Gaza offensive triggers Dublin to Cork protest walk

Actor Shane O’Neill, who took to the road to ‘embarrass politicians into finding some solution’ to the crisis, is calling for the lifting of the economic blockade

Shane O’Neill, outside Killeagh village, is walking from Dublin to Cork to call attention to the plight of  Palestinians. Photograph: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

Shane O’Neill, outside Killeagh village, is walking from Dublin to Cork to call attention to the plight of Palestinians. Photograph: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:00

It wasn’t so much the television images of the carnage in Gaza as Israeli government statements that prompted actor Shane O’Neill (38) to highlight his opposition to the offensive by walking from Dublin to Cork.

“ I think I am more shocked by the rhetoric coming from the Israeli government and the constant excuses.”

He acknowledges the conflict is “complicated”. “I don’t condone what Hamas is doing with its rockets but it’s about keeping the conversation going and trying to embarrass politicians, in terms of the international reaction, into finding some solution.”

He got the idea when his wife Kathy was taking their two young daughters for a short holiday. Rather than stay at home and watch the horrific images on his television every night, he decided to do something.

Walking solo

Five days into his near 300km journey, O’Neill has walked from Dublin to Arklow, on to Enniscorthy and Waterford, before hitting Dungarvan and Youghal. Now he’s heading for Cork.

A native of Castletroy in Limerick, O’Neill has lived in Dublin for some 18 years following a degree in drama and theatre studies at Trinity.

He has a social conscience but has never been involved in a political campaign before.

Walking solo and with little support other than Kathy booking B&Bs, he has taken to the roads wearing a T-shirt with the words “Peace in Gaza” on the back and “Lift the Blockade” on the front.

“The reaction has been very positive – you get the odd person that might give you the finger as they drive past, but overall it’s been very good. It’s in the public consciousness and people are just appalled.

“The public need to keep the pressure on after the Israelis withdraw because the fallout from their offensive is going to be huge; so many kids are going to need medical attention, counselling. Kids are going to be terrified.

Back to normality

“That’s why the blockade has to be lifted to allow resources in, so that fishermen can go back to work, businesses can reopen and some trace of normality is restored.”

O’Neill left Sallynoggin at 6.30pm on Sunday and walked for over 16 hours through the night to the outskirts of Arklow. He slept outside a graveyard the first night. Since then he’s been pacing himself but the marathon trek is taking its toll with blistered feet and two lost toenails: “If you stub your toe off a stone, it’s just agony.

“I went without food for 10 hours at one stage. I was practically hallucinating. I’ve had all kinds of weather. But I’m on the home straight now.”