|PROPOSED STRATEGY - CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION - NOT FOR PUBLIC DISCLOSURE:|
Because the Irish megalithic monuments are (1) sacred sites, (2) works of art, (3) scientific instruments, and (4) built by Indigenous People, the constituency for their protection includes all those who support related causes in these fields.
Here is a 21-point strategy designed to take advantage of the many opportunities this presents:
- Get at least 1,000 people to sign the Appeal:
This should not be difficult, since as of 24 February 2001, the Ancient Irish Monuments Appeal has already been signed by 658 people in 22 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and the USA). Of these, however, only 10% are from Ireland.
I am planning to send an email announcement about the Appeal to a well-targeted list of 8,000 people in Ireland in the weeks ahead. You can help by asking your professional colleagues, business partners and friends if they would be willing to share their mailing lists with us or send out an email announcement on our behalf.
- Seed money:
We need some seed money to move our campaign forward and carry out a feasibility study to determine and implement our final strategy. We would use this development fund to cover various basic costs including expenses for a brainstorming session and some follow-up meetings which I would like to organise in Ireland, to pay for putting together and copying a written proposal, postage, phone and fax bills to identify prospective advisors and directors, legal fees to set up the Institute, and the costs of promotion, advertising and a launch event. I have contributed my time, travel expenses, requirements of organising a preliminary brainstorming session in Dublin, and the costs of setting up and maintaining this website pro bono so far, but my resources are limited.
If we could get 500 people who signed the appeal to contribute US$25 to get the ball rolling, we would have $12,500 or IR£10,000 in our kitty, to be used for whatever we thought most useful. Jo Coffey has got the ball rolling by donating the first $100 - for which much thanks! I am also exploring the possibility of more substantial funding from other sources and welcome any suggestions you may have in this regard.
Global Vision is now raising funds for the feasibility study. If you want to help, please visit our online donation page and send us a cheque in the mail.
- Press coverage:
It would be good to generate some press coverage about the Appeal and the Institute in the Irish Times and other Irish newpapers and magazines.
- Prominent Irish cultural figures:
Invite more prominent Irish cultural figures to sign the Appeal, e.g. the head of the Arts Council, the Head of Aés Dana, the Hon. Garech de Brún, Mary Robinson, Bono, Séamus Heaney, Paddy Moloney, Brendan Kenelly, Liam Neeson, Neal Jordan, Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul McGuinness, Sinéad O'Connor, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, along with some leading Irish business leaders and politicians, journalists, academics, architects, environmentalists, archaeologists, astronomers and church figures from Ireland and overseas.
- How should the Institute be set up?
All those who have collaborated in developing this proposal agree that the Institute would be far more effective, particularly in meeting its intention of integrating astronomical considerations into Irish archaeological policy, if we set this up as an independent body, rather than have it be set up by the Government. Otherwise it would end up as a QUANGO riddled by bureaucracy and probably staffed by the same crowd who are neglecting the astronomical dimension of megalithic sites in the first place.
Now that Ireland is hosting MIT's Media Lab Europe, setting up such a leading-edge transdisciplinary research centre may not be quite so ambitous as one might think. I believe it would generate considerable kudos from the international academic community and amidst growing public dissatisfaction with Dúchas support from the Irish people. Because its endorsement by the Irish Government would demonstrate its proactive qualities as a global intellectual leader, they might just go for it! One factor that would make a difference here is the level of enthusiasm of the archaeologist who might emerge as the Institute's prospective Director. What do you think?
- Identify and contact a good list of experts who would be willing to serve on the board of advisers:
These prospective advisers could also help us identify and recruit a competent archaeologist and astronomer to serve as the Institute's principal staff. The advisory board should include world-class scientists and scholars (especially archaeologists and astronomers), local experts, and other figures sympathetic to our cause. My current list of prospects includes the Hon. Desmond Guinness of the Irish Georgian Society, the Hon. Garech de Brún, the Director of MIT Media Lab Europe Glorianna Davenport; the publisher David Moore of Astronomy Ireland magazine, the former head of the US National Science Foundation's Physics section Rolf Sinclair (who is very into archaeo-astronomy and knows everybody in that scene), Dr. E.C. Krupp (the Director of Griffith Observatory in Los Angles, who has written some books on archaeoastronomy), the renowned art critic Lucy R. Lippard (who wrote the excellent book about land art called "Overlay" (1983) and "The Lure Of The Local: The Sense Of Place" (1997), the land- and light-artist James Turrell (who created the Sky Garden at Skibereen), Charles Ross (a light-artist friend of mine who is creating the giant astronomically-oriented Star Axis piece in the New Mexico desert), Michael Zelik (a specialist in Native American astronomy who has worked at Chaco Canyon and who is or was the head of the Astronomy Department at the School of Graduate Studies in the University of New Mexico at Los Alamos), the sacred geometry architect Keith Critchlow, the brilliant anthropologist and shamanism expert Joan Halifax (founder of the Ojai Foundation in California and current member of Global Vision's main advisory board), and Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum (because of her UNESCO / Indigenous Peoples connection). We could also use one or two leading Irish CEOs, TDs and or other political figures for local clout. Any suggestions?
- Set up the Institute:
See Setting up the Institute for details.
- Get world-wide institutional support:
We need institutional support for the Appeal and for the Institute from relevant organisations that can lend gravitas to our effort. These include bodies that are part of or have a close relationship to the Irish Government, such as the Heritage Council, the National Monuments Service, the Irish Association of Professional Archaeologists, the Arts Council, and the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) which might take the side of Dúchas and not want to have anything to do with us. There is also the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture (ISAAC) run by Clive Ruggles, who seems to be hostile to our intentions. Finally, there is a group of bodies which seem more likely to be sympathetic, including An Taisce, Aés Dána, MIT's Media Lab Europe, Sustainable Ireland, the Dunsink Observatory, the Armagh Observatory, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, the British Astronomical Association, the International Astronomy Union, the Latin American Institute of Astronomy, the Intijalsu Group in Chile, the North American Sun Dial Association, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre in Albuquerque, New Mexico (which deals with the "Anasazi" archaeological sites at Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelley, Bandelier / Frijoles Canyon, and Mesa Verde, some of which are astronomically designed), the Getty Conservation Institute, and UNESCO. Please let me know if you any potentially sympathetic contacts within these or similar organisations.
- Recruit a suitable and highly qualified archaeologist and astronomer:
If we decide to go ahead and set up the Institute, and once we have a lineup of suitable people who have agreed to be on its board of advisers, the most important challenge will be to identify at least one suitably-qualified (and if possible, Irish) archaeologist who is capable and available to serve as its principal Director. We might need an Irish astronomer as well, and another person to serve as administrator. Since this will require time and funding in place to be able to offer them a job it is very unlikely that we would be in a position to hire them before March 21. But we can put our feelers out now to identify possible candidates for such positions as soon as possible.
- Launch date for this web site:
I would like to make our website public (apart from this planning section) as soon as we have identified a good prospective board of advisers, if possible during the Convergence 01 festival (see below), although given my busy schedule and workload, this date may prove optimistic.
- Convergence 01 festival, Dublin:
Martin Byrne, Anthony Murphy and Gillies McBain are organising a workshop on megalithic sites as part of the Convergence 01 festival on Saturday, April 22 from 3.30 to 6pm at the Design Yard Gallery, in the Temple Bar cultural quarter of Dublin. This presents a good opportunity for a well-informed introduction to our megalithic heritage, followed by a discussion afterwards. Seating at this event will be limited to 50 people, so contact Sustainable Ireland on 01 491 2327 for reservations.
Convergence 01 is being organised by Sustainable Ireland in Temple Bar, Dublin, as part of the international Earth Week: Exploring Culture for a Better World (22 to 28 April 2001), in collaboration with a group of partners including Temple Bar Properties, Friends of the Earth Ireland, Feasta: The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, Global Vision, Dubliners Agenda 21, Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd., Undercurrents (UK), Sustainable Communities Ireland, the Irish Film Centre, the Academy of Everything is Possible, Ecological Trades Community, the Coppice Society, Schumacher Ireland Initiative, the Environmentally Conscious Builders Association, the New Economics Foundation (UK), VOICE, and Dublin Food Coop. The Festival Director is Davie Philip.
- Present the Appeal to the Government:
Present the Appeal to the Government (with copies sent to the Taoiseacht and every TD), and to the main Irish media outlets including press, radio and TV. Possible target dates are Bealtaine / May Eve, April 30 2001, to correlate with the Fire Eye event being planned on hilltops nation-wide on that day (see www.fire-eye.org), or the Summer Solstice 2001.
- Press conference and possible publicity events:
Hold a press conference, also on Bealtaine or the Summer Solstice, designed to get media attention including print, radio and TV news coverage. For this we need at least one charismatic and credible front man or woman to speak about the issue on TV (e.g. the Late Late Show) and be available for press and TV interviews.
If we felt it desirable to do so, there is also the option of organising a flurry of synchronised non-violent demonstrations and Living Theatre style happenings at Knowth and other major megalithic sites, to focus media attention on the issue. The carrot and the stick together make the reluctant donkey move in the desired direction: where public opinion leads, politicians have been known to follow! However, we should probably use this tactic as a means of last resort.
- Video New Release:
Resources and weather permitting, we could produce a short Video New Release of our spokesperson making a short speech in front of the concrete slab at Knowth, for screening at the launch event in Dublin, and try to get it broadcast on the RTE evening news. To do this we would need to raise about £1,000 to cover equipment and crew plus editing, unless we find a cameraman and post-production facility willing to support the campaign by contributing the camera, crew and post-production for free.
- Launch event:
If we decide to go ahead and set up the Institute, and do so in time, the Bealtaine or Summer Solstice press conference could also serve as the launch event for the Institute itself, and the date on which this website goes public. We could do this even if we only have an advisory board, but no main staff in place yet.
To build momentum for the Appeal and for the Institute, it would be well worth publishing a small newsletter, either quarterly or monthly. We could do this via email initially, and perhaps in hard copy later on.
- TV documentary:
It would be great to have someone do a really good documentary in favour of our point of view. Although I am a filmmaker, I don't have time to do this myself, but I believe this ought to be a key part of our campaign to get our message across in a way that is easy for people to understand in 30 or 60 minutes.
- Irish Government endorsement:
It would be useful to have the Government endorse the Institute. If we succeed in getting their attention, both through the Appeal and by presenting this proposal to them, the next step is to stimulate their interest and arouse their desire to participate. "It's better to light a candle than complain about darkness." Let them be proactive, hence the seven bullet-point suggestions at the end of the Appeal, the main ones which concern us here being (A) the removal of the concrete slab at Knowth, and (B) endorsing our proposed Institute, which has the potential to become the world's leading research centre in its field. Such ensorsement would provide the Government with a concrete way to turn the Knowth fiasco into a public relations opportunity, and would also help the Institute secure the funding, academic backing, and insitutional support required to get on with the real work of researching the astronomical dimension of the megalithic monuments and protecting them from further archaeological vandalism and tourist damage.
- Removing the concrete slab at Knowth:
While setting up the Institute seems like a worthwhile endeavour, we should not lose sight of the original motivation for our Appeal to remove the concrete slab at Knowth, and ensure that no such vandalism is allowed to occur again. Because this would likely cause embarassment to those responsible for its installation (i.e. Dúchas and/or the Royal Irish Academy), we should anticipate the possibility of resistance from them. It might then be necessary to take legal action against them to achieve this goal. If the Institute were up and running with the necessary clout in terms of astronomical support from its board, it would have a better chance of either persuading those responsible to quietly remove the slab, or winning a lawsuit against them if they refuse to co-operate. We should be clear about what we want and what our fall-back positions are, taking into account the tactics for negotiation.
- Long-term strategy:
This might include seeking guarantees from Dúchas et al to take the Institute's advice into consideration when deciding future archaeological policy and restoration plans. Apart from carrying on our own research into the astronomical and anthropological aspects of megalithic sites, we might at some point want to undertake our own excavation and restoration projects. This would require a large staff, excellent administration, and significant responsibility. Take another look at the proposed statement of purpose and see what you think.
Provided the Institute had a suitably eminent board of directors and advisers, funding sources might include the Irish Government, the European Commission, universities, grant-making foundations, corporate sponsorship, private philanthropy, bequests, and individual contributions. We could also generate income from membership fees, and revenues from conferences, seminars, workshops, lectures, media products, and consulting for other clients. The ultimate aim should be to secure an endowment big enough for its annual interest to cover basic operating costs.
The first step is to raise some seed money to cover the costs of developing this proposal further, recruiting a competent board of advisers, and identifying prospective directors and staff.
If you want to help, please visit our online donation page and send us a cheque in the mail.
Given the widespread public fascination with both ancient civilisations and the latest astronomical discoveries, the substantial evidence of astronomical alignments at Irish megalithic sites, and the growing international concerns about what has been going on at Knowth, setting up this proposed Institute could receive broad support both locally and internationally. But success depends on an effective strategy.
To develop an effective strategy, we need to understand our playing field and the other players involved. See next sections for details.