February 15th 2021
Our speaker today is Hugh Loughlin who will talk about Japan: the link with opportunity.
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Feb 22nd Terry Nolan - Tom Crean, Antarctica Explorer with Shackleton
Mar 1st Business Meeting
Mar 8th Ola Garawany - From the land of the Pharaohs to the Emerald Isle.
Mar 22nd Tony Fox, Fish Ireland - A review
Mar 29th Delma Sweeney - The Rotary Foundation - Transforming the World.
Apr 5th Easter Monday. No meeting.
Apr 12th TBA.
Apr 19th Gerry P Cahill, Presenter 103.2 Dublin City FM.
Apr 26th James Innes - Bitten by the Black Dog
President Alan was in the Chair at our meeting last week.
Thought for the Day
The thought for the Day was given by David Booth who commented on the invitation to send a free postcard that he had received in the mail from An Post. On the card is the message “Love is the most important thing you can send.” David had been thinking about Grace’s speech the previous week and about the many meanings of the word “peace”. He wondered whether, when the members of the Keokuk Rotary club sent out 496 letters to other clubs reaching maybe 10,000 people, they had foreseen the ripple effect of their initiative 100 years later. It was an inspiring example of what could be achieved from small beginnings.
Visitors and Apologies
Last week we had 24 Members in attendance. Apologies were received from Rana Al Damin, Veronica Kunovska and Randal Gray. We had two visitors: Korahiza Macari and Vasily Ogievsky.
Rotary Rangers Schedule
Rotary Rangers outings are cancelled until further notice.
Hon Secretary’s Announcements
• Hon Secretary Tony said that Rana was awaiting detail of the logistics of delivering the laptops to Scoil Chaitríona DEIS Band1 in Baggot street. Tony is arranging for their delivery.
• President Alan said he was continuing to investigate the best way to hold the auction planned for February 26th.
• He said that there had been some developments with regard to the club’s e-mail addresses and invited Dermot Knight to outline these. Dermot said that at the moment the club’s address was RotaryDublin@gmail.com. This address can cause problems when trying to raise funds as many charities are rightly wary of scams and this address looks vaguely suspicious. He had looked into acquiring the rights to @rotarydublin.ie. This could be used for the Trust as well as for the president and secretary, e.g. email@example.com. This address is currently being trialled for three months. President Alan said that this will simplify transfer of the mailing system and mailboxes to incoming presidents and secretaries in the future. In all changes of this nature, we need to be careful about regulatory requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation.
Members Wishing to Speak
PP Derek Griffith said that this year’s batch of the famous Rugglestone marmalade was now available. Money from sale of the marmalade go to the Peter McVerry Trust. Derek and Bernie hope to raise at least €1,000. Many members have bought the marmalade in the past and he hopes that this year they will return for more. Prices are €12 for three pots and €50 for 13.
Alan Harrison said that the club has received some great publicity in the Dublin Gazette when it handed over a cheque for €9,000 to the Mark Pollack trust. The cheque had been presented by PP Brian George.
PP Mariandy said that she was delighted with the publicity. She wanted to tell us that there would be no International Women’s Day event this year (normally the 3rd of March). She had been in touch with Betty Watson who is going in for treatment for an illness. We all wished her well. Mariandy had also called Willie Widmer, now our oldest member. Willie is in good form, but he is unable to renew his driving licence because he is unable to get the preliminary medical test necessary. He is finding this frustrating (wouldn’t anyone?), but he looks forward to driving again soon. Mariandy added that we should all try to contact members that we have not seen for a while. A phone call is always welcome.
Our new member Eamonn said that in the past he had been an avid supporter (or should that be consumer) of Rugglestone marmalade. He wondered how to order. Derek said that the simplest way is to mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Eamonn added that he had done the peace course on line, but had only managed to score 99 out of 100. He encouraged all of us to take the course.
PP Ted said that there was supposedly no such thing as bad publicity. We should have a repository of good news. President Alan said that was an excellent idea and that he would instantly delegate it to PPs Bernadette and Mariandy. PE Alexander pointed out that the Dublin Gazette is on line should it should be possible to copy the article from there. Frank Bannister suggested that there should be a news section on the Web page. This will be investigated as will the possibility of setting up an archive.
Last Week’s Meeting
Our Guest Speaker last week, John Ryan, was introduced by PP Tom. John has been a neighbour of Tom’s in Inistioge for many years. John served for 24 years in the Irish army. During this time he earned a degree from the University of Limerick and qualified as a solicitor with the Law Society. John's military career took him to many places around the world including Cambodia, Mostar, East Timor and Kosovo (the latter on three occasions with the UN). He also took a sabbatical of six months in Nepal. Today he is going to talk to us about the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
John said that he served in what was Yugoslavia between 1993 and 1995. It was a turbulent time in the Balkans, particularly in Mostar and Sarajevo. In order to explain the complexities of Balkan politics he needed to go back quite a long way and give us a brief overview of the origins of the current situation.
To understand the situation in the Balkans it is necessary to start with the Ottoman empire’s invasion of Europe in the 14th century. The Ottomans were to control the Balkans in part of in whole for over 600 years. Although the power of the Ottoman Empire probably peaked in the 16th century, it's real decline occurred in the 19th century. During their occupation of the Balkans the Ottomans introduced Islam into the area adding a religious dimension to the ethnic problems that would plague the area even into the 21st century. In 1912 the Serbs had driven the remaining Turks out of the Balkans, but the subsequent outbreak hostilities in 1914 put the Serbs on the defensive against the Germans. With the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the First World War, a Kingdom of Serbia was finally established in 1922. This included modern Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo. What had emerged in the Balkans was a multi-ethnic multi-national multi-religious entity within Europe. These complexities were to be the sources of many conflicts for the remainder of the century.
During the Second World war Serbia was invaded again and initially defeated, but resistance by guerrilla bands continued, forcing the axis powers to keep a large number of troops in the region. After the war the country that came to be known as Yugoslavia was established. Yugoslavia was comprised of six countries: Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro. This complex entity remained reasonably stable until two events - the death of Tito in 1989 followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 - caused it to start to disintegrate. Via the Soviet Union, Russia had set up communist puppet regimes throughout Europe. Yugoslavia too was a communist country, but independent of the direct Soviet sphere of influence. This was largely due to the extraordinary figure of Marshal Tito. Tito was able to hold the complex entity that was Yugoslavia together and was sufficiently strong to maintain a line that was independent of Moscow.
When Tito died and the Soviet Union collapsed, Yugoslavia rapidly began to fall apart. First out of the traps was Slovenia which established its independence after a short skirmish. In 1991 the Serbs attacked Croatia and a very nasty war broke out fueled by nationalism and religion. The Croats allied themselves with Bosnia Herzegovina and defeated the Serbs, but shortly after, in the way of these things, the two allies turned on each other. This chaotic situation continued until the Washington agreement was put in place in 1994. One of the notorious incidents during this war was the Croatian destruction of the 16th century Ottoman bridge at Mostar. Under the Washington agreement, the European Union then took over the administration of Mostar. This was to be the only role played by the EU for some time in the Balkans and would foreshadow the Union’s later administration of Kosovo in 2008. The war continued however, with the notorious siege of Sarajevo which lasted for almost four years. The siege was maintained by 13,000 Serbian troops in the hilltops who kept around 70,000 Bosnians pinned down though the Bosnian troops were poorly trained and equipped. During the siege the Serbs fired ordinance of various sorts into the city.
Between May and August of 1995 the Serbs started to kidnap the UN soldiers sent in to try to keep the peace. This was partially in response to NATO bombing; the Serbs hoped that by taking hostages they could stop the NATO raids. However the airstrikes on Serbia continued and the Serbs finally succumbed. It was this sequence of events that led to the Dayton agreement, a process led by Richard Holbrooke, a strong character with the capacity to knock heads together. The siege of Sarajevo finally ended four months after the agreement was signed in November 1995. John reiterated that the origins of all of this can be traced back to the settlement at the end of the First World War.
Unfortunately, the Dayton agreement has always been a forced three-way marriage and has never been a happy one. Bosnia Herzegovina today is in effect three mini republics made up of three ethnic groups – a Bosniak group, a Croat group (administered from Mostar) and a Serbian group.
Despite the presence of the UN, atrocities occurred. The most notorious of these was the Srebrenica massacre where Bosnian Serbs massacred an estimated 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, most of them civilians, including women and children. The UN military on the ground had warned the UN that they did not have the resources to prevent an incident of this type. The Dutch UN soldiers wanted to clear civilians out of the area, but were prevented from doing so by the Serbs who wanted to cleanse the area entirely of Muslims.
That the UN was both weak and ineffective is clear, but part of the reason for this was its mandate which was humanitarian rather than military. In John's view the UN mandate should have been different and it should have had proper resourcing to enforce it. Ideally, the UN needs to come in after a ceasefire has been agreed with a mission to enforce that ceasefire. Moving in while a war is ongoing is much more difficult. Various luminaries including Cyrus Vance, Paddy Ashdown and Carl Bildt tried, without success, to resolve the problems. John noted that the British troops took a much more forceful attitude towards the locals in contrast with, for example, the Spanish, who took softly, softly approach. Softly, softly approaches did not work well with the Serbs. What is left today is a deeply fractured region. What's remains of Serbia today is the old Serbian state minus Kosovo.
Inviting questions, president Alan asked people to be careful because we did have Serbian and Croatian members in the club. He invited Rosella, one of the former, to speak. Rosella said that when you lived there on the ground one tended to have a different point of view to those of outsiders who were there for only brief periods. To hold a nation that is so diverse together needs great leadership and Tito was able to provide that. She remembered when she first went from Belgrade to Florence that, as far as standards of living were concerned, there was no real difference between the two cities. But you only need a small number of the wrong people to start a war and one thing soon leads to another. Kevin MacAnallan said that he agreed with Rosella in relation to Tito who was extremely good at playing groups off against one another and was charismatic to boot. He observed that the EU had taken no role in the conflict and wondered whether had Serbia been an EU member things might have been different? It was interesting that Slovenia had joined the EU soon after it gained independence Croatia had only done so more recently when, had it done so 25 years ago, it might have benefited much more from. A problem in the Balkans is that the EU has complex and demanding accession rules in particular about the rule of law, and human rights of various types. Croatia got a pass on these, but countries like Bulgaria and Romania feel that not enough attention was paid to this and would resist any further accessions in the Balkans without a more rigorous vetting. In the meantime, accession talks continue though the countries of the Balkans have so far not reached any of the European Union benchmarks. Rosella agreed that when Tito had been in charge people were happy. There had been freedom of movement between states and a good standard of living.
Thanking our speaker Hon Secretary Tony, also ex-army, said that John's talk had brought him flashbacks. Yugoslavia was, from a historical point of view, a fascinating story and it was difficult to cover adequately in a short talk. The country sat on two fault lines: a North-South fault line between the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires and an East West fault line between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The region had been pushed back and forth between these powers for many centuries. Bosnia Herzegovina remains a problem that is yet to be resolved. The Dayton agreement is far from perfect, but at least it has kept the peace for the last 25 years. He asked president Alan to thank our speaker. Concluding president Alan said that he had travelled in that part of the world as part of his beat at one stage and was conscious of the high emotions that still ran in the region.