the Comhlámh delegation to the WTO talks in Cancun. It looks like they caught up with Comhlámh’s longstanding patron, former president Mary Robinson while they were there. The Cancun talks collapsed amidst resistance from nations in the Global South to the direction the talks were being forced along by the more poweful states.
Once again we catch a rare glimpse into the social life of the organisation. In an era before social media, publications like this allowed members to stay in touch with each other and helped promote a vital sense of life into the organisation. How many of these people are still members today?
Here’s an ad for APSO. The acronym stands for the Agency For Personal Service Overseas. TK Whitaker was the first Chairman of APSO. In 2001, an RTÉ programme voted Whitaker the “Irishman of the 20th Century”. From 1974 onwards APSO provided the public with information on how skilled Irish people could put themselves into the service of people in the Global South.
Anti-nuclear protests were an extremely visible facet of strong social movements during the Cold War. Here Deirde Cantwell, writes about a delegation from CND who made the trip across to Scotland to protest at US and British bases at Holyloch and Faslane. While missiles were moved out of Holyloch in 1992 protests against the Trident programme continue at Faslane to this day.
Returning from an overseas placement can be a very challenging experience with highs and lows. This does not happen to every volunteer but can be very common, particularly in those returning home from the Global South for the first time. Over the years Comhlámh has produced many guides that aim to help volunteers settle back, covering everything from social welfare rights to promoting ideas around self care and activism.
Rhythms n’ Mix was an initiative of the Le Chéile project which was set up in July 2000 by Comhlámh in collobration with Riverdance. It was initiated in response to the glaring need to raise awareness and challenge racism in Irish society.
Here’s a letter featured in a short booklet documenting the early years of Comhlámh. Throughout its history the organisation has always had a series of branches outside of Dublin. The Cork branch was set up in 1979 by Vincent Murphy, with the baton being carried by Mary Mangan after her return from West Africa in 1980. Within a year the branch had 34 members, sold 400 bags of campaign coffee a month, set up regular study groups and organised public meetings with attendances ranging from 15 – 250.
This brochure is among many in our archive produced by Comhlámh Cork. It was put out ahead of the world famous protests against the WTO in Seattle in November 1999. Prior to the “Battle of Seattle,” there was almost no mention of “anti-globalization” in the media, while the protests were seen as having forced the media to report on why anybody would oppose the WTO. On the back there is a short paragraph outlining how free trade policies negatively impact on coffee farmers in Uganda.
In this Comhlámh documentary produced by the Cork Action Network, Paddy Harrington a farmer from Cork travels to Guyana to meet sugar-cane cutters in the plantations, rice farmers and millers, and Amerindian cocoa growers in a heavily forested region near the Venezuelan border. In the documentary he finds many differences between farmers in Ireland and Guyana, but also discovers they have more in common than one might believe. Can you figure out some similarities?
This leaflet was produced by Comhlámh in the late 1990s. It set out to explode a number of popular xenophobic myths that were circulating and reinforcing prejudice during that period. The most famous of these being rumours about asylum seekers getting free cars, mobile phones, prams and the like.