Springtime Courses, Workshops & Cycle Tours

Starting this week, the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden, Cumann na bhFear (Men's Shed Ballinfoile)  and the Terryland Forest Park Conservation Volunteers are offering an exciting programme of hands-on workshops and cycles events for the months of March and April.
'Pruning' (11am) & 'Home Composting' (1.30pm) workshops are taking place this Saturday (March 28)in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden.
To book a place in any of the five activities listed, email me at speediecelt@gmail.com.

The New Land League is Defending the Indefensible.

Michael Davitt must be turning in his grave as we witness the self-proclaimed inheritors of the once proud defenders of the poor Irish tenantry now stand guard at the palatial mansion of a property speculator. Protecting a member of the landlord elite who gambled away monies on properties that bankrupted the country, its citizenry and future generations defies all sense of justice. 
Calling a property with an indoor gym, a sauna, an open-air swimming pool, a tennis court located on probably the top multi millionaire strip in Ireland, with Bono and other luminaries as neighbours, a "bog standard home" is an insult and a betrayal to all those ordinary people who lost their jobs, their homes or were forced to emigrate because of the greed of the native born absentee landlord class. 
Protecting a rich speculator who this year states his home is in Ireland but last year said in an English court his home was in London in order to avoid paying his debtors including the Irish state and Irish taxpayer & who transferred c€160 millions in property to his son before he filed for bankruptcy is immoral.
I also have to say that the issue of the Land League and absentee landlords is, as with many Irish people, personal. Members of my family were killed and imprisoned during the Land Wars of the 19th century as they struggled to defend themselves from eviction and starvation against the armed might of those who had invaded and stolen their clan lands during the previous centuries.

Part One: The New Communities of Galway city

Rediscovering a sense of community in 21st century urbanised Ireland. 

Over the last five years, there has been an explosion of gardens in Ireland that are community-based, organic in ethos and helping to turn former wastelands into lush green oasis of vegetables, herbs and fruits often located within urban neighbourhoods. Members benefit not just from growing their own food but also by enjoying a healthy outdoor lifestyle that provides an environment for people of all ages to meet and to socialise together. People are being given the opportunity to discover a sense of place, of communal belonging and therefore of purpose. Biodiversity flourishes too due to the absence of toxic pesticides and the growing of native wildflowers and fruits.

On last Saturday, in spite of the bad weather 24 volunteers including Galway city councillor Mairéad Farrell turned up to enjoy the work, the banter and the camaraderie in Ballinfoile Mór Organic Community Garden.

Volunteers Needed for our Community Garden this Saturday
Once again, our weekly reminder goes out to lovers of community and of Nature to join us tomorrow (Sat) from 11.30am in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden.
We will be continuing the work of developing the 'Living Green Tunnels' made out of Willow Trees and of constructing a wildlife as well as the regular myriad of tasks involved in organic gardening at this time of the year.
In return for all your hard work, we promise volunteers a nice lunch of teas/water, salad and cakes in the company of friendly folk!
Next week, we will be hosting a pruning workshop. 

Google map link to garden:

USA - The Dangers of the Miltiary-Industrial Complex

Since World War Two, the USA has given the world so much good in terms of music, film, fashion, communications and technology. 

Many of its citizens have been at the vanguard of the struggle for civil rights, women's rights, environmentalism, wildlife protection, grassroots organic gardening and empowering local communities. People such as ex-President Jimmy Carter, Jim Hansen, Martin Luther King, Woody Guthrie, Father Theodore Hesburgh, Martin Sheen, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Rachel Carson... So many. 
But its governments and political system have since the 1950s been under the control of corporations and banks with a vested interested in advocating wars and undermining democracy in countries worldwide to protect their oil, armaments and food monopolies as well as their support of Israel.
In his farewell address to the American nation on January 17th 1961, President Eisenhower warned the people to "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex".
Sadly this warning was not heeded and the 1960s saw the USA invade Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Cuba and elsewhere.

Sat (Feb 28) Willow Tree Craft Workshop & Wildlife Pond Construction.

The Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden, located in the Terryland Forest Park behind Cluain Fada/Lus Leana, is once again open for volunteers to help out from 11.30am on next Saturday (Feb 28th).
Thanks to all those that helped out last week.

On this Saturday, one of the tasks involved will be phase two of constructing a wildlife pond complete with a wind-powered waterfall carried out under the supervision of Mr. Maker himself Michael McDonnell 
At 1.30pm immediately after a bountiful lunch of beverages, buns and salads,  we will be also hosting our first crafts event of the year- a Willow Tree Workshop with garden expert Kay Synott

The workshop is free to all garden volunteers!

Google map link to garden.

Syriza, Denis O'Brien & Irish Political Cronyism

A win for Syriza is a win for ordinary European citizens.
For far too long mainstream parties across Europe such as Pasok have handed over the sovereignty of their countries and the futures of their citizens to corporate interests and to a rich elite. They represent the interests of the millionaires at the expense of the millions. Today 1% of the world population almost own the same as the remaining 99%. This is no coincidence. Look at how in Ireland the billionaire Denis O'Brien, who was exposed by the Moriarty Tribunal as paying huge sums of monies to a government minister to secure a national mobile telephone license that helped lay the foundations of his financial empire, has not been prosecuted by the state. Furthermore the current government continues to grant him favours. It is one of his companies that got the contract for the water meters and who is allowed to build up a virtual monopoly of the 'independent' media in Ireland while operating as a tax exile. The clear message is that crime pays in Ireland and elsewhere when you have friends in high office.

Focus on Mary Harney
Let us look at just one example of how incompetent politicians can legally take our hard-earned taxes to finance a life-time of luxury.
Mary Harney retired with a package worth more than €300,000 and is entitled to an annual pension of over €120,000. She receives an annual ministerial pension of over €70,000 and a TDs pension of €50,600. She also received a pension lump sum of €160,000, a termination lump sum of about €17,000 and monthly termination payments from the Oireachtas during her first 12 months of retirement worth another €66,900, Mary then married one of the heads of FAS who found it very difficult to explain where the €1 billion (yes billion) a year they were receiving in a time of nearly full employment went. Her Husband left FAS an opened up a training agency himself. I wonder who he gets the work off? It's one big club baby, and you ain't in it, (but we will allow you to pay for it). Note: Thanks to the 'You can stock your water meters up your a...' Facebook page for this piece on Mary Harney)

When Vietnam Came to Galway

In 2014, a comet from the east briefly appeared over Galway brightening up the lives of many of its people.  This celestial body was known by the name of Hung Ngo.

Harvest Day, Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden
Hung came to work in my institute at NUI Galway last May. He was a conscientious member of staff at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and was widely respected by his peers for his web technology expertise.
But whilst in Galway, Hung decided to burst forth from his university workplace and immersed himself in the wider community life of the city.
Planting Primrose Wildflowers, Terryland Forest Park
He enthusiastically became involved in a number of grassroots environmental projects. 
His love of Nature became legendary. 
Transplanting & Saving Orchids from a road development near Ardrahan
On most weekends he would turn up at organic gardening and forestry events across Galway to help build tree sculptures, clear pathways, move rocks, plant wildflowers, grow vegetables…No task was too hard, no job too dirty for this man!
Along the Mayo Greenway
Hung it seemed also fell in love with Irish heritage and enjoyed participating in cycling and touring events that I regularly organised in order to introduce Irish and non-Irish residents of the city to the beautiful landscapes, pretty little rural villages and mysterious ancient castles, mansions and churches that still cover much of our countryside.
Athlone Castle
On his last day in Ireland (Saturday Nov 30), I gave Hung a taster of some of the diverse tapestry of activities that one can experience every day in our cosmopolitan city. 
On Lough Ree

Coderdojo class, Saturday mornings, Insight, NUI Galway
In the early morning he attended my Coderdojo classes where I teach computer coding to parents and their children.
In Killeen's traditional Irish pub, Shannonbridge
In the late morning, we went to a Food Preserve workshop where we learnt from organic food expert Kay Synott on how to make chutneys, pickles and sauces out of the vegetables and fruit grown in the local Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden. 
Food Preserve course
In the afternoon we took part in a mass public protest against Water Charges
Anti-water charges march, Galway city
That night we had a few pints of Guinness in Ti Coillí a very renowned Irish music pub.
Tí Coillí
So inspired was Hung by what he saw at our computer coding class, that he has now decided to establish the first ever computer volunteer mentoring club or Coderdojo in Vietnam.
I am glad for him that he is back home with his wife and children. I hope too that he will also utilise his deep interest in the environment to help his fellow citizens protect the remaining rainforests of Vietnam with their unique and precious wildlife which have been so decimated by logging, farming and built development over the last few decades.  Sadly the last wild (Javan) rhino in Vietnam died in 2010.  The country is also one of the world’s largest markets for rhino horn, a situation that has led to an alarming increase in poaching in Africa since 2007.
I have always had a deep affinity for Vietnam and its people. My first involvement in radical politics came when I was a teenager in secondary school in county Monaghan during the mid-1970s. It was inspired by the Vietnamese war of liberation against the American military and by the anti-war movement of the United States. 
Anti-Vietnam War protest, USA
I was in awe of how this little country could  overcome centuries of occupation, colonisation and brutality to defeat the world’s superpowers (China, France and the USA) that laid claim to its lands. Its history has many parallels with Ireland.
So thank you Hung for rekindling my interest in Vietnam and thank you too for all the hard work you have undertaken in helping to protect the environment in Galway city for the benefit of both humans and wildlife.
Harvesting Apples in Ballinfoile community garden
Particularly in the last decade, Galway city has greatly benefited from the talents of many people who were not born in Ireland. Hung Ngo (Vietnam) and Sarah Knight (Canada) are two good friends and fellow work colleagues who are prime examples of this trend.
Hitching a ride, Monivea village

Building a stone Celtic Cross pathway, community garden

Cottage café, Mayo Greenway
Hung in a community orchard with friends from USA, Iran, Vietnam, England, Malawi & Ireland

Supping with the locals, Ballinfoile

Je Suis Charlie

The murder of journalists in Paris by followers of the Islamic Caliphate is an attack on free speech, freedom of expression and a free media. The right to criticise any political, religious or cultural figure, movement or ideology should not be undermined by the murderous actions of misogynist religious reactionaries. 
Respect for people's religious or atheistic beliefs is so important. Respect for people's cultural, religious or political beliefs that are not anti-female or racist is so important. 
ISIS mass execution

But we should not suddenly become afraid to write, paint, draw and speak out on issues from jihad, the right of apostasy, Israeli colonisation of West Bank, Saudi Arabia's sectarian ideology to Guantanamo. We should not impose self-censorship.

Otherwise these anti-people fascist bigots would have won.

The Irish laws on blasphemy are protecting religious intolerance and undermining freedom of expression.  Time for a referendum to be held on the subject.

Denis O'Brien - The 'Voldemort' of modern Ireland.

On December 10th I along with tens of thousands of ordinary Irish people took part in the 'No to Water Charges' protest in Dublin. It was a joy to be part of a mass demonstration of people of all ages that was more than just about the imposition of another stealth tax. Rather it represented the last straw for citizens throughout Ireland who they have finally said "Enough is Enough”.

The last two governments have implemented a string of austerity cuts to pay for the gambling debts of greedy anti-patriotic bankers and property speculators. Yet those who have bankrupt the country are allowed to get off scot free for committing the biggest crime in the history of the Irish state whilst hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women have as a result lost their jobs, their homes or have emigrated. The fabric of many families were torn apart. For some individuals it was too much to bear and they took their lives.
But the people protesting have not forgotten or forgiven those who are responsible for their pain.
It was very noticeable that coverage by the mainstream print and television media of the huge protest deliberately avoided any mention of the anger directed by demonstrators towards tax exile Denis O'Brien, the man whom the tax-payer funded (€200millions) Moriarty Tribunal found had undermined the Irish body politic. Yet it is he who owns the company that won the contract to install meters for Irish Water!
It is obvious then that because of his omnipotent power (in Newstalk, Today FM. Irish Independent, Topaz...) and his payments to politicians and political parties, the media, Fianna Fáil and the government are too afraid to condemn him. Like Voldemort in Harry Potter, he is the man Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The Irresponsible Few
However one noticeably dark element of the protest was the actions of a very tiny number of idiots who later on blocked O’Connell Street Bridge for hours thus inconveniencing many people working in the city and stopping thousands of protestors from leaving Dublin to get home to Galway, Waterford, Sligo and elsewhere. I myself went over to talk to them, pointed out that I too was a protestor and wished like many others to get on buses that could not move because of their actions.. A few of them gave me a tirade of abuse and threatened to physically assault me. It was obvious that all they were looking for was a confrontation with the police, which would have only damaged the No to Water Charges campaign and undermined all the positivity of the protest.

Dr. Sarah Knight: A Wonderful Advocate for Science Outreach in Galway

'Saving the Planet', Planting trees with her son Cian, Terryland Forest Park, 2013
A damper was put on my Christmas a few days ago when my good friend and long time university colleague Dr. Sarah Knight finished up as Outreach Officer at the Ryan Institute of NUI Galway. I will miss her so much.
Sarah with Lindsay Cody, 'Open Your Mind' research talk on 'Violence Against Women', NUI Galway, 2009
For Sarah was an inspiration and a positive role model for so many of us involved in bringing science and technology into schools. By her departure, our university has lost one of its greatest assets.

Sarah in Clontuskert National School, 2011
Sarah’s focus was in promoting marine, environmental and energy science with an emphasis on the research being undertaken in these areas by the Ryan Institute. Sarah took what are exciting fields of science and amazingly made them even more exciting much to the enjoyment and benefit of pupils in schools across Galway city and county. 
Science Festival, Leisureland, Nov. 2009
With her happy persona, radiant smile, infectious laughter and deep scientific knowledge she was always a big hit with children.
The range of hands-on projects that she coordinated had a common denominator -the WOW factor! One of my favourites and probably one of her finest creations was a large 3D tabletop model of Galway Bay that wonderfully demonstrated how sea currents moved along the Galway coastline. 

 A smiling face in the crowd, 'Open Your Mind'  research talk, NUI Galway
Sarah was a permanent fixture at a myriad of science festivals over so many years including Baboro, the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival, school tours of NUI Galway’s research centres, and the annual Ocean Day at the National Aquarium of Ireland aka Atlantaquaria.  Not surprisingly she was selected as a university representative on the board of the Galway Science Forum (formerly known as the Galway Science & Technology Festival). 
Sarah with her fellow Outreach Officers, NUI Galway, January 2009
Within NUI Galway, she was part of the organising committee of the pioneering Open Your Mind research competition and later took on the role as chief coordinator of the Thesis-in-3 challenge aka Threesis where speakers had to present three slides in three minutes in front of three judges. 
Thressis Poster - designed by Sarah Knight
The latter is now a permanent fixture in the university calendar.   
Science Advocates  at NUI Galway
Sea Science Exploration Zone
But her greatest legacy amongst many legacies that she has given to Galway science is the establishment of an interactive Sea Science Exploration Zone at the Galway City Museum that she and museum official James Reynolds spent many months planning, designing and securing funding for. 

With James Reynolds at the Submarine exhibit, Sea Science Exploration Zone, Oct 2014
One of my most abiding memories of Sarah and what typified her 'gung-ho' and hands-on approach was seeing her a few months ago decked out in rough clothing, sleeves rolled up, working away like a beaver with hammer and nails as she putted the finishing touches to the Sea Science exhibition just days before it was opened to the public.
Community Clean-Up, Terryland Forest Park, 2008
Yet Sarah’s interest in science extended beyond her official duties. She was also an active community environmentalist, participating in many seashore, park and forest cleanups, in tree plantings in Terryland Forest Park, and getting involved in the successful 2008 community campaign to stop  a road being built through Terryland Forest Park which garnered over 10,000 signatures. 

Sarah at the 'Friends of Terryland Forest Park' Campaign stall, Shop Street, 2008

Sarah at a Clean-Up of Merlin Woods, 2009
Galway Bay Clean-Up, Salthill, 2009

Galway Bay Clean-Up, Salthill, 2010
Planting trees with Jim Lenaghan, Daire Smith, James & Patrick, Terryland Forest Park, 2011
 You will never be forgotten Dr. Sarah Knight!