On Sunday the 5th of May 2002, an Italian friend and I were leaving The Globe, a bar on Dublin’s George’s Street in Dublin when an affable couple who were passing by asked if we’d like to come to a party on the roof of a building on nearby Burgh Quay. My friend was working at a crêpe cafe in the morning and so she politely declined but enamored by the surprising generosity of the invite, I decided to go along. The party, it transpired, was being hosted by the organizers of a Reclaim The Streets rally which was due to happen the following afternoon. At that party, I made friends who would play a pivotal role in my life and they wasted no no time in getting started as the next day, we took to the streets to stop the traffic and throw a street party in protest at the Irish government’s compliant approach to the corporate takeover of Dublin’s public spaces. What followed became one of the most talked about events in Ireland for years afterward as a few cavalier Garda took batons to peaceful protesters in the doorways of buildings on Dame Street.
To be frank, I had been attracted to the protest because of the wonderfully humane people involved. I did not come from a family of conscientious objectors nor did I have friends who were as concerned as I was about the alarming shape which the world at large seemed to be taking in the wake of 9/11. I should also note that the rally in question was intended to be a street party rather than anything confrontational but after I had been pursued down the street by billy club yielding police, it’s safe to say my entire outlook changed. I lay in bed that night and as I closed my eyes, I could see flashes of the unprovoked attacks on peaceful protestors, the eyes of those injured as they were being carried away and bursts of fellow protestors angered, throwing cans of beer and screaming at the police to stop. The following day, some independent footage emerged despite Gardaí attempts to deny what had happened and ultimately, the minacious policemen were brought to justice.
It goes without saying that this experience hardened the resolve of the activist community in Dublin at the time. I had designs on being a singer/songwriter but stayed in touch, attending meetings, playing at fundraisers and contributing ideas where helpful. Like most of my friends and I’m sure all of us who marched together in 2003, I grew horrified as the US and UK hurtled toward an inexplicable and immoral attack on Iraq. In December 2002, as the anti war sentiment grew and the movement to stop the war gathered pace across the globe, one of Dublin’s key activists (now a member of parliament in Ireland) Richard Boyd Barrett called me and asked if I would write a song for the Irish anti-war movement. I did, a song called ‘Here Come The Planes’, and on February 15th, 2003, standing on stage between The Pogues’ Shane McGowan and Senator David Norris, I performed that song to the 100,000 protestors who had gathered on the streets of Dublin in solidarity with some 15 million friends across the world marching in opposition to the war in Iraq.
It is commonplace to describe certain events in our youth as broadening our horizons. In terms of my own personal worldview, to feel so connected to so many of my fellow human beings as we linked arms to try and protect the lives of so many other human beings, it was life-changing and not least because I was back on Dame Street at a very different kind of protest indeed.
Far more than a protest against the corporate concerns and political interests that undoubtedly fueled the push toward war, it was a rally against apathy and a rejection of the lie being told that depicted our world as a black and white, made for concrete thinkers, populated by us and them.
Like so many of my fellow protestors, I cried over ‘Shock & Awe’, I wondered what democracy meant if such resistance to war could simply be ignored and despaired when US rendition flights were allowed to stop an refuel on the tarmac of an airport in my Republic but in Buddhist philosophy, what is referred to as the cycle of rebirth is forged in the karmic arena as we move from intention, through volition, and toward deliberate, definitive action. And so, much like your wonderful film details, the protest in Dublin birthed a social revolution that has seen Ireland change in remarkable ways in the past 13 years.
What’s more, as I write the piece, having watched your film, it is crystal clear that the very literal demonstration of humanity which took place on February 15th, 2003 continues to change the face of the world today. Thank you for all of the work you put into making such an important film and for giving me the opportunity to remember one of the proudest moments of my life.
We all became different people that day and in doing so, we changed the world. Perhaps not in the way which we had hoped but time will tell that it was in fact, us, the pacifists who requested only the foregrounding of love for humanity who seized the moment and reordered the world.