bosnia report
No. 4 February - March 1994
Ireland Bosnia Solidarity Campaign
by John Meehan

Since the outbreak of war in ex-Yugoslavia the Irish Government has had the same policy as the European Union, taking special care to say the same thing as the British Government. For example, Foreign Affiars Minister Dick Spring publicly supported the June 22 1993 EC declaration calling for the de facto partition of Bosnia into three ethnically based entities.

The Ireland Bosnia Solidarity Campaign was founded at the end of May 1993. A public meeting was organised by People's Democracy, a Trotskyist organisation. The themes were "Support the Bosnian Resistance" and "Lift the Arms Embargo". Speakers included the former President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Matt Merrigan, representatives of the Bosnian Community in Ireland, and Kevin Keating of PD. About 40 people attended, and the IBSC was founded.

The four basic aims of the IBSC are the following:

  • To end the arms embargo against the people and state of Bosnia-Herzegovina

  • To promote a multi-ethnic state in Bosnia-Herzegovina

  • To open the borders of all European countries to Bosnian refugees

  • To support the anti-war movements in the former Yugoslavia.

Many other organisations collect food aid for refugees. While these efforts spring from a positive desire to help, these organisations generally avoid tak- ing a political stance.

Such well-intentioned charitable activity is reminiscent of efforts to amelio- rate "The Great Hunger" of 1845-49, when one million people died and another million were forced to emigrate. In reality, plentiful supplies of food were be- ing exported to the benefit of British landlords while the Irish died due to the failure of the potato crop. Thus the language of charity had an obvious politi- cal purpose and similar techniques are being used now to prevent people thinking clearly about the nature and causes of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The IBSC has concentrated on getting out clear information to as wide an audi- ence as possible. We are a voluntary organisation which began without resources. From the start we received tremendous help from many musicians, artists and ac- tors.

We organised a packed traditional Irish music benefit cÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌäoncert in July, which was attended by a representative of the British-based Bosnian Information Centre, Mario Susko. While he was in Dublin Mario addressed a public meeting, met the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Dail and gave a number of interviews to the broadcast and published media.

The funds received from the music benefit enabled us to publish many thousands of leaflets which were then regularly distributed in Dublin city centre and other locations. We were also supported financially by a special reading of a new play by Donal O'Kelly, "Asylum! Asylum!", during the Dublin Theatre Festival in October.

We began a regular "Let Bosnia Live" picket of the EU offices in Dublin which attracted significant media attention. We informed several trade unions and other interested organisations about the International Workers' Aid Convoy to Tuzla.

Our last major initiative in 1993 was the hosting of a public seminar addressed by the Croatian historian Branka Magas (author of The Destruction of Yu- goslavia), poets Nuala N¡ Dhomhnaill and Chris Agee, Proinsias De Rossa TD and others.

We started from a very small base, and still face enormous difficulties in forc- ing a change in the policy of the Irish Government. However, significant progress has been recorded. We will continue to organise in 1994, and remain open to all people who agree with our basic aims. We will also support the ac-tivities of other groups such as Women's Action on Former Yugoslavia. We can only hope 1994 will be a better year for the suffering and oppressed people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Ireland Bosnia Solidarity Campaign, c/o 17 Belgrave Mews, Rathmines, Dublin 6. Tel: Valerie, 01-965501; or Anne, 01-316279.


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