Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Atomic bombing of Hiroshima commemorated in Dublin

The annual commemoration for the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb took place at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square Park, Dublin, on Sunday, 6th August 2023, the 78th anniversary of the bombing. Despite torrential rain during the ceremony, over 70 people gathered to remember all those affected by nuclear testing and weapons, and to affirm their determination that such an atrocity must never happen again.

Welcoming those in attendance, Irish CND chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, paid tribute to the leading roles in working internationally for nuclear disarmament played by Austria, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, whose ambassadors were present. He noted Ireland's partnership with countries such as these in the New Agenda Coalition, which has recently submitted a strong working paper aimed at breaking what some see as the current stalemate in disarmament negotiations, "Taking Forward Nuclear Disarmament," at the United Nations. He praised Austria's role as host of the first meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and acknowledged the vision for a world free of nuclear weapons put forward by Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, in the context of the G7 meeting in Hiroshima earlier this year.

Ambassadors from Austria, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa joined representation from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, together with Irish CND Chairperson David Hutchinson Edgar, Japanese Ambassador Norio Maruyama and Dublin City Councillor Danny Byrne, who spoke at the ceremony.

Cllr Danny Byrne, representing Dublin City, reminded the audience of the horrors that struck Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, when approximately 80,000 people were annihilated instantly, with casualities reaching 140,000 within a year. He highlighted how each casualty represented not a number, but "human lives with the right to dignity, all terminated by ... the immeasurable brutality of the atomic bomb." He noted that Dublin was the first Irish city to join Mayors For Peace, co-founded by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and re-affirmed Dublin's commitment to the vision of Mayors For Peace: a world free of nuclear weapons, safe and resilient cities, and promoting a culture of peace. Cllr Byrne laid a wreath on behalf of the people of Dublin at the end of the ceremony. 

Cllr Danny Byrne laid a wreath at the memorial tree on behalf of the people of Dublin.

In a recorded message, Irish CND vice-president, Adi Roche, spoke of the threat to life on earth posed both by nuclear weapons and by the weaponisation of civil nuclear facilities in Ukraine, and decried the massive waste of resources represented by nuclear weapons: "Because of the billions spent on weapons development and production, the people of the world have paid the ultimate cost through hunger, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, environmental degradation, while the big powers have endless funding for militarism and nuclear weapons." She praised the positive contributions of Ireland's policy of active neutrality and called for the use of "the power of our intellect, diplomatic abilities and our negotiating talents to bring an end to the current war in Ukraine and beyond."

His Excellency Mr Norio Maruyama, Japanese ambassador to Ireland, reflected on Japan's unique responsibility in relation to nuclear disarmament as the only country which has suffered an atomic bomb attack. He spoke of Prime Minister Kishida's initiative to promote nuclear disarmament among his colleagues in the G7 group of countries, and reiterated Japan's determination to keep working until nuclear weapons have been eliminated. 

Japanese ambassador, His Excellency Mr Norio Maruyama, spoke through heavy rain at the ceremony.

Musicians Máire Ní Bheaglaíoch (accordion) and Philip Horan (Japanese flute) contributed several pieces of reflective traditional music during the ceremony, which for many of those present, expressed a depth of feeling beyond words in response to the horror of nuclear weapons. Misato Omori read the poem, "That's my home", by Ukrainian poet Anastasia Afanasieva, reflecting on the personal impact of the horrors of war. 

Misato Omori read the poem "That's my home," by Anastasia Afanasieva.

Approximately 14,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world today, with just under 2,000 ready to fire within minutes, more than enough to destroy life on earth as we know it many times over. We call on all people to stand in solidarity with the victims of these horrific weapons of mass destruction, and to affirm our determination to work for their elimination, the only way to ensure that the ghastly events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be repeated. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Oppenheimer: Hollywood looks at the origins of nuclear weapons

One of 2023's most anticipated and most heavily advertised movies, Oppenheimer, directed by Christopher Nolan, recreates the role of its title character in the development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s. 

For some, this is an epic feat of cinematic storytelling; for others, the marriage of mass entertainment with the story of the origin of weapons of mass destruction sits somewhat uncomfortably. 

There seem to be two main sub-categories of war movies today, both of which condense the vast horror of 20th century industrial-scale warfare through the lens of a personal narrative. One type focuses on the exploits of the plucky little guy, the challenges faced by the ordinary soldier (like Saving Private Ryan, 1917 or Nolan's earlier work, Dunkirk), while the other is centred on the troubled famous person whose decisions have far-reaching consequences (like Oppenheimer, Enigma or Darkest Hour). 

With this focus on one person's story, there is much that any movie must leave untold, and that has inevitably provided one of broad areas of criticism of Nolan's Oppenheimer. The views, indeed the work, of other scientists appear as a backdrop to those of the central character. Female characters are little more than a foil to illustrate the personal struggles of the male protagonist in a male-dominated world. Residents of the area around the test site are barely mentioned. The depiction of the impact of the explosion - heat, light, sound, radiation - while dramatic, is tame compared to what it would really have been. The myth that the bombing ended the war (by no means certain) is perpetuated. 

Perhaps most seriously, the shattering real-life humanitarian impact of the use of the atomic bomb is never explicitly shown, though it is briefly alluded to. 80,000 people were annihilated in Hiroshima, and another 60,000 in Nagasaki, with many thousands more suffering horrific injuries leading to their deaths in the subsequent months and years. 

Both through its successes (the complex portrayal of its main character, and his growing deep unease with the bomb project) and its shortcomings, the film provokes reflection on the exploitation of scientific knowledge for purposes of destruction, and in particular, on the threat to life on earth as we know it posed by nuclear weapons. As we approach the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the urgency of creating a world free of nuclear weapons has never been greater or more apparent. 

Here is a short selection of further resources discussing the significance of Oppenheimer
Everyone can help forge a safe ending to what Oppenheimer began by Prof. Tilman Ruff of the University of Melbourne, Past President of IPPNW and co-founding member of ICAN, published by the University of Melbourne 

Facts and Myths about Oppenheimer compiled by ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Post-Oppenheimer: What We Should Do To Dismantle Nuclear Weapons by Prof. Ivan Nikolić Hughes of Columbia University, President of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, published by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 

Friday, July 29, 2022

Annual commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, 6th August

The annual commemoration for the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb took place on Saturday, 6th August 2022, the 77th anniversary of the bombing, at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square park, Dublin 2.

Opening the ceremony, Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Darcy Lonergan spoke of the need for hope in the face of a world once again threatened by the possibility of nuclear war. She praised the work of Irish diplomats over the years for their key role in bringing both the Non-Proliferation Treaty and, more recently, the treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to reality. 

Deputy Lord Mayor Darcy Lonergan speaking at the 2022 Hiroshima commemoration ceremony.

Mr Mitsuru Kitano, the Japanese Ambassador to Ireland, noted that the current prime minister of Japan comes from Hiroshima, and cited Prime Minister Kishida's recent reiteration, at the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at the United Nations, of Japan's commitment to working for a world without nuclear weapons. 

The Japanese ambassador to Ireland, Mr Mitsuru Kitano, addressing the annual Hiroshima commemoration in Merrion Square. 

The President of Irish CND, Canon Patrick Comerford, was unable to attend, and Irish CND chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, read out a short reflection by Canon Comerford in his absence. 

Traditional musician Máire Ní Bheaglaíoch contributed several pieces of reflective music on the accordion, and poet Eriko Tsugawa read her poem, "Lull in the rain", the title poem from her collection which received the Hideo Oguma Japanese Poetry Award this year. 

Irish CND Chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, spoke of the importance of meeting the threat of nuclear weapons and the reality of violence in the world today with a strong voice for peace and hope, quoting the closing words of the Vienna Declaration, agreed at the first Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in June 2022:

"We have no illusions about the challenges and obstacles that lie before us in realizing the aims of this Treaty. But we move ahead with optimism and resolve. In the face of the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons and in the interest of the very survival of humanity, we cannot do otherwise. We will take every path that is open to us, and work persistently to open those that are still closed. We will not rest until the last state has joined the Treaty, the last warhead has been dismantled and destroyed and nuclear weapons have been totally eliminated from the Earth."

At the close of the ceremony, the Deputy Lord Mayor laid a wreath at the base of the cherry tree, followed by the observation of a minute's silence in memory of all victims of atomic and nuclear bombing and testing. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

First Meeting of TPNW Member States takes place in Vienna

After entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in January 2021, the first meeting of states parties to the treaty took place in Vienna from 21st - 23 June 2022. 

The meeting formed the climax of Nuclear Ban Week, co-ordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Events kicked off with a two-day civil society Nuclear Ban Forum, and also included meetings of Youth for TPNW, the inaugural Parliamentarians for TPNW Conference, and a conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons organised by the Austrian government. 

Ireland's initial statement in the opening debate of the Meeting of States Parties offered a reminder of how the continued existence of nuclear weapons undermines international security: "It is our fundamental belief that nuclear weapons offer no security. And we know that no amount of resources could provide an adequate humanitarian response to nuclear weapons use. We know that nuclear rhetoric serves to heighten risks and drive escalation in conventional conflict."

As part of the meeting proceedings, Ireland co-sponsored working papers on the complementarity between the TPNW and existing disarmament and non-proliferation frameworks , and on the gender provisions of the TPNW , which highlights the disproportionate impact of nuclear detonations on women and children. Ireland also co-hosted a side event on Gender-Responsive Disarmament, along with WILPF and several other organisations. 

Addressing the Meeting on behalf of the 635 civil society organisations worldwide who are part of ICAN, Beatrice Fihn, ICAN's Executive Director, stressed the urgency of moving forward with nuclear disarmament: "the need for the treaty is clearer and more urgent than ever. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and its threats to use nuclear weapons have increased the already unacceptable risks of use, and brought the terrible prospect of nuclear war and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons to the forefront of public consciousness. The TPNW community must act decisively against such threats, and do everything possible to prevent the use of nuclear weapons"

Irish CND welcomes the agreement and publication of an ambitious Declaration and a 50-point Action Plan on the further implementation of the TPNW as key outcomes of the Vienna meeting. 

As the concluding paragraph of the Vienna Declaration states: "We have no illusions about the challenges and obstacles that lie before us in realizing the aims of this Treaty. But we move ahead with optimism and resolve. In the face of the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons and in the interest of the very survival of humanity, we cannot do otherwise. We will take every path that is open to us, and work persistently to open those that are still closed. We will not rest until the last state has joined the Treaty, the last warhead has been dismantled and destroyed and nuclear weapons have been totally eliminated from the Earth."

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Irish CND statement on Russian invasion of Ukraine

Many people across not just Europe but the entire world will have reacted with shock, fear, horror and even despair at the news that Russian armed forces have launched a multi-pronged attack on Ukraine. A major act of military aggression by a nuclear-armed power raises the prospect of huge civilian casualties and a humanitarian disaster for the population of Ukraine, even without the use of nuclear weapons. The real possibility that nuclear weapons could be engaged in any ongoing conflict risks damage to human life and the environment on an unprecedented, terrifying and utterly catastrophic level.  

War represents not just an immediate failure of diplomacy, but a long-term failure of decency, imagination, maturity and civilisation on the part of the aggressors, and on the part of those who have stoked fear, suspicion, hostility and confrontation on all fronts. Violence is not an acceptable last resort in any circumstance; it is an expression of basic, de-humanised depravity that devalues and destroys human life, human rights and the fragile balance that sustains our wider environment.  

The immediate outfall of war in death and injury to both soldiers and civilians in the Ukraine is already apparent. Further impacts, as refugees flee from conflict, and infrastructure, including food supplies and health services, is destroyed, inevitably follow rapidly. The medical and humanitarian consequences of a prolonged conflict can only grow larger and more frightening by the day and by the hour.  

News of fighting in the area around the crippled and still-dangerous Chernobyl nuclear power plant is chilling. Today, Ukraine has four nuclear power plants with 15 reactors, which together generate up to 50% of the country's electricity supply. An accidental or deliberate strike on any of these facilities could release radioactive materials on a scale far larger than that of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Damage to the electricity grid itself, or failure of back-up systems, could likewise result in a devastating nuclear meltdown at any of these locations. Any such nuclear catastrophe, whether accidental or through deliberate weaponisation of nuclear infrastructure, would have far-reaching effects well beyond the borders of Ukraine or Russia.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated in recent days, "No matter who tries to stand in our way… Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history." While his statement does not directly reference nuclear weapons, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is an implicit threat to launch a nuclear attack, either against Ukraine or other countries which he perceives as an obstacle to his ambitions. President Putin was joined by Belarussian President Lukashenko to oversee military exercises involving nuclear missiles in the past week. In the coming days, Belarus, which facilitated the Russian invasion from its territory to the north-west of Ukraine, will hold a referendum which would allow Russian nuclear weapons to be based in the country. Such statements and actions reinforce the sense of foreboding that an impending nuclear escalation of the conflict is all-too-possible. The consequences for all life on earth as we know it would be unthinkable.  

Irish CND joins with our colleagues in the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and veiled threats to use nuclear weapons: "We urge the international community to strongly pressure Russia to engage in dialogue and diplomacy, to return to compliance with the UN Charter, respect international humanitarian and human rights law and join relevant treaties to reduce nuclear weapons risks, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons." 

Irish CND calls on the Irish government to use Ireland's influence as a neutral country and as a member of the United Nations Security Council, to take a courageous, self-determined stance to promote peace through all available and appropriate international fora.  

In June 2021, President Putin and American President Joe Biden issued a joint statement reaffirming that a "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." Less than a year later, the world finds itself facing a real and terrifying threat that a nuclear war could indeed be close at hand. We urge nuclear-armed states, whatever their role in the present conflict, to renounce their horrific potential for mass destruction and abolish their nuclear arsenals. We urge European states hosting American nuclear weapons to cease these arrangements immediately. We urge all states, nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-armed, to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force just over a year ago, and provides a clear pathway for a nuclear-weapons-free world.  

Irish CND acknowledges with gratitude the use of briefing materials provided by our colleagues in the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Beyond Nuclear International in the preparation of this statement.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Annual Hiroshima commemoration takes place in Dublin

On 6th August 2021, the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the annual commemoration of the horrific events of that day took place in Merrion Square park, Dublin. 

Opening the ceremony, Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Joe Costello, welcomed guests to the occasion and spoke of his pride in Ireland's contributions to moving nuclear disarmament forward in the international arena, most recently through Ireland's role in bringing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to reality. He welcomed the fact that as a consequence of the Treaty's entry into force earlier in the year, Ireland has divested state-held funds from companies involved in the nuclear weapons industry. He also reaffirmed Dublin's commitment to the goals of Mayors for Peace, welcoming their newly-released Vision for Peaceful Transformation to a Sustainable World.

Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Joe Costello, speaks at the annual Hiroshima commemoration.

Irish CND president, Canon Patrick Comerford, spoke of the futility of nuclear weapons in the face of a global pandemic, and the other crises the world faces today: global warming, cyber security and human rights abuses, all of which threaten our survival. He denounced the misguided actions of the governments of nuclear-armed states who "continue to spend money needed for health care and research on weapons that are useless against this global threat to our security and our survival."

"Nuclear weapons protect us against none of the threats we face in the world today. They never protected us against the threats the world faced in the past. And they have no place in the world as we face the challenges of the future," he concluded. 

Canon Patrick Comerford, president of Irish CND, addresses the Hiroshima commemoration.

The Japanese ambassador to Ireland, Mr Mitsuru Kitano, welcomed the move by the United States and Russia to extend the New Start treaty for five years, and also acknowledged Ireland's role in international disarmament efforts. He spoke of Japan's commitment to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, and called on all states to strive towards a world without nuclear weapons. 

Ambassador Kitano speaks at the Hiroshima commemoration.

There were contributions of reflective traditional music from violinist Niall Coakley, from the Emigrant Suite, and the slow air Táimse im' chodladh. Eriko Tsugawa-Madden read the original Japanese version of a poem by Tamiki Hara, who witnessed the atomic bombing and its aftermath, while Tony Madden read Eriko's English translation of the poem, "Give me water". 

Reflecting on the torrential rain which fell in the course of the ceremony, Irish CND chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, said, "We feel the discomfort of live-giving water falling from the sky. We cannot begin the imagine the experience of death and annihilation raining down from the sky." As the rain cleared, he continued, "Just as the rain gives way to sunshine around us today, we look to the future with hope and determination that no-one will ever have to experience what the people of Hiroshima experienced 76 years ago, the hope not just that nuclear weapons will never again be used, but that one day, soon, nuclear weapons will no longer exist."

Deputy Lord Mayor Joe Costello laid a white wreath, symbolising peace, at the foot of the cherry tree planted by Irish CND in 1980 as a living memorial, while participants observed a minute's silence in memory of all victims of atomic bombing and testing at the close of the ceremony. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

United Kingdom breaks international treaty obligations with nuclear expansion plans

The government of the United Kingdom has announced its intention to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons by 40%, which would bring its total to 260 warheads. Each warhead is estimated to have an explosive power of around 100 kilotons, making them significantly more dangerous than the 15 kt bomb which devastated Hiroshima in 1945, causing the death of approximately 140,000 people by the end of the year.

Responding the news, the UN Secretary General's office described the plans as contrary to the UK's obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Irish CND is shocked and repulsed by this move by our nearest neighbour to increase the capacity of its weapons of mass destruction. At a time when the planet faces existential threats from climate change and global biodiversity loss, not to mention the likelihood of future pandemics in addition to the current Covid-19 crisis, pouring vast sums into the power of destruction is reckless and immoral.

In 2019, the UK spent £7.2 billion on its nuclear weapons. How many doctors, nurses, intensive care beds and ventilators could that money have financed? How many programmes to decarbonise the UK economy and lessen the impacts of climate change could it have supported?

Denouncing the plans, Irish CND chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, said: "At a time when the United Kingdom claims to aspire to a renewed role in global leadership, its government has chosen to cling desperately to the flotsam of the failed policies of the 1950s and '60s instead of looking to the future with a meaningful vision of global security. Nuclear weapons have never made the world safer. They can play no part in tackling the genuine crises that the world faces today.

"This egotistical move threatens suffering and death on an unimaginable scale, were these weapons ever to be detonated, either by accident or intentionally. Even if they are never used, this move will still contribute to suffering and death for many, many people, both in the UK and further afield, which could have been averted by putting the huge cost of these weapons to better use. Nuclear weapons are a symbol of shame, not status, for the British government."

"In 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was agreed by a significant majority of UN member states. It entered into force in January 2021. This is clearly what the world wants and needs for nuclear weapons: to consign them to the dustbin of history. We urge the UK and other countries which have not yet done so to follow Ireland's lead in joining the TPNW and committing to a world free of nuclear weapons." 

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (of which Irish CND is a partner organisation), stated: “A decision by the United Kingdom to increase its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible, dangerous and violates international law. While the British people are struggling to cope with the pandemic, an economic crisis, violence against women, and racism, the government choses to increase insecurity and threats in the world. This is toxic masculinity on display.”

“While the majority of the world’s nations are leading the way to a safer future without nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the United Kingdom is pushing for a dangerous new nuclear arms race.”

The move was also strongly criticised by Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima, who stated: "Its implementation would run counter to the nuclear disarmament obligation of NPT States Parties and reverse three decades of nuclear weapon reduction policy by the United Kingdom. Such steps can only result in further acceleration of the arms race and weakening international security and stability."