History of the IPSC
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) was founded on the 29th of November 2001 at a well/attended public meeting in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) organised by that institution’s One World Society. Such a campaign already existed in the North of Ireland, and the IPSC benefited greatly from the experience already acquired by the then Belfast convenor, Feilim O hAdhmail.
The official founder of the IPSC was Tom Hyland, who already had almost legendary status as chairman of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign (ETISC), and for the first two years of its existence the IPSC would share an office with ETISC in Dame Street, in the centre of Dublin (the IPSC’s present office, coincidentally, is in the same street). Of the other founding members, Barbara O’Shea and Raymond Deane also had links to ETISC; the other founders were Conor McCarthy and Adnan Shebab. The latter was and has remained the IPSC’s liaison to the General Delegation of Palestine in Ireland, and the TCD meeting was addressed by the then Palestinian Delegate General, Ali Halimeh.
It must nonetheless be stressed that from the start the IPSC has been independent both from political parties within Ireland and from particular institutions within Palestine, be it the PLO, Fatah, or Hamas.
Not long after its foundation, the IPSC engaged Lynn Shefaa as national co-ordinator. Shortly after this, the organisation faced its first massive challenge when Ariel Sharon launched the so-called ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ at the end of March 2002, a ferocious onslaught on the West Bank cities that included the massacre in Jenin. The Israeli state summoned up all its massive propaganda resources, in Ireland as elsewhere, and the IPSC set about systematically countering Israeli misinformation in every media outlet that published it, an exercise that proved remarkably successful and that has remained one of the organisations primary functions.
In May 2002 the IPSC organised a large, noisy but peaceful demonstration outside Dublin’s Westin Hotel, where the Israeli Embassy hosted diplomats and dignitaries to celebrate Israel’s ‘Independence Day’. The organisation had very definitely arrived, and from now on it would maintain a strong public profile despite its modest resources.
From 20-29th September 2002 the IPSC held its first ‘Palestine Awareness Week’, ‘9 days of film, lectures, discussion and events about contemporary life in Palestine’. Such events were also held in 2003 and 2004, after which it was felt that the concentrated expenditure of resources over a short period risked reducing the organisation’s ability to function during the rest of the year.
On 19th May 2002 East Timor declared its independence and ETISC began to wind down its activities. Tom Hyland began to spend more time in that country, and in March 2003 Raymond Deane was elected as IPSC chairperson in his stead, a post he would hold until his resignation in September 2005, when he was succeeded by Prof James Bowen. Author of a number of hard-hitting Op Eds in Irish newspapers during this period (and after), Deane also represented the organisation abroad, aligning it with the European Co-ordinating Campaign for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (ECCP) at the European Social Forum in Paris in November 2003 and addressing the UN Committee for the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in New York in September 2004.
From the outset, the IPSC affiliated itself to the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM), a relationship that has continued although it is now more informal. This was a means of ensuring that the issue of Palestine would remain at the forefront of opposition to warmongering, and that its centrality to the resurgence of imperialism and colonialism in our time would not be lost to view.