Liverpool Irish Festival continually and actively condemns racist and in-humane actions. Along with peers in the Liverpool City Region Race Equality Manifesto[i] signatory group, and others in the arts sector, we deplore violence and intolerance.
Reflecting on the war in Gaza (as in our reflections on the war in Ukraine) we stand against inhumanity and call on all those hurting —or abetting the harm of— civilians and innocents to cease fire, release hostages and discuss peace using parity of esteem[ii] principles.
Why should a Liverpool-Irish arts organisation comment?
As an Irish organisation operating in England —and as custodian of the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail— we see displacement, migration and the creation and identity of diaspora communities as being at the very core of our work.
We understand that opinions and beliefs are faceted and there are multiple viewpoints and positions. We acknowledge that centuries of history are being fought over, protected and harmed, simultaneously. But, as a peer recently reminded us, silence=death and we have a voice with which we can ask for assistance.
We asked for help after George Floyd’s killing in the USA and after Putin’s attack on Ukraine. We now ask for further aid, to support people, following the atrocities showered on Gaza because the current provision and diplomatic discourse is not enough.
Israeli forces dropped 6,000 bombs in 6 days. The genocidal action, intention and language —used against the people of Gaza— must be stopped for the sake of humanity if not international law. As the Tánaiste (Ireland’s deputy leader), Micheál Martin, stated:
“There is no doubt about the brutal criminality of Hamas and their utter disregard for human life, including the lives of their fellow Palestinians. But we absolutely must distinguish between Hamas and Palestinian civilians in Gaza”[iii].
The Festival calls on all people to recognise their neighbours’ humanity. We ask leaders to ensure policy and protocols develop strong moral decision making that will lessen terror and move us towards peace.
To borrow the terms of Derry-man, environmental activist and humanitarian, Fearghal Sharkey:
“This is the 25th-anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. For 25-years, the people of Northern Ireland have been able to prosper and grow and blossom and have discovered this thing peace is a very delicate, beautiful little flower that needs nurturing, caressing and supporting. I do wish that the people of Gaza… and Palestine and Israel get to discover what 25-years of peace, prosperity and diplomacy and democracy looks like. And that those people can blossom into a much more confident and much brighter future for everyone involved. It has worked for Northern Ireland”[iv].
End civilian killing
As a Festival that centres the voices of women, we are dismayed to read the World Health Organization’s 3 Nov statement. In this, the WHO declared that 67% of the casualties in Gaza have been women and children[v]. We ask the powers-that-be to do all they can to end the killings and help construct a long-overdue peace and reconciliation process.
We are minded, once more, of Warsan Shire’s poem Home, which we’ve used previously to consider mass-migration and terror:
…i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore…[vi]
We uphold the Secretary General of the UN’s 31 October statement[vii], requesting
- humanitarian assistance be allowed into Gaza, commensurate with the needs of people there
- an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for unimpeded humanitarian access to be granted consistently, safely and to scale
- all leaders —beyond Gaza—exercise utmost restraint to avoid a wider conflagration
…and ask for Refugee Action’s calls for ‘safe routes’ and its other UK Government calls[viii] are enacted.
Loss and hope
The Festival mourns those already lost. We hope beyond hope that a cease fire comes quickly, to reduce loss and build peace. Collectively, we must find a solution that guarantees human rights for all people in Gaza and its neighbouring environs.
Our Festival acknowledges that the UK’s colonial history in the region means the UK has a duty-of-care to assist in securing peace, after decades of difficulty arising from previous protocols. We entreat those in power —especially our elected government and associated officials— to push for reconciliation. We also request the halt of arms sales or any trading that exacerbates the violence.
References (in use order):
[ii] Parity of esteem principles are outlined here, as accessed 8 Nov 2023: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300037
[iii] Tánaiste (deputy Prime Minister for Ireland) statement, accessed 8 Nov 2023: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/c3118-statement-by-the-tanaiste-on-the-situation-in-the-middle-east/
[iv] Fearghal Sharkey quote, taken from Have I got Some More News for You © BBC, aired 3 Nov 2023. Scroll to 20:19 to hear direct quote and context.https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001s75h/have-i-got-a-bit-more-news-for-you-series-66-episode-5
[v] World Health Organization statement on women and newborns in Gaza, accessed 8 Nov 2023: https://www.who.int/news/item/03-11-2023-women-and-newborns-bearing-the-brunt-of-the-conflict-in-gaza-un-agencies-warn
[vi] Warsan Shire’s poem Home is available on the Amnesty International Ireland site, last accessed 8 Nov 2023: https://www.amnesty.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/home-by-warsan-shire.pdf
[vii] António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN’s 31 October 2023 statement: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2023-10-31/secretary-general%E2%80%99s-statement-the-situation-gaza
[viii] Refugee Action’s statement on Gaza, accessed 8 Nov 2023: https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/refugee-action-statement-on-gaza/
Image credit: © hosnaysalah courtesy of Pixabay.