212: NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY #19: Ciaron O’Reilly and the whistleblowers

Ciaron is a larger-than-life, radical Roman Catholic who hasn’t cut his dreads for God-knows how many years. He lives round the corner from me, and I have wanted to interview him for the Zingcreed blog for some time but he is so multi-faceted I didn’t know which facet to approach!
In mid-November 2013, I pinned him down and asked him two questions – what are you up to at the moment, and what motivates you?

He proudly showed me a Rugby League football which bears the slogan “Free  Manning” and is signed by no less a person than Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks and a current occupant of the Ecuadorean embassy in London. This ball is being auctioned during  the Rugby League World Cup which is running at the moment. Ciaron can’t quite believe that The Australian Rugby League Week Magazine posted a photo of him on the front page holding the ball! Even though the Manning trial is now concluded (sentence: 35 years for sending secret documents and video footage to Assange), and Assange’s story has reached a stalemate, Ciaron continues to campaign for these two guys and for Edward Snowden in whatever way he can.

He is rallying support for Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’s family in whatever way he can too. Having spent 6 months in prison in Australia for opposing uranium mining, and 2 years in an American penitentiary for Plowshares action (i.e. damaging military aircraft) he knows how much solidarity means for those locked up. He quotes the Wobblies, who said “He’s in there for us. We’re out here for him.”

The last airport Manning flew through on his way to war in Iraq was Shannon (in Eire) and although his main family are in Haverfordwest, a Welsh town “nearer to Dublin than to London”, he has family in Ireland too. In a symbolic sense, Ireland ‘sent’ Manning to war, and perhaps one day they will welcome him home? The Irish have a tradition of ‘adopting’ people like Mandela and Xanana Gusmão, the first President of East Timor, (where Ciaron got into hot water for campaigning in the past). He envisions the day when Chelsea will be welcomed by the Irish like a true native son/daughter.

When I asked him what motivated him, a prime figure in the London Catholic Worker movement, to do what he does, he answered “I guess faith. We struggle to be human. We are born into a privileged group on the planet. Those millions of anti-war protestors worldwide who opposed the Gulf war, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan have a responsibility for those of their number who, non-violently, became whistle blowers and got jailed. Once you’re in prison you’re out of sight and out of mind. I know from my time inside how much acts of solidarity mean. They help you to resist the prison regime.”

“I think we’re all created in the image of God. For example, Protestants tend to say ‘We bring Jesus to the poor’, while Catholics tend to say ‘We see Jesus in the poor, coming to us’.”
Ciaron favours the latter viewpoint.

All power to your elbow, Ciaron!

NB the quotations are written down from memory, so there is a possibility of inaccuracies, but I believe they convey the essence of what I was told.

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Now that’s what I call practical Christianity #1: Shannon
Now that’s what I call practical Christianity #11: Jailed priest
587: The life and times of the world’s #1 Christian anarchist

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2 comments

  1. Agree wholeheartedly about the need to support folks inside.

    One point though: not sure why you used “son/daughter” to refer to Chelsea Manning. My understanding is that she identifies as a woman these days, so why not simply say “daughter”?

    1. hi gtr
      thanks for your comment on my interview with Ciaron O’Reilly, which I’ve only just discovered. You say, quite rightly ‘call Manning a daughter’. My usage of the term ‘son/daughter’ was for literary not ideological reasons. Because of the patriarchal nature of the language ‘native son’ is common usage whereas ‘native daughter’ isn’t (yet!) If i had written ‘our native daughter’ I feel it wouldn’t have flowed so well.It’s a matter of opinion. Bear in mind I try to write in a simple non-confusing style for the reason that most of my readers are in the global south, and -I assume- have English as their second language.Further comments on the zingcreed blog would be much appreciated.
      peter turner

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