Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

Father Alec Reid – 2008 Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award recipient

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid

Sadly Father Alec Reid, who received The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award in 2008 along with Rev. Harold Good, died on 22nd November 2013 aged 82 years. His role in the disarmament process in Northern Ireland, the victory of non-violence over violence, and the bringing together of the Catholic and Protestant communities with Rev. Harold Good were significant milestones on the road to peace. You can read an account of the 2008 award and speeches by clicking:


The Daily Telegraph obituary can be read here:

First Hand Experiences Of The Troubles – by John Bradley

When I jumped into the Learners’ Pool for the first time, not knowing to hold my nose, the bubbles filled my nose and mouth.  Almost 40 years later, I remember it still. However, it is what happened outside The Baths that I remember more vividly, brought to mind quite often by photographs or a chance moment of Television footage.  Memories that children should not really have.

I came across a photo recently of a young man wounded – shot in the back, to be precise – by the British Army on Bloody Sunday, January 1972, in my home town.  The entry wound was small and dribbled just a bit of blood.  It fascinated me. “You’re obsessed,” said my wife.  “Obsessed with any aspect of that period.”  Perhaps I am.  However, for me, these are more than just photos.  They bring back very real memories. The vague white smoke in the pictures ?  That’s the CS gas that clawed at my throat, made me choke as an 11 year old, got through closed windows and tore at my brothers’ eyes.   The gas that I walked through many afternoons on leaving “The Wee Nuns” Primary School.

Those rifles ?  I can tell you the sound of each one.  The report of a British Army Self Loading Rifle in the streets behind our house.  It doesn’t sound like in a movie, it’s a shockingly loud, sharp report that bounces off the walls of the street – and left the gable end of the house at the top of Beechwood Avenue pock-marked,  just like in “real” wars.  The M16 Armalite sounds more lethal than its toy-like appearance suggests and left bullet hole after bullet-hole in the breeze-block wall beside “The Baths.”

It’s Eugene Dunne, called out of our French class at 16 years old to be told his father had been blown up “accidentally.” Or my other classmate, Bernie McGuigan, whose Dad is the man in the photograph with the huge puddle of blood around his head on Bloody Sunday. Or seeing the Paratroopers who did that, earlier in the day, on my way to church, ready for action, their faces blackened, heads covered with the cropped helmet of their regiment.  Or my Primary Teacher, Mr. Carr, who taught us to sing songs, making little circles with his tuning fork in his right hand, coached us to recite poetry for the annual Feis: he was blown into a tree in his school grounds by a Booby Trap.  Or the Petrol Tanker which was blown up in front of Strand Road RUC station.  Do you know that there is a short gap between the sound of a bomb going off and the red glow of the explosion ?  Or watching virtually all the shops in Foyle Street being blown up in front of my eyes, bursting into flame.  Or, on a beautiful summer’s day being told that my “A Level” schoolmate was being charged with a double murder.  Or that our next door neighbour was blown on fire into the street while his pal, also making bombs, was blown to pieces.   Or seeing our Gym’s huge windows cave in all around the 12 year old boys herded there for safety.  Or seeing our Irish language teacher blown across the room as the IRA launched a bomb against an Army “sangar” in the school grounds, just yards away, destroying the look-out post and probably the people in it. Or watching the corner of our little cul-de-sac every afternoon, to make sure that my brother Paul returned safely each day. Or witnessing, as a 10 year old, our policemen baton charge a Civil Rights march in Shipquay Street. Or my Aunt’s neighbour, a policeman and family friend, shot 9 times in the back in Donegal. Or taking cover in Stanley’s Walk as the bullets zinged down the street at the Army patrol in front of us.

Of course, that’s one aspect of my childhood.  A hint of new-mown grass takes me immediately to week-ends and summers spent with my parents’ families,  learning to milk cows, perching on top of a trailer loaded unsteadily with bales of hay, driving a tractor at – well, almost – break-neck speed, watching the sun set, counting the stars on a dark, silent night. Doing what little boys like to do – playing by the river, fishing, making model aeroplanes, climbing trees.  Listening to stories about everyday adventures, woven by Brendan Brolly, pulling slowly on his pipe, his eyes scrunched into a constant smile, sharing with us yarns of every sort that had us laughing into the early hours.

One August, that changed.  With no television in our mother’s home, my brothers and I listened to the RTE news on the old radio up on the shelf in the kitchen, the windows open to cool things down.  We heard how our City was alight, how thousands of CS gas canisters had been fired and knew that our Father was in the middle of it all, besieged by crash-helmeted policemen in his workplace.  We never had to worry about our parents’ safety.  Until then.  Jack Lynch, the Irish Prime Minister was to add more concern with his announcement that he was ordering Army Field Hospitals to the border with Northern Ireland.  Was an invasion the next step?

Our schoolmates, when we returned in September, had all manner of tales of adventure, mostly involving throwing stones at the police and seeing petrol bombs hurled from the top of high-rise flats. They helped to build barricades made up of planks, old oil drums, paving stones and barbed wire. What fun !  To encourage their dads’ petrol-bombing prowess in hitting their black-coated targets, they found new rhymes to sing: “Throw well, throw Shell’” In the school playground we played “Rioters and Police” with all of us wanting to be the goodies – the rioters, of course and chanting a favourite slogan: “SS RUC.”  Our lives were never quite the same, as stones and petrol bombs gave way to shooting and violent death.  We did not know we were going through the process of losing our childhood, of losing our innocence, of being thrust into history and a welter of violence which we neither requested nor enjoyed.  That’s why I’m obsessed.

The seeds of peace took a long time to germinate.  My Father survived working in the midst of violence and remained the gentlest of men, both in word and deed.  The lad with the bullet wound in the back ?  He, too, survived.  My school, you would be forgiven for thinking, must have become a nest of violent upbringing ?  Quite the contrary.  It now boasts of two Nobel Laureates, one of them for Peace.  My own family now hears of bombs and bullets only through my stories that seem almost ancient history for them.

In the darkest days of my young memory, I listened to my mother praying for peace every day.  She prayed, not just for the dead or injured, but for the mother of every person killed, because she could feel their sorrow.  She never doubted that peace would come. Sadly, it came 10 years too late for her.

Her hope of peace never wavered.  Perhaps she could sense that the future would bring the most unlikely of partnerships formed between previously bitter enemies. Her hope that her children, grown used to the sound of explosions and gunfire, would bring up their children to know the sound of peace, has come true. She would be pleased that disputes would be resolved by discourse, not force.  That people would not lose their lives because of the church they attended or the job they chose to do. That old misunderstandings would begin to be resolved.

I am proud of where I come from and of the city’s history since its founding in the 6th century, to its stout walls and ancient buildings.  I am proud of its location, of the fabulous views across Lough Foyle and out to the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.  Proud, too, of the different communities, going back centuries, whose traditions and shared history make my hometown what it is. Its people have not been broken by violence and mayhem.  We have a way to go, but we are getting there.

At a time when violence seems to grow more common every day, whether in the streets of Gandhi’s Mumbai or in the seemingly unending tragedies unfolding daily in Palestine and Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East, I can only offer one thought: “Hope.”  When needless death clouds a country, its cities, its people, Hope must never be allowed to be extinguished.  In the darkest of hours, the seed of peace may be sown.  It was so in Ireland, where the most dreadful of deeds resulted in the beginnings of a dialogue between enemies. Good can be harvested from the evil that is violence.

Not an advocate of violence in any way, nor of violent men, my father knew what Presidents may not – that, through discourse between enemies and the uncovering of common ground, old hatreds can begin to be overcome, barriers brought down and the basis for a lasting Peace can be established.

Always Hope.

Reflections on the Troubles in Northern Ireland – by John Rowley

[This is an edited version of a letter I wrote to my children, Poppy and Alexander]

I thought you would like to know more about this year’s Lecture and Award which took place in The House of Lords on 30th October.  Father Alec Reid and The Reverend Harold Good [neat name!] are the two priests who were acceptable to both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland and who were asked to oversee the decommissioning of weapons and explosives.  The world knows now that this was the final stage of a vicious war that had actually been raging since Oliver Cromwell invaded in 1649.  In 1966, The Troubles, as they were euphemistically called, erupted into violence once more and the British Army was sent in yet again.  [For a lucid potted history, see www.bbc.co.uk/history/recent/troubles/the_troubles]

For 35 years, most of my adult life, the violence was relentless.  However, over here on the mainland, we managed to largely ignore it.  For example, as a rule there had to be more than two killings to get more than two column inches in any newspaper.  We were told it was a ‘war against Terrorists’ when, in fact, it was a full-blown Civil War.  It was simple and complex at the same time: there was a raft of freedom fighters/terrorists and supporters on both sides.  Put simply, the ‘Nationalists’ [largely Catholic and Celtic] saw Ireland as an island nation and wanted to have ‘their’ Six Counties re-integrated into Eire whilst the ‘Unionists’ or ‘Loyalists’ as they liked to be called [largely Protestant and Scottish] wanted ‘their’ Ulster to remain part of the United Kingdom.  The paramilitaries on both sides – Irish Republican Army [and off-shoots] and the Ulster Volunteer Force [and off-shoots] used violence to achieve their visions of the future.  Each side had political parties claiming to have no responsibility for the murders and mayhem and central Governments completely stymied as to what to do.

After a while, when yet another bomb, torture, massacre or assassination was reported, the predominant attitude amongst my class and our media mentors was “Let the buggers get on with it”, “They deserve each other”.   There was the familiar voyeuristic fascination with the details, the blood and gore, the warnings, knee-cappings and summary executions but each was quickly forgotten as we became habituated, putting it into the mental bag called ‘Irish’ and slinging it into memory’s backyard.  So few of us showed any real, pro-active loving-kindness, it is almost criminally shameful.  The whole of the UK knew that the vast majority were innocent, frightened, scarred, angry but we English did little but send in yet more trained killers and set up H-blocks at the notorious Long Kesh prison for the few they caught.  The Irish Government ducked and dived, flapping their hands and shrugging their shoulders: the Catholic Gardai and Protestant Police aiding and abetting their separate agendas.  The millions these politicians and police spent talking to each other came to nought.  And yet over 3000 of our own citizens were slaughtered and thousands more wounded physically and psychologically for life.

When I joined The Gandhi Foundation in 1991, I had an ideal opportunity to do something, to promote Nonviolence, the only possible strategy to bring about peace.  Peter Cadogan tried to drum into my thick head the importance of what was happening ‘over there’ but I decided that neither I [nor we] could make any difference: the violence was too vicious, the prejudices too intractable and a gandhian too alien.  In sum, I gave up hope.  [And here I am on your 20th Birthday, Poppy, the day that will go down in history as the day the man who is giving us all hope stepped up into the White House!]

Only Denise Moll, now the GF Secretary, actually teamed up with Peter.  The GF did invite two of the three Northern Ireland Nobel Peace Prize Laureates [Mairead Maguire in 1998 and John Hume MP in 2002] to give our Annual Lecture but they were ‘trophy talks’ having little impact elsewhere.  Peter, bless him, refused to attend Hume’s Lecture on the grounds that his integrity was by then far from intact!

My own shame is enhanced when I tell you that I had witnessed this war myself even, in a sense, took part.  My first job as a management consultant in 1974 was with Gallaher’s cigarette company in Belfast.  We had a contract to run a project on what was then called Job Enrichment. You make cigarettes with a huge [German] machine which takes the compacted dried leaves at one end and churns out an endless stream of cancer sticks at the other, beautifully packaged in small cellophane-wrapped, gold boxes called Benson & Hedges Gold Cut.  We were charged with making the jobs of those serving this huge machine ‘more interesting’ on the grounds that this would improve productivity and reduce absenteeism.

You have to imagine a vast, square, red-brick building, ten times taller than the surrounding terraced pygmy two-up/two-downs.  The only way in was through 20ft high, black, bomb-proof, metal gates.  HM Customs & Excise had total control over the raw tobacco from the moment it entered British waters until the moment the manufacturer paid the tax.  The reason for this is simple: our Government, like every other, draws a major revenue stream from this the most addictive drug of all drugs.  [Note: nicotine has an addictive potential of 100%, alcohol of 81%, marijuana 21% and ecstasy 20% – does this make our legislators appear shamefully stupid, wilfully ignorant or what?].  In Belfast, the whole complex, warehouse, factory and distribution, is patrolled by men with guns.  Every worker [not us, of course] was searched going in and going out – a veritable fortress of capitalism.

The Chairman of the Board told me over cocktails at the end of our first day on site that an additional security policy ensured that no Catholic was ever promoted higher than first-line foreman!  He also told Keith and me, when the alcohol began to liven things up, how to spot a Catholic [spots on the back of the neck, black hair, surname, address, number of children and their school, of course] and some jokes about their sexual proclivities and the Pope.  This was my first job so I laughed: embarrassed but desperate to be seen ‘on-side’.  Personnel had put us in a ‘Prod’ owned hotel 20 miles up the coast on a cliff-top over-looking a spectacular sea with the Mull of Kintyre on the horizon.

“You wouldn’t be safe in Belfast, you see, with your posh English accents: they’ll take you for off-duty army officers and kill you”.

During our chauffeured drive that first night, we whispered about whether to fly home or not but we didn’t.  Nor did we ever speak out.  We needed the contract.  Can you forgive that?

Our office on the second floor above the gates had half-inch thick chicken wire on the outside, shatter-proof glass and loud instructions on the wall of what to do when the shooting began – basically, get under the desk!  This is exactly what we did when there were shots from the Divis Flats up to the right.  The Divis Flats were Catholic: 20 storeys high, made with cheap, pre-fabricated concrete slabs, tiny windows and staircases open to the elements.  They looked down on the gates.

When the shooting started that first time, I could not resist looking despite the screamed pleadings of the others.  I saw a British Army patrol creeping up the road, a single file line of rifle-armed soldiers, crouching behind an armour-plated vehicle, each in turn popping round its back end to let off a few shots at where they thought the firing was coming from.  It was clear they couldn’t really know as there must have been at least 80 windows to choose from but, like all armies, assumed that everyone was guilty. [“Well, they were harbouring terrorists, weren’t they?” one senior soldier told me over dinner at my Sister’s later that year.]

Over the years there have been many attempts – The Downing Street Declaration [Harold Wilson], The Sunningdale Accord [Ted Heath], The Anglo-Irish Agreement [Thatcher], and The Good Friday Agreement [Tony Blair] – to end the War.  However, it took Senator John Mitchell [US] and General Sir John de Chastelain [Canada] with a little grand-standing from Bill Clinton to get things moving down in the dumps – the weapon dumps, that is.  As it turned out, surprise, surprise, the essential ingredient missing throughout all these was the little matter of Trust.  The politicians, police and soldiers eventually re-discovered that the only way forward was to go to the heart of each community, to the grass-roots, to involve two people who actually lived with and loved the protagonists, who were known and respected by all.  In this religionist culture, they both had to be ‘men of the cloth’.  They found these two men, Rev Harold Good and Fr Alec Reid who were then charged with the task of witnessing the decommissioning of all weapons.  If they could convince each and all that the weapons had been destroyed, gone forever, then the power-sharing could begin, that is, elections could be held with the enemies now behaving ‘civilly’.

Omar, Bhikhu and I met in the Peers’ Entrance where we found Fr Alec and Fr Gerry Reynolds, ‘Alec’s Bodyman’ as he called himself.  I took to them both straight away.  Loquacious is a word perhaps invented for Fr Alec.  His startling blue eyes and the deeply serious lines in his face belie a sparkly almost facetious humour.  When Harold and his entourage arrived, it was clear that the two of them had not seen each other for some time.  There was a lot of love evident between them but I would say that profound mutual respect was the engine of this.

You can read Harold Good’s speech on our website http://www.gandhifoundation.com.   It will tell you much but not as much as the live delivery full of improvised asides and the rather long interventions of Fr Alec.  Alec always apologised every time he did this which always brought a loving and forgiving chuckle from the packed room.  His most memorable repetition was a moral imperative:

“Make sure you always combine the complementary forces of both female and male, the feminine and the masculine, if you really want to resolve any conflict”.


The dinner afterwards was very moving for me.  I sat next to Bhikhu and opposite Fr Alec.  Alec told me the story of the two British soldiers who had accidentally wandered into a Nationalist crowd mourning the death of two Catholics killed by the British Army.  When the crowd turned on them, beat them and forced them on to the ground, he lay down between them holding both tight.  They were safe for those few minutes but then they were dragged away from him and, instead of being taken to a house to be interrogated and then shot, the usual procedure, they were taken down an alley off the cemetery and shot straight away.  After they had been grabbed, he had sprung up and looked urgently for the IRA Commander he knew would help and told this man to come with him to the house where he expected the soldiers to be taken.  He felt the two of them would have been able to persuade their captors, possibly now in a more measured mood, to simply just interrogate and then release them, given their likely innocence, the cruel retribution likely if they were harmed and the enormous propaganda victory if they were freed.  Fr Alec and the Commander were both deeply unhappy at the summary and, from their point of view which did not accept either British or NI Protestant rules of law, an extra-judiciary execution.  As you would expect, this incident was presented to us over here on the mainland solely from the point of view of the established authorities.  “Two British Soldiers Murdered in Cold Blood by IRA Terrorists!”

I asked Alec whether he knew who did it.  He said no.  I could not ask him whether he could have found out because I did not want to stir it.  My guess is he could have.  We talked then of how ‘men of the cloth’ have to keep the trust of those they minister to.  I know of this more closely, although only second hand, from Fr Joe Collela, a priest of The Order of St Mary, with whom I worked in the 90’s with Bangladeshis of Tower Hamlets.  A man who reminded me once again just how much a Faith can bring a person to full realisation of the who he/she really is [Nietzsche, right?].  Gentle, gentile Christian Joe could go into Muslim houses where women were alone without being escorted because he was a ‘man of God’.  One family, extreme but not unique, was composed of a depressed, illiterate Mother unable to speak English whose husband had gone back to Bangladesh and married a younger woman and brought her back to live close by.  Living with her was her daughter who was ‘on the game’, a middle son who dealt in heroin and a youngest son who never went to school.  Joe did his best to work with the youngest but thought he was achieving little. I always told him I doubted that: how could a man so full of love not make a difference?  I bet he never thought once of going to the police about the other son.

It hardly compares but if Fr Alec had gone to the police with any of the many secrets of murder, torture and robbery that must have been confessed to him, surely the decommissioning would never have happened?

To whom, therefore, do we owe our allegiance? And so, inevitably, to whom do we lie, not tell the whole truth?  Is our integrity defined by those we ally ourselves with?  Can integrity come entirely from within?  Does the idea of God simply help us escape this dilemma?  Should a person of faith ever have to obfuscate the Truth?

The evening of 30th October was a triumph for Omar Hayat and Bhikhu Parekh and so for The Gandhi Foundation but a shame on all the politicians who should have turned up.  Shaun Woodward, the current Minister, did send his apologies but none of the previous Ministers bothered.  Fr Alec was really sorry not to meet Chris Patten [Tory] as he thinks his Report on Policing [1999] is very important although still not fully implemented.  All those Labour NI Ministers – Mandelson, Hain and their PM Blair – who have since taken credit for the successful conclusion of the war should now give the credit due to these two remarkable men, our unsung heroes.

Rev Harold Good had some slides for us beamed on to two large screens at either end of the room.  The predominant one was a sketch of Gandhi.  The most moving were two of Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness.  Paisley was the huge, loud-mouthed leader of The Democratic Unionist Party, very right-wing, inflexible and unforgiving Protestant and tacit supporter of the Prod Terrorists [UVF, UDA, etc]. As a result of The Good Friday Agreement [1998] and the subsequent elections, he became NI First Minister in May 2007.  He was 80 and resigned 18 months later.  McGuinness was IRA Chief of Staff, directly responsible for numerous bombings, tortures and murders [of Catholics and Protestants] and who became after the same elections Deputy First Minister. For 35 years, these two were mortal enemies, hating each other, cursing the worst curses to damn and condemn the other to Hell.  And remember both went to Church at least three times a week.

One picture shows, from the back, McGuinness with his hand gently placed on the much older Paisley’s elbow urging him to be the first through the door into Stormont on that wondrous day in May.  Harold called this The Hand of History: hatred transformed by Trust, the core of any non-violent conflict resolution.

The second picture shows the two men up close sitting next to each other and laughing uproariously, glee in every gesture. There is not a whisker of pretence: you simply know that they are friends.  It brings tears to my eyes even as I write.

POST-SCRIPT.  Unfortunately, I now have to tell you that this rather sentimental ending needs a reality check – my own.  I have just discovered that the Democratic Unionist Party, now led by Peter Robinson, has fallen out with Sinn Fein over what I know not [policing?].  It has meant that the Stormont Parliament has been suspended since May and that, in consequence, all administration is at a standstill and the prospect of yet another descent into violence is beginning to raise its ugly head.  Can they come to their senses?  When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?
P.P.S. Go and see the film “HUNGER”, directed by Steve McQueen.

2008 Peace Award & Annual Lecture – Harold Good & Alec Reid

Dr Omar Hayat, Rev Harold Good, Father Alec Reid, Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Dr Omar Hayat, Father Alec Reid, Rev Harold Good, Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Gandhi Peace Award 2008 – Citation
by Dr. Omar Hayat

Something extraordinary has taken place and is taking place in Northern Ireland. Something very powerful indeed. After decades of troubles the wholly unexpected coalition of the two extremes in the province, the Sinn Fein and the DUP has taken place (originally with the Reverend Paisley as First Minister (now replaced by Peter Robinson) and Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister).

However, it would always have been all too easy to despair of any resolution of the tribal politics of the province and Northern Ireland also has of course many similarities to the communal divide of India and the peacemakers of Northern Ireland all along faced in the Protestant/Catholic divide just the same sort of challenge as Mohandas Gandhi did in his prolonged struggle against the force of Hindu/Muslim communalism; which periodically grips India. Northern Ireland was always a Gandhian challenge and sometimes we forget how much of Gandhi’s struggle was one against terrorism. It was a struggle that did cost him his life. Clearly the Gandhi Foundation wanted to celebrate, indeed rejoice, in the triumph of non-violence over violence.

Omar Hayat and Bhikhu Parekh

Omar Hayat and Bhikhu Parekh

Of course, key to the recent political truce was the decommissioning process. Here there was a critical barrier to be overcome. No member of the IRA could afford to be photographed handing in their weapons – this according to their military code is a treasonable offence and so another solution had to be found. That was through the witness statements to the handing in of weapons to trusted representatives of the two communities. The men asked to take on this role were the Reverend Harold Good and Father Alex Reid who acted as clerical witnesses during General John de Chastelain’s disarmament process. This act of being representatives of the two communities and overseeing the disarmament requires a great deal of Trust, a very uncommon trust in today’s world which strives towards transparency, which in some circumstances is a very good thing but also implies a lack of trust. So literally these two men have been trusted by the rest of the world and especially the sectarian parties of Northern Ireland, just on their say so, to have told the truth. Otherwise the whole process would not have progressed. A heavy responsibility indeed.

Alec Reid and Harold Good

Alec Reid and Harold Good

It may be appropriate here if I read a few comments made at the time:

‘I hadn’t heard of Good before I saw him being interviewed on the news following the announcement of the disarmament. He gives a feeling of gentle sincerity and integrity which I personally feel engenders trust. It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would feel that he would lie or allow himself to be duped …………..’

‘It’s wonderful to know we have such people of faith as Rev. Good and Father Alec helping to make peace between the people of Northern Ireland and perhaps an encouragement to the rest of us that continue to hold onto `old hurt’ as we continue to blast the darkness instead of lighting a candle.

I want to now say something about the background of these two men to becoming witnesses in the disarmament process.

Rev. Harold Good

Rev. Harold Good

Reverend Harold Good
In all kinds of ways Harold Good has been involved in Gandhian causes. Born 1937 in Derry he was to follow his father into the Methodist ministry. He served as a probationary minister in the Dublin City mission in the 1950’s. He met his wife, Clodagh, whilst serving in Waterford.

In the 60’s he served in Ohio and came into direct involvement with the civil rights movement. He served in the largely black Methodist church in Indianapolis and there he was to be deeply affected by the assassination of Martin Luther King. He made a connection between racism and sectarianism.

Returning to Northern Ireland in 1968 it was through being assigned to a chapel in Agnes Road, Shankill, that he was plunged into the heart of the sectarian divide. He was witness to the consequences of brutal murders:

`I wasn’t isolated in an ivory tower. I know the pain inflicted by terrorists.’ He had to draw on the philosophy of John Wesley: `be friends of all and enemies of none.’ To quote Good himself: `honest relationships must have both, patience and aggressiveness, for the building of trust.’

In the course of his ministry he was active in the work of reconciliation and the resettlement of prisoners. He was the Director in the 70’s of the Corrymeela community., a centre for reconciliation between the communities. He was chair of NIACRO (Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Prisoners), part-time prison chaplain at Crumlin road prison, worked closely with both Republican and loyalist prisoners. A key part of the Good Friday agreement was of course the release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners.

In 1999 he was able to take a sabbatical in South Africa and his life converged very immediately with the life of Gandhi. He attended the centenary of the Phoenix farm settlement outside Durban and met Gandhi’s granddaughter. He became close to Bishop Tutu and was inspired by the South African Truth Commission and became actively involved and remains so to this day in the equivalent Healing through Remembering project in Northern Ireland.

Reverend Good has become a recognised speaker on conflict resolution, invited for example to lecture to the Basques. The Basque government awarded him the Rene Cassin Human Rights award. He and Father Reid were invited to give the John Hume lecture at the McGill University.

He was awarded an MBE in 1970 and OBE in 1985. He was elected President of the Irish Methodist Church 2001-2.

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid
Brought up in County Tipperary he was professed as a monk in the Redemptorist order 1950 (the Redemptorists were founded in 1732, for mission work among the poor, and significantly refused to restrict their mission to just educational work) and in 1954 joined the Clonard monastery in Belfast, sited at the crossroads between the Nationalist Catholic community and the Protestant Shankill road. Here he was to spend the next 40 years.

In the nature of his vocation this has been a more public than private life. In 1988 he gave the last rites to two Royal signals corporals who accidentally strayed into a republican funeral and were killed by the Provisional IRA. Father Reid has always been a committed opponent of violence. In this cause from the late 80’s onwards he engaged in talks between all the political parties, first facilitating a meeting between SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, meeting Charles Haughey in 1987 and thereafter involved discreetly in the political process right through to the Good Friday agreement of 1998.

He has likewise been involved in the peace process in Basque Spain and in 2002 was awarded the Sabino Arana `World Mirror prize ‘by the Sabino Arana Foundation of Bilbao.

He is currently based in Dublin. Although, recently he was not feeling too well we are delighted that he has come today. So, here was the background to the trust placed in them both as a witness to the decommissioning process.

I would now like to ask Lord Bhikhu Parekh to present the Gandhi Foundation 2008 International Peace Award to Reverend Harold Good & Father Alexander Reid.

Bhikhu Parekh and Harold Good

Bhikhu Parekh and Harold Good

Peace Award Acceptance Speech & Annual Lecture
by Dr. Harold Good

Thank you … and thank you Father Alec for speaking on behalf of us both and for expressing so eloquently the immense sense of honour and privilege of which we are both so aware this evening.

Following Our Part In The Verification of De-Commissioning . . .
There was a great deal of interest on the part of journalists and writers, all of whom wanted a “scoop”! One of them interviewed me for a book in which he asked why I got myself involved in all of this. In reply I said something to the effect that I wanted to leave my grandchildren and the children of their generation, the gift of peace. One of my daughters was reading this to her ten year old son and said,

“Wasn’t that a nice thing Granddad said … he wanted to leave you the gift of peace !” To which he replied, “I hope he will leave us some of his money as well !”

I hope he will be happy with the peace …. because there won’t be a lot else! More seriously, I can think of no greater gift that one generation could leave to another, than the gift of a world more at peace with itself than the one it inherited.

Gandhi Foundation audience

Gandhi Foundation audience

I know that this is where we and Gandhi and this Foundation which bears his name will find common ground. We can all think of iconic figures of the 20th Century. People who have left their mark on the pages of history for many different reasons. Some for their music, some for their analytical insights and others for their scientific achievements. But of those who have made the greatest contribution to our understanding of how we are meant to resolve our conflicts and how we are to share life on this planet, the first names to come to mind will be those of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Each of them in their own distinctive way has influenced us all, as they have influenced history. But of the four, the one whose life and teaching helped more than any to shape the thinking of the other three was, of course, Mahatma Gandhi.

This year we have marked the 40th Anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King and the 60th Anniversary of the death of Gandhi. How ironic, that two relentless advocates of non-violence should both suffer such a violent death. Those of my age and above may remember something of that fateful 30th day of January, 1948 , when on our crackling wireless sets we heard of the assassination of this strangely clad, skeletal and bespectacled little man in the distant land of India. As a ten year old schoolboy I could not have understood the significance of that event and would have paid it little attention.

For me it was many years later when I began to understand the impact of Gandhi’s teaching upon a world that lay well beyond the shores of either India or Ireland. By then it was the mid-sixties and I was living and studying in the then very turbulent and racially divided United States of America.

During that time I was serving a black inner-city congregation – from whom I learned much more about grace than I did about race! But nothing prepared me for the task of ministering to those people in the week that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King. A week when everything he had preached and learned from Gandhi was put to the ultimate test. But a week in which America and the world was to see that no assassin’s bullet could destroy the dream. A dream which is unfolding before our very eyes during these final days of the American election.

It was not surprising, that upon my return to Ireland in the late sixties I was to bring something of that experience into an inner city parish in the then turbulent Northern Ireland. It was on our first visit to South Africa that Clodagh and I stood on the railway platform in Pietermaritzburg where Gandhi , the Cambridge educated lawyer was ejected from the first class compartment for no reason other than the colour of his skin and his ethnic origins. This, of course, is where it all began. Those who flung him from that train could not have known that in that moment they were launching one of the most powerful movements in world history!

Later we drove to Phoenix near Durban to see for ourselves the settlement where Gandhi established a model of community for fellow Indians who, like himself, had been marginalised in the country of their adoption. We had been invited to the dedication of a memorial to Gandhi, to be attended by the Prime Minister of India. Our host was responsible for the arrangements, and with a life-size marble bust of the Mahatma on the back seat we bumped our way to Phoenix. I have a wonderful memory of Clodagh and Gandhi hanging on to their seats, if not each other! Sadly, it rained all through the ceremony and when leaving our vehicle got firmly stuck in a sea of mud. We pushed and shoved with the help of a gracious man who I asked to help us … not knowing until we were both covered in mud that he was none other than the grandson of Gandhi himself!

Having shared all of that, I hasten to add that these rich experiences do not make me a Gandhian expert. On the contrary, I am very conscious that I am in the presence of people who have already forgotten more than I will ever know about the Mahatma. So I will be cautious in my references!

On a recent evening I watched a BBC documentary to mark the 40th Anniversary of the first Civil Rights March in Northern Ireland. It was entitled, “The Day the Troubles Began”. But as we all know, our troubles began long before 5th October 1968. As I watched the scenes of bloody confrontation between the peaceful protestors and the police, I looked at Gandhi on the cover of the book on my knee and thought how different our story might have been if long before 1968 we had taken time to hear what Gandhi had to say to Ireland, as well as to India.

Not that the real Gandhi was the infallible ‘saint’ which many of his followers perceived him to be. Indeed, he would be the first to remind us of his own imperfections and of his personal vulnerability.

“I am not a god”, he would say. “Indeed, if the truth were known I am tempted more than most men . . .”

In his personal life he was a complex man. Like the Protestant Puritans he struggled with irrational guilt and his natural desires. In his political life he had many critics as well as disciples. His biographer, Judith Brown, encapsulates him well when she writes,

“He was a man of his time and place, with a particular philosophical and religious background, facing a particular political and social situation. He was also deeply human, capable of heights and depths of sensation and vision, of great enlightenment and dire doubt. The roots of his attitudes and actions were tangled, as are most people’s. He made good and bad choices. He hurt some, yet consoled and sustained many. He was caught in compromises, inevitable in public life.”

So what was it about this enigmatic figure which made him an icon of the 20th Century? What is it about him that continues to bring people , such as ourselves, together on a night such as this, sixty years after his death? Again, Judith Brown.

“….. fundamentally, Gandhi was a man of vision and action, who asked many of the profoundest questions that face humankind as it struggles to live in community. It was this confrontation out of a real humanity which marks his true stature and which makes his struggles and glimpses of truth of enduring significance. As a man of his time who asked the deepest questions, even though he did not have all the answers, he became a man for all times and all places.”

Returning to the theme of this evening, “Lessons for Peacemaking”, Gandhi offers two fundamental principles to those who would be serious about making peace. Firstly he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, reminding us of the need for personal integrity in the search for peace. This was the distinctive genius of Gandhi, he ‘lived the dream’. His words and actions were one, not two. In his lifestyle; his long marches; his going to prison; his readiness to fast unto death, there could be no doubt about his integrity as well as his intent.

Secondly, in a world where people instinctively assume that violence is the only sure way to challenge and change an unjust order, or that physical force is the only way of dealing with civil unrest and insurgency, Gandhi insists that there is always another and a better way. This is where I want us to connect with the Irish Peace Process.

Amongst the many books from which I sought inspiration for this lecture, I found this one in my local library. What a fascinating title, “A Word to Gandhi, the lesson of Ireland”! It is a remarkable book, addressed to Gandhi in 1931 by none other than a Brigadier-General Crozier of the British Army who had served in Ireland during the bloodiest years of the Irish rebellion. The Brigadier concludes his book with these words,

“Having seen a great deal of force in use, having applied that force for over thirty years, having experienced the utter failure of force, I must needs look for other weapons with which to achieve the welfare of mankind”

In his insistence that there must be another and a better way to resolve the problems of both Ireland and India, he pleads for a return to

“…… the weapons of love, tolerance, faith and truth and a cleansing of the stables”

Those of us who draw our inspiration from the Jesus of history, as did Gandhi, will remember his words,

“you have heard it said of old …but l tell you there is a new way”.

And it was St Paul who introduced his timeless words about the power of love by saying,

“But now I will show you a more excellent way . . .” (1st Corinthians 12/13)

For All Parties To Our Conflict,
The time had come when we knew there had to be another way. After thirty and more years of violence, the people of Ireland, North and South, Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic and Protestant, were weary of war. None more so than the victims and survivors of our conflict who would resonate with the words of Gandhi when he spoke of the awfulness and the futility of violence.

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Inevitably, the search for another and a better way begins with the acceptance of REALITY. And, as we know, reality can be painful. For Republicans, with their long history, the painful reality was that their political aspiration would not and could not be achieved through an never-ending armed and bloody struggle. For the British Government it meant acceptance of the reality that there was never going to be a military solution to the Irish problem.

A reality about which Brigadier Crozier had written to Gandhi so many years before! . . . Why does it take us so long to learn from the lessons of history? But within those realities were other realities. None of which came easily to a people entrenched in history and engulfed in violence. For Unionists it was the acceptance of the right of Nationalists to equal rights of citizenship as well as their legitimate political aspiration. For Nationalists it was the acceptance of the right of Unionists to theirs. In the search for a better way one must offer to the other nothing less than one would ask for oneself. The ultimate reality was that this part of Ireland was home to people of both traditions, Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic and Protestant, who must finally find a way to live together.

IF the acceptance of REALITY is the first step in the search for peace . . . the second is the need for DIALOGUE. This is not to suggest that there was no dialogue prior to the setting up of formal talks. While not widely publicised, throughout those violent years there was much informal dialogue which for many of us began on the streets of our cities in the darkest of days and nights.

We continued that dialogue in Protestant parsonages and Catholic monasteries; in private homes and grass-roots movements where people of goodwill came together to share their fears and their frustration. For those involved, such gatherings provided an antidote to consummate hatred and dismal despair and sustained a vision of what ultimately was to follow.

However, significant as it was, much of this dialogue was limited to conversations between like-minded people, none of whom would ever resort to violence as a way of resolving a dispute of any kind. The time had come for dialogue to include historic enemies. Something that would be resisted, but which people of goodwill were prepared to facilitate.

Yitzhak Rabin, former Prime Minister of Israel, made relentless efforts to make peace with Palestine. During the peace talks, he was pictured shaking the hand of his arch enemy, Yassar Arafat. In the face of furious criticism, he said, “you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends.” In the context of our community, subjected to years of violence and counter-violence, this would be as unthinkable as it was unpalatable. Not many would understand Gandhi’s approach to dialogue with an opponent. Gandhi’s word for this was “SATYAGRAHA.” He explains it …

“It is never the intention of SATYAGRAHA to embarrass your opponent. The appeal is never to his fear; it is, must be, always to his heart.”

“Behind my non-cooperation there is always the keenest desire to co-operate on the slightest pretext, even with the worst of opponents. To me, a very imperfect mortal, ever in need of God’s grace, no one is beyond redemption.”

In describing the dialogue which brought us to where we now are, I use the image of a curtained stage. There were three levels at which people talked, which I describe as ….

  1. Back-stage
  2. Off-stage
  3. On-stage

By this I refer to ‘behind the scenes’, informal, unrecorded conversations for which no one would be held accountable. Opportunities for people from all sides of this conflict to hear one another, some for the very first time. As it had to be an HONEST dialogue it was not always an easy dialogue. While TRUTH can ultimately make us free, it can also be very painful.

All too easily forgotten due to later events and the passage of time, was the courageous initiative on the part of Protestant churchmen who, in 1974, met secretly with the leadership of the IRA at a hotel in Feakle, Co Clare. Our history might have been very different had those talks not been abandoned after the unexpected arrival of the Irish Police in response to a tip-off!

While it is of such conversations that Father Alec and I are most familiar, you will have noticed that we do not speak of them in any detail. Unlike others, there will be no ‘reveal-all books’! For honest dialogue there must be mutual trust…. a trust which is sacred and must never be betrayed.

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid

For Father Alec there was the remarkable back-stage dialogue which led to the ground-breaking Hume-Adams talks resulting in the IRA cease-fire of 1994. In a BBC 4 profile it was Olivia O’Leary who paid my friend a well-deserved compliment when she said,

“In every conflict there is a no man’s land into which few will dare to go. Father Alec was one who did.”

For me, and for others from my tradition, there were endless days of dialogue with those committed to the antithesis of the political position embraced by the majority of people from our part of the community. This was not an easy tension, but one we chose to carry discreetly within ourselves.

I return to my image of the curtained stage. At the theatre, when curtains are pulled, the band plays and the leading players walk on stage, we are unaware of those who helped to shift the furniture, adjust the lighting and write the scripts. What matters most is what we see before us, and what is to follow. So it is in making peace. And rightly so.

The second level of dialogue is that which we describe as “OFF-STAGE”
For those involved this was difficult, potentially politically dangerous and full of risk, for there is no definite outcome. In the 1980s an IRA re-armed by Libya intensified its violent campaign and the state was accused of “shoot to kill”. There seemed to be no end to the “Long War”. But behind those violent images was a secret ‘backchannel’ involving the British Security Services, a facilitator, Derry businessman Brendan Duddy, and Martin McGuinness. Having accepted reality, both sides knew that the only way out of this conflict would be through negotiation and dialogue. This is but one example of “off stage” dialogue where issues and potential are explored in private before arriving on the public stage.

The third level of dialogue we describe as “ON STAGE”.
Throughout the years there have been many much publicized initiatives, each of which it was hoped would break the deadlock and resolve our conflict. We remember most by name, if not in detail. The ‘Anglo-Irish Agreement’; the ‘Sunningdale Agreement’ ; the ‘Downing Street Declaration’. Usually these initiatives are described as “failed” or “ill-fated”. In my view they should not be, for each was followed by strenuous efforts to build on what had been learned. Here I pause to pay tribute to the leadership of David Trimble and John Hume who put process and peace before self and party and paid a high electoral price, but without whose vision and effort we would not be where we now are.

An important lesson from our history is that to have any chance of success, dialogue must be inclusive. Father Alec’s simple but profoundly important image is of a ‘table’ around which all parties to a conflict are invited to sit, as equals. This was the basis of the talks chaired by Senator George Mitchell which led to the Good Friday Agreement. While Ian Paisley’s party and lesser known Bob McCartney chose to leave the table when Sinn Fein took their seats, their seats were kept for them while others sat through long days and nights until they arrived at agreement.

This was to be the genius of the Good Friday Agreement. As a ‘man-made’ agreement it could not be perfect, and was not acceptable to all. But in separate referenda it received the overwhelming endorsement of the people in both parts of Ireland. Here at last was CONSENSUS as to what was no longer acceptable as well as agreement on a way forward based on exclusively peaceful means and respect for the rights of all
To achieve consensus, there is an inevitable need for COMPROMISE.

Those who would argue that ‘compromise’ is a doubtful if not ‘dirty’ word will know that no marriage or any meaningful relationship would survive without it! It is not without significance that the words ‘compromise’ and ‘accommodation’ share a common root. Therefore compromise, like accommodation, is about making space for one another.

In the Good Friday Agreement there was much that was mutually acceptable to all of the parties. But there were highly contentious issues which could only be resolved through compromise. One such issue was the demand for the early release of ‘politically-motivated’ prisoners from both sides of our conflict, many of whom had been guilty of the most heinous of crimes.

At that time I chaired an organisation that shared responsibility for the care and resettlement of prisoners of all kinds and we facilitated an informed debate on the issue. Amongst those who had difficulty with the concept of early release were people from the churches.

So, I invited their representatives to meet with Brian Currin, a South African lawyer who had been involved within their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of my guests asked,

“But what about justice?”

“Don’t speak or think of this as justice” said Brian. “This is not about justice. You cannot speak of this as justice to a widow or an orphan. This is about giving all parties to the conflict an opportunity to share in a new beginning, whether you think they deserve it or not.”

“That” said I, “is what we as preachers call ‘grace’!”

“If that is your word”, said he, “keep using it for you will need a lot of it!”

In addition to ‘reality’; ‘dialogue’; ‘consensus’ and ‘compromise’, every peace process needs visible ‘SIGNS AND SYMBOLS’. This was what lay behind the demand of Unionists, and of both governments, for the complete de-commissioning of the weapons of the IRA. For Unionists, they would not contemplate sharing government with Republicans until there was evidence of ‘deeds not words’.

The historic Constitution of the Republican movement clearly forbids the surrender of one’s weapon. It speaks highly of the patience of Gen. John de Chastelain and his colleagues on the International Commission on De-commissioning that they were able to agree a process with the leadership of the IRA whereby their weapons would be put permanently ‘beyond use’ and ‘beyond reach.’ It was no surprise that the demand of Mr Paisley and the Democratic Unionists for photographic evidence was unacceptable to the IRA. The compromise was that two clerics, one Catholic and one Protestant, should be the ‘seeing eyes’ to verify what had taken place. Father Alec and I were entrusted with that task. While we do not speak of the detail of that exercise, neither of us will forget the moment when out of the shadows, a lone figure who watched over us during those days stepped forward and with military precision handed his weapon to General de Chastelain.

At that moment Father Alec leaned over and whispered in my ear, “there goes the last gun out of Irish politics.”

To report what we had seen with our own eyes was conformation of a visible sign that as far as Republicans were concerned, ‘their war was over’.

Other visible confidence-building measures included the implementation of the Patten Report on policing. A new name, new uniform, badges and insignia were very visible signs and symbols of a new Police which from now on would be fully accountable and representative of the whole community.

And there were those remarkable images from May of last year when all of the parties took their seats in the new Stormont Assembly. For me the lasting image is that of First Minister, Ian Paisley, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, going through the door of that building. Note the hand of one upon the arm of the other. This truly was ‘the hand of history’. And worth a thousand choreographed handshakes!

These are but some of the ‘Lessons for Peacemaking’, from our story. We could go on to speak of the need for ‘HOPE’. In one of his biographies , Gandhi is described in the language of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah as ‘a prisoner of hope’. Without that dogged and at times stubborn quality of hope, every peace process would fall victim to despair.

Many years ago, during the darkest days and nights of our troubles, our local newspaper invited children to write of their hopes for Northern Ireland. I still have the cutting with the simple hope of one little girl who wrote,

‘I want to grow up in a Northern Ireland where you can look at a sunset without wondering what are they bombing tonight.’

When I saw the cover of the Good Friday Agreement, I wondered did she remember what she wrote? I certainly did, for it was her letter as much as anything which prevented me from giving up.

Today our children see sunsets instead of bombs. As a community we have faced and accepted realities; engaged in dialogue; achieved consensus; accepted compromise and witnessed the signs and symbols of peace. In the context of his beloved India, Gandhi wrote what would well describe what we have seen . . .

“Things undreamt of are daily being seen, the impossible is ever becoming possible. We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence.”

But while lessons have been learned, we cannot sit back and assume that our schooling in the ways of peace is complete. It is the American poet Robert Frost who speaks of the temptation to retreat to what might appear to be a ‘safe’ place.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep … but we have miles to go before we sleep … and we have promises to keep.”

Last year, in the Basque Country, Father Alec and I shared a platform with Rolf Meyer, former Minister for Security in the discredited Apartheid Government of South Africa. He later became the chief negotiator in a peace process with the ANC. He outlined ten steps in that process. Number 9 was the need for a ‘CHANGE OF MIND’. What could follow that? As preachers we should have known. Number 10 was the need for ‘A CHANGE OF HEART.’

Remembering what happened on the train at Pietermaritzburg, Gandhi would have rejoiced in hearing that. As a deeply spiritual person, who insisted that spiritual values should be the basis for political action, he would resonate with that need for a change of heart.

As we observed the relationship between First Minister Ian Paisley, the man who consistently said “No” and “Never”, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, self-confessed commander of the IRA, there was clearly something more than a change of mind!

As churches, we must accept responsibility for our part in our tragic history. But if part of the problem, we must now be part of the solution. And if we are true to what we preach, our distinctive contribution must be in the transformation of hearts and minds. Only when we dismantle the ‘barricades’ in our attitudes will the peace walls be taken down. It will be in the de-commissioning of our mind-set that we will set each other free from fear.

Like Gandhi, we too are on an unfinished journey. None must be left behind, not least those victims on every side who have not yet found healing. Like Gandhi we too have our deep disappointments as we see what he called

“wasted opportunity through the scramble for power and diversion of political energy”

But from the lessons of history, this is a journey from which we dare not turn back, not least for the sake of the child who wrote that letter and her children and theirs. So thank you for taking time to try and understand us, and please be patient with us as we continue our journey and share our story.

Peter Cadogan (1921-2007)

Peter Cadogan, who has died at 86, was once called ‘the most expelled socialist in England’. He campaigned effectively on many fronts for peace, justice and human rights in print, on the streets and through teams of like-minded thinkers.

He moved from radical politics [Labour, Communist, Workers Revolutionary and Socialist Worker Parties] to radical spirituality as he came to the conclusion that William Blake, Gandhi and John MacMurray were his greatest mentors for living a compassionate life. He died a happy man.

Peter Cadogan was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1921 where he witnessed the poverty and humiliation of workers during the Depression. The images of war veterans and unemployed miners begging on street corners stayed with him and drove him all his life.

After working briefly as an insurance clerk, he went on to serve in the Air Sea Rescue Service from 1941 to 1946. This proved to be a profound experience. Desperate attempts to save lives, during which he found authentic friendship with the men under his command, were separated by long periods of inactivity in which he read Shaw, Wells, John MacMurray, Laski and, most importantly, Lenin’s State and Revolution. He realised much later that this book “was a lethal confidence-trick”.

On demobilisation, he immediately joined the Communist Party to which he gave 10 devoted years, thrilling to the ideas buzzing around the Historian’s Group of the CP with Christopher Hill, E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and others. In the meantime, he studied history at Newcastle University, married, had a daughter and moved to Northampton and then Cambridge to teach history in Secondary Modern schools. He is still remembered in both as an inspiring teacher.

In 1956, Khruschev’s demolition of Stalin came as a blow and, when the USSR invaded Hungary, his sharp criticisms of the CP found their way into the national press. He was suspended and then quit, quickly joining the Labour Party. Two years later, he organised for them the first nuclear base demonstration against the American Thor missiles at Mepal, near Ely.

He became a founder member of the Socialist Labour League which later became the Workers Revolutionary Party and was expelled by the Cambridge Labour Party. Other joinings and expulsions of factions on the Left followed.

In 1960, Bertrand Russell proposed non-violent civil disobedience against nuclear weapons. Cadogan joined his Committee of 100 and their campaign climaxed in September 1961 with a vast but banned demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Russell was arrested along with 1300 others. Early in 1962, Russell sent him and others to the World Peace Council in Moscow where they “staged a free, unlicensed demonstration in Red Square against all Bombs including those of the Soviet Union. The police moved in immediately. It was the first free demo in that Square since the 1920s and made world headlines”.

Within days of the Biafran War starting in May 1968, Cadogan had set up the Save Biafra Campaign and worked vigorously for 18 months getting a lot of national coverage. All to no avail as the Foreign Office “was stuck with the Lugard doctrine of ‘one Nigeria’ and the Wilson Government, as usual, did what it was told. London supplied Lagos with all its arms, ammunition and military advisers. Moscow provided its Air Force and trained its pilots – an unholy alliance to end all such alliances”. About a million innocent people died of starvation.

From 1970 to 1981, he was the General Secretary of the South Place Ethical Society at Conway Hall, known as London’s ‘temple of dissent’. He saw his main task there as defending ‘the rational religious sentiment’, each individual’s ‘sense of the sacred’, and to this end conducted over 50 weddings and funerals. In 1975, he wrote “Direct Democracy: An Appeal to the Professional Classes, to the Politically Disenchanted and to the Deprived. The Case for An England of Sovereign Regional Republics, Extra-Parliamentary Democracy and a New Active Non-Violence of the Centre”, modelling his title on The Levellers and integrating his “revelatory discovery” of William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche. In it, he pioneered the idea of the gift economy.

This led to him co-founding the organisation and journal Turning Point with economist James Robertson which was published for over 25 years. From 1981 until his retirement in 1993, Peter was Tutor in the History of Ideas in the Extra-Mural Department of London University and the Workers Education Association.

By 1987 he had become disillusioned with all forms of protest and put his energies into what he called positive and practical solutions. From 1993, he worked for The Gandhi Foundation, leading their project in Northern Ireland and advocating Non-Violent Direct Action. He set up Values and Vision and Save London Alliance in his home on the base of his conviction that authentic national democracy can only emerge from local democracies. He became well-known in Kilburn for saving a local park, for Xmas lights on the High Road, his letters to the press and his garden. Local kids called him ‘Mr. Peter’.

During the 1990s he became the subject of great interest to historians, pre-eminent amongst them Professor Kevin Morgan, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History at Manchester University, who interviewed Peter in depth, placed the recordings in the National Sound Archives and anthologised his papers on the CP.

Peter continued to e-mail and write articles and letters to the very end. Throughout 65 years of radical activism, he was never afraid to speak his mind, to challenge and question his own and other people’s thinking. This seemed at first to many as intolerance, even arrogance. In fact, all soon discovered that it was no more than his passion for accuracy and clear thinking in the overall pursuit of justice.

Like Gandhi, he became and remained friends with all his temporary enemies. Over 70 people, old comrades and new friends, came to his bedside in St Mary’s Paddington or sent him messages of love and respect. Peter had co-founded The Blake Society in 1985, was its President for the first four years before becoming Life Vice-President. So it was appropriate that his last days fell during the month of Blake’s 250th anniversary. He quoted Blake’s poems to those around his bed and told us that Blake’s “Jerusalem” ‘said it all’. His dying words were Blake’s moral imperative “Live differently”! Peter did just that, his integrity intact.
John Rowley

Instead of ending his copious and challenging notes, letters and writings “with all good wishes” or something, Peter would say “oxygen, peace, flowers”. I loved that ending: oxygen for the life we breathe in and out; peace, we all yearn for whether secretly or openly; flowers, symbolising nature which surrounds and nourishes. Peter first introduced me to the Northern Ireland Working Group in London which he and I represented within the GF. In the 1980s, we joined a group to visit Dublin to discover more about “the Troubles” from across the border. He was indefatigable in his work and writings, giving great support to those he believed had “got it right” in Northern Ireland. He was a warrior of the right kind and he leaves a gap behind him. Go ye well, Peter. It was rich knowing you.
Denise Moll


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