Tullamore Amnesty shining a light on human rights violations

AMNESTY International Tullamore’s activist group celebrated 15 years in Tullamore, and 50 years of Amnesty globally, with Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman, by planting a tree in Lloyd Town Park on Saturday.

AMNESTY International Tullamore’s activist group celebrated 15 years in Tullamore, and 50 years of Amnesty globally, with Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman, by planting a tree in Lloyd Town Park on Saturday.

“The Amnesty International Tullamore Activist Group has spent the last fifteen years shining a light on human rights violations around the world, from Zimbabwe to right here in Ireland,” said Mr O’Gorman.

“They are everything that’s great about Amnesty International, individuals that feel passionate about human rights, and week in week out they support us, taking action and raising money.”

In 1998, the group marked the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by planting a weeping beech in the town park, with a stone engraved “in memory of all those denied their rights”. To celebrate the group’s 10th birthday in 2006, 40 daffodils were planted in ten groups around the tree.

“You can see their commitment reflected in who they are as people, a commitment to human dignity for everyone,” said O’Gorman.

The group was founded when local resident Deirdre Fox called a meeting and invited two activists from Dublin down to kick-start their activities. One of those activists was former Amnesty International Ireland staff member, the late Frank Jennings. More than two dozen people from the area also attended, but it has been Group Coordinator Máire McKay and members Pauline Meehan and Eamonn O’Toole who have kept it going, organising public actions every few months.

“At one o’clock a holly tree was planted in Killurin cemetery, in the Town Park (with permission from the Town Council),” said Máire McKay of the Tullamore Amnesty group It is near to the weeping beech we planted in 1998 to celebrate 50 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The tree was blessed by Rev William Hayes and then as Gaeilge by Girvan McKay. As the weather was inclement the ceremony was kept short and we soon proceeded to the Presbyterian Church.”

Colm O’Gorman was welcomed by Maire McKay, local co-ordinator of the group. Mr O’Gorman acknowledged the work of the local group, mentioning its sterling work on human rights in Zimbabwe and speaking of Amnesty’s agenda – the hope of attracting more people to work for human rights throughout the world.

“An excerpt from Burns’ poem ‘Man was made to mourn’ was read by Girvan McKay,” said Ms McKay. “Jo Elliffe then read out a poem by Ric S Bastaba, after which William Hayes sang ‘Chimes of Freedom’ by Bob Dylan.”

“Unfortunately, the work of Amnesty International is still just as necessary as when they were set up. In this year of volunteering, may many people continue to fight for those denied their rights.”