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Statement from Kevin Higgins re: Intimidation and Galway Alliance Against War

category galway | anti-war / imperialism | press release author Sunday July 26, 2009 00:45author by Kevin Higginsauthor email kphiggins at hotmail dot com Report this post to the editors

Statement from Kevin Higgins re: Intimidation and Galway Alliance Against War

I am happy that the Galway Alliance Against War statement of November 22nd containing the abusive reference to me has now been removed from the Irish Anti-War Movement website by the administrators. See my original statement on the related issues below. This clearly illustrates that the Irish Anti-War Movement agree with me that there was a serious problem with the Galway Alliance Against War statement of November 22nd in the given context.

However, I am aware of no action to date having been taken by Galway Alliance Against War itself. To fully resolve this issue in a proper, democratic way, it is essential that Galway Alliance Against War now

(1) move to take appropriate disciplinary action against the offending member; it is the least any democratic organisation should do.

and

(2) clearly disassociate itself from the following remarks by one of its own members on the Irish Anti-War Movement Website at http://irishantiwar.org/node/545:

"I would call on writers living in the region of the Shannon to join in the protests against the US presence there or to write letters to local newspapers and national ones proclaiming their opposition to the United States military occupation of this part of Irish soil. If any writer feels unwilling to do this, let him or her not ever grumble about free speech - while the US bombs and rockets ordinary civilians in Afghanistan in the name of a 'free world.'"

Disassociating itself from such a statement is, similarly, the least that any democratic organisation should do.

END OF STATEMENT

ORIGINAL STATEMENT ISSUED ON THURSDAY, JULY 23rd

Statement Calling on Galway Alliance Against War to Condemn Intimidation

I am calling on the Galway Alliance Against War group (GAAW) to condemn attempts by elements within the group to intimidate me following the publication of my satirical poem ‘The Annual Air Show Protest’ in my most recent poetry collection, Time Gentlemen, Please (Salmon, 2008).

On Friday, May 9th 2008 I was walking up Seamus Quirke Road, when a car pulled up and a prominent member of Galway Alliance Against War jumped out and assaulted me. I immediately contacted my doctor who documented the fact that I had bruising on my left arm and also made a complaint to Galway Gardaí at Mill Street Station, who told me that they would caution the individual in question. I also met with another member of Galway Alliance Against War who assured me that the individual in question had been spoken to.

Despite this assurance, last Summer there were a number of highly abusive postings about me on the internet, some of which were posted in the name of a prominent member of Galway Alliance Against War. All of the posts were quickly removed by the editors, following complaints from me, as they breached the site’s editorial guidelines. I retain copies of these posts.

Then on Thursday, November 20th I was subjected to verbal abuse on Shop Street by the same individual who had previously assaulted me. I informed Galway Gardaí at Mill Street Station, as it was relevant to my previous complaint to them. I believed that would be the end of the matter.

However, I have recently discovered that there is an official statement on behalf of the Galway Alliance Against War group posted on the Irish Anti-War Movement website http://irishantiwar.org/node/300 in which I am mentioned and which uses some of the same abusive language which originally appeared in the other now deleted internet postings. This statement was posted on November 22nd last year, but was only drawn to my attention recently.

This is an official statement on behalf of the Galway Alliance Against War group, and remains posted on the internet; it is now clear that the words other members of Galway Alliance Against War had with the individual who assaulted me were not enough. This statement amounts to an endorsement by the whole group of these illegal and abusive tactics.

I am now calling on the Galway Alliance Against War group to publicly condemn these attempts by elements within their own ranks to intimidate me and restrict my right to free speech as a poet. Artistic freedom is essential to an open, democratic society. Galway Alliance Against War have an absolute right to criticise what I write. But no-one has the right to jump out of a car and shove someone up against railings because they disagree with the content of a poem.

ENDS

author by Dave Lordanpublication date Sun Jul 26, 2009 09:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Firstly, it seems to me GAAW should have dealt with this right back at the very beginning by, at the very least, apologising to Kevin. Clearly physical and or verbal intimidation is out of order as a public relations policy of an anti war group, no matter what the motivation.

On the other hand it is not clear to me that the statement of NOV 22nd makes any direct reference to Kevin, or that is it is abusive even if it does. Perhaps not many people would have read it as such. It is obvious to me that it is hypocritical to complain about free speech a la Harry's Place and the guardian etc, while remaining silent on Iraq, Afghanistan etc. But Kevin can't be accused of that.

Thirdly I am sorry Kevin felt he had no alternative to bring the matter to the Guards, who no doubt were delighted to hear of it. The Guards are an organisiation dedicated to thuggery and intimidation, as is daily made evident up the road in Rossport. Every other function they serve is a fig leaf.

Obviously the left needs to evolve its own peaceful means of resolving disputes such as this which are bound to occur from time to time. Anyone have a positive suggestion how to do this?

author by Kevin Higginspublication date Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Here's the relevant referance from the November 22nd statement:

“As the title of Mr Piggins’ poem suggests he never believed GAAW could win its campaign against that obscenity. Alas, he was wrong!”

The full statement is still available on the google cache here

http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:xQ_ZkEhXMs0J:irish...gl=ie

This was issued on behalf of the Galway Alliance Against War group and has been posted on the Irish Anti-War Movement website for the past nine months. It uses the exact same parody of my name "Mr Piggins" which was previously used in about twenty other now deleted abusive internet postings, some of which made direct reference to the assault. I have copies of all of these.

The leading members of Galway Alliance Against War were informed about this on Thursday and since then there has been not one word from any of them about what they plan to do about this. I did get one e-mail reply from one member who said that the individual in question is " a headstrong fellow" and there's basically nothing he can do about it.

In the face of that sort of attitude, the Guards and publicity are all that's left to me. Otherwise it's clear that Galway Alliance Against War will do nothing and keep doing nothing, and that there will be further incidents.

Ciarán O'Sullivan of the Irish Anti-War Movement did get in touch and removed the Galway Alliance Against November 22nd statement from the Irish Anti-War Movement website and has suggested that a meeting be arranged between me and members of the committee to sort this issue out, for once and for all.

I have let him and them know that I am very open to this. The two points in my statement in this posting are what I will be asking them to do.

If Galway Alliance Against War fail to take some sort of appropriate action, we will be calling on the Irish Anti-War Movement to take whatever neccessary steps (within their own rules) to dissaffiliate them. Ciarán O'Sullivan assures me that the Irish Anti-War Movement does have rules about conduct and and so on.

Hopefully, that won't be neccessary and Galway Alliance Against War will deal with this issue in some appropriate way soon.

Finally, in relation to going to the Guards, when Galway Alliance Against War had their own issues regarding intimidation (absusive and threatening telephone calls) some time back, they immediately went to the Guards and demanded that they take action. They also extensively publicised the issue in the local press.

author by Kevin Higginspublication date Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We have suggested to Ciaran O'Sullivan of the Irish Anti-War Movement that Councillor Colette Connolly of the Labour Party, who has been active with/supportive of Galway Alliance Against War and represents Galway City Central Ward where we live, might be a suitable person to convene a meeting to sort this out.

author by Dave Lordanpublication date Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I hadn't seen the full statement. The section you highlight is disgusting. It seems to me you have made reasonable suggestions for the resolution of the dispute and I call upon GAAW to reciprocate.

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Mon Jul 27, 2009 00:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Open Letter To Galway Alliance Against War -

Very sensibly, I notice that this 'open letter' nonsense has been removed from the Irish Anti-War site. I think perhaps others should take note.

author by Spectatorpublication date Mon Jul 27, 2009 01:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If Galway writers can't even stop themselves from fighting with each other all the time over fuck all, how can they reasonably expect other people to stop fighting? If Galway writers are a representative cross section of humanity then I think there is little hope for us all.

set up your own bunfight site somewhere and do your petty jealous squabbling there guys. Either that or just get over yourselves

author by Darrell Kavanaghpublication date Sat Aug 22, 2009 13:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have known Kevin Higgins for about 17 years. He is not a person prone to fantasy or exaggeration. So when he told me about the attack he suffered at the hands of a member of your organisation, I knew that it had happened the way he said, and I was duly shocked. I also understand that the attack was reported to the police at the time, and evidence of the bruising suffered by Mr Higgins was registered.

This kind of petty thuggery should be abhorrent to all members of your movement, and to the left generally. It has more in common with the tactics of the extreme right. And yet, when given the chance, you neither deny the involvement of a member of your organisation in the attack on Mr Higgins, nor condemn it. The only reasonable conclusion to draw from this, I believe, is that you know that what Mr Higgins alleges is true, and that you seek to defend the perpetrator.

Further, it seems clear from the response of Fred Johnston on the Irish Anti-War Movement website (which is clearly a response to Mr Higgins' post, although this is not stated), that he doesn't accept that Mr Higgins has anything to complain about: I quote:

"I would call on writers living in the region of the Shannon to join in the protests against the US presence there or to write letters to local newspapers and national ones proclaiming their opposition to the United States military occupation of this part of Irish soil. If any writer feels unwilling to do this, let him or her not ever grumble about free speech - while the US bombs and rockets ordinary civilians in Afghanistan in the name of a 'free world.'"

It is clear from this statement that Mr Johnston believes that the right to go about ones daily business, free from intimidation, is conditional upon ones support for the aims and tactics of the Galway Alliance Against War. This is a disgraceful position to take, and in my opinion absolutely undermines the authority and good name of the Galway Alliance Against War as an organisation campaigning against violence and injustice.

I believe that it is now imperative that the Galway Alliance Against War as a whole disassociates itself from the comments of Mr Johnston, and apologises publicly to Mr Higgins for allowing its platform to be used to excuse the attack he suffered, and to question his right to free speech. I also believe that involvement in the original attack on Mr Higgins, and the subsequent making of excuses, are both actions which must be incompatible with membership of your organisation, and that appropriate action should be taken against those involved.

If the Galway Alliance Against War fails to act on this matter, it will surely stand discredited, to the detriment of the just causes it espouses.

Darrell Kavanagh, Portsmouth, UK.

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