Save the Bees & other pollinators - Make a Wildflower Meadow tomorrow (Sat)

After the success of the first meadow making project in Terryland Forest Park which started last year with the planting of thousands of wildflowers and continued with its recent mowing by hand-held scythes, volunteers are requested to take part in creating a second traditional field habitat that will become an important haven for native Irish flora and for pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths and beetles whose existence is threatened by
pollution, invasive species, urbanization, loss of habitat and the use of pesticides and herbicides in modern farming. 

We require lovers of Nature to start the process tomorrow (Sat) in transforming another sterile green field into a lush colourful meadow alive with the sights, smells and sounds of birds, insects and flowers. The first phase of this project will involve seeding and raking the ground with yellow rattle, a plant which curbs the growth of grass thus allowing the planted wildflower seeds to take root.
This field is located in the section of Terryland Forest Park behind Sandyvale Lawn
So we ask you to please join us tomorrow and Help Save the Bees and other pollinators
Rendezvous: 10.30am at Sandyvale Lawn

Traditional Mowing of a Meadow- the Return of the Scythe.

After an absence of many decades, next Saturday (August 20th) will see the return to Galway city of the mowing of a wildflower meadow using traditional hand-held implements. Starting at 10.30am members of Cumann na bhFear, also known as Men’s Shed Ballinfoile, will use scythes to cut the long grass in a meadow in Terryland Forest Park near the Quincentenary Bridge. 
The event is part of Heritage Week and organised with Galway Civic Trust

Last autumn, dozens of volunteers from Conservation Volunteers planted over one thousand native wildflowers in what was up until then a sterile lawn in Terryland. Their actions transformed it into a rainbow mosaic of yellow cowslip, red poppy, purple clover, pink ragged robin, white daisy oxeyes and many other flowers. In times gone by, a 'meadow' was defined as a field set aside by farmers for the growing of long grass which was cut during the summer and autumn months to produce one or two crops of hay to serve as winter food for livestock. Because no chemical fertilizers were used, these meadows became important habitats for an array of colourful native wildflowers and would be alive with the sights and sounds of many varieties of bees, moths, butterflies and other pollinators. 
 Our aim is to re-introduce meadows back unto the city and provide nectar-rich feeding havens for bees in particular which are in a serious decline worldwide due to industrialised monoculture farming, pesticides, habitat loss, pollution and climate change. Bees and other pollinators are essential to the survival of humanity as the plants that they help to reproduce are responsible for one-third of all foods and beverages that we consume. 
The Cumann is also committed to preserving and re-educating the public in traditional Irish rural skills and crafts that still have an essential role to play in today’s farming because of their social, health, economic and environmental aspects.
So we are asking people to come along next Saturday to witness this ancient rural hay-cutting in action and to take part in planting nearly a thousand more wildflowers with Conversation Volunteers Galway city. Light refreshments will be provided to all volunteers. 

Enjoy the Benefits of Community Gardening

Community Organic Gardening has wonderful health, social and environmental benefits to offer all of us. A few hours working with others in the 'Great Outdoors' every week amongst the plants and trees can reduce stress, provide access to locally grown organic foods to improve personal diet as well as presenting opportunities to become active members of our neighborhood and the greater community of Galway.

The Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden at this time of the year is, as with horticulturalist farmers across Ireland, busily preparing for the annual harvesting of food crops that will take place in a few weeks. But after the ‘wear and tear’ of a busy period since Spring and the need to expand on its facilities, assistance is also needed in improving the overall maintenance of this green resource. This includes communal painting, pond construction, path repairing, and bug hotel building.
At the end of the communal work on Saturday, there will of course be refreshments for all volunteers to enjoy together including fruit tarts made from apples collected from the garden’s own orchard.

Rendezvous: 10.30am, Saturday, August 13th.
Google Maps location:

Galway 2020 - Let's Take Ownership

I enjoyed attending, along with my lovely wife Cepta (centre), and good friends Niall O Brolchain​ and Joyce McGreevy​, the party at the Cornstore to celebrate Galway city and county being awarded European City of Culture 2020.  Good to meet up too with people such as Karl Sweeney​  who are prime proponents of volunteer leadership in our region.
Galway 2020 volunteer Marto Hoary with Cepta & Joyce
I thought that it was appropriate that the happy gathering took place outside the legendary bookshop of Charlie Byrne. His premises is of course a repository of world and Irish cultural literature. The man himself was also a fellow student (& housemate) of mine when the Galway Arts Festival, spawned from Ollie Jennings​ and his associates in the UCG ArtsSoc, was in its infancy.
As mentioned in a previous posting, the 2020 team, that included Marilyn Gaughan Reddan​, Tracy Geraghty​, Nollaig McGuinness​, Niall O'Hara and Patricia Philbin, enthusiastically embraced so many elements of local society in the bidding process- neighborhoods, localities, asylum seekers, environmentalists. schools, colleges, youth, heritage, technology, arts, science, rural and urban. All were made to feel active contributors if they so wished. In so doing, the team recognised 'Culture' as being part of everything that makes us Galwegian, from our work to our play, from indigenous to new ethnicity.
Galway's most famous photographer Joe Shaughnessy with Joyce, Cepta and Philip Cloherty

Now it is up to each of us who value our peoples to grab the opportunities now being presented and to ensure that our own sectoral  vision comes through.
I recognize this in my own professional areas of technology, science and heritage learning. But wearing 'my other hat',  I also want to encourage my fellow community and environmental activists also do likewise especially as we have recently being awarded European Green Leaf City for 2017 which was led by Sharon Carroll​, another great advocate of progressive change and a strong supporter of community engagement.
Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture​ -it is ours to lose.

Global War on Women: Pakistani social media star strangled to death by her brother.

Qandeel Baloch, a young social media star from Punjab who highlighted the right of women to be independent and equal through her online and sometimes provocative comments, photos and videos, was strangled to death by her brother in an apparent 'honour killing'.

Every year hundreds of Pakistani women are killed for supposedly 'dishonouring' their families. I abhor the term 'honour' in this context. Whose 'honour'? Certainly not that of females. What gives men the right of life and death over women in order to satisfy their warped sense of 'honour'?

In every country and in every culture women today are being victimised, from being imprisoned, raped and trafficked across borders to serve the sexual predatory whims of males in North America & Europe; to female genital mutilation; to be given as war trophies to Boko Haram and ISIS fighters; to being denied equality in job opportunities and in law. Women are always the first and main casualties of wars, and of course all such brutal conflicts are started by men.
We need to confront these misogynistic crimes that are committed against half the world's population and which are 'justified' on grounds of religious and cultural traditions.

July 21st Guided Bat Walk in Terryland Forest Park

The Return of the Batwoman!

On next Thursday (July 21st) night, the Batwoman, aka Dr. Caitriona Carlin, returns to Galway city to undertake yet another night-time investigation of the presence of bats in Terryland Forest Park. You are invited to take part in this event. Rendezvous: 10pm Dunnes Stores (Headford Road) car park.
The public event will be hosted by the Galway Bat Group.

Field studies undertaken by students from NUI Galway in late 2015 found six species of bat living in the park - Leisler, Daubenton, Brown Long-eared, Nathusias pipistrelle, Common pipistrelle and Soprano pipistrelle.
The walk is free and open to the public. For those taking part in the walk, please remember to wear suitable walking shoes and to bring rain gear. Children are encouraged to take part but must be accompanied by an adult.
The walk will commence in the section of the Terryland Forest Park behind Dunnes Stores, moving towards the woodlands adjacent to the Liosbaun business park.-Bat detectors will be available to go around on the evening.
All are welcome!

Tomorrow (Jul 2). 'Go Wild' at Night-time in Terryland Forest Park: Take part in a Guided Bat Walk.

The Galway branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust will host a public bat walk in Terryland Forest Park tomorrow (Saturday July 2nd) from 9.30pm in association with Galway Bat Group.
A scientific survey by students from NUI Galway undertaken under the stewardship of Dr. Catriona Carlin in late 2015 found six species of bat living in the park - Leisler, Daubenton, Brown Long-eared, Nathusias pipistrelle, Common pipistrelle and Soprano pipistrelle.
The walk is free and open to the public. For those taking part in the walk, please remember to wear suitable walking shoes and to bring rain gear. Children are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.
The walk will commence in the section of the Terryland Forest Park behind Dunnes Stores, moving towards the woodlands adjacent to the Liosbaun business park.
Meet up at 9.30pm in the Dunnes Stores car park.
Bat detectors will be available to go around on the evening.
All are welcome!

Iceland and Ireland Capture the Hearts of the World at Euro 16.

The fans of Iceland and Ireland truly made the experience of those watching and those attending Euro 2016 in France an enjoyable one. Their vibrant infectious presence and their kindness towards others saved the football championships from being hijacked by right wing racist nationalists from a number of countries who wanted to transform a celebration of sport into a bloody international battlefield. These thugs came to France hell bent on grabbing the world media’s headlines by unleashing a sense of fear amongst the crowds within the stadiums as well as a trail of destruction in the city centre’s of Marseilles, Lille, Saint-Étienne and elsewhere. The scenes of violence that filled television screens and newspapers would have been the abiding memory of Euro 2016 where it not for the happy smiling faces of the Irish and Icelanders fans, both male and female, both young and old, who made the event a festive occasion for all.
Of course fans from other countries also contributed to the festive atmosphere. Likewise the performance of other small nations such as Wales and Northern Ireland. But the Irish and Icelanders were something very special. The emotional collective singing of 'rebel ballads' by the Irish fans in stadia across France stirred the hearts of those listening. The knowledge that up to 10% of the Icelandic population traveled en-masse to France to support their team has earned the respect of everyone. Plus that eerie never-to-be-forgotten guttural chant of the players and fans at the end of the match against England- it was spellbinding, almost primeval. (Note: its origins are from Motherwell Scotland!).
As well as being a proud Irishman, I have fond memories of the years I spent living in Reykjavik and the friendships of Icelanders such as Margrét Valsdóttir and Gudrídur Haraldsdotttir. So I wish Iceland my very best in the match against France

Creating a Bluebell Woods: Terryland Forest Park

After the success of last year's major native wildflower 'meadow' project and the recent Wild Garlic planathon, the transformation of Terryland Forest Park into an urban biodiversity zone of multiple habitats continues this Saturday with the creation of a Bluebell Woods. 
The efforts of volunteers in Terryland Forest Park is helping to reverse the serious decline of wildflowers in Ireland over the last 50 years which has impacted so negatively on our indigenous wildlife, from insects to mammals.
Many of Ireland’s native wildflowers face extinction due to pollution, invasive species, urbanization, loss of habitat and intensive commercial farming. The use of pesticides and herbicides in farming in order to increase specific crop yields has meant that wildflowers and pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies are being poisoned. Hence flora and fauna species are declining alarmingly and a countryside that was once populated with flowers representing all the colours of the rainbows, that throbbed to the sounds of a wide of variety bees and birds is sadly becoming a thing of the past.
Help undo this process and to save Ireland’s indigenous flowers and associated pollinating insects and bats. Under the expert tutelage of Padraic Keirns, Conservation Volunteers Galway and Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park are once again teaming up to organise another major re-flowering within Terryland Forest Park. This time it will be in woods near the Quincenntennial Bridge.
Ragged Robin in the wildflower meadow in Terryland Forest Park that was started on in August 2015
Nearly 1,000 plants have again been collected for Saturday's 'plantahon' with the primary species being 'bluebell' as we continue to create thematic flora areas in certain locations within this 180 acres nature and farmland reserve.
So we ask you to please join us on this Saturday(July 2nd).
Rendezvous: 10am near the Curry's (Galway Retail Park) entrance to Terryland Forest Park.
Google Map link:

Tony Blair: Legacy of Death & Destruction

Tony Blair, the man who co-instigated (with George W. Bush) the Iraq War that fractured the Middle East, destroyed multi religious societies, led to 500,000+ deaths, caused millions of people to become refugees, spawned ISIS & other terrorist organisations and who benefits from huge payments given to him by anti democratic elites now has the audacity to label Jeremy Corbyn a 'dangerous experiment'!

Why does the BBC and other media organisations waste viewers time and taxpayers monies to broadcast the lies and delusions of a failed politician who should be prosecuted for war crimes?  
On today's Andrew Marr Show (BBC) the ex Greek Foreign Minister Yanis Varoufakis was brilliant when he said that Blair's decision to get involved in Keep Britain in the EU would only benefit the Brexit campaign as he is a glass of poison to any campaign that he gets involved in. Varoufakis also commented that the best outcome for humanity would be for Tony Blair to be forgotten and to be treated with the contempt that he deserves. I

Creating a 'Wild Garlic Woods' in Terryland Forest Park

Many of Ireland’s native wildflowers face extinction due to pollution, invasive species, urbanization, loss of habitat and intensive commercial farming. The use of pesticides and herbicides in farming in order to increase specific crop yields has meant that wildflowers and pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies are being poisoned. Hence flora and fauna species are declining alarmingly and a countryside that was once populated with flowers representing all the colours of the rainbows, that throbbed to the sounds of a wide of variety bees and birds is sadly becoming a thing of the past.

Help reverse this process and to save Ireland’s indigenous flowers and associated pollinating insects and bats. Under the expert tutelage of Padraic Keirns, Conservation Volunteers Galway and Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park are once again teaming up to organise another major re-flowering within Terryland Forest Park. This time it will be in woods near the Quincenntennial Bridge.
Over 1,000 plants have been collected for Saturday's 'plantahon' with the primary species being 'wild garlic' as we attempt to create thematic flora areas in certain locations within this 180 acres nature and farmland reserve.

So we ask you to please join us on this Saturday(May 28th).
Rendezvous: 11am near the Curry's (Galway Retail Park) entrance to Terryland Forest Park.
Google Map link:

Rwanda: An African Phoenix arisen from the ashes

Last week I was working in Rwanda helping in the introduction of coding programmes into schools across this land of a thousand hills. This is my second assignment to a country that suffered one of the most brutal genocides of the 20th century. In 1994 over 800,000 Tutsi and Hutu were massacred by supporters of an extremist Hutu regime.
However Rwanda has experienced an unprecedented transformation since those dark days of bloodletting and insanity. The results of a focused national government strategy of reconciliation, justice, female empowerment, education, health, anti-corruption, environmental protection, community development, construction, entrepreneurialism, technology and innovation can be seen everywhere. Whilst there are reports of curtailment of media freedom and of the political opposition amongst some commentators, nevertheless there is huge support for the government’s policies in the population at large which has pulled the country out of the abyss of ethnic violence that killed numbers equivalent to the victims of the Irish Famine and which sadly still rages in neighbouring Burundi.  There is definitely a palpable sense of nationhood and community solidarity amongst its people. I will write more about my experiences of Rwanda in a more detailed blog article next month focusing not just on its current digital revolution but also on topics such as its village communal justice system (Gacaca) and its biodiversity programmes.

This month I was once again part of a team of volunteers working within the highly ambitious Africa Code Week initiative established in 2015 by a partnership of SAP, Galway Education Centre and the Cape Town Science Centre spearheaded by the wonderful Claire Gillissen​ Bernard Kirk​ and Julie Cleverdon​. In our first foray into Rwanda last October we worked from two buses that were fully fledged futuristic mobile IT classrooms moving from school to school training teachers and children. The lead mentors were drawn from across Europe and included highly motivated folk such as Nuala Allen​, Stefan Alexandru Florea​ and Véronique Desegaulx​.  In the process we were also training in and assisted by a panel of keen volunteer youth from Kigali’s KLabs and associated innovator start-ups co-ordinated by the excellent Aphrodice Foyo Mutangana​. This time my European colleagues of Veronique, Kevin Morrissey​ and myself enjoyed watching the indigenous youngsters that we had trained previously (directly and by online learning tutorials) take ownership of delivering most of the classes to the pupils and teachers of the schools that we visited. These young ‘uns (Arnold, Nshuti Gacinya Olivier, Vanessa and Herve) were top class in their presentations and content, giving us a strong feeling of personal satisfaction as we witnessed our previous efforts now bearing fruit. We realise that, with the support of these young men and women, the Africa Code Week project can and is becoming sustainable. It is indeed putting down deep roots into the continent’s soil. 
The Rwanda government has a plan to increase the percentage of the population that are online from its present 13% to 95% by the end of this year. With the rollout of 4G mobile network and a generation of technology mentors and teachers, there is no reason why this will not be achieved. At so many levels, Rwanda represents the face of a new confident Africa. It can be a template for so many other countries across a continent that is changing at an unprecedented level.

Celtic Cross Project: Volunteers Needed for Community Organic Garden

As well as the regular tasks that are undertaken in an organic garden such as weeding, sowing, pruning and repairing, the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden will this Saturday commence in laying the foundations of a large 16 meter long footpath designed in the shape of a Celtic Cross that will form a new pathway feature in this urban green facility. So lots of help is needed to create a structure that will give due recognition in a modern urban green setting to the cultural traditions of ancient Ireland and the Celtic people's strong affinity with Nature. The prominent 'Circle' in the Celtic Cross represents the 'Sun' whose different levels of light and heat though the four seasons of the year controlled their agricultural practices and associated annual communal festivals such as the Harvest Festival (Lughnasa), Samhain, Imbloc and Bealtaine. 
Hence we are appealing to as many volunteers as possible to come along at 11am on Saturday. At the end of the communal work, there is of course refreshments for all.
Google Maps location:

Working with An Garda Síochána on Internet Safety

Over the last few years, I have spent a lot of time co-presenting workshops/talks with An Garda Síochána on Cyberbullying & Internet Safety to pupils, students, parents and teachers in primary and post-primary schools.
Having the Garda present at these events has reinforced the importance of this issue to the participants. Their understandable knowledge of the relevant legislation, their status as officers of the law and their first-hand experience of both victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying has proved invaluable in highlighting this growing problem within modern society particularly amongst young people. 

Over the last few weeks, I have visited second level schools such as Galway Community College and Colaiste Bháile Chláir with Garda Marcus and Alan who are two of the most conscientious public servants that I have ever meet. They personify all of the positive societal attitudes that police enforcement agencies are meant to represent, namely to protect the vulnerable and to promote the common good.

Re-enactment of World's First Pirate Broadcast from Easter Rising 1916

Irish Rebel operating wireless transmitter, Easter Week, 1916 (Drawing: Helen Caird)

World’s First Pirate Broadcast: Re-enactment of the 1916 Wireless Transmission by the Irish Rebels.
In recognition of the historical role that the Irish rebels played in the history of global wireless communications, there will on at 7.30pm tomorrow  (Monday April 25th) in the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland, located at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in NUI Galway, be a re-enactment of the radio transmission of April 25th 1916 which became the world’s first pirate broadcast.

Museum members John-Owen Jones and Frank McCurry will send Morse code transmissions using the high voltage spark technology as operated by the rebels in which induction coils (as invented by Irish physicist Nicholas Callan of Maynooth College) were used with a Morse telegraph key.

The event is free and all are welcome to attend. However advanced booking is required and can be done by contacting museum curator Brendan Smith at

The 1916 Easter Rising, when Irish rebels rose up against British rule and declared an Irish Republic, was the setting for probably the world’s first radio broadcast. 

Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the rebel leaders and a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, was a keen advocate of the new developing technologies of wireless telegraphy. He established a special wireless unit within the Irish Volunteers.  In the lead up to the Rising, Plunkett developed an technologically ambitious plan to use radio to coordinate national and international communications, to provide information on the movement of weapons into Ireland and to spread the news of the rising across the world. One of the first steps was to make radio contact with the German government in order to relay messages onto Roger Casement who was organizing the purchase and transport of weapons to Ireland. This process was to be facilitated by rebels taking over the wireless and telegraphy station in Caherciveen Co. Kerry on the Atlantic coast. But as it turned out, neither the arms-ship the Aud nor the submarine that was bringing Casement back to Ireland were equipped with wireless.

Through republican sympathizers working at the nearby trans-Atlantic telegraphy station on Valentia island, the Kerry operation would also allow the sending of progress reports on the Rising to Clan na Gael and other supporters in the United States. Caherciveen would be used as a two-way wireless station with the rebel headquarters in Dublin. With the cutting of land-line telegraph and telephone cables from Dublin and the occupation of the main hub of tele and postal communications hub in Ireland, namely the General Post Office on Sackville Street, it was hoped that it would be the Irish rebels that would have the upper hand in the battle for control of electronic communications in and out of Ireland. Unfortunately one of the two taxis hired to take the four Irish volunteers to Carherciveen from Killarney rail station on Good Friday crashed on its way killing all occupants. So no two-way wireless system was established from the Atlantic coast to Dublin. 

On the first day of the Rising (Easter Monday) seven volunteers under the command of Fergus Kelly left the rebel HQ at the GPO to take possession of the nearby ‘Irish School of Wireless’ to establish radio contact with Cahirciveen. Though radio was banned under the Defense of the Realm Act which came into operation once World War One began in 1914, nevertheless the school was still used as a training centre for wireless operators.  The spark transmitter was made ready and the dissembled rooftop antenna was re-erected on the roof with the aid of commandeered cabling and in spite of firing from British snipers. However as the receiver’s batteries were past repair, they never knew that the Atlantic station had not been activated and would not therefore re-transmit messages from Dublin.  Yet the Morse code message sent at regular intervals into the atmosphere was in fact received by radio operators in a number of countries. The world’s first pirate broadcast was picked up in Wales, Bulgaria, Germany and by ships. 
Written by James Connolly and sent out by volunteer David Burke, the message was message was, “Irish Republic declared in Dublin today. Irish troops have captured city and are in full possession. Enemy cannot move in city. The whole country rising.”
Transmissions ended when the volunteers had to abandon the building on Easter Thursday as a result of heavy British shelling.

Volunteers Needed on Sat for Community Organic Garden in Galway city

Enjoy the health, social and environmental benefits of community organic garden by helping out at 11am  this Saturday (April 16th) in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden.
April is a busy time for gardeners and there is much work to be done in this particular large neighbourhood green resource. Tasks include digging, weeding, sowing, pruning and repairing. Hence we are appealing to as many volunteers as possible to come along at 11am. At the end of the communal work, there is of course light refreshments for all volunteers.

Google Maps location here

Working in the Al Za'atari Syrian Refugee Camp in northern Jordan.

Diary Entry One:
A few weeks ago, along with my good friends Nuala Allen, Aphrodice Foyo Mutangana, Mark Tate-Smith, and Bernard Kirk, I was based in Jordan as part of the SAP Corporate Social Responsibility Galway Education Centre & UNHCR programme to train young educators in computer coding so that they themselves can teach children and teenagers.
We were based at the Al Za'atari Syrian Refugee Camp in northern Jordan. It is the second largest camp in the world.
30% of the camp's Syrian residents of over 80,000 are children of school age. Half of them do not attend any of the nine schools in the camp because they work in nearby farms or elsewhere. Families need incomes. So as refugee adults are not legally allowed to work, parents often had to get their sons and daughters to take up work wherever they can. Child labour is a reality.
NGOs onsite and Jordanians are encouraging additional foreign aid to be used to create jobs that do not take work away from Jordanians and thus in the process allow all children in the camp to stay in full-time education.
We as volunteers are part of this initiative to upskill young people so that they might have a positive future.
But all the Jordanians and Syrians that I am working with are true angels doing their very best for people in a country that is one of the poorest in the Middle East.
Next month, I will be back in Africa once again under the Africa Code Week programme, another great SAP initiative spearheaded by the visionary Claire Gillissen.
Diary Entry Two: My Students: Innocent Victims of War.
Photograph shows students at my all-day coding workshop this afternoon in the Al Za'atari Syrian Refugee Camp.
These wonderful young men and women come mainly from the Daraa district of Syria.
If they had stayed in their homeland many of the people smiling at you would not now be alive.
They fled with their families to escape war, persecution and death; their educational studies, careers and dreams shattered in the process.
Thanks to the generousity of the Jordanian people as well as dedicated volunteers and funds from the United Nations, the EU and NGOs/governments from Norway, Japan, Kuwait, Britain, USA and many other countries, they hopefully will be able to believe in themselves once again, to have children, jobs and to lead long, peaceful and happy lives in Syria or in some other place.

Man's inhumanity to man (& it is very rarely women) always saddens me; killing a human being purely because of his/her race, religious belief, ethnicity or social class is pure evil. Sadly this barbarism is on the rise again in the 21st century.
After my classes finished today, I went to the camp perimeter to look over at Syria in the distance (only 10kms away) and I counted my blessings that I have been given an opportunity by SAP/GEC to play a small part in helping these people, who did not ask or want to be refugees torn from the country that they love, to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This hope was reinforced by the fact that my co-mentor today was my good friend Aphrodice Foyo Mutangana.
Aphrodice is from Rwanda where I worked a few months ago as part of Africa Code Week. Whilst there I witnessed at first hand a country that had arose in a few short years from the ashes of an apocalypse to become, at many levels, a beacon of sunshine for a whole continent.
In 1994, over 800,000 people were butchered to death in the Rwandan genocide, a crime of unparelled butchery carried out by neighbour against neighbour, citizen against citizen. But today it has adopted a policy of reconciling genocide victim and perpetrator; has implemented a programme of 'community togetherness' that is possibly the best in the world; promotes women's rights, technology empowerment, sustainable economic development and reforestation as well as re-introducing once extinct wildlife to its countryside.
If this central African nation can rebuild after such a devastating human tsunami, the Middle East can become a peaceful region of cultural and religious diversity and tolerance.
My work as part of a team of enthusiastic visionary tech-savvy men and women has still much to give to the inhabitants of Africa, Middle East and Ireland.
Diary Entry Three: Residents Helping Each Other.
Our volunteer group spent the first few days in the Zaatari refugee camp providing computer coding workshops to teachers and students all of whom were forced by war to give up promising careers and jobs in Syria to flee to the safety of Jordan.
But it was the following day that was for me a true epiphany. For we could then truly enjoy the fruits of our labour as we watched the young men and women, that we had mentored, enthusiastically take on the task of teaching coding to the children of the camp on a one-to-one or one-to-two basis..
From early morning until early evening on that day 'our students' transformed what we had taught them into a subject that excited the interest and imagination of the children in their care.
Survivors of an ongoing brutal conflict that is destroying their homeland and their people, they have shown how, even in the darkest hour, the light of humanity can still shine through and that everyday life has to continue

The Sea Change Challenge- Increasing Public Awareness of the Health of Oceanss

The Sea Change game and digital story challenge is open to Galway city/county (Ireland) and Lund (Sweden) CoderDojo members aged 7-18yrs. The challenge is being organised by NUI Galway as part of their contribution to a European project entitled “Sea Change” which aims to establish a fundamental “Sea Change” in the way European citizens view their relationship with the sea.  The challenge is to use the fun and popularity of designing and playing tech games as well as enjoying digital stories to raise awareness of Marine issues like the need to protect cold-water coral reefs, how we can begin to address the scourge of micro-plastics, and how we can maintain healthy oceans and seas, for ourselves, for the animals that live in them, and ultimately for the planet.

Entrants from individuals or teams up to a maximum of four members are invited to submit projects on the theme of Sea Change. The submissions will be reviewed by a panel of experts and judged on ‘best concept’ and ‘ease of use’.  The winning project will be included in an iBook about cold water corals that will be presented as a teaching resource to secondary schools. There will be two awards presented in each country to the finalists: Junior Award: €300 and Senior Award: €500*

At the recent Galway launch, Dr. Anthony Grehan from NUI Galway gave a presentation on his team's research into cold-water corals; Dr. Amy Lucher outlined her studies on the alarming high levels of plastic litter found in our oceans, and Gavin Duffy gave an insight into his company's 3D modelling of Galway Bay and the waters of Cork in order to provide ideas for game development. 
Other resources are available (newsletters, poster, fact sheet, ocean literacy booklet, videos) on the project website:

Competition Timeline

Registration by: 9 April, 2016

Submission by: 21 May, 2016

Winners announced: 11 June, 2016
For further information, contact Brendan at

Pioneering App-making Open Data workshop at Insight Centre of NUI Galway.

A pioneering workshop took place today at my workplace of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics NUI Galway. A team of dedicated volunteers of Pueng Narumol, Bianca Pereira, Niall O'Brolchain, Eoin Jordan brilliantly led by Souleiman Hasan delivered a pioneering app-making course based on Open Data. The latter are defined as facts and statistics that are freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.
In Ireland open data produced by public bodies such as government departments, local authorities and research institutes are stored on the website The information available is vast and varied, covering topics such as population statistics from the national Census, yacht mooring locations, value and weight of fishing landings, family farm income, farm size, livestock numbers, traffic accident statistics, Luas stop locations, CO2 emissions by type of fuel and by engine size, and locations for playgrounds and protected structures. 

Utilisation of Open Data can bring great enormous benefits to society. Our institute Open Data expert Niall O'Brolchain is working hard to promote this message in the corridors of power across Ireland and particularly in Galway where he is a leading advocate for its development as a Smart City.
For me, 2016 will be the 'Year of App-Making' and the 'Year of Open Data' as I plan to organise a series of thematic courses in second-level schools as well as with my good friend Eoin Jordan in Coderdojo Galway city

Thousands Sign Petition over Neighbourhood Centre

Over 2,100 people from the Ballinfoile Mór and Castlegar areas have already signed a petition demanding that the new Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre be maintained as a public facility to serve the needs of the local residents. So well done to all the local activists that made this happen and who stood yet again outside City Hall last Monday to make the feelings of their community on the centre known to councillors.
The issue which has been on the agenda of the city council for the last three monthly meetings is finally expected to be voted upon by councillors on March 14th.  Representatives from the local community have had discussions recently with council officials and a number of our key concerns over peak hours, board of management community representation, discounted rates and prioritising jobs in the centre for local people, as well as an absolute guarantee that there will be no privitisation of the Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood and Sports Centre have been acceded too.  However our focus is still to keep the facility under local government management/staffing in association with the local community as well as to ensure that its annual council budget is not reduced. Hence we will continue to campaign on these demands and a public meeting is being planned to discuss the proposals on Social Enterprise from the council officials and associated costings of the centre once they are finalised after further consultations.
But we can learn a lot from experiences of the Knocknacarra area where there has been a similar publicly-owned facility in operation for a number of years but with quite limited hours of opening. The council now wish to put both centres out to tender under a Social Network enterprise. The Knocknacarra community have years of experience on the issue of public ownership and are presently putting their own counter proposal together. In a conversation with Gerry Corbett, chairperson of the Knocknacarra Sports and Facilities Co-Op, their approach as outlined seems very advantageous in serving the needs of local residents. So it makes total sense to, as well as show the council’s proposal on tendering of the centre, to invite Gerry and his team to outline the plans of their co-operative to our proposed public meeting as well as to invite Tommy Flaherty from the Ballybane Centre to give us his opinion.  A gathering of local centre activists will be called upon soon to discuss this approach.
The people of Ballinfoile Mór have fought for 30 years for this indoor community complex. We owe it to those who stood with us over many decades; to those thousands of people who signed our recent door-to-door petition and to future generations not yet born to ensure that the centre will always serve, be owned, managed and used by the local people.
Tomorrow Roisin is organising an informal get-together of local residents at 7pm in 50 Baile an Chóiste. Thanks Roisin!