‘Back to the Future’- 1980s Galway city was so 21st century


An invitation is being extended to those who were employed in electronic manufacturing companies such as Northern Telecom, Information Sources Ltd(ISL) and Digital Equipment Corporation, as well as to those who had worked or studied in information technology, telecommunications and computing retail sector in Galway, during the 1970s/1980s, to attend a gathering at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics of the Data Science Institute, NUI Galway in the Dangan Business Park at 8pm on Tuesday June 11th. The purpose of the event is to connect with people that helped make Galway the country’s first ‘Digital City’ and one that was uniquely cosmopolitan during this era, in order to tap into their expertise, memorabilia and stories for the benefit of the national Computer and Communications Museum based at the Data Science Institute.

According to Brendan Smith Public Engagement Officer at Insight and curator of the computer museum, “21st century Ireland is defined in so many ways by technology-related issues such as cloud computing, social media, robotics, artificial intelligence, youth coding clubs, online digital media, video conferencing, computing gaming, a government focus on investing into science subjects, developing third level centres of scientific research, promoting the country as a high-tech global hub for foreign direct investment, attracting in skilled workers from overseas, as well as on the dark side by concerns over hacking and the negative influences of modern devices on family life and wellbeing.

Amazingly these issues were also symptomatic of Galway during the 1980s. The city was a key European manufacturing plant for Digital Equipment Corporation(DEC), then the world’s second largest computer company and for Northern Telecom, a global pioneer in the development of telecommunications products. Attracted by high tech jobs and a better quality of life, people came to work in Galway from the Americas, Asia and the European continent who had no Irish ancestry as well as from the Irish Diaspora in United States and Britain. As early as January 1981, all second-level schools in Galway city and county were equipped with Apple computers. The university was providing coding workshops for teachers; and ‘Coderdojo’ type clubs, aimed at children and their parents, were operating in city centre locations. Eleven city schools benefitted from ‘cloud-computing’ technology for mathematics and programming applications. Thirty years before Facebook, many teenagers took advantage of this online network connecting schools to communicate with each other for meet-ups, dating and other social engagements! Households in Galway were using digital devices via telephone lines to access online services for emailing, shopping, banking, hotel reservations, airline reservations, news, weather and information services. From 1984, robotics was taught at the Galway RTC (GMIT). UCG (NUIG) was renowned for its’ research on computer-aided manufacturing.  In 1985, a young boy invented Galway’s first computer-controlled robot. Two years later, an employee at DEC Galway produced probably Ireland’s first online newsletter by emailing news stories to colleagues working in DEC plants across the globe. As a prelude to Google, a Galway-based company(ISL) in 1982 was developing a digital search engine for American libraries.  The first satellite link between Ireland and North America, that allowed transatlantic business communications including video conferencing, was launched in 1987 at the Telecom Éireann (Éircom) headquarters in Mervue. 

We want to record these fascinating stories from this innovative era and make them known to the wider public.  Furthermore there is a huge repository of technical expertise amongst people from that generation who could form a veteran ‘digital makers’ club to pass on their vintage computer repair skills to younger museum volunteers.  Some individuals may be able to source key Galway-made or associated equipment absent from our museum collection or to volunteer as tour guides for a technology heritage and learning facility that is the only one of its type in Ireland and which could become an important element of Galway 2020 in promoting our unique digital cultural heritage.”

Galway Girl Hannah needs your support

Hannah is a beautiful young teenage Galway girl. But she is suffering from a degeneration in her jaw joints which has led to her losing jaw function. Talking can cause her unbearable pain. She has not been able to eat since Christmas and has been bed-bound since early this year.
Hannah's only hope to lead a normal life is to be treated by a oral maxillofacial surgeon in London who is a world leader in jaw joint treatments.
She deserves the opportunity to be able to enjoy the simple things in life that so many of us take for granted, such as a meetup with friends for a coffee and chat in a café, or a walk in a forest. Please donate something, no matter how small, and help this lovely daughter of an old friend (Dave Hill) of mine achieve this.
 Click here to support Hannah

The Heroes of D-Day

I salute the c350,000 soldiers, sailors, paratroopers and air crews who took part in the Normandy landings on June 6th 1944 supported by thousands of French resistance fighters.
Where it not for their actions and the even greater actions of the Soviet Union military and the guerrilla fighters of Eastern Europe in World War 11, the continent would today probably be still under the brutal occupation of the Nazis, minus its Jewish and Gypsies peoples long since eliminated by genocide, with its Slavic populations reduced to sub-human status and slavery.
Sadly in the following decades, many European, Asian, African and American governments did commit atrocities against other nations and peoples. But the followers of Adolf Hitler represented a special brand of evil that deliberately wanted to bring death and subjugation to much of humanity.

So thank you to the British, Americans, Canadians, Australians, French, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Greeks, Dutch, Irish, Belgians, New Zealanders and Norwegians who took part in Allied military operations on this day 75 years ago.

As a child one of my most cherished possessions was ‘The Longest Day’ written by the Irish author Cornelius Ryan, probably the best book ever written on D-Day. It tells the story of June 6th 1944 humanely and fairly through the memories of French female and male civilians, as well as combatants on land, sea and air, both Allied and German. I highly recommend it.
In the celebrations today I was especially impressed to see two British men who fought on D-Day as paratroopers, once again jump from a Dakota C-47 airplane in the skies above Normandy.
Your bravery was not in vain.

Galway needs politicians that fight Climate Chaoa & demand Climate Justice!

The key issue in tomorrow's local and European elections are Climate Chaos, Climate Justice and the Green Economy.
Global Warming, Equality, Poverty, Jobs and Peace are interrelated. Since 2015, I have worked across Africa, the Middle East and Europe. During these work trips, I have seen the enormous devastation being caused by deforestation, water shortages, pollution, injustices, poverty, large scale, mining, habitat loss, biodiversity decline, a warming climate and GREED. I am genuinely scared.
But everywhere I go I have seen ordinary but inspirational individuals and organisations fighting back against the powerful forces of corruption and destruction who see a price in everything but a value in nothing .
In Galway a number of energetic councillors promoted our community, heritage and environmental campaigns over the last few years, and helped us to achieve some notable successes. Thank you for that and may you be re-elected. But we also need as well other fresh progressive voices, including youth and female, to demand more and more radical policies. The future of so many species including our own is at stake

Rollng out a 'Smart City', 'Green City' & 'Biodiversity City' as Galway's diverse sectors unite behind a ‘National Park City’ initiative.

Is this part of a real game changer for the planet's future? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding 'Yes'!

After over a year of direct campaigning, lobbying, consulting, researching and planning, I, along with so many others, was so proud to launch the ‘National Park City for Galway’ initiative on May 3rd at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics of the Data Science Centre of the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway. With over seventy people attending (mainly representatives from a myriad of organisations) and twenty one speakers drawn from a diverse range of local sectors, who gave wonderfully inspirational presentations on the environmental work that they have commenced or completed in 2019, it was one of the most influential and hopefully most important eco-gatherings ever to take place in Galway.
The event was officially launched by Mayor of Galway city, councillor Niall McNelis, who outlined the progressive series of policies that Galway City Council has adopted over the last few weeks including setting up a new full time on-the-ground staff unit for the city’s forest parks, agreeing to appoint a full time Tree Officer, re-establishing the multi-sectoral Terryland Forest Park steering committee, taking on board the all-Ireland Pollinator Plan, putting a Climate Action Plan out to public consultation next month and actively considering the post of Biodiversity Officer in next year’s council budget.
Guest speaker was Duncan Stewart, Ireland’s most famous environmentalist and producer of RTE’s Eco-Eye television series, who gave a ‘reality check’ to the attendees by outlining his serious concerns at the increasing levels of environmental destruction both globally and nationally.

The event demonstrated though a unity of purpose for protecting biodiversity, reconnecting with the rest of Nature and in tackling Climate Change that is now developing within all sectors of urban Galway. It was a gathering of like-minded people drawn from third level colleges, scientific research institutes, technology innovation, schools, small businesses, social enterprises, corporations, hotels, cafes, digital maker clubs, the medical profession, the health administration, the arts, politics, local government as well as the environmental and community sector who have agreed to work together to integrate Nature into the lives and infrastructure of our city.
Each of the twenty two guest speakers (below) outlined new or completed projects for 2019 that will impact positively on people’s lives and the wider environment and in the process help Galway in achieving a National Park City status.
The audience included veteran community campaigners Martina Finn and Eleanor Hough; Terry McDonough from the Local Community Development Committee(LCDC); Martin Brennan and Patricia from the Sligo Greenway campaign group; a management team from the Nox Hotel group; representatives from SAP Galway; Alan Kenny from Galway City of Culture 2020; Damien Nee from Corrib Beo; Mark Cronin manager of the Galway Foodspace catering group; teacher Michelle McDonagh and senior students from Our Lady’s College; Laoise (príomhoide), Eoin and Fiona from Scoil Iognáid; Maire Keady Baker/Máire de Báicéir (príomhoide) Scoil Shamais Naofa, Bearna; artist Sinead Hackett; Feargal Timon from the Woodquay Residents’ Association; Brian Wall and Lukasz Porwol from Insight NUI Galway; Conor Hayes from College of Engineering and Informatics NUI Galway; Catherine Connolly TD; Marian Brady from the Galway Environmental Network; 
Marie Talty from Irish Doctors for the Environment; James Harrold and Edward Skehill from Galway City Council; Gary Davoren and Dick Delaney from the Connemara Greenway Alliance; Paul, Donal and Anne from the Galway Science and Technology Festival; and Stephen Corrigan from the Galway City Tribune who wrote a fantastic article in the current edition of that newspapers (see photo).
They were also great exhibits on show including a beautiful revamping of the Woodquay Park as designed by Mary Reynolds (thanks Feargal); a huge external float from the Connemara Greenway Alliance (thanks Garry); the wildlife of Terryland Forest Park (thanks Helen!); food waste to food preserves by Foodspace; and the Citizen Science-based ‘Mobile Environmental Science and Air Quality Lab’ from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics (thanks Martin). Well done also to Lukasz for his live streaming of the launch.

The groundwork has now being laid to unite all of these different stakeholders, representing most aspects of local society, into a steering committee that will coordinate an action plan and a roll out of deliverables for ‘National Park for Galway’ designation. The work to make this happen will be continuous. So watch this page for regular updates.

Speakers & Topics at launch (MC- Brendan Smith):
1. Mayor Niall McNelis, Galway City Council- Official Welcome.
2. Duncan Stewart, Eco-Eye - Guest Speaker.
3. Professor Mathieu D’Aquin, Director, Data Science Institute, NUI Galway- Data Analytics & Digital Sustainability.
4. Lorraine Rushe, Buildings Office, NUI Galway- The Green Campus of NUI Galway.
5. Sabrina Commins, Galway City Partnership- Urban Bee Project.
6. Catherine Seale & Denis Goggin, Corrib BEO -Care, Protection & Sustainable Development of the Corrib.
7. Pat Collins, Geography, NUI Galway- The Connemara Greenway.
8. Claire Lillis, Aerogen-S ocial Engagement & Urban Forest Sustainability
9. Caitriona Carlin & Geishe Kinderman, Applied Ecology Unit, NUI Galway- The Outdoor Laboratory.
10. Martin Serrano, Insight Centre, NUI Galway-Citizen Science & the Greening of Smart Cities.
11. Niall O Brolchain, Insight Centre, NUI Galway- ‘Care Peat’: managing and monitoring carbon reduction from peatlands
12. Phil James, Galway Waterways’ Foundation- Galway’s Waterways network
13. Agustín García Pereira, Insight Centre for Data Analytics, NUI Galway- Land use mapping & Bee Habitats.
14. Colin Hanbury, Information Technology, NUI Galway-Fungi Identification app.
15. Eoin Jordan, Digital Makers’ Club, Insight, DSI, NUI Galway-Upcycling & 3D Printing.
16. Vincent Carragher, The Wheel- Citizen Science & the Curio App.
17. Ashling Jennings/Fiona O’Donovan, Healthy Galway-The ‘Blue Park’ of Galway Bay.
      18. Laoise Breathnach, Scoil Iognáid - The Outdoor Classroom at Scoil Iognáid
      19. Caroline Stanley, Friends of Merlin Woods- The Flora & Fauna of Merlin Woods booklet

Coderdojo & the Coolest Projects in Ireland!

I had a great day in the RDS Dublin on Sunday last as young people from across Ireland and indeed from many other countries enthusiastically demonstrated their coding projects that ranged from tourism apps, to educational games to robotics.
I was particularly proud of the works showcased by the ninjas from Coderdojo Galway, the club that I have been involved in since its inception in January 2013.
Seeing them in action gives meaning and purpose to the efforts of the many volunteers like myself across Ireland who happily give their time free of charge every week to help transform our young people from being passive digital users into active digital creators.
Thanks to volunteers such as Colm, Kieran, Justine, Conor, Michael, Brian and Niki, as well as great leadership for many years from Karl Sweeney and now from Aksana, our club upskilled hundreds of children in coding every year.
Photo shows (bottom) Kieran Tierney , Sean Sheridan-Lally, John Canny, Colm Canny and Eoin Tierney with their Climabot called GRETA. Top of photo shows mother and son team Helen and Oisín Flynn with their hugely important, personal and very powerful 'Autistically Awesome' coding narrative. I have really enjoyed having both individuals in my Saturday morning class at Insight NUI Galway over the last year as they contributed so much to the spirit of this learning community. Helen is a wonderful caring lady whilst Oisín full of creative digital talents. Maith daoibh!

Victory for People & Biodiversity as our six month Campaign to Secure Permanent Staff for Galway City's Forest Parks achieves Success!!

So a sincere THANK YOU to all those campaigners that protested outside City Hall over many weeks; to Councillor Mark Lohan and those many other councillors for raising the issue at council meetings; to the Galway City Tribune, Galway Advertiser and Galway Bay FM for their ongoing coverage of our campaign; to Stephen Walsh of City Parks for lobbying on and to Galway City Council management for agreeing finally to establish a new full time permanent grounds staff unit.
Furthermore a big 'Bualadh Bos' to Declan Varley for his excellent holistic editorial in today's Galway Advertiser https://bit.ly/2UUD49V recognising the importance of the natural environment to people's health and his praise of all those volunteers who, in spite of the obstacles and hostility that they oftentimes face from officialdom, keep on giving their time and efforts to protect the rest of Nature and the planet.

Below is a media release that was published also in today's Galway Advertiser:
Campaigners Welcome Council decision to appoint Fulltime Ground Staff to City’s Parks
Community and environmental campaigners have praised the decision of City Hall to establish a full time permanent grounds staff unit for Galway city’s three main parks. According to community veteran activist Brendan Smith, “We commend the recent decision of city management to have, for the first time, permanent on-the-ground staff in the three main forest parks (Cappagh, Merlin and Terryland). It is long overdue, is following the example of other Irish cities, and will hopefully led to considerable improvements in the infrastructure, upkeep and safety of our valuable green public resources that have the potential to beneficially improve the health and learning opportunities of children and adults, combat climate change and protect our increasingly threatened native biodiversity. It is a step in the right direction towards having park wardens. Last week I met with some of the members of this new unit and was immediately impressed with their enthusiasm and their programme of works, which has already started with a major resurfacing of the main pathways going through Terryland Forest Park. We agreed to reignite a two-way ongoing collaboration between council and the community that once existed towards our green spaces, in order to develop an agreed strategy that will hopefully make our parks once again the envy of the rest of the country. Last Sunday saw the first large-scale public tree planting in Galway city since 2013 when the staff of Aerogen and their families planted over 500 trees in Terryland Forest Park. This company has also recently funded the development in the Ballinfoile Community Organic Garden of the city’s first community tree nursery, which will become a valuable long-term resource for schools and neighbourhoods. On next Tuesday at 3pm there will be a meeting in the Coco Café of businesses and residents of Liosbaun being called by the Community Water Office and environmental activists that will seek to coordinate a volunteer Lunchtime Park Rangers unit to organise regular litter picks and eco projects in the same park. We hope that this initiative will become a template for other business parks across Galway to follow in protecting parks located adjacent to major workplaces.

Bianca Pereira - Worthy WInner of ITAG Digital Women Award

I was very proud to be at the ITAG annual dinner last night to see my good friend and work colleague Bianca Pereira win a 'Digital Women' Award.
It was so well deserved and a fitting tribute to all of the great work that Bianca has done over the last few years in promoting women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She is an inspirational champion and role model, particularly for girls and young women.
Ever since she started at DERI (later Insight), Bianca has been one of the keenest supporters of my Educational & Public Engagement programmes, taking part in many of our school initiatives such as App-making workshops for female teenagers, career talks to schools...
She has also been a valuable contributor to our Data Science Institute's social activities, ranging from heritage cycle trips to multicultural festivals.
Over the last year though Bianca has carved her own niche in our educational and social spheres, and has gone from a participant to an initiator, particularly in female STEM promotion.
I am also impressed that she and her husband Emir Munoz (a true and kind gentleman) are regular participants in environmental campaigns (community gardening, meadow making, tree planting...). This lovely and loving couple have wonderfully immersed themselves into the Irish countryside and have become keen worshipers of our nation's tracks and trails. They are part of the 'New Irish' that have taken this country to their heart and soul, without of course losing any of the love for the lands of their birth.
Last summer I was honoured to be the advocate/spokesperson for Bianca at her and Emir's wonderful pagan Celtic wedding in Connemara. Ancient mystical Irish ambiance combined with Latin American colour- it was an experience that I will treasure for ever.

‘Cash-for-Cans' Suspension: an attack on Civic Volunteerism & Environment!

Yesterday I took two bags of beverage cans to Galway City Council's recycling depot. As I normally do, I had separated their contents out from the contents of five full bags of mixed rubbish (see photo) that our volunteer group had collected last weekend in Terryland Forest Park.
But when I arrived at the depot, I was shocked to see a big notice on display stating that the ‘cash-for-cans’ scheme was suspended until further notice. I asked the three staff members on duty why was this the case and when would the suspension be lifted. They told me that they did not know and stated that an official from City Hall had come to the depot to put up the notice and did not give any explanation on why this course of action was undertaken.
As a community representative (Galway City Community Forum) I had originally proposed such a scheme in 2008 and had lobbied the government to implement it nationwide. In spite of years of making submissions and holding meetings with the Minister of the Environment and his staff, we failed sadly to get government to adopt such a policy. We then decided to concentrate on getting it introduced locally. Thanks to proactive Galway councillors, particularly Catherine Connolly (who was fantastic), and the support of local council officials, a cash-for-cans scheme was adopted by Galway City Council in summer 2011. As a result, Galway became the first local authority in the country to do so (and today it is probably the only one operating such a municipal service). But such a pro-recycling service is nothing new to this country. As a child, I grew up in an Ireland where pubs and other commercial outlets gave money for each individual beverage container returned. The latter were primarily glass bottles and were cleaned and reused by Irish-based bottling companies. I used the money that I collected from returning bottles to buy comics and toys!

Though City Hall never really developed the scheme after 2011 and subsequently reduced the money given for each bag of cans (from €3 to €2) as well as curtailing the amount of bags that each person could bring(max of 3), nevertheless it was/is a very positive pro-environmental service that incentivised people to collect rubbish from public parks, woodlands and shorelines.
The scheme was also an outstanding example of City Hall listening to the community sector and working together for the greater benefit of society.
Now when large scale voluntary cleanups are becoming more frequent thanks to the great efforts of voluntary groups such as Clean Coast Ireland, Galway Atlantaquaria, Serve the City Galway, Friends of Merlin Woods, Terryland Forest Park Alliance, Conservation Volunteers and resident associations, as well as civic-minded individuals such as Sharon Shannon, this action by Galway City Council sends out the wrong message.

On so many levels this council sadly (in spite of the great work of some very good councilors) is undermining the quality of our natural environment and devaluing the activities undertaken by volunteers week-in, week-out. So it is now time once again for concerned citizens to take action to get council to change policy that is damaging our quality of life, harming biodiversity and is the antithesis of sustainability.
Hence there will be a protest once again outside City Hall at the next meeting of Galway City Council on April 8th over the failure to appoint park warders and related issues. Details to follow tomorrow.

St. Patrick's Day & the 'Greening' of Connemara!

It was a joy to help, as a committee member, organise and to take part in the 'Connemara Greenway' presence in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in the village of Moycullen.
We had two large populated colourful floats (thanks Gary, Brian & John!) with a moving mass of volunteer cyclists and walkers of all ages, representing the largest presence in the parade. All along the route, we were greeted with smiles, cheers and clapping from onlookers! Rousing calls from the parade MCs that no more delays in the building of the Greenway would be tolerated was answered by applause from the crowd! It was obvious to all present that the floodgates had opened and the popular support for the Greenway was there for all to see.

Thanks to the herculean efforts of an enthusiastic committee that includes Tiarnan (the founder!), John, Fiona, Brian, Gary, Dick, Terry, and Pat, the campaign for a Greenway along the old disused railway line from Galway city to Clifden has come a long way since we formed two years ago.
Council officials have done really great preparatory work and are working with many of the landowners; most of the local politicians are now actively onboard promoting the facility. The first 5km stretch near Ballinafad opened last summer. But there is another c73km to go! In spite of stories to the contrary, the people of Connemara showed on Sunday that they are overwhelmingly in favour of a Greenway that will go through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Ireland and indeed Europe. This green resource will revitalise many of the towns and villages along the route, and bring social, educational, health and economic benefits. Sustainable eco tourism will be given a much needed shot in the arm. But this Greenway will not only be used by tourists but also by local people as a commuter and social connection.
The people have spoken! No more excuses! No more delays! They want the full route from Galway city to Clifden opened as speedily as possible. Candidates in the forthcoming local elections, please note!!

p.s. In spite of the fact that I have in the photo a tobacco pipe in my mouth, I don’t smoke. It is purely a prop- honest!

A fruit (apple, pears) trees pruning workshop mentored by Padráig Keirns will take place at 11am tomorrow (Saturday March 9th) in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden, Galway city.
The garden in located in Terryland Forest Park.

All are welcome and the workshop is free!

'Pruning' is the selective removal of certain parts of a plant such as branches, buds or roots. With fruit trees, it relates to removing dead, damaged and diseased branches in order to help prevent decay organisms from entering the tree and reducing dense canopies to increase air and sunlight. The process benefits the health of the tree and increases crop yields.

Yellow is the Colour of Springtime

Ever notice how many of the flowers that bloom in Spring are yellow in colour?
The photo shows celandine flowers covering the floor of a woodland in Terryland Forest Park, a nature reserve that is also populated in this season with yellow gorse, primroses, dandelions, daffodils and cowslips.
With 125 million years of experimenting and engineering with flowers Nature has come up with some amazing ways to ensure the survival of all of its species of flora. With a natural background foliage of green, bright colours such as yellow are easily spotted by the small number of pollinators that are flying around in the cooler weather of early Springtime.
The colour yellow also soaks up the warmth from a weaker sun during winter and early spring better than the foliage and the darker coloured flowers that generally bloom in late spring and summer. This allows these plants to develop better even in colder temperatures.

The Remarkable Power of Celtic Women

February 1st has been one of the most important days of the year in Ireland since time immemorial. In the Irish Celtic calendar it is the first day of Spring, the season of birth and re-birth that follows the harsh cold barren months of Winter. In Ireland, it is known as Fhéile Bríde as it is dedicated to a female, St. Brigit (or Bridget, Brigid, Bride), the country's most famous native born saint. Children in schools across the country mark the occasion by making a distinctive traditional four armed cross woven out of reeds that is named after the saint. Her name also has a strong affinity with a Celtic deity associated with fertility and symbolised by 'fire', the element that offered humankind protection from the natural deadly forces of winter.

Brigit is second only in the Irish saints' calendar to St. Patrick who was born in Roman Britain.
The fact that Brigit was female is quite significant as the early Celtic Church in Ireland was unique in contemporary Christian Europe in giving considerable recognition to the role of women. Irish society was not as patriarchal as their Roman, Greek or Germanic neighbours. According to the historian Dáibhí Ó Cróinín in his book 'Early Medieval Ireland', a woman could divorce her husband for a variety of reasons (including if he failed to satisfy her sexual needs!), could own and inherit property and was treated as an individual in her own right with inherent protections under Celtic law. Women fought on the battlefield as warriors until this was banned by the church.

Celtic female influence extended as far as Iceland....

Even outside Ireland, the influence of Irish women at this time (5th-7th century) was felt- St. Ives in Cornwall is called after an Irish female saint (a.k.a. Eva or Aoife), St.Grimonia & St. Proba lived in France (Gaul) in the 4th century, St. Dardaloch in Pavia, Itay (c.300ad) and the nunnery in Austria made famous in the film and musical 'The Sound of Music' was probably founded by an Irish female missionary (Erintrude). In Iceland the hero of one of the great Icelandic Sagas is the Irish female slave Melkorka, a stong willed woman who refused to be coerced by humiliation, rape and brutality. In fact it has been noted by some that the status of women in Iceland (where I lived for a number of years), which was higher than in contemporary Scandinavian societies, possibly owed its origins to the impact exerted by the high number of Irish women living amongst the country's early Viking settlements- they were brought to the country as slaves and wives from the Viking towns of Ireland. It has been said that it was their influence that persuaded many of their pagan husbands to vote in favour of the country's adoption of Christianity at the famous 'Althingi' (parliament) of 1000AD.

This independent-minded spirit must have left a lasting legacy as Icelandic women were amongst the most successful in securing equal rights for women's during the course of the 20th century.

Female Celtic Warriors
Celtic mythology provides ample evidence of the power of women in pre-Christian Ireland. The country itself -Éire ('Ire(land)' in English)- is named after a goddess; the names of most of the great rivers with their life-giving waters are associated with nymphs, goddesses and female animals; the Celtic God of War (Morrigan)- the most masculine of activities- is female. Some of the most powerful Celtic rulers were women such as Queen Maeve and Queen Boadicea(Bó = Cow in Irish) 
The fiercest and most macho hero in Celtic mythology is 'Cuchulainn'. Yet he was actually totally female-dominated(!):
  • trained in martial arts and weaponry by Scathach
  • first defeated in battle by Aoife
  • protected by the War Goddess Morrigan
  • kept on the 'straight and narrow' (most of the time!) by his strong-willed wifeEmer
  • nursed back to health from near fatal battle wounds by his mistress Niamh
  • and killed by the army of Queen Maeve.
High Status of Brigit in Celtic Church & pagan associations 
Brigit was also a powerful Celtic goddess of fertility associated with the birth of animals and symbolised by fire. Hence her links with one of the four great pagan festivals of the seasons- the Spring Festival of 'Imbolc' which occurs in February and the time of 'lambing'.It is therefore quite possible that St. Brigit was originally a high priestess of the pagan goddess Brigit who converted along with her female followers to Christianity during the time of St. Patrick.

According to legend St. Brigit was the daughter of Dubhthach, an Irish chief, and one of his 'Picttish' (from modern Scotland) slaves. She was made a bishop by St. Mel (whom the actor Mel Gibson was named after) and founded one of the most famous Irish monasteries beside an Oak tree on the plains of Magh Liffe thereafter known as 'Cill Dara' or Kildare- 'the Church of the Oak Tree'.In the Celtic pagan religion, trees were considered sacred, none more so than oak trees which were prime locations for spiritual worship.The monastery also was the repository of a 'holy flame', another clue to its possible pagan origins as a temple of Druid priestesses in a sacred woodland. It also has striking similarities to the story of the 'Vestal Virgins' of Ancient Rome whose primary task was to maintain the sacred fire of Vesta, the goddess of the 'hearth'.Under Bridget's leadership as Abbess and bishop, Cill Dara became a great place of spiritual learning and of the arts/crafts particularly metal work and illumination. For centuries thereafter, each succeeding Abbess of Kildare took the name of 'Brigit' and was regarded as a person of immense stature thoughout Ireland with the monastery being second only to Armagh in its ecclesiastical importance.

Rape of Brigit & decline in the status of Women in Irish society 

But over time, the importance of women in society was reduced as Viking raids, wars and the growing influence of the patrician 'male only' Vatican took its toll. The death knell came in 1132 when it seems troops of the King of Leinster Dermot MacMurrough sacked the monastery, raped the abbess Brigit, carried her off and forcibly had her married to one of his followers. As is the case throughout the history of humanity, 'rape' is used as the ultimate weapon against female independence and the physical symbol of man's power over womankind. McMurrough is the same man who invited the British Normans to Ireland to aid him in his wars; they of course soon decided to conquer the country for themselves staying in the process for over 800 years.

Hidden Histories of Women in Technology'

My colleague Myriam Leggieri and myself created a few years ago an exhibition entitled the 'Hidden Histories of Women in Technology' which we used to provide inspirational Role Models for Irish post-primary female students.
Many of the women portrayed were pioneers in their scientific areas but sadly they were never until recently given the due recognition that they deserved and were in some cases airbrushed out of the history books. Thankfully their names and their stories are now been told and celebrated.
The article below was based on that exhibition.

Science and Technology, as with so much in societies past and present, was/is dominated by men who used educational, religious and cultural barriers to deny women equal access and respect.

In the 20th century, women were denied entry to many professions, were only granted academic degrees at Oxford and Cambridge in the 1920s and secured the right to vote in Switzerland as late as 1971. In Ireland, there were only 91 women at university in 1901, only 5% of married women had jobs outside the home in 1966; and only in 1973 was the ban on married women working in the Irish public service lifted.Even today in the Western world, there are low numbers of women involved in innovation, high level scientific research management, the corporate boardrooms and political governance.

Yet in the past some brave females still managed to overcome these obstacles to make significant contributions to advances in computing and communications technology.

Below are a few of this truly great people

The Aristocrat - World’s First Computer Programmer
Augusta Ada King Countess of Lovelace, daughter of the British Romantic poet Lord Byron, is recognised as the world’s first computer programmer. In 1842 she wrote the first ever algorithm for processing numbers on Charles Bannage’s early mechanical general purpose computer or analytical engine who, so impressed by her mathematical skills, referred to her as ‘ The Enchantress of Numbers”. The computer language ADA was named after her.
24 March is commemorated as Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science

The Hollywood Goddess - Military Inventor

Austrian-born Hedy Lamarr, née Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, one of the legendary stars of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, famed for her roles in such films as AlgiersSamson and Delilah and White Cargo, co-designed in 1941 a radio guided torpedo system based on ‘frequency hopping’ (changing) which became known as spectrum spread, a key element later used in the anti-jamming devices used by US military satellite communications systems and later still in digital mobile phone wireless technology.  


The All-Female Programming team

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), launched in 1946, was probably the world’s first general-purpose electronic digital computer. Eniac’s key 6 member programming team were all women, including Kathleen (Kay) Rita McNulty who was born in the Donegal Gaeltacht Ireland in 1921. Her family later emigrated to the USA and she qualified with a Mathematics degree in 1942. In 1946 she married John Mauchly, the co-inventor of Eniac, and worked on the software design of his later computers including the BINIAC and UNIVAC.

Ladymarine - The Naval Commander & Mathematician
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (Mother of Cobol) is one of America’s most famous pioneers in computer science. In 1944, she was one of the first programmers of the Marvard Mark 1 electro-mechanical computer, and developed in 1952 the first compiler for a computer programmer language. She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is also credited with popularizing the term “debugging" for fixing computer glitches (motivated by an actual moth removed from the computer).

Lady Operator - World’s First Mini-Computer Operating System
Mary Allen Wilkes was a key member of the MIT Lincoln Center in Massachusetts from 1958-1963 where she was the designer of an operating system for the LINC, the world’s first minicomputer. In 1965, she used a LINC computer in her private house, which could be considered the world’s first ‘home’ computer.

The Macintosh Girl - 'Iconic' Trendsetter
Susan Kare was a member of the team that designed the pioneering Macintosh computer in the early 1980s, creating many of its user interface icons (Paint Bucket, Happy Macintosh) and fonts (New York & Geneva). She later designed icons for Microsoft Windows 3.0.

The Ladybell - Inventor of Computerised Phone System
Erna Hoover created a computerized telephone switching system whilst working at Bell Laboratories New Jersey. She designed the stored programme control that monitored incoming calls, prioritized incoming phone traffic and eliminated overloading problems which had previously led to switchboards freezing up.

The Language Lady - First Popular Programming Language
Jean E. Sammet graduated with an MA in Mathematics in 1949. In 1961, she became manager of IBM’s Programming Center in Boston and oversaw the development of FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler), the first widely used general language and the first to manipulate symbolic algebraic expressions.

'Star Trek' Communications Officer- A Real Role Model for Women & African Americans

The  character, Lieutenant Nyoto Uhura who was Chief Communications Officer on the USS Enterprise in the science fiction series Star Trek  which first appeared on television in 1966. Though not a real character, nevertheless her appearance in this very popular  series during the 1960s broke important sexual and racial barriers, showing women of the future as proficient in engineering with positions of responsibility and command involving high technology. Uhura became an important role model for Black Afro-American women in particular.
For instance the well known American actress Whoopi Goldberg, who appeared in the later series Star Trek the Next Generation, stated that Uhura was a role model for her from the time she first saw her in Star Trek in the mid 1960s. She remembers as a young girl running into her mom, excitedly shouting out, "I just saw a black woman on television, and she ain't no maid!"
Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, was used by NASA in a campaign to encourage African Americans to join the service. Dr Mae Jemison. the first black American to fly aboard the Space Shuttle. said that Star Trek was a major influence in her decision to join NASA.
The name 'Uhura' comes from the Swahili word 'Uhuru' meaning 'Freedom'.

Save Our Frogs- Help Volunteers Build a Wildlife Pond

Help us tomorrow build a natural habitat that is in serious decline in Ireland and elsewhere. The large scale disappearance of ponds is leading to a huge decline in the Ireland's rare amphibian species that include frogs and newts. Drainage, land reclamation and pollution-associated with intensive arable land use (nitrate/phosphate nutrients as well as pesticides) or affected by urban runoff (oils, litter)- are the primary causes.
Due to their small sizes, isolation and the low volume of water available to dilute pollutants, ponds are one of the most vulnerable of all our threatened habitats.

The exciting project being undertaken in the Ballinfoile Community Organic Garden involves the construction of a pond that will have a lovely waterfall powered by wind!

So make a difference to Ireland’s wildlife by taking part in our exciting biodiversity regeneration initiative.
We need lots of volunteers at 10am in the morning to help in the digging out of the space for this big pond.
Furthermore, we will also be starting the construction of Galway city’s first community tree nursery tomorrow!