11 Features An interview with Kate O’ Sullivan
You have the right to remain silent. But Kate O’Sullivan really hopes you don’t, as she discusses her attempted citizen’s arrest on Tony Blair with Editor Daniel Lynch.
Q: There was a lot of media atten- tion around your attempted citi- zen’s arrest on Tony Blair, what was the reason for your attempt?
The reason was the war waged by both Tony Blair and George Bush that was totally illegal. There was no regard for civilian life. The known numbers on how many were killed is vague, it could be 100,000, or it could be a million. It was very much against interna- tional law, and it’s unacceptable for a war criminal to just come along, sign his book and get away with it.
Q: Would you class his actions as profiteering?
I think the point behind his book is to try and show his human side in an attempt to whitewash or side- step his status as a war criminal. I don’t know would you class it as profiteering. He has since said he’s giving the proceeds to charity. He's donating the money to a wounded soldier rehab centre, seen by many as trying to save his conscience. But he doesn’t need the money. Public talks since he left as prime minister have made him very wealthy anyway.
Q: You were forcibly removed by security; do you feel you were mis- treated?
Well what they did was technically illegal. Under the Criminal Law Act 1997, you are able to make cit- izen’s arrest in this country. But what you are supposed to do is to ask a Garda to help you. I was re- moved before I was about to get a chance. But the very fact is the Gardaí were protecting him. The fact that they left me go, and didn’t charge me with anything speaks for itself.
Q: Do you feel preferential treat- ment maintains a status quo?
Yeah, if this was a man who mur- dered 15 people he would be ar- rested immediately, but if you murder several hundred thousand you are free to go.
Q: Some of the media commented negatively that you bought the book, but you had to do that in order to queue. Do you feel the media were biased?
You had to buy the book! I read a bit of the factual news stories, and a few of the editorials but I have no interest in what most of them have to say. People say, ‘Oh did I really
think I was going to make a citi- zen’s arrest?’ Well no, of course I didn’t. It was a symbolic gesture, but hopefully one day it won’t be and it can happen for real. Main- stream media often look down on activists partly because of how at- tached they are to government. A lot of them can be condescending, because they don’t understand what we’re doing. But some of the reports back were very positive to be fair.
Q: Would you say there is a dispar- ity between the UK and Irish media?
Absolutely, it’s insanely different. It’s not my first time dealing with the media. I have a lot of friends who are activists. (In the UK) They are portrayed as anarchists, com- munists.
A few times! They are portrayed as though they don’t know what they’re talking about. If you look back at how the English media covered the Iraq war, there was nearly no coverage of the millions and millions of civilians... Re- cently the BBC covered the flotilla attacks in Palestine. And I honestly couldn’t watch it. They didn’t cover many basic facts of the inci- dent.
Q: You are involved in a lot of ac- tivism. Earlier you said your citi- zen’s arrest was largely symbolic. Is that often the case?
No, not at all. I think real change can be affected; the most promi- nent cause I am involved in is Palestinian one. People-led move- ments are having a real effect on the Palestine/Israel issue as op- posed to the empty words of the government. I can’t emphasise enough, that it isn’t just rhetoric or anything, but that real change can be brought about.
Q: Do you feel your activism in this regard is hampered by accusa- tions of anti Semitism?
The media play that card ridicu- lously. It’s sad that it is used so much, it loses all meaning. The amount of times I have been called anti-Semitic is ridiculous. I have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. A lot of activism I’m involved with is working against racism. Anti- Zionism is not anti-Semitism and Judaism has nothing to do with Zi- onism. In fact Zionism is using Ju-
daism for its own purposes to the disgust of many Jewish people around the world. I have no hatred for the Jewish people at all.
Q: So are governments exploiting people’s emotions when it comes to playing off ethnic minorities?
Look at the rise of Islamophobia. Why are we not scarred of ETA or other leftist terrorist groups? When you look back at the Iraq War, it was inherently racist. Some sol- diers were indoctrinated into being racist. It’s apparent when you look at the photos recently of firing ranges that were mini mosques.
Q: What is your advice to budding activists?
Keep remembering you have inter- national law on your side, the facts and figures are on your side. I did- n’t take notice of a lot of the media (around her) as I knew what I was doing. If you are going to get into activism, really research what you’re doing; really understand what you are doing. Going to places that you are actually work- ing for will inspire you above everything else.
Q; How would they go about join- ing a group, such as one of your own?
Cork-Palestine link, if they put it into Facebook, they’ll find it. Also, everyone is welcome to our meet- ings, every two weeks on Tuesday. How I started off was starting a protest and petition, and it went on from there. Once you start to inter- act with people, you’ll feel better about what you’re doing. It will change your life.
Q: So, how does it feel to have a Facebook page on how you are a legend?
(Laughs) I know it was not about me and rather the cause.
Q: And finally, do you find that so- cial networking and the internet in general has made your work eas- ier?
I am in love with social networking and all that it offers... You can’t hide the truth. People were on the ground in Gaza as things were hap- pening, and with tweeting, Face- book and such they had the news out an hour before CNN or other news groups. My parents were ac- tivists too. They were heavily in- volved with community groups. A lot of it was word of mouth. But now we can organise locally, na- tionally and internationally.
James Madden 2nd Arts Best part of Freshers Week?: Free stuff. Haven’t really enjoyed it that much. What colour underwear are you wearing?: (Strange look) Eh, white. Last film you saw?:Withnail and I.
Would you be a cat or a dog?: Dog, because they’re more loyal.
Ingrida Kirtiklyte Erasmus History What book are you reading?: Ulysses. Best thing about Irish culture?: The fun of the people How are you finding the univer- sity?: Getting to know the area is great, even outside lectures it’s so student orientated. Best part of your week?: The classes, very interesting subjects. Would you be a cat or a dog?: I’d rather be a cat, as dogs appear more proletarian than cats.
Oísin Hunt 2nd Arts Best part of Freshers?: John Cooper in the Pavilion. Fantastic. What colour underwear are you wearing?: (Doesn’t flinch) Navy. Last album bought legally?: The Villagers, ‘Becoming a Jackal’. Would you be a cat or a dog?: A dog, they’re better.
Conner Muldowney 2nd Arts Worst part of Freshers Week?: Registering for English, and all seminars being gone. What colour underwear are you wearing: Grey (credit for not hav- ing to check). Would you be a cat or a dog?: I don’t like cats, so dog by default. Last music downloaded: The MegaDeath discography
Oonagh O’Sullivan 1st Law, German Last film you saw?: The big sum- mer one...Inception! Do you carry a toothbrush in your bag?: Eh no. Best part of Freshers Week?: Hopefully the Freshers Ball! Haven’t gone to that yet. How’s UCC so far?: Very lively, loads going on around campus.
Aisling Cronin 1st Law, German Last Album you bought?: Now 76. Music for a trip! Do you carry PJs in your bag?: Hmm!? No! Best part of Freshers Week?: Well the UV party was very good. But hopefully the Freshers Ball is better. How was UCC so far?: Pretty cool!
All Photos: Julia Healy
September 28th 2010
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