Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Grassroots Gathering - call for contributions

Grassroots Gathering 2015
Joining the dots between grassroots movements, communities, campaigns...

Preliminary announcement and call for contributions

St. John Bosco Youth Centre, Drimnagh, Dublin
Friday April 17 (evening) - Sunday April 19th (afternoon)

A grassroots gathering is a one-off event run by a local group bringing together people involved in different community campaigns and social movements to learn from each other's experiences, talk about what works and what doesn't, develop networks and make alliances.

Joining the dots - imagines a raising of awareness, a politicisation leading to radical transformation, it may also envision a strategic connection between diverse campaigns and collective actions in order to advance, strengthen, consolidate and collaborate in struggle with unity and purpose.

There have been over a dozen of these gatherings in different parts of the country over the last eleven years and they have helped support all sorts of different campaigns and movements – campaigning against the water charges, resisting Shell in Erris, campaigning against cuts, supporting women's right to choose, advocating for housing rights and resisting evictions, challenging neo-liberalism in the EU, campaigning against deportation and the direct provision system, creating free space for young people, fighting for environmental justice, highlighting US military use of Shannon, challenging racism and more.

A good workshop for this gathering has any speakers talking for just 5 or max 10 minutes each to get a discussion going - remember most other people there are also activists. A really good workshop has people from different movements giving 5-minute intros about the same kind of practical problem from their own experiences and then a discussion. We aren't looking for events which are mostly made up of one person talking or which are mostly about trying to sell other people on a specific issue. So please let us know if you’d like to do a short intro or organise a whole workshop!

Typical sessions might include:
- How to organise, strategy and tactics, direct action, dealing with police...
- getting people involved, mobilising communities, media of all kinds, politicisation...
- education, understanding the issues, working together against austerity...
- arts workshops, film showing, children's activities, outdoors activities...

It's not for profit (and we all get to muck in with washing up, passing the hat and generally helping out), it isn't run by any political party and nobody will try to recruit anyone.

Over the last few years more and more people have seen just how corrupt the system is and how little faith we can have in the people who claim to represent us and "see us right". For this reason the Gatherings aren't for people who want to make a name for themselves, make a career out of other people's activism, get a leg up politically, make money out of campaigning, appear on TV etc.

More formally we have the "Grassroots Principles" which say that we want to work together as equals, run things in an open and democratic way and try not to talk down to each other or over each other's heads. Rather than rebuild the old mess we believe in communities being able to decide for themselves, workplaces controlled by the people who actually work in them, a sustainable economy and an end to neoliberal bodies like the IMF and World Bank which have helped to create the crisis. The full principles and more about the Gatherings at

The venue is 20 minutes from Dublin city centre on the red Luas line, just opposite the Drimnagh Luas stop. We'll be having evening events on Friday, all day and evening events on Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon - more details TBA.

If this sounds interesting, please get involved and help us make it happen! If you’d like to offer a workshop or suggest one which you’d like to see, please email We're also going to need practical help on the weekend (food, childcare, beds etc.); one-off things like poster design and fundraising help; and you might just want to be kept up-to-date. For any of these please email us or check our facebook page (

Co-organised by the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism (Maynooth) (

Supported by Gluaiseacht for Global Justice ( and Workers Solidarity Movement (

Thanks to the St John Bosco Youth Centre, Drimnagh (

Address for facebook etc.:

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

MA CEESA - a masterclass in changing the world

Call-out for students for this autumn's MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at Maynooth - please circulate!
We have a lot going on at the MA - a talk next week "Gypsy rebellion? Leadership, NGOs and activism among Spanish gitanos"; in April John Holloway is giving a two-day seminar "Think Hope, Think Crisis" and not long after that we're co-organising the "Joining the dots" Grassroots Gathering in Dublin - all part of a wider Dublin Spring of resistance and creation bubbling up from below.
Now read on...

Are you

-          active in social movement struggles but need space to stand back, reflect, recharge?

-          committed to community activism  but frustrated by where the community sector  is going?

-          trying to see a way forward for radical education in a cold climate?

-          politically minded but don’t know how to turn that into an effective and radical practice?

-          involved in NGO or trade union activism but feel trapped by the structures?

-          concerned about the cooption of community and other groups and wondering how to reorganise?

-          clear that social change is central to you but unsure how to build a life around it?

-          interested in spending a year with experienced activists and community educators?

Around the world today, movements and communities are making history – or trying to. Austerity is being challenged across Europe, while Latin American movements are rewriting the rulebook and elsewhere massive popular movements are challenging the powerful from Hong Kong to Turkey to Ferguson. In Ireland too, struggles around water charges, fracking, abortion rights and direct provision are shaking the old certainties that “there is no alternative” to neoliberalism, that cosying up to state institutions is the only game in town, that we are condemned to an endless rerun of the same parties in power.

The need for change is huge and the outcome is still all to play for. We see seemingly unstoppable movements squashed - and seemingly hopeless ideas winning against all the odds. Movements seem to come out of nowhere and shake the powers that be – but then it can be hard to see a way forward. 

What makes the difference, and how can our movements really change the world?

The Masters in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism (CEESA) at Maynooth responds to the crisis by helping us learn from each other’s struggles in dialogue between different movements, different communities and different generations. The course is not tied to any single movement and participants come from many different communities and countries. Some are experienced activists who want to go back to education; others are people who are just getting involved in movements. 

This lively mixture of ages, backgrounds, experiences and questions is an integral part of what makes the course so rewarding. Together we are building a diverse network of movement activists, radical educators and campaigners for equality and creating new alliances for change. See the video at

The course team are experienced practitioners and engaged researchers working on equality, radical education and movement struggles. The course combines political strategy, bottom-up organising methods and social analysis with a wide range of learning methods and a focus on knowledge for change, taking a practical but radical look at the problems facing movements today. Our small-group classes run one or two days a week to facilitate participants’ lives, over two 12-week terms followed by working on a project aimed at developing your own movement practice. We don’t just learn within the classroom: we do joint events with a wide range of community and movement groups in Ireland as well as running events with international activists like Hilary Wainwright, John Holloway, Selma James, John Krinsky, Jane McAlevey, Eurig Scandrett, Rhetta Moran, Firoze Manji…

Often we are told we have to choose between our politics and “real life”. This Masters shows how to integrate the two with confidence, practicality, solidarity, emotional resilience, seeing the bigger picture, taking time out to reflect and supporting each other for the long haul. Participants go back to their own movements refreshed, set up new projects, find work in movement organisations, go on to further education - and bring back what they have learned to their own struggles.

Contact the Dept of Adult and Community Education at  or (01) 7083937.

Gypsy rebellion? Leadership, NGOs and activism among Spanish gitanos

Public talk by
Antonio Montañés

Gypsy rebellion? A sociocultural analysis of leadership, NGOs and activism among Spanish gitanos

Wednesday, March 11th, 5 - 6.30 pm
Room ACE 2, ground floor, Rowan House, north campus, Maynooth
(SE corner of north campus, between Education House and Auxilia building)
Why does a historically stigmatized and family-oriented ethnic minority that is pushed to the margins of social life decide to engage in politics and civil society? How do they manage to carry out such an a priori countercultural task? What kinds of cultural repertories and narratives bridge this historical gap? What challenges and paradoxes do they face and what trends do we find?

In this talk, the author will explore the impact that sociological context (such as extensive urbanization and the end of the Franco era) and external agents (such as the Catholic Church and other State-oriented institutions) had on the birth of gitano associationism and its struggle for institutional recognition. In addition, the author will   focus on the powerful and monopolistic position of NGOs on gitano civil society, the drastic reconfiguration of social leadership following decades of extreme social changes, and the recent evolution of gitano collective action, informed by the emergence of new and critical ethnic autonomous agents (feminism, LGTB).

About the author:

Antonio Montañés is FPI Junior Researcher at the Department of Sociology V of Complutense University of Madrid and Marie Curie RA at Maynooth University. He has been appointed a Visiting Scholar at the University of Saint Andrews (UK), University of Aberdeen (UK) and Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain). He has won several honourable mentions based on excellence in scholarship from the Autonomous Community of Madrid Higher Education Council and Spanish Government.

Admission free, all welcome

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Dublin spring?

It looks as though things may be starting to turn around for movements at last - between the water charges movement in Ireland and events in Greece and Spain it's clear that there's a new sense of
possibility in the air, however people read that.

There's a series of upcoming events in the greater Dublin region this spring aiming to feed into this process and hopefully contribute to taking things further. Here's a few dates:

Friday March 6th (7 - 9 pm) and Saturday March 7th (10 - 5 pm), Teachers Club:

Grassroots Strategy Weekend organised by Gluaiseacht for Global Justice, ATTAC Ireland, Third Level Workplace Watch, Marea Granate Dublin and We're Not Leaving.

Monday April 13th and Tuesday April 14th (10 - 5 pm), Maynooth:

John Holloway seminar "Think hope, think crisis" organised by the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism.

Friday April 17th (evening) to Sunday April 19th (afternoon), Don Bosco centre, Drimnagh:

Grassroots Gathering "Joining the dots", co-organised by the MA CEESA. Watch this space for more details.

Friday April 24th - Sunday April 26th, Smithfield

Dublin Anarchist Bookfair, organised by the Workers Solidarity Movement. More details TBA.

Just so you know...

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Origins and development of the movement against water charges

The audio of a great recent talk and discussion analysing the water charges protests (41 mins) by veteran activist Andrew Flood is now online here. Very perceptive stuff.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Academics, social movements and praxis

Interface's Africa editor Richard Pithouse has written a very interesting piece about emancipatory praxis and the academy which is well worth a read. Probably not all of it is applicable to the Irish situation but some of it seems particularly true of relationships between academia, NGOs and working-class community activism.

Monday, 16 February 2015

50 Shades of Socialist Feminism

Just for a nice change of tone...

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Grassroots Strategy Weekend (Dublin, March)

Not the Grassroots Gathering / CEESA event (details TBA but greater Dublin, April 17th - 19th) but another Very Good Thing and just the right time for it!

Gluaiseacht for Global Justice, We're Not Leaving, ATTAC Ireland,
Third Level Workplace Watch, and Marea Granate Dublin invite you to a

Grassroots Strategy Weekend
Evening debate, Friday 6th March
All day workshops, Saturday 7th March

The Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1
Vibrant and spirited grassroots campaigns, including water and housing, have invigorated and energised people, movements and political actors in Ireland. Many of us now speak about austerity, neoliberalism, and the ruling elite that has lost touch with the majority of the people. We speak about and see the connections between the water-tax, the nationalisation of private debt, the housing and homelessness crisis, the scandal of direct provision, the crumbling health care system, trade agreements like TTIP, privatisation of public goods, services and national resources, the decimation of the community sector, the assault of structural violence and institutional racism, and much, much more. 

Still, this awakened public consciousness of how the powers that be operate and influence our lives is not yet visible in the collaboration of social movement groups who work on these issues.

Hence, we invite you to a weekend of discussion intended to establish what connects us
and to work out collectively if there are common strategies or projects we can pursue together to strengthen all of our movements.

For who?

This event is for people active in progressive social movements in Ireland; anti-austerity, environmental, end direct provision, anti-racism, economic justice, debt justice, water justice, 
trade justice, anti-fracking, housing crisis, human rights, anti-discrimination, unions, choice, women's movement, anti-TTIP, and so on...

Panel Discussion, Friday March 6th 2015, 7pm to 9pm

Topic: “Routes to power - from social movements to political power.” Are there (or what are the) limits to what social movements can achieve?

Emma Avilés Thurlow was involved in the wave of the 15M Spanish r-Evolution. She has also participated in Citizen Debt Audit Platform (PACD and is part of Xnet (, the group of activists that has driven the initiatives that are behind the leaks of the major corruption cases that are shaking Spanish politics today with the devices of 15MpaRato (the main lawsuit against the Spanish bailed-out bank Bankia and its banksters) and BuzónX (a system for citizen whistle-blowing).
Theodoros Karyotis is a sociologist, translator and activist participating in social movements that promote self-management, solidarity economy and defence of the commons. A member of the Initiative of Solidarity with the Vio.Me, a self-managed factory, ( and the Initiative 136 for the social control of Thessaloniki’s water services ( He helps organise the annual Direct Democracy Festival, an international event that brings together collectives, activists and academics around the issue of constructing radical alternatives to capitalism from below.
Cian O'Callaghan is an independent left wing councillor on Fingal County Council. He has being involved in both grassroots activism and electoral politics in Dublin since the 1990s.
Caoimhe Butterly has worked with social justice movements and grassroots community projects in Chiapas, Guatemala, Haiti, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon for over 12 years. Presently engaged in post-graduate studies at Kimmage DSC, her research is focused on migrant women's activism and self-organisation. She is active with anti-racism, migrant justice and other movements in Ireland.

More panellists to be announced in the coming days.

Strategy Workshops, Saturday March 7th, 10 am to 5 pm

A full day of workshops and discussions all day on Saturday 7th March. For more information see below. Also check out Gluaiseacht for Global Justice on Facebook.
Childcare is available. If you require childcare please let us know in advance; email

All day strategy workshops for grassroots campaigns

Saturday 7th March 10 am – 5 pm, The Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square
The second day of our Grassroots Strategy weekend will be a full day of workshops and discussions about what we have in common and how we might wish to work together across movements.

How to prepare:
If you have time, we have prepared some questions (see below) for participants to answer. You can do this either in your campaign group or individually in order to prepare for the workshops. Please send your answer back to
Session 1: 10 am – 11 am, opening session
“Making Waves: voices from European and Irish social movements”
In this session, we will hear from movement organisers from Ireland, Spain, and Greece, who will speak about how movements in their countries have come together. This will be followed by an open discussion.
Session 2: 11 am – 12.30 am
“Creating links in Ireland”
What links all of our movements? What do we have in common? What are the common targets? What are the roots of the problems?
The attached questions sheet will be very helpful in preparing for this session, and will contribute to the following sessions.
Session 3: 12.45 am – 1.30 pm
Brainstorm sessions for workshops. Here we will ask questions like:

- How do we create stronger links between existing Irish initiatives?
- What initiatives and struggles needs to be developed?
- How do we dismantle media narratives that focus on misleading causes and bogus solutions? How can we build a counter narrative?
- How do we plan actions together? Should we?
- How can we avoid duplication of work?
Lunch: 1.30 pm – 2.30 pm
Lunch will be provided, please RSVP in advance so we order enough food.

Session 4: 2.30 pm – 4 pm


Session 5: 4.15 pm – 5 pm 

“Bringing it all back together”
Hearing the outcomes of the workshops.
Closing comments.

Preparatory Questions for Workshops, Saturday 7th March

Please answer these questions and send the answers to no later than 1st March 2015.

These questions are designed to form a common working document for the workshops. The answers will be collated, and we will give general feedback of the results to participants. The findings will be generalised and anonymous, and are intended to form a starting point for discussion in the workshops.

  1. Present your group in one paragraph, if you are in a group (ethos, purpose, membership/who is in your group) in 3-5 sentences.
  1. Have you or your group identified a root cause of the issues you're working on / what are the underlying issues?  (e.g. lack of 'real' democracy, the markets, elites ruling in their own interests, etc.)
  1. A: In the context of your campaign/group, who are the antagonists? (e.g. politicians, companies, etc.)
B: What are the obstacles? Are any of them global? Are any of them specific to the Irish context?
  1. A: Which groups do you see as your allies?
B: If you could see your campaign moving to another issue what would it be?
C: What do you think connects you to them? 

Please note that there will be another grassroots event in April - Joining the Dots: Grassroots Gathering 2015. The events will be relevant to each other and are not in competition. Check their website or the facebook events page for further details.