Carragher brings South Armagh case to US
On Thursday, 4 May, Toni Carragher of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee brought home the realities of the British occupation in the Six Counties to many people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Carragher's tour of the Bay Area began on Friday at a Cinco de Mayo celebration in a San Jose bus yard attended by hundreds of people. The transit workers and their union leadership, as well as members of the San Jose City Council, county officials and many community leaders, were solemn as they heard her tell of farm animals spooked and stampeded to their deaths by low-flying British Army helicopters, and livestock diseases like bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis being spread by the British soldiers' muddy boots as they tramp from farm to farm.
On Friday night, 5 May, Carragher spoke at a forum at the Pathfinder Bookstore in San Francisco's Mission District. The crowd, made up of students, activists on farm issues, and members of the general public, was outspoken on the issue of government indemnification of the farm losses, or rather, the lack of same. Carragher explained that the level of documentation relating to the losses which is required by the British government usually means that claims are rejected. She also met Willie Rivera and Denise Alvarado, members of the Comite `98 por un Puerto Rico Libre, who highlighted similar complaints by the people of Vieques in Puerto Rico, subjected to US military training exercises. Carragher made a statement of support on behalfof the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee for the Puerto Rican people's struggle for self-determination.
On Sunday, 6 May, at a reception held in her honour in San Ramon, California, she met leading members of the Irish community and representatives from various Irish organisations. Also in attendance was 1983 Long Kesh escapee Terry Kirby, who is fighting extradition to the Six Counties.
That morning, Toni Carragher led the marching contingent of the ``Brigada de los San Patricios de San Jose'' through the wet and rain-soaked streets of historic San Jose. The parade celebrates the Mexican people's defeat of the French, who were then occupying Mexico.
Following the parade, Carragher was feted yet again at a reception held in her honour at Original Joe's, a San Jose landmark. Alberto Carrillo, a member of the San Jose Human Rights Commission, invited her to speak at a national conference of human rights commissioners later this year.
The Bay Area leg of the tour ended with an appearance at the New College of California. The event, co-sponsored by the New College Irish Studies programme and the Irish American Unity Conference, was attended by members of the Irish community in San Fra nciso, as well as students from the New College Irish Studies programme. As at all of the events, Mrs Carragher displayed hundreds of photographs documenting an intrusive British military occupation, and took many questions from the audience.
On Monday, 8 May, Carragher arrived in Los Angeles and was interviewed on National Catholic Radio, National Public Radio, and on local radio stations in Southern California. That evening, she addressed a group of local Irish community leaders in Orange County (including the Irish American Unity Conference, the AOH, and Irish Northern Aid). On Tuesday, she visited the State Capitol in Sacramento, where she was hosted by State Senator Tom Hayden. She concluded her west coast tour in Portland and Seattle before going on to New York and Washington, D.C., where she met with members of Congress and attended a dinner for Irish President Mary McAleese.