Ciaron O'Reilly

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Ciaron O'Reilly

Ciaron O'Reilly (born 1960) is an Australian anti-war campaigner, peace protester, social justice campaigner and Catholic Worker, having been "engaged in ... protests, acts of civil disobedience and trials in England, Ireland, and his native Australia."[1] He has also become one of the most visible and active practical and theoretical exponents of the ideas of Christian anarchism, arguing that this "'is not an attempt to synthesise two systems of thought' that are hopelessly incompatible, but rather 'a realisation that the premise of anarchism is inherent in Christianity and the message of the Gospels.'"[2]

In a landmark case, on 5 July 2006 O'Reilly went to trial at Ireland's Four Courts for the third time for disarming a US navy warplane at (civil) Shannon Airport in the early hours of 3 February 2003:[3] this group action became known as the Pitstop Ploughshares.[4] Two earlier trials in 2005 had ended in mistrial; O'Reilly and four others (Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon and Damien Moran) were acquitted by an Irish jury on 25 July 2006.[5]


Implicit in Christian discipleship is an anarchist orientation towards power. We are called not to lord it over people but to serve them. Jesus refuses to become king and ushering his kingdom through the violence of the state. We become pacifist because we realize that Jesus was a pacifist; if he taught us anything on the cross he told us how to die rather than how to kill, and to suffer rather than cause suffering.

O'Reilly 2010

Ciaron O'Reilly was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in 1960. He was educated at the Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane and later by the Christian Brothers at St. James College, Fortitude Valley. He is of Irish descent. He received a BA degree majoring in literature and history.

He took part in the 1980s civil rights, social justice and free speech movement in Queensland, Australia, opposed to state Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.[6]

He was working as a relief teacher in Queensland when he first came into contact with the Catholic Worker Movement (CW), founded in the United States by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin during the Great Depression. O'Reilly subsequently founded Brisbane's West End Catholic Worker community along with Jim Dowling and Angela Jones, aiming to address social issues including youth homelessness among the Aboriginal community. He described the CW as composed of three practices which together constitute a life of integrity: living in intentional community, practicing the works of mercy, and nonviolent prophetic witness.[7] He aims to personally enact this through living in community with the poor, prison visitation, and direct action against war. Catholic Workers in Brisbane were also concerned about the threat posed by nuclear weapons and the uranium mining industry and its direct and indirect effects on those in the Third World. Together with other members of the Brisbane Catholic Worker, he took an active role in highlighting the involvement and complicity of the Australian government, corporate and military sectors in supporting Indonesia's brutal and illegal 25-year occupation of East Timor.

During the 1991 Gulf War, O'Reilly was a member of the 'ANZUS Ploughshares' group which attacked a B-52 Bomber which was on 20-minute scramble alert, at Griffiss AFB near Utica, New York. Their actions put the aircraft out of action for the next two months at the height of the US bombing campaign in Iraq. Together with the other members of the group, he was arrested and sentenced to 13 months in the US penal system.[8] After his return to Australia, O'Reilly took part in the 'Jabiluka Ploughshares' group action which disabled uranium mining equipment in the Northern Territory of Australia in 1998.[9]

On a visit to Australia in February 2006 O'Reilly was pulled aside on arrival in Brisbane and interviewed by two Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) officers. O'Reilly publicly accused ASIO of heavy-handed tactics, saying, "I felt it was a kind of intimidation basically; they were asking what my plans were for the next three months, in terms of politically organising against Australian involvement in the war. I don't see what business that has to do with them if their main thing is security."[10]

The third trial of the Pitstop Ploughshares started on 10 July 2006 and resulted in a unanimous 'Not Guilty' verdict on both charges after 12 days of testimony and legal argument. Judge Miriam Anderson had agreed on Day 9 of proceedings with the defense counsel after extensive submissions and legal argument on the applicability of the statutory "lawful excuse" defence. After 4½ hours of deliberation the Dublin jury of seven women and five men returned and gave their decision that all the accused should be acquitted as they honestly believed they were acting to save lives and property in Iraq and Ireland, and that their disarmament action was reasonable, taking into consideration all the circumstances.[11]

He spent approximately three further years at London Catholic Worker's Giuseppe Conlon House in Harringay, London, from shortly after its opening in 2010. He is presently living in his native Australia. He is noted both for "his reflections on Christian anarchism, and partly for his example in putting these reflection[s] into practice".[12] In recent years he has been associated with the campaigns in support of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Ben Griffin, who became O'Reilly's godson.[13]


  • O'Reilly, Ciaron (1986). The revolution will not be televised! : a campaign for free expression in Queensland (1982-1983) (pamphlet). Sydney: Jura Books. OCLC 37094418. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  • O'Reilly, C. (1986). Let's not get carried away : poems from Queensland. Brisbane. OCLC 37063176.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • O'Reilly, C. (1988). Waging peace: a ten-year experiment with nonviolent resistance. Catholic Worker Movement. OCLC 44003635.
  • O'Reilly, C. (1994). Bomber grounded, runway closed : prison letters and court notes of a Gulf War resister. Marion, SD: Rose Hill Books. ISBN 9780963622426.
  • O'Reilly, C. (2001). Remembering Forgetting - A Journey of Nonviolent Resistance to the War on East Timor. Australia: Otford Press. ISBN 9781876928308. OCLC 52261682.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: a political commentary on the gospel, Imprint Academic, Exeter, 2011, p 33
  2. ^ Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: a political commentary on the gospel, Imprint Academic, Exeter, 2011, p 1; see also pp 33-34
  3. ^ "Aussie peace activist facing jail", The Age, 5 July 2006. Accessed 5 May 2007
  4. ^ Joshua Robertson, 'Australian anti-war activist among victims of alleged UK police hacking,' The Guardian 3 April 2017, accessed 8 November 2019
  5. ^ "Five not guilty of damaging US plane", RTÉ News, 25 July 2006
  6. ^ O'Reilly, Ciaron (1986). The revolution will not be televised! : a campaign for free expression in Queensland (1982-1983) (pamphlet). Sydney: Jura Books. OCLC 37094418. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  7. ^ O'Reilly, Ciaron (July 2010), "Ciaron on Christian anarchism and the Catholic Workers", London Catholic Worker conference, 5:00, retrieved 10 June 2017
  8. ^ When Ploughshares met the US Air Force Archived 16 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine Green Left Weekly, 20 October 1993. Accessed 5 May 2007
  9. ^ Jabiluka Ploughshares Archived 19 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Peace activist slams ASIO treatment" The Age, 7 February 2006. Accessed 5 May 2007
  11. ^ Browne, Harry (2008). Hammered by the Irish: how the Pitstop Ploughshares disabled a U.S. warplane, with Ireland's blessing. Petrolia, California, Edinburgh, Scotland, Oakland, California: AK Press and CounterPunch. ISBN 9781904859901. OCLC 267235787. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.
  12. ^ Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: a political commentary on the gospel, Imprint Academic, Exeter, 2011, p 34
  13. ^ Robertson, Joshua (7 January 2016). "Anti-war activist Ciaron O'Reilly: conventional protests are 'a dead end'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 November 2019.

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