Urewera 17 Profile: Ira Bailey
Scoop.co.nz is continuing to profilie each of the so-called terrorists arrested on Monday 15th October and now known as the Urewera 17. Our third profile is of Ira Bailey whose name suppression was lifted in Auckland this morning. The crown have announced that they are not pursuing terror charges against Ira Bailey and he was today granted bail unopposed to reappear on December 3. See also a profile of his identical twin brother Rongomai Bailey.
28 years - Activist / Bicycle Mechanic /
By Julie Webb Pullman
Ira Mangaimimi Timothy (a.k.a. Tim) Bailey grew up in a family environment in which activism was not just accepted, but positively encouraged. A descendant of the peaceful resistance movement of Parihaka, which resisted the land-grabs from the 19th century until recent times, he belonged to the Environmental and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand (ECO), which took peaceful, and successful, action against the logging of the West Coast native forest, and he also facilitated workshops at the Parihaka Peace Festival.
Ira’s intelligence and wide-ranging interests are reflected in his university studies, which included computer science, philosophy, politics and sociology, and his publication in both university publications and on the internet.
His social conscience has long been evident in his numerous fundraising activities - for Save the Children Fund and Amnesty International, for Palestinian education and medical relief such as the work of New Zealand surgeon Alan Kerr, for the victims of the tsunami, and for indigenous communities in Southern Mexico. His family background suggests his commitment to social justice issues is in no small part a product of his environment – his father Rongomai-Ira was a respected high-achiever, and well on his way to becoming the first Maori Trade Commissioner until his sudden untimely death. His mother, a graduate whose professional life has encompassed roles as a teacher, child welfare officer, and interpreter/translator, has always been very much involved in human rights and political and social justice issues.
Together with his family, Ira helped with the resettlement of a Sudanese refugee family in Upper Hutt, and has been a regular and dependable volunteer for the Human Rights Film Festivals, as well as helping to organise the “Sweet As?” conference on national identity held in Wellington in June 2007.
Ira’s interest in the environmental movement stems also from family experience, his older sister having died of leukaemia following exposure to 245T and his aunt Vera Bezems being largely responsible for instigating the government enquiry into petro-chemical pollution at the Motonui outfall in Taranaki. These influences paved the way for his involvement in helping to organise the making of the biggest GE-free sandwich in the world in opposition to the introduction of GE food into New Zealand, and to his participation in the Save Happy Valley campaign, which aims to prevent the export of New Zealand’s resources to China, to limit the pace of climate change, to halt the destruction of rare native bush and tussock lands, and to save a rare species of snail.
Not content with merely fundraising and saving the environment, Ira has also been heavily involved in voluntary community work, helping to set up the Oblong Internet cafe in Wellington, a non-profit volunteer project that provides the community with cheap access to resources such as the internet, data projectors, and film and audio equipment. He has designed websites for the Workers Educational Association (WEA) and the Arlington Community Gardens, facilitated a workshop on media at a recent young peoples’ hui in Raglan, and been making canvasses for local artists. Amongst all of this he has still managed to find time to complete paid contract work for Dev-Zone, the Development Resource Centre.
Ira was instrumental in the reconstruction of the house known as 128, which had been abandoned, then rescued from destruction by the local community. Not only did he help rebuild the house, but he also set up a library there, and a bike workshop – at the weekend and in the evenings he made himself available to tutor members of the public in bicycle maintenance and repair, and would take old broken bikes and fix them up, providing a cheap, and often free, means of transport for those who needed it.
This work, and visits to Nicki Hager’s self-built house, inspired Ira’s interest in building construction, and he had recently been working as a builder with the goal of eventually constructing his own house and becoming self-sufficient. His few spare hours were spent working on a wind turbine powered by old scooters, designed to provide his electricity needs.
Although clearly a committed political, environmental and rights activist of long standing, friends say Ira had not been heavily involved in recent months, concentrating instead on his wind-generating project.