The Nuclear Syndrome Victory for the Irish Anti-nuclear Power Movement

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The question of non-violence has at times been a surrogate political issue for the debate between the radicals who espouse any means that is available and reformists who don't wish to violently challenge the status quo. To many in the civil rights movements and in the New Left, non-violence provided tactics that were compatible with moral and ethical principles. To many in the ANM, nuclear power is a symbol of violence and the idea of using violence against violence strikes many as being self-defeating. The non-violence ideas in the U.S. ANM have had considerable input from the Quaker movement and in particular from the Movement for Survival group. The literature on non-violent protest philosophy is extensive.

The proponents of non-violence in the Irish ANM were the Dawn group and Cork FoE in particular, who studied nonviolence and organised study and training sessions. Cork FoE produced a leaflet in 1978 on the history of non-violence and later collaborated with Dawn to produce a longer document which connected non-violence to the nuclear issue in Ireland. The document outlines the basis for nonviolence as a philosophy and political strategy. Nonviolence, it argues:

... springs from a positive philosophy which emphasises action rather than words, possible solutions rather than escalating problems. It is an interventionist philosophy; something is wrong, if there is an injustice, then we are morally bound to, and will joyfully intervene. It does not condemn those who feel driven to violence but emphasises that there are many non-violent actions possible which may not have been tried.
The training sessions involved role-playing games, brainstorming sessions and a number of games working on group dynamic principles. The aims of these sessions were to improve interaction within groups and to develop trust as preparation for direct action situations. These were subject to criticism both within the FoE group and from outsiders, some of whom argued that the exercises were too artificial and that the group dynamic techniques had cultural biases underlying them that were an anathema especially to working-class Irish youth.
The application of these non-violence ideas in U.S. demonstrations have also been criticised. Commenting on the Clamshell Alliance operations Bove in his essay Fighting Nukes at Seabrooke II: Whither Clam (Science for the People 9:4,1977, p. 26) argues that,

... through a complex process, they also forced consciously or unconsciously their positions on the group, creating a stultifying ‘solidarity’... The Quakers are primarily concerned with diffusing anger to prevent chaos from breaking out. But these tactics were also a good political move by them because they isolated the dissidents and made them look like ‘disrupters’.
Apart from the tactical considerations a major critique on non-violence is that its perspective limits historical analysis of conflict in society. While emphasising common ground and consensus it obscures political and class conflict. As Gutierrez puts it in a different context:

We Christians however, are not used to thinking in conflictual and historical terms We prefer peaceful reconciliation to antagonism and an evasive eternity to provisional arrangement. We must learn to live and think of peace in conflict and what is definitive in what is historical.

(G. Guttierrez: A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation. New York 1973, p. 137.)

The radical potential of the non-violent ideas has not really been developed as yet in the anti-nuclear movement and the interest in it was limited to a few groups in Ireland. Nonviolence is often confused with pacifism and weakness although one feminist in the Irish ANM writing in Wicca, made an articulate critique of the radicals who see police provocation as a radical act:

If there is an occupation/march/demonstration against a nuclear plant, what will be the response to state violence? Sometimes male politicos seem to me to use the tactics of confrontation, of provoking a heavy reaction from police or troops in order to make a point about state violence. But often this seems to deteriorate to male ego-tripping, a conflict of two groups of machos trying to outdo each other.
The left-wing activists in the ANM in Ireland tended to be critical of limiting the movement to non-violent actions. A group of Belfast anarchists took part in the rather confused attempt by Torness Alliance to organise a non-violent occupation of the Torness site in Scotland in May 1979. There were basic disagreements over issues of philosophy and the justification for doing damage to property on the site. The Belfast position was summarised in The Contaminated Crow:
... we had assumed that ‘damage to property’, while a grand philosophical issue to some, was ultimately just something you did or did not do depending on yourself. But some people damaging fences and machinery did annoy people, who wanted it stopped. In trying to force their views on all of us, the earlier spontaneity and enjoyment of the day was lost. Much better that everyone do what they want than have everyone tied down to the whims of how the straight press might interpret our actions.
Predictably enough RS were not to let the issue go without comment They broached the question early in 1979, arguing that violence as an option for the movement must be left open in case the other side started using it, although later they took a more aggressive stand on the issue when some people in favour of non-violence and strictly legal approaches argued that the second Carnsore rally should not be held on ESB land. On that occasion they replied:
Let those ‘non-political’ ideologues who want to package the movement into a sophisticated wrapping of passivity and respect of State imposed legality take heed. Cancer cannot be fought with goodwill and ‘we shall overcome’. Radiation does not listen to Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Nuclear power is violent, a nuclear society is bestial and the nuclear state would commit genocide if it were forced.
The issue of violence only really seriously emerged on one occasion in a confrontation during the anti-EEC march in November 1979, when a scuffle between police and anti-nuclear power demonstrators occured. The history of the event is extremely confused and no attempt will be made to comment on it.
As can be seen from the preceding sections the legitimacy of the state was nearly non-existent in large parts of the ANM. Public participation in the controversy was by protest, not consultation. However, the government did eventually concede to a public inquiry after repeated demands from many segments in Irish society. The final section of this chapter deals with the issue of state legitimacy and the proposed public inquiry.
A Public Inquiry?

From early in the second phase of the opposition to nuclear power repeated calls for a public inquiry were made. However no such inquiry had ever been held in Ireland on a planning proposal, with the partial exception of hearings in Dublin surrounding the oil refinery proposal for Dublin Bay.

Few people who made a call for a public inquiry were really clear as to what they thought an inquiry would involve or how they could organise to use it to put the case against nuclear power. What is clear is that many people did not trust the existing policy process or the ESB to make the decision. Reading the numerous statements on the subject it appears that the public inquiry was seen as a 'neutral' forum above and beyond 'politics' and capable of finding the 'truth' in an 'unbiased' way. The implications of the inquiry for planning legislation, and its legal relationship with the rest of the policy process were not widely questioned in the clamour to have an inquiry.
The nuclear issue has raised major legitimacy problems for governments in many western countries:
Essentially, the challenge facing policy makers is how to devise acceptable and practical methods of reaching collective decisions for a technology that involves risks that some people find unacceptable, dissenting minorities who oppose the siting of nuclear plants in the locality, poor understanding of the technical issues among the public and disagreement among technical experts. Clearly, there are no panaceas, for it is a uniquely difficult problem to adapt decision-making procedures to accommodate a wide range of viewpoints on the technical, environmental and political aspects of nuclear power.

(J. Surrey and C. Hugget: Opposition to Nuclear Power: A Review of International Experience. Energy Policy 4:4, 1976, p. 306.)

Hirsch draws a distinction between types of public participation process, on the basis of the philosophy underlying them. He distinguishes between the positivist and the dialectical approaches. The former are premised on the approach taken by the
... promoters of scientific and economic progress as we have known it in the last decades – exemplified by nuclear energy – (who) – claim that a neat separation between facts and values, the existing and the desirable, data and decisions is not only possible but highly desirable.

(H. Hirsch: Public Participation and Nuclear Energy: The Dialectic vs the Positivistic Approach. Draft version of a paper presented to the UNESCO conference Social Dimensions of the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, 20-23 November 1978, Vienna; p.1.)

The dialectical conception encompasses
... those who feel that a less schematic view of reality is to be adopted taking into account that implicit or explicit value-judgements, desires and prejudices will in any case influence those who set out to find facts...

(Hirsch, p. 1)

The positivistic approach has been used in many European countries but the scope is limited because the government usually sets strict rules beforehand, 'defining the terms of reference and admissible procedures a priori' (Hirsch, p. 2). It ignores the vested interests of economic interest groups, en- trenched bureaucracies and the politicians themselves with their prejudices and loyalties. Outlining the experience of the Austrian 'Nuclear Energy Information Campaign' and the German 'Citizen Dialogue' he shows how the nuclear issue could not be broken down into neat compartments for 'rational discussion' by 'experts'.
Opinions in the nuclear debate do not simply arise from the possibility of different values for certain parameters, but reflect basic philosophies and political attitudes (Hirsch, p. 4)
Neither did the public accept the role of passive receivers of the information or the thematic frameworks that the organisers set out The public remained concerned about the nature of the participation process which in both cases started long after construction of nuclear facilities had begun and failed to halt the construction while the process of consultation was underway. The Austrian opponents were not content to remain within the narrow framework of the state-organised debates and they took the initiative, circulated their own information, and eventually forced the reluctant socialist government to hold a referendum.
The German dialogue concentrated on opinion forming and not on critical discussion of the issues. Hirsch argues that the public information exercises are 'programmed to fail' because of the tendencies of large government bureaucracies to resent any attempt at control over them and the enormously strong economic interests pushing nuclear power.
The more active elements of the Irish ANM were well aware of the possibilities of the same thing happening in Ireland when the public inquiry eventually came to be held. One writer in The Contaminated Crow argued that the function of the inquiry was to:
... show that the state is prepared to listen to peoples’ objections as long as they are ‘reasonable’ and peaceful, of course – and they are an attempt to throw the mantel of democracy over decisions the state has already taken. They are also very useful ways to divert opposition.
Many other groups were ambivalent about the whole affair once the inquiry had been granted. RS adopted a 'wait and see' approach but did not preclude disruption and participation The deep suspicion of the inquiry reflects the opposition to the whole state structure and 'the system of social and economic developments imposed on us to serve the interests of capital and profit.'
The mass movement meetings were not very consistent on the issue. In Wexford just prior to Mr. O'Malley's announcement of the formal public inquiry, the meeting stated that it was not interested in a government inquiry. In a later leaflet the public inquiry was hailed as a victory for the movement while the Belfast meeting in May decided to take no action at all on it.
The Cork FoE group, however, took up the issue and organised a seminar on the topic late in 1979. What emerged was close to Hirsch's ideas of a dialectical approach as being a desirable format. Drawing on some proposals from the Oxford based Political Ecology Research Group (PERG), FoE suggested that the inquiry should be a two stage process. The first stage would identify issues and discuss the submitted material in a discursive manner with a tribunal committee from various backgrounds. A second later stage involves cross examination of the material under oath. FoE further argued that the burden of proof should lie with the proponents of the new technologies rather than the objectors, government bureaucrats should be protected if they gave dissenting opinions, and intervenors should receive financial assistance.
At the seminar on the public inquiry David Nolan of the NSA suggested that an alternative inquiry might be set up to gibe the anti-nuclear groups an alternative forum to present their arguments. He reiterated his call for a referendum on the nuclear issue and showed little confidence that the government inquiry would be fair, or that the establishment would listen to its recommendations if it did find against nuclear power. He also argued that the NSA had been running an inquiry ever since it had been established.
Fine Gael and the Labour Party had repeatedly called for an inquiry which they saw as a way of defusing opposition by providing a forum without which (as The Irish Independent put it) they would 'make their own platforms on the streets and so provoke a lot of what might have been avoidable trouble.' The ANM did create its own forums and carried on the debate on the streets, and inevitably in Ireland, in the pubs. The movement considered itself to be carrying out an inquiry and making the decision which they considered it to be their right to make.
The government, ESB and the NEB all took a line similar to what Hirsch calls the positivist approach. The limited information leaflets available from the NEB attempted to explain the issue in very boring simplified technical manner. The ESB circulated widely. Sean Coakley's Status Report (1979) which took a very conventional engineering approach and did not address the fundamental political and social issues. The government line and that of organisations such as the Agricultural Institute was to deal only with technical issues of nuclear technology. Brian Coulter argued that:
The energy debate has many facts Some of them, for example the need for energy conservation, the concept of renewable energy sources and a low energy society are not specific to the nuclear question, and are not, therefore, at the heart of public concern on nuclear power.
It was precisely the attempts to narrow the issue down to merely technical concerns which aroused the anger of many opponents who saw in this manoeuvre an attempt to avoid the issues and remove them from the terrain of political debate. The 'experts' were seen, not surprisingly, as manipulative agents trying to defraud the public and cover up information that was critical of the nuclear industry. The repeated calls from the public and numerous bodies for an inquiry was an attempt to bring the debate out into the open and it reveals a deep distrust of the process of policy formation and the limited base on which technological decisions are taken by ‘experts' as well as a feeling of helplessness to influence a decision of major and long-lasting societal impact. As John Carroll put it:
It is a decision which would bear not alone on the present population, but on future generations who may well have to bear and suffer the genetic and other possible, adverse consequences of a behind closed doors, vested interest influenced decisions by those who claim to themselves to have the most divine right to determine for us, without consulting us or seeking our approval our way and quality of life for generations to come.
In some cases this was due to ignorance of how to go about having one's opinion heard, in other cases it reflected a deep cynicism about getting listened to at all. The policy decisions, made as they are by the inner cabinet of the Irish government, offer little opportunity for public input through the parliamentary process at the best of times, and in the nuclear issue it appeared that the government had made its mind up on a little advice from nuclear proponents.
Protest was seen as the only way to force politicians to reconsider. The public inquiry was seen as a method of making the arguments against nuclear power seriously, while simultaneously educating the public. The radicals were not convinced of the effectiveness of a public inquiry because of their analysis of the power relations in Irish society.
ANM Legacy

The concerns of the ANM reached beyond opposition to the proposed nuclear plant at Carnsore point and activists contributed their energy, insight and experience to other issues. In Donegal a country-wide controversy developed around the issue of prospecting for uranium and this issue interacted with the national ANM in a number of cases. In Cork the students' union and a local anti-nuclear group had exchanges with the university authorities and the NEB over safety and regulations connected with the use of a 'sub-critical assembly' in the Physics department at University College, Cork (UCC). In Cork and Dublin in particular problems with the dumping of toxic wastes continued and in 1980 there was a revival of the Irish CND.

The Anti–Uranium Campaign

Uranium prospecting in Ireland started in 1976 with reconnaissance and preliminary work done by the Geological Survey of Ireland and a number of companies supported by financial grants from the EEC. The EEC has continued to support exploration work giving grants for IR£1¼ m. in the 1980/81 period. Opposition was most determined in Donegal where prospecting activity had the highest profile. Elsewhere opposition existed in small groups of people in the areas that were affected by prospecting activity and among concerned members of the ANM who researched the issue. Early in 1978 it was announced that there were significant uranium deposits in Wicklow and Carlow while in June one company started exploration in Co. Tyrone. This account will focus on Donegal where the controversy be-came a significant county-wide issue.

The first group to attempt to raise consciousness in Donegal on the issue was a primal therapy commune in Burtonport, Co. Donegal which circulated their area with leaflets and in September 1979 organised a meeting which brought activists in the ANM to Donegal to discuss the issue. Unhappy with the way the commune had structured events, these activists split up and organised a few meetings in towns in the West of the County. At that time a reporter from the Donegal People's Press found no evidence of opposition to uranium prospecting in the area around Doochary and Fintown where the most active prospecting has taken place. This was to change in the coming months. The Belfast Just Books anarchists produced a pamphlet entitled Uranium Mining in Donegal: The Dangers and Deceits which outlined the health and environmental hazards of uranium mining and its connections with the international fuel cycle, the EEC and multinational mining companies. Thousands of copies of this twenty-page pamphlet were distributed free in Donegal. A spur to opposition was an article in The Irish Times on the hazards of uranium mining published in November. By December a series of public meetings were hearing many concerns raised and a meeting was called in Fintown just before Christmas to elect a group to ensure that the health of the people and the quality of their environment did not suffer as a result of uranium mining and related activities. The Donegal Uranium Committee (DUG), as this group called itself, quickly issued an appeal for funds to organise a campaign and to do research into the issue so as to inform the people of Donegal about it. Uranium prospecting soon came on the County Council agenda, but despite expressions of concern they refused to provide the £30,000 needed for a preliminary environmental monitoring study by An Foras Forbatha (The National Institute for Physical Planning and Construction Research). Various councillors argued that the government in Dublin or the EEC or even the companies should pay for it.
While the DUG gathered information and the councillors debated, the companies, in this case Munster Base Metals, ran into direct opposition. In February they planned to start drilling near a well used by a few local families as a water supply. When the company refused to provide an alternative source of water the people involved went to the site and a heated confrontation developed. The company backed down and stopped their attempts to drill in that area. The NEB stepped in March to oversee uranium prospecting operations and its spokesperson, Dr. Noel Nowlan, admitted that the public was not getting adequate information but suggested that the alarm was probably unwarranted. A large protest march that month culminated in a public meeting addressed by Brian Flannery, the DUG chairperson, and also by a local doctor, who outlined the health risks from radon gas and mining tailings. That night a cottage used as a store for uranium samples was set on fire and a number of excavators used by the mining companies were seriously damaged. Although the Gardai searched for culprits no one was ever charged. The DUG was quick to disassociate itself from the action.
The DUG took part in the third Carnsore rally in August 1980 with a large exhibition. This rally addressed the issue of uranium mining more fully than the ANM had done previously.
As early as April 1980 the DUG realised that the companies had converted a number of buildings and erected a store without applying for the requisite planning permission from the county council. The DUG pointed this out and subsequently appealed against the retrospective planning permissions being granted. The appeal was supported by ten local anti-uranium groups in Donegal and by the ubiquitous Dr. Blackith who presented technical evidence on Low Level Radiation which suggested that the NEB safety standards and information sources were unreliable. The final hearing before An Bord Pleannala took place on 1 April 1981. By using these tactics the DUG effectively stopped the operations of the more active companies. The focus of this hearing was on narrow planning technicalities and it brings into focus once more the lack of any forum to adequately debate the larger policy issues that are involved in the nuclear fuel cycle. The prospecting licenses are issued in Dublin by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Energy. The only legal resource available to the DUG was to the County Council on a question of planning regulations. The facts that the companies failed to apply for permission and operated badly-sited and designed premises helped the DUG to build a case, but they never had resource to a forum to make many of their other objections heard apart from public meetings and demonstrations.
The DUG succeeded in gaining widespread support, and eventually sympathy from the County Council but the initial response was not universally favourable. It appears that the companies involved in the prospecting promoted their shares in Donegal in the early stages of their activities and local people, expecting significant mineral finds, invested in the ventures. This led to resentment when opposition appeared. The DUG also ran into opposition in the county vocational education committee when they organised a seminar on uranium mining. Initially the DUG was invited to participate in the event and to provide speakers. The DUG heard nothing further until a week prior to the scheduled date for the seminar when the line up of speakers was leaked to them. None of their suggested speakers was on the list. The DUG threatened to boycott the seminar and demand that critical points of view be heard at the seminar. In the event, only Dr. Blackith was available at short notice but his presentation apparently went across well. Despite six speakers in favour of the prospecting, few of the audience were apparently convinced, and at the Plenary session at the end of the seminar Brian Flannery received a standing ovation. The explanation for these events is apparently that the education committee turned to the extra-mural department of University College Galway for help in locating speakers. They in turn consulted the ardently pro-nuclear professor of Chemistry, Sean O'Cinneide, on campus who suggested the speakers. The DUG was also victim of a smear campaign and a bizarre scheme to link it with the British army in the North of Ireland which the Donegal Democrat newspaper soon exposed.
Attempts by the companies to improve their image by giving donations to candidates in a by-election backfired when one party returned its donation amid considerable publicity. Other attempts by hired public relations consultants fared no better. The DUG was undoubtedly effective in its campaign. They talked the County council into helping to finance a study of the likely impacts of uranium mining being prepared by PERG. Their interventions in the planning appeals and their cool presentation of the factual case against uranium mining helped. But it is doubtful whether they would have been as successful, were it not for the direct action of the people in the prospecting areas who refused to allow the companies permission to work on their land, and the unknown people who set fire to the storage shed and excavators. Undoubtedly the direct opposition got the message through to the companies that they were not appreciated. On the other hand the DUG provided a 'legitimate' opposition that the County council could take seriously. At no time was the DUG in a position to challenge through formal channels the central government policy of granting prospecting permits. Given the situation where the Minister responsible for granting prospecting licenses was Mr. O'Malley, and his brother-in-law was heavily involved in Anglo United, one of the prospecting companies, public credibility in the central government's handling of the issue was strained. Further, the long distance perceived between the Dublin-based experts in the NEB who assured the population that they were not at risk, and the respected local doctors who spoke out about health hazards of uranium, called the legitimacy of the established authority into question.
The links between the DUG and the rest of the ANM were tenuous, the Belfast anarchists' pamphlet was helpful in raising awareness, but the more formal lobbying approach was an anathema to the more direct action oriented approach of many of the ANM activists who preferred demonstrations and grass-roots action. The Donegal controversy does however again bring the issues of legitimacy and lack of consultation to the fore.
The CND Revival

Ireland has not missed out on the revival of the campaign against nuclear weapons in Europe. The world-wide revival of the peace movement dates approximately to 1979 with the failure of the U.S. to ratify the SALT 2 treaty, the Carter regime's rethinking of nuclear strategy, the NATO decision to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe again and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.

The original Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was founded in 1958 but by the mid-1970s it was totally inactive. It was re-launched in October 1979 and developed quickly with membership rapidly increasing and many other organisations hurrying to affiliate with it. A branch has been formed in the North of Ireland and attracted some support. Dervla Murphy, the well-known Irish travel-writer also entered the fray reviewing books and writing articles while working on her new book on things nuclear (Race to the Finish: The Nuclear Stakes London 1981). The CND effectively lobbied the foreign minister in May 1980 on recommendations for a presentation to the review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in August 1980, many of which were included in the address which he subsequently gave. On Hiroshima Day ceremonies were held around the country and included a few tree plantings to mark the occasion. Meetings were organised and a number of film shows of ‘The War Game' organised around the country.
The differences between the CND and the ANM were considerable, both in terms of the more formal structure of the CND and its inclusion of more religious inputs. The political situation was also very different, Ireland is not a member of NATO and has taken some initiatives on the disarmament issue in the past as well as providing troops for UN peace-keeping forces. This tradition allows for more sympathy in government circles for peace groups in stark contrast to the response to the ANM. The link between Ireland advocating nuclear power while opposing weapons has apparently not been made in government circles. In January 1981 the CND organised a seminar on the anniversary of the assassination of Ganhdi which brought 40 people together to discuss the implications of neutrality in the Irish context and to discuss the revival of the European Peace movement. The implications of nuclear war and the slow erosion of Irish neutrality are of considerable concern in Ireland as talk of Ireland joining NATO has been growing since accession to the EEC. This seminar also spelled out the international linkages of the nuclear industry and called for the banning of uranium mining as the materials might be used in weapons manufacture. It was on these questions that the CND challenged the Irish government policies.

The ANM cannot take sole responsibility for these subsequent events but without doubt its influence has been felt. The Belfast anti-nuclear group initially circulated an influential leaflet in Donegal on uranium mining and the awareness of the weapons connection with nuclear power provided some impetus to the revival of CND late in 1979. The connections between toxic waste and noxious industries drawn in the ANM helped spur the formation of groups opposed to industries and dumping. DARTAG received inspiration from the ANM and some of its people were involved in the Trade Union Anti-Nuclear Campaign and the CND.

The IDA has recently apparently switched its industrialisation drive efforts towards electronics industries and away from chemical industries and pharmaceuticals but the struggle over waste dumping is likely to continue. The opposition in Donegal to uranium mining may well have finally discouraged the companies there. The issues of nuclear weapons and NATO are connected to questions of neutrality and independence. These relate in turn to the charging ideological orientations of the Irish bourgeoisie, increasingly moving toward accommodation with the EEC and inevitably with the British. There remains the possibility in some peoples' minds of a deal on the Northern question in exchange for Irish membership of NATO. What the role of the CND would then be is a matter for speculation.
The influence of the ANM ideas of mass participation directly influenced the groups opposing noxious industries that grew out of the ANM as these remained unstructured, The DUG did develop a more formal structure, but in fact operated in an ad hoc informal way too. The CND has the formal structure of a committee and honorary presidents and vice-presidents including people like Sean MacBride and John Carroll.
None of these other issues raised the same amount of public concern as the ANM. Many activists in the ANM were not present in these related issues although enough of them became involved to influence the directions they took.

We do not inherit the future from our fathers, we borrow it from our children.
... but then, there is this consideration: that if the abuse be enormous, nature will rise up, and claiming her original rights, overturn a corrupt political system.
In the introduction this thesis is placed within three traditions in Geography. It relates to radical geography with its concerns about political ideas and shows how those on the radical fringe of environmental politics worked out a political practice drawn heavily from the New Left and earlier environmental ideas. In addition it has investigated a field normally beyond the considerations of geographers writing on public participation in planning and resources management issues. It charts the murky waters of extra-institutional political ecology and shows how its political strategies interrelate with its other ideas. Third, this thesis relates to geographical writings about energy. The alternative energy/soft energy path ideas in the ANM carry with them implications for future land use and spacial patterns of energy production and consumption dramatically different from those implied by the conventional wisdom. The future geography of energy is being decided in the conflicts over nuclear power stations and insulation regulations no less than in the board rooms of the multinational oil companies.
The Irish ANM follows a pattern closely akin to those elsewhere but with its own dynamic due to the specific historic circumstances of its existence. It was an uneasy coalition of local conservative pressure groups, a variety of left-wing activists and sympathetic establishment intellectuals combining their diverse backgrounds and skills to challenge a single proposal of enormous magnitude for Irish society. Concerns about safety and health together with a desire for a more effective say in major decision-making issues ran together with far more radical critiques of global and Irish capitalist society. Diverse but inspired, its influence reached many segments of Irish society, the Smiling Sun button becoming a widely sported statement of concern and opposition.
This study shows how ideologically inspired activists attempted to take matters into their own hands and to assert their rights to make decisions, as active agents in the political process, rather than passive spectators to an ‘expertocracy’. The ideas of protest and opposition present in the mass democracy concept attempt to pre-figure desired social relationships in a participatory society. The environmental dimension is conscious of the ecological deprivations of industrial technology and struggles for a sane energy-use system. These twin features, the concepts of a participatory society, and a sane technology in symbiotic relationship with society and nature, are the utopia within the ANM, the alternative vision which inspires action.
The ANM again reveals the features of environmentalism that O'Riordan offers as a summary of his book Environmentalism (London 1976). It challenges many aspects of Western capitalism, it points out paradoxes rather than clear solutions, it involves a conviction that better societal modes are possible, and it combines politicisation based on the need for action with a lack of faith in Western democratic systems.
By way of a conclusion this chapter offers some generalisations about the ANM and its relationship to radical politics and makes tentative suggestions about the future of radical politics.
Irish Politics

The impact of the broader environmental movement and the New Left in its various forms are obvious from the foregoing material. The questions of political ecology raised not only by the ANM but by the toxic waste, noxious industry and anti-uranium protests clearly reveal the basis for deeply penetrating critiques of the road to 'development' being followed in Ireland. The ANM was far from a coherent group with an agreed philosophy. Tensions between different perspectives constantly emerged and often polarised without many of the groups really understanding why. Nevertheless a forum for political discussion and action existed and the ideas in the movement provide bases for profound criticism.

The full scale of environmental despoilation in Ireland remains to be assessed and accounted for and the sheer scale of the issues and the difficulty of developing a comprehensive critique of industrialisation in Ireland led to problems in the ANM and subsequently too in the Cork Noxious Industry Action Group. Attempts to develop an alternative philosophy and perspective on these matters led to the collapse of this group when the full magnitude of what was needed was realised. Nonetheless the issues have been raised and a generation of young activists alerted.
The immediate future in Ireland looks bleak for radical if not for reformist political action. In the early 1970s the economy went into a recession. A number of general elections have failed to produce a government with any apparently different ideas on how to overcome the economic and social problems looming in the immediate future. The political debate remains locked in the logic and language of the international capitalist system, and the arguments remain largely in the framework of the division of national wealth or, of the ‘national cake' rather than questioning the ingredients and recipe of that rather strange culinary metaphor. The radical critiques tentatively surfacing in the ANM are unlikely to have major short-term repercussions. In an era of economic recession and massive foreign debt what industries the IDA manages to set up are likely to be welcomed because of employment possibilities, although local opposition to dumps, toxic waste and environmentally destructive plants will probably continue.
What left-wing incursions have been made into the parliamentary process have been by people and parties making conventional economic demands. It remains doubtful that the endless contradictions and the failure of the political establishment to cope will lead to a wide-spread questioning of capitalist development in Ireland from a radical perspective in the immediate future. The ideology of progress and 'economic growth' is too deeply ingrained, and the fears of 'subversives’ and 'godless communists' run deep in the middle classes and in the Catholic church. It also remains to be seen if future political issues will enlarge the political space created by the ANM. The CND issue has politically explosive topics including neutrality and nationalism waiting in the wings should an Irish government move towards joining NATO. The controversy over toxic waste is unlikely to go away, because the waste will not go away- that is just the problem. In the current political and economic climate a comprehensive waste management and treatment programme is unlikely to see the light of day. The political implications of international 'dumping' of dirty industries has been raised, the health implications of asbestos were important in the controversy over the Raybestos plant, and chemical companies are likely to come under closer scrutiny in the future.
The first Carnsore Point anti-nuclear festival was a unique event in Irish politics and pulled many disparate elements together. The future Irish political scene is speculative and the changing patterns of international capital accumulation, EEC policies, and the perennial conflict in Northern Ireland to a considerable extent determine the political agenda outside the dealings with the domestic economic situation. The demographic transition working itself out in Ireland will also influence the coming political situation. Youth unemployment and dissension among the young, educated sectors of the population denied their middle-class expectations may become an increasingly destabilising factor. It is perhaps ambitious to suggest that the ANM was the first time these marginal elements attempted to express themselves politically and picked the medium of a cultural festival to do it. Music festivals have become increasingly popular in recent years with Irish youth, offering a distraction from the boredom and pointlessness of urban life on the dole. The tentative attempt to connect the political issue of nuclear power with this institution of cultural opposition remains one of the most intriguing features of the Irish ANM and the feature which made it unique in Irish politics. These connections between the logocrats and, in the new Dutch phrase, ‘provotariat’ has similarities with the New Left elsewhere in Europe. In contains within it an attempt to oppose the apathy and bureaucratic stultification of the commodity culture and to develop a new critical politics in a country moving towards a major period of social and political crisis.

Significant Events



Fianna Fail elected.



Windscale Public Inquiry, Cumbria.


Colley replaces O’Malley as energy minister



Colley announces postponement of nuclear plans and supports alternative energy projects.
Uranium controversy in Donegal.


Fine Gael energy policy document published.


Third anti-nuclear rally at Carnsore Point.


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