Some reflections on Irish anti-nuclear movement in 1970s

by Eisteach


To stop the building of 5 nuclear power stations around the coast of Ireland.


The first task, decided by a collective of activists, was to hold the first anti-nuclear weekend festival in Carnsore Point in 1975 which was to be the site of the first nuclear power station.

The purposes of the festival were:

To build a thirty-two county anti-nuclear movement

To learn of the dangers of nuclear power

To hear of the experiences of invited speakers from around the world

To hear first-class music through the best sound system of the time

To see first-class theatre

To feed the people, food to be vegetarian and to be paid for at cost price.

To provide the children with a dedicated and safe play area.

The social media used to inform the people were posters, leaflets, benefits and meetings.

The festival was free.

A field was donated by a local farmer and two weeks before the festival a group of volunteers went Carnsore to prepare the site. Access to water was provided, without their knowledge, by the council. Marquees, which were hired through benefits, were erected and stages were built, one indoor and one outdoor. The food tent was fitted out with catering gas rings. The children’s area, the sleeping area, the toilets and the car park were organised.

Five thousand people attended the festival and throughout the weekend attended discussions which were based the on the invited speakers from America and Europe. A sense of urgency developed with people returning home to organise, each area deciding on the best way forward. The decisions made at the festival were to organise meetings around the country for the second festival. For example a group in Clare volunteered to provide, organise and feed the workers for free in the following year. Meetings were to be held in counties, in provinces and one national meeting. There was to be an anti-nuclear road-show with music, theatre and discussion, all aimed at informing people about the dangers of nuclear and the second festival.

The movement was to be self-sufficient.

In the evening the best of music was heard.

The initial response of the state to all this activity against government policy was to discredit the anti-nuclear movement through the media which backfired as it gave the movement much needed publicity. The Special Branch became involved by making a nuisance of themselves. The funniest moment was when they were following a bus of activists from Dublin to Cork. When the bus was on the outskirts the Special Branch phoned the local radio to announce that the Baader-Meinhoff group were coming to Cork. The activists from Dublin were going to a provincial meeting. Cork was to become the first city to declare a nuclear-free zone.

At the second Carnsore Festival there were 65,000 people. This time great lessons had been learnt. There were stalls from a variety of groups, the most stunning being the Blanket protest in support of republican POWS in the north; a man spent the whole weekend at Carnsore in a cage with nothing but his blanket. It was the first time many of the people attending heard of the protest in the prisons in the six counties.

It took five years to stop government policy and we did.

During this period uranium was found in Kilkenny and Donegal. The mining companies were already boring holes in the mountains of Donegal. This was discussed at meetings and a national anti-uranium weekend was held in Donegal. There was big public support at the meeting. During the weekend there was damage done to the machines belonging to the mining company. The estimated cost of replacement of the machines was over a £100,000. The mining company left. A meeting was held in Kilkenny to inform the people of the dangers of uranium, there was a large turnout.

There are many organisational lessons to be learnt from this campaign, the most important being that each group decided their own work in their community, that meetings were held to facilitate the groups coming together and that we had fun.

Posted on February 29, 2012, in Anti-nuclear movement, Censorship, Economy and workers' resistance, Historiography and historical texts, Repression and resistance in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This is a very good article on the history of the Irish anti nuclear movement in the 1970.

  2. Alan MacSimoin

    I did a talk about this some years ago, which you may find of some interest:

  3. Delighted to see another one writing about this most important victory for the independent anti nuclear movement. It is a beacon for those of us who are struggling today on how to organise, agitate and frustrate the powers that have this lovely country of ours on its knees. Think global, act local with all means at our disposal.

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