*** Grassroots Gathering 5 ***

*** Dublin, June 27th - 29th ***

The fifth Grassroots Gathering was held in Dublin city centre (in the Teachers Club, Parnell Square) from the evening of Friday 27 June to the afternoon of Sunday 29 June. The event brought togethe non-hierarchical activists and groups involved in the global movement against neo- liberalism and war for a weekend of workshops, socials,debates and fun geared towards building and developing the movement in Ireland. A key theme for this gathering was developing diversity within the movement, and opening the Gathering to movements and sectors which had not yet become involved.

See below for the original call out for the gathering and see here for an account of what happened..

Download the Programme to Print or to Read online. Download the Flyer here.
Here's a Flyer for the gig.
Check out and distribute the Poster.

Grassroots Gathering Five

Teacher’s Club, Dublin, Friday 27th June – Sunday 29th June

What this fifth Gathering is for:
Create a bridge for non-hierarchical & direct action activism between the mobilisations against the war on Iraq this spring and the mobilisations against the World Economic Forum this autumn

Encourage networking between different movements, with workshops that encourage people to mix between different movements, rather than primarily "issue-" based themes

Develop diversity within the movement by inviting participants from different movements, and particularly inviting specific people to give 5-minute intros to the individual workshops

Things to bring:

A bit of energy, enthusiasm, cheerfulness, friendliness and interest in other people if you can manage it!

Info about your own group, specially stuff to help make links with other groups and activists – most of the people at the Gathering will not be anonymous “punters” but busy activists.

If you want to take part in the 5-a-side soccer tournament (all day Saturday + Sunday morning), try to bring a bike! (We’ll try to have bikes available too.)

If you want to do the Indian Head Massage workshop (Saturday afternoon), bring a towel to cover the top of your body (unless it’s something you’d like to share with the rest of us!)

Donations! The Gathering has no money at all, and it’s costing about €750 - €1000 to run it!!

Friday afternoon / evening
[6 pm - Team meeting]

7 pm - Welcomes, sorting out floor space for visitors

8 pm - Introductions:
What is the Grassroots Gathering?

Groups introduce themselves

15-min. training session for facilitators (run by Aileen O’Carroll, Laurence Cox)


- Graciela Monteagudo, Argentinian community artist and human rights activist

Graciela will give a unique puppet show portraying how workers have gone from regular jobs to picking up cardboard from the streets of Buenos Aires every night to sell it for a few pence. The show - which has already toured the two Americas with great success - tells of the local social movements that have grown to create a near insurrection. Over the last 2 years an incredible wave of social protest and action has engulfed Argentina. In the midst of the well-publicised economic collapse there have been massive street protests, numerous co- ordinated road blockades, over 200 factories under workers control, more than three hundred coordinated microenterprise cooperatives organized by unemployed women and men, countless neighborhood associations formed, and many other autonomous popular initiatives.

(for more information on whats happening in Argentina check this article out)

10.30 pm – Bodkin’s pub, Bolton Street

Saturday morning

[9.30 pm – Team meeting]

10 am - Welcomes and opening circle: "who are we and why are we here?"

11 am - Coffee!


(1) Networking between movements: how are we doing?
(networking workshop)

Over the last few years there's been an explosion in networking between social movements in Ireland and globally. A lot of this has been part of the development of the global anti-capitalist movement, and more recently the anti-war movement, but similar networks have been developing on an Irish or local level around issues like community control of development, waste management issues or supporting volunteering. This workshop starts from what's happened in different movement "sectors" and why, and will hopefully discuss what works and what doesn't, and help us think about where the process is going and what we want to do to help.

Giancarlo, Community Exchange

Barry Finnegan, Irish Social Forum

Steve McConville, Belfast social movements

Paul Moloney, Independent Socialist Network

(2) Opposing the war: future anti-war activity
(networking workshop)

The Grassroots Network Against War (GNAW) developed out of the third Grassroots Gathering in Belfast as a radical forum for non- hierarchical opposition to war. Despite many difficulties, the GNAW put the issue of large- scale direct action on the public agenda in Ireland, perhaps for the first time since Carnsore Point. This workshop will be organised by GNAW and the campaign to boycott TOPoil to discuss the current situation and future directions for anti-war activism in Ireland.

Anto from GNAW

Speaker from “Boycott TOPoil” campaign

(3) Is social partnership going anywhere?
(discussion / debate workshop)

Since the mid-1980s, "social partnership" has been an increasingly important strategy for the Irish state, progressively developing to include trade unions, community groups, the environment and development sectors. Often this has been something which (some) movement groups have actively pushed for, but what we got has not always turned out to be what we meant. This workshop looks at how partnerhip is working (or not working) in different sectors, and aims for a debate on whether there is (still?) anything to be gained from being involved in it.

Des Derwin, SIPTU

Speaker from Pavee Point

Possible speaker from Community Platform

(4) Whose progress? Progress for who? Nature, technology, humans
(discussion / debate workshop)

Different social movements have different traditional views about technological and industrial development. Some activists think that new technologies will save us, some that ecological disaster is round the corner, some that industrial development is crucial to meet human needs. These are central issues in relation to the environment, but also in relation to "sustainable development" in the majority world. This workshop aims to debate the issues involved and see if our views are really all that incompatible.

Robert Allen, An Talamh Glas / BlueGreenEarth

Chekov Feeney (Workers Solidarity Movement)

* Videos (programme to be announced)

* Physical activities:

5-a-side football tournament by Robert Allen, An Talamh Glas

Games by Elinor, Traveller and Settled Solidarity

1 pm - Lunch!

Saturday afternoon / evening:


(5) Opposing neo-liberalism in Ireland
(networking workshop)

Neo-liberal economics, covered over by a package of social partnership, consultation and participation, has grown stronger and sharper in Ireland over the last five years. In areas as diverse as the trade unions, environmental campaigning, community activism and development work, activists have found themselves increasingly unhappy with the "partnership" that is offered and increasingly angry about the "big picture" of cuts, privatisation, deregulation and state "non- interference" as business interests reshape the world - and Ireland - to suit themselves. What do our different struggles look like? Are there ways we can work together more effectively? And do we stand a chance of winning?

Donagh from Gluaiseacht

Speaker from Campaign for Free Education

Dermot Sreenan, Campaign Against the Bin Charges

(6) Keeping going: dealing with defeat and burnout
(networking workshop)

All long-term activists have to deal with the experience of not winning, as well as cope with the risk of burnout when we invest heavily in urgent campaigns. How do we pick ourselves up and keep on going as individuals? How do we support other activists in hard times so defeat doesn't decimate our movements? This workshop is geared to sharing experiences, skills, problems and ideas between activists in different movements - both those of us who have survived and kept going, and those of us who are finding it hard to see any hope or find any enthusiasm for the next campaign.

Tracey from Shannon Peace Camp

Alan MacSimóin, Workers Solidarity Movement

Christian Volkmann, Glen of the Downs

(7) Direct action, the bins, the bombs, the boulders and the bunkers...
(action / skills workshop)

While the protests at Shannon have put "direct action" on the public agenda in Ireland, there is also a long-standing tradition of direct action in this country going back decades if not centuries. How is direct action working at the moment in our different movements? What are the success stories, and what are the difficulties we're facing? Are we developing effective ways of working, and how can we share those with other activists?

Liz Curry, Evian returnee & friends

Marianne from the Good Bus

James McBarron from Old Head of Kinsale Campaign

With input by activists from Reclaim the Streets, Grassroots Network Against War, Campaign Against the Bin Charges

(8) Putting the roots back into grassroots: building links to community groups.
(action / skills workshop)

Along with trade unions, community activism is probably the single biggest social movement in Ireland, and one which shares a lot of values (bottom-up organising, non-hierarchical structures, a focus on issues of power and injustice) with many other social movements. But the gap between community groups and other movements often seems particularly hard to bridge. This workshop brings together people with experience in the area to talk about what it is that divides us, how we can respect each other's differences, and what the possibilities are for developing communication and even cooperation on shared issues.

Margaret Gillan, Community Media Network

Siobhán O’Donoghue, Community Workers Co- operative

(9) Space is the place: creating, sustaining and defending autonomous spaces
(action / skills workshop)

Controlling our own space is a crucial practical aspect of being able to organise, support each other, generate new projects and simply explore the experience of freedom. Right now, a number of free spaces on the island are under threat for one reason or another, while other projects are underway to create new ones. This workshop brings together people involved or interested in the area to talk about the practicalities as well as the broader issues.

Fergal Leddy, Spacecraft

Cathie Clinton, The Palace

With input by activists from Giros [Belfast], Cork Autonomous Zone, Garden of Delight [Dublin], Arran Quay squat

* Physical activities:

5-a-side football tournament by Robert Allen, An Talamh Glas

Yoga by Caitríona

4 pm - Coffee!


(10) Defending / developing diversity
(networking workshop)

While the "opening up" of Irish society has created new spaces for diversity and difference, it has also highlighted continuing forms of racism, bigotry and intolerance, and given right-wing groups new possibilities of organising. At the same time, the new anti- capitalist and anti-war movements remain considerably less diverse than their potential. This workshop focusses on how we can defend and develop diversity within Irish society as well as within our own movements.

Katie Hourigan, Multiple Sclerosis Society

Rosanna Flynn, Residents Against Racism

(11) Preparing for the World Economic Forum
(action / skills workshop)

The World Economic Forum is coming to Ireland for October 20th to 21st. The protests will be really important for people who have been radicalised / got active during the anti-war campaign, as well as probably the first time that "anti- globalisation" activism in Ireland will have a chance of becoming a large-scale and popular movement. Based on the experience of e.g. the protests at Shannon, we can expect that many NGOs will restrict their activities to lobbying, while the traditional left will focus on marches and listening to speakers. What are we going to do ourselves?

Barry Finnegan, Irish Social Forum

Liz Curry, Evian returnee & friends

Padraic, Gluaiseacht

Speaker from the Good Bus

(12) Creating our own media
(action / skills workshop)

Part of building movements that work is finding ways of communicating: building our own media, but also using the dominant media when we have to. This workshop brings together people with long experience in building alternative media, people who want to know how they can take effective action to build movement "infrastructure" and people interested in how to work with the mainstream media for our own purposes.

Sole, NearFM

Alan Toner, alternative media forum

Speaker from Indymedia

Chekov Feeney, Workers Solidarity Movement, Grassroots Network Against War, Reclaim the Streets

(13) How should we make decisions? Theory and practice of grassroots organisation
(discussion / debate workshop)

Different traditions of decision-making - particularly the contrast between the traditional democratic forms created by the early workers' movement and the consensus decision- making styles which have spread with the global anti-capitalist movement - are proposed within the movement in Ireland, and at times (as at the last Grassroots Gathering) have been a source of real contention. This links to the broader issue of the reality of grassroots ways of working: "tyranny of structurelessness", decision-making by the handful of genuinely active people, low levels of enthusiasm for meetings and discussions as against action and "fun"... Is it true that "freedom is an endless meeting"? Are our movements actually managing to be as democratic and non-hierarchical as we want? And if not, what can we do to improve things?

Fergal, Grassroots Network Against War

Claudia, Giro’s

Laurence Cox, ex-Green Party

(14) Who pays for the environment?
(Discussion / debate workshop)

The issue of waste management - dumps and incinerators, bin and water charges - has given rise to some major movements in recent years, mobilising local communities around environmental issues. If the Minister goes ahead with imposing incinerators around the country, there may be a real wave of opposition to the proposal. At times (as with opposition to dumps and incinerators) social movements have found themselves working together; at other times (such as bin and water charges) the issues have been a source of real tension. Underlying much of the conflict is the question "who should pay?"

Michael Murray, researcher on incineration and democracy

Dermot Sreenan, Campaign Against Bin Charges

* Videos (programme to be announced)

* Physical activities:

5-a-side football tournament by Robert Allen, An Talamh Glas

Indian Head Massage workshop by Cathie Clinton, Food Not Bombs

6 pm - Coffee!


- Neka Jara, Anibal Veron Co-ordination of unemployed workers (Piqueteros movement)

Neka is coming to share her experience of the vast movement of occupations and grass-roots organising and resistance that has swept Argentina. Over the last 2 years an incredible wave of social protest and action has engulfed Argentina. In the midst of the well-publicised economic collapse there have been massive street protests, numerous co-ordinated road blockades, over 200 factories under workers control, more than three hundred coordinated microenterprise cooperatives organized by unemployed women and men, countless neighborhood associations formed, and many other autonomous popular initiatives. Yet, little is heard about this in this country. This event is part of the Argentina Autonomista Project tour, bringing news of the struggle in Argentina to Britain and Ireland, and aiming to make connections with people struggling for social justice here.


Benefit (€5 in) for the Grassroots Gathering and Anarchist Prisoner Support
The Gingerman, Fenian St. (near Westland Row)
DJs: Dr Groove, Krossphader, DJ Oi!
Punk, eclectic, ska, reggae, mind-blowing mus

Sunday morning
11 am - Wakeup events!

* Oral history walking tour – “the Monto”(NB meet at the Centra shop opposite Connolly Station)

- Terry Fagan, North Inner City Folklore Project

The Monto (roughly the area between Talbot Street, N. Strand Road, Gardiner St. and Seán McDermott St.) is the old red light area of Dublin. Terry Fagan, who does the tour, is a local community activist who has been collecting people’s memories in the area for the last 20 years. The tour covers 18th century planning corruption, 19th century brothels, the Dublin Lockout, 1920s gunfights between the IRA and Special Branch agents, how the Legion of Mary closed the Monto, and the drugs issue from the 1980s to the present. It celebrates the resistance, solidarity and survival of the people of the Monto – saints and sinners alike.

* The history and trees of Phoenix Park (NB meet at main gate, Phoenix Park on Cunningham Rd.)

- Fergal Leddy, Spacecraft

* Videos (programme to be announced)

* Physical activities:

5-a-side football tournament by Robert Allen, An Talamh Glas : the final!

Sunday afternoon
12.30 pm - Lunch


(15) Report back from Evian protests
(networking workshop)

Earlier this month activists travelled over from Ireland to take part in the protests against the G8 (group of 8 most economically powerful nations) summit in Evian. In this workshop participants will be discussing what happened at the protests and what we can learn for future actions.

Team from the Good Bus

(16) Preventing and coping with burnout: co- counselling for activists
(action / skills workshop)

Burnout and all its manifestations are issues that most if not all activists will face at one point or another. The challenge of bringing about change on a global scale can have huge costs for individuals: traumatic experiences of repression, the impact of encountering poverty, war and ecological destruction, working under pressure, trying to sustain groups…. This workshop offers an introduction to practical skills in preventing and coping with burnout.

Elinor from Traveller And Settled Solidarity

(17) FEICed off? Actions for ethical investment
(action / skills workshop)

Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign [FEIC] are involved with campaigning on ethical and unethical investment, particularly in relation to arms company Raytheon. In this workshop they will be discussing some of the actions they have taken and encouraging other activists to share their own stories. The workshop includes a slideshow presented on “Jan’s Contraption”, a projector made from reused materials.

Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign

(18) Criminalisation and prisoner support
(action / skills workshop)

After the experience of Reclaim the Streets and direct action against the war, grass-roots activists in Ireland have been facing a rising tide of police repression: the criminalisation of the right to protest and the right to dissent from the New World Order. This workshop looks at the issues involved and discusses the practicalities of prisoner support.

Swedish Autonomist.

Johnny X, Anarchist Prisoner Support

(19) What kind of world do we need?
(discussion / debate workshop)

The times are (hopefully!) long gone when socialist, feminist and ecological visions of the future were seen as opposites by different social movements. Anarcha-feminism, social ecology, eco-feminism, eco-socialism and many different approaches have tried to bridge the gaps over the last quarter-century. At the same time, there are still many differences between activists' visions of the future, and we don't talk as much to each other about what we want as we might if we thought we were genuinely working together. This workshop looks at the kind of world we need, the kinds of worlds we are fighting for in our different movements, and asks if our visions can work together or not.

Andrew Flood, Workers Solidarity Movement

Speaker from Gluaiseacht

Laurence Cox, Grassroots Gathering

* Videos (programme to be announced)

* Physical activities:

Poi workshop

3 pm – Coffee! [Team meeting]

3.30 pm - PLENARY SESSION: Preparing for the World Economic Forum.

Report back from WEF workshop

Barry Finnegan, Irish Social Forum

Andrew Flood, Workers Solidarity Movement

Karen Elliot, Reclaim the Streets.

PLENARY SESSION: What next for the Grassroots Gathering? & Getting beyond “the usual suspects”.

Laurence Cox, Grassroots Gathering.

6.30 pm - Ends

Grassroots Gathering Five

by Laurence Cox -

a step forward for the movement

The fifth Grassroots Gathering ran from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th in Dublin. Over 160 libertarian activists from different movements opposed to neo-liberalism and war took part in a very ambitious programme of events. The levels of energy were high, and participants seemed to take control of the event for themselves without problems. A highpoint was the involvement of two Argentinian community activists from the massive movement against neo-liberalism there. Key outcomes include setting up working groups towards actions around the World Economic Forum meeting this October, agreement to hold an assembly in a few weeks' time to take this further, agreement to keep anti-war networks alive in some form, and the offer by Galway to host the next Gathering after the WEF.

This is a quick personal report on the fifth Grassroots Gathering, which ran from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th June in the Teachers' Club, Dublin. The Gathering is a network of activists and groups opposed to neo-liberalism who are committed to non-hierarchical ways of organising and the use of direct action. It's been in existence for two years, giving birth to the Grassroots Network Against War last year. Each Gathering is independently organised by a local team who take it on themselves to create the space within which activists meet, discuss and organise actions. So far Gatherings have been held in Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Limerick.

This Gathering was deliberately ambitious. This spring, a wide variety of different campaigns and actions against the war on Iraq marked the first really large-scale participation of Irish people in the global movement against neo-liberalism. This autumn, the mobilisation against the World Economic Forum creates the chance to take this participation further and deeper, and to connect campaigning on global issues to the local struggles of Irish people for basic needs. Our aim in organising this Gathering was to take a step forward in terms not only of our own numbers but also of outreach, of communicating more with each other across our own differences, and in terms of our shared political organising.

The final programme that actually happened (including last-minute changes) included six plenary events; twenty workshops focussing on networking, skills or discussion; about fifty introductory speakers giving five-minute openers for the workshops; a weekend-long programme of videos; and a range of other activities including soccer, walking tours, poi, meditation, Indian head massage and co- operative games, as well as a benefit gig on Saturday night. (See the official programme at for an indication of the shape of the weekend.) Amazingly enough, we even finished each day within half an hour of the stated time...
Because our goal was to encourage networking between activists from different movements, we deliberately organised a programme of workshops around issues which are shared across movements alongside the usual collection of workshops proposed by other activists before or during the Gathering - about a third of the total (in some Gatherings these are the only workshops). We invited large numbers of people involved in different struggles to give short intro talks to these: in order to encourage discussion rather than simply sitting and listening, we asked speakers to keep their talks to 5 minutes.

This was an experiment which mostly seems to have worked, although in a few cases it was felt that five minutes was a bit too restrictive. Rather than hand-picking facilitators (except for the final plenary), we simply asked for volunteers (and provided training and handouts), getting perhaps twenty different facilitators over the course of the weekend. Participants also mentioned appreciating the way facilitators would prioritise those who hadn't already spoken, again encouraging more people to share their experiences and contribute to the workshops. Our general feeling is that we were vindicated in orienting the Gathering towards active participation rather than assuming that most people really wanted to listen to long talks and leave everything to a handful of leaders.

The feedback session at the end was almost entirely positive, making several of us rather nervous ("what are they not telling us?") What criticism there was was mostly technical. Obviously, it feels as though this meant we got it largely right in terms of the plan, but more importantly that participants really felt ownership of the Gathering and felt in control of the different events they took part in. Which of course is the main point of the Gathering and of non-hierarchical organising more generally.

In all, over 160 people registered at the Gathering, making this apparently the largest libertarian gathering in Ireland in the last thirty years. The vast majority of participants were committed activists, with a sprinkling of visitors and people coming to check out the scene. Along with anti-war activists, environmentalists, anarchists, anti- racist activists, feminists, non-dogmatic Marxists, autonomists, alternative media workers and more, there was a significantly higher proportion of community activists and a more international participation than at recent Gatherings, with languages needed including Spanish, Italian and German.

The range of material available from different groups in the info- room gave a good sense of the diversity and level of activity of the different campaigns and groups involved in the movement - ecological magazines, anarchist literature, reports from community projects, flyers for prisoner support benefits, Food not Bombs picnics, the Irish Social Forum launch, CDs with the Irish report back from Evian... At the final session, the announcements of future protests, benefits, meetings, get-togethers and actions planned went on for over quarter of an hour. This movement has not been killed off by the invasion of Iraq. It has caught its breath, found its feet and is growing. Like Terminator 3, "We're baa-aack"!

There were two real high points of the weekend from my point of view. The first was the participation of two Argentinian activists: community artist / human rights activist Graciela Monteagudo, whose puppet show on Friday night convinced many sceptics that there are alternative ways to communicate radical political analyses; and piquetera (unemployed blockader) Neka Jara, who rather than give a formal talk on Saturday night gave the session over to an exchange of experiences between the Argentinian and Irish movements. Both activistsm stressed that the most important support Irish activists can give to their struggle is to build our own movements; and this weekend we certainly did that.
The second high point was the series of workshops covering past and future actions: the experiences gained from the anti-war movement and the need to create continuity for the next war; the lessons learned at Evian; issues of prisoner support; and preparing for the World Economic Forum, the main subject of our final plenary. We agreed to focus on raising awareness in advance and getting our point of view across; on organising direct action to stop the WEF if possible; and to create space for ourselves within the Irish Social Forum rather than try to organise a counter-summit as well. Even if we can't work together with other anti-capitalist groups on every kind of action, we should all be able to cooperate on organising practicalities such as legal and medical support, accommodation, etc.

The level of energy and enthusiasm was high, a major turn-around from the Limerick Gathering when many people and groups were struggling with the experience of defeat in the anti-war movement and burnout from doing so much under such difficult circumstances. Participants mentioned the high level of donations (the surplus was given to Anarchist Prisoner Support), the willingness of participants to stay on board a challenging schedule of events, the way events ran themselves without needing the organising team to make things happen, and the high level of interest in the political workshops as against the more relaxing events as indicators of where people are at: self- confident, recovered from the anti-war movement, and ready to move further forward.

Despite our political differences, it's clear that the last two years of Gatherings and the last year of anti-war activity have given us a much higher level of trust in each other and have led to the building of friendships across traditional boundaries. Reaching consensus, including on challenging practical issues, was remarkably easy and it was clear from discussions that our practical orientations to the issues facing us are very similar. Even where we had deliberately set up sessions to debate issues that divide us (such as ecology vs. industrialism, voting vs. consensus, or explicit ideology vs. non-dogmatism) disagreements were respectful and we found we had at least as much common ground as divergences.

Practical outcomes include the following:

· The setting up of over a dozen practical working-groups to get going on the different tasks facing us around opposing the World Economic Forum;
· Agreement to hold an assembly based on these groups in a few weeks' time to report back and see what further steps need to be taken;
· Agreement that our anti-war networks should not shut down completely but should keep some level of continuity and communication in preparation for the next war;
· The offer from Galway to organise the next Grassroots Gathering at some point after the World Economic Forum (October 20th - 21st).

Thanks are due to everyone who made this Gathering such a success, in particular Neka and Graciela who stole the show; Robert for organising their visit; our invited speakers both for coming and for restricting themselves to the five minutes we had asked of them; Nick, Martha and the other interpreters; and to all the participants for taking responsibility for their own workshops and events, for staying on board throughout a punishing weekend schedule, and for bringing so much of themselves and their own activism to this weekend. As the companeras from Argentina put it, "We will meet in the struggle!"