Volunteers working in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden have been enthusiastically working very hard over the last few weeks to get the facility ready for Sunday's Harvest Festival as a celebration of its tenth anniversary.

But over the last few days, this great outdoor community and environmental resource has suffered from mindless vandalism. On more than one occasion, three to four children (possibly 11-13years) on bikes (some at least were BMX) entered the garden when it was un-staffed and proceeded to uproot and destroy vegetables, rip fruits from their trees and slash (with a knife?) our large polytunnel on three sides, resulting in large gaping holes.

When a woman confronted these children on what they were doing they told her to f... off and worse.
Then, on at least two occasions, anti-social adults entered the garden in the evening time, when the volunteers had left, to use and possibly sell illegal drugs.
It is worth noting that before this week there has never any negative incident involving children.
There have been occasions though over the years when anti-community drug-using and heavy-drinking males have late at night entered and damaged some property.
But these have been relatively isolated occurrences and we thought that we had seen the end of this type of behaviour months ago.

Now we have suffered from what feels like a tsunami of destruction.
When we discussed with the city council setting up this much needed social, health and eco neighbourhood facility in 2009, we decided that we wanted no high perimeter fencing. We opted for a low wooden fence to symbolise there was no barrier between our public facility and the wider community that we were all part off.

As I said in an interview this morning with Keith Finnegan on Galway Bay FM, we are now asking the people of the Ballinfoile-Castlegar locality and of greater Galway city area not to allow the anti-people bullies to win, to stand with us and to show solidarity by coming along to our Harvest Day event that is taking place this Sunday from 12.00pm until 4pm.

Urban Community Organic Garden celebrates its 10th birthday


One of Galway city’s oldest community gardens will this Sunday celebrate its’ tenth year in existence by hosting a Harvest Festival for the benefit of local residents.

According to Brendan Smith, PRO and a founding member of the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden , “We are asking residents of all ages from the surrounding Ballinfoile, Terryland, Ballindooley and Castlegar areas to come along from 12pm until 4pm on Sunday July 14th  to celebrate this great community-made resource and to enjoy the fruits, vegetables and herbs grown by a small group of dedicated gardeners who have done so much to create a green oasis that is used as an outdoor classroom, a social space, a wildlife haven and a healthy food growing facility. The event will also provide pizzas baked in our huge oven made out of local clay, potatoes boiled in giant pots heated over a traditional open fire, music, traditional children’s games, face painting and much more.
”The facility has never looked more productive thanks to the hard working committee of Padraic Keirns, Tom Hanley, Laurence Daly, Margaret Douglas, Michael McDonnell, Michael Tiarnan, Maura Mullen and Sabrina Commins supported by a healthy band of volunteers including Alaa, Saaed and Vlad from the Eglinton Direct Provision Centre.

The field in Terryland Forest Park, 2009
We have come a long way since 2009 when the representations of Michael McDonnell, Michael Tiarnan, Caitríona Nic Mhuiris and myself proved successful as Stephen Walsh of Galway City Council Parks office allocated a small field at the edge of Terryland Forest Park for the development of an organic garden for local residents. Modelled on the original of the species, the Ballybane Community Garden, we set about transforming a barren patch of ground into the lush green productive space that it is today.

Volunteers of all ages preparing the ground in the garden, early June 2009

The field was levelled and fenced off for us in 2009 by City Parks staff who also provided a shipping container. From January until July 2010, volunteers dug out from very rough stony ground the first vegetable beds, planted the first fruit trees, constructed a raised concrete platform for dining and live music activities, laid down electrical cabling and water pipes as well as erecting a large poly tunnel. The interior of the container was transformed into a storage facility, a kitchen and a toilet whilst its exterior was covered with a beautiful rural landscape scene, painted by local children working under the auspices of artist Margaret Nolan.
Local children painting a landscape scene with artist Margaret Nolan at container exterior, August 2010

By August of that year, we were able to host a very successful Harvest Festival, thus making next week’s event our tenth annual food celebration.

Erecting a Polytunnel, August 2010
Our aim is to continue making this green neighbourhood resource a friendly outdoor venue where people can socialise, grow organic fruits and vegetables as well as to learn the traditional eco-skills from composting to pruning that our grandparents possessed.
As a diverse range of stakeholders from business to health, to community to education come together on the National Park City for Galway initiative, the latest medical scientific research is showing the benefits to people of all ages that comes from spending time surrounded by plants and trees in what is referred to as the ‘Green Prescription’. By working with others in amongst our fruit trees, vegetable plots and herbal beds as well as by participating in our educational courses, volunteers in our community garden are encouraged to bring this knowledge back to their homes so that they can grow tasty safe foods in their own gardens to be served on the kitchen plate for the enjoyment of the whole family.
Building a community tree nursery, May 2019
Growing food organically enriches the soil, reduces our carbon footprint, does not pollute the environment, helps the local economy, reduces a household’s food bill and improves personal nutrition. Just as important a well-maintained organic garden is by nature a diverse place, filled not only with food crops, but flowers, birds, insects, bees, and butterflies. It is a sanctuary for wildlife at a time when 25% of Ireland’s native species are under threat.

Urban neighbourhood organic gardens will play an ever-increasing role in tackling Climate Chaos.

Note: This article appeared in the July 12th edition of the Galway Advertiser

Rediscovering the Ancient Trails of Galway city


Local resident Ellie enthusiastically leads a group of intrepid adventurers along a hidden country lane that centuries ago was the main thoroughfare for people, animals and coaches travelling between Menlo village and Galway city.
Today this 'boreen' (Irish = 'botharín = small road) at Coolough (Cúil Lough = lake's end) ) is populated with a wonderful cornucopia of native trees, wildflowers, birds, insects and mammals. The sounds and sights of Nature that we experienced yesterday were a welcome soothing relief from the harsh noises of cars, trucks and much of urban life that was so evident only a few kilometres away.
Participants in yesterday's Seven Galway Castles' Heritage Cycle Tour felt they had stumbled into a lost world!
On the edges of Galway city lies a largely forgotten network of traditional rural lanes that local communities are now working together on to create a Greenways infrastructure as part of the 'National Park City for Galway' initiative. This 'lost world' will become 'our everyday world of the future'!

My son Dáire is learning Greenscreen production, AI photo enhancement, 3D scanning and 3D printing from Eoin Jordan, Lukasz Porwol, Ihab Salawdeh and PJ Mealy whilst undertaking a summer internship at our Insight Centre for Data Analytics NUI Galway.
One of the most exciting of these projects is the use, at the Computer Museum in the Data Science Institute, of a XBox 360 Kinect to scan images of vintage computers and computer parts to make 3-dimensional units to be used either as ornaments or to replace missing/broken components of retro units in this technology facility.
In the background is the 3D printer alongside a miniature model of a Smart (sensors based) City where we are gradually replacing the Lego parts with 3D made pieces. Thanks Gerry Kavanagh!
The three lads are holding 3D productions.
As part of our role in the new 'National Park City for Galway' initiative, we will soon be installing a unit that grinds old and new plastics that can be converted into 3D plastic filament. This is the 'Circle Economy’, Upskilling and Sustainability in action!

The Magical 7 Galway Castles' Heritage Cycle Looped Trail


There is no nicer way to end Bike Week 2019 than to take part in a leisurely group cycle through a mosaic of lovely picturesque rural landscapes that lie only a short distance from noisy, busy urban Galway city
The Seven Galway Castles' Looped Cycle Heritage Tour aka ‘Slí na gCaisleán’ (‘The Way of the Castles’), is a guided off-the-beaten-track heritage cycle excursion along a looped trail across beautiful countryside that encompasses seven castles on the north and eastern side of Galway city and on into Galway county. The tour, organised by the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden, will start at 9.30am on Sunday June 30th from the ‘Plots’ on the Dyke Road which was the site of former urban allotments in decades gone by, then onto Terryland Castle before undertaking a forty km looped cycle route that has castles at Menlo, Cloonacauneen, Killeen, Ballybrit, Castlegar and Ballindooley. This leisurely cycle will journey over hills, along botharins, past abandoned farms, ruined castles, karst outcrops, bogs, lakes, dykes, turloughs and meadows.
Local communities are hoping that it will become part of a new cycling friendly network that could benefit the quality of life of Galwegians as well as become a major green tourism attraction.

Note: Participants should ,bring along their own bicycle, suitable clothing, water and food. There will be a stopover at Cloonacauneen Castle where people can buy lunch. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
For further information, contact Brendan Smith at speediecelt@gmail.com

Finally a big 'Bualadh Bos' (applause) to the wonderful artist Helen Caird who worked with me on producing the beautiful attached poster

The American Irish corporate Award!



I was so chuffed last night to receive the inaugural 'Cairdeas' (societal impact) award from the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland.
It was presented to me by Mark Gantly, President of the Chamber, in recognition of my activities over many years promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) amongst people of all ages, of all backgrounds, from Galway, across Ireland, Africa and the Middle East.
It was quite emotional to hear testimonials at the event from people such as Emma Meehan of Cisco who told how she was inspired as a pre-teen primary school pupil to pursue a career in technology thanks to workshops and computer equipment we gave to her school class twelve years ago.
As an education & public engagement officer since 2001, I have been so fortunate to have been given opportunities by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, DERI, Galway Education Centre, SAP, Galway Science and Technology Festival, Medtronic, Galway Atlantaquaria, Coderdojo, and University College Galway to educate and upskill children, teenagers and older peoples in coding, digital media, environmental science, engineering etc so that they could be empowered to improve their lives, their communities and to secure sustainable careers in new web technologies.
I have also being blessed to have being inspired by individual visionaries, collaborators, educationalists, science researchers, business leaders, environmentalists, societal leaders, community activists and role models such as Bernard Kirk, Brian Wall, Mike Turley, Claire Duval, Professor Mathieu D'Aquin, Michael D Higgins, Ciaran Cannon, Chris Coughlan, Jimmy Brown, Marie Mannion, Anne Murray, Batoul HusseinI, Caroline Healy, Ollie Daniels, Karl Sweeney, Simon Lenihan, Patrick McGovern, Carole Raftery, Enda O'Connell, Eoin Jordan, Lol Hardiman, Helen Caird, Niall O'Brolchain, Ihab Salawdeh, Lukasz Porwol, Arek Stasiewicz, Bianca Pereira, Agustín García Pereira, John Breslin, Adegboyega Ojo, Aksana Azava, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Caroline Cawley, Brian Walsh, Duncan Stewart, John O’Sullivan, Catherine Seale, Ibrahim Khafagy, Julie Cleverdon, Mootketsi Tegere, Martin Serrano, Lorraine Tansey, Colin Lawton, Michel Dugon, Noel Treacy, Aoibheann Bird, Cushla Dromgool Regan, Sarah Knight, Liam Brennan, Muriel Grenon, Noirin Burke, Garry Kendellen, Sheila Greaney, Colette Lavin, Tommy Flaherty, Frank Gavin, Hung Ngo, Kay Synott, Caitriona Carlin, Geische Kindermann, Tom Cuffe, Caroline Stanley, Colin Stanley, Jessamyn Fairfield, Padraic Keirns, Nikunj Sakhrelia, Michael McDonnell, Margaret Douglas, Sabrina Cummins, Fiona O’Donovan, Tiarnan McCusker, Catherine Cunningham, Justine Delaney, Michael Madden, Daniel Raven-Ellison, Edward Skehill, Dick Delaney, Tom Hanley, Laurence Daly, Caitríona Nic Mhuiris, Frank McCurry, Tom Frawley, Liam Ferrie, Pat Moran, Gerry Kilcommins, Tom Hyland, Patrick Collins, Lorraine McIllarth, Rachel Quinlan, Derrick Hambleton, Ann Irwin, Dan Clabby, Martina Finn, Peter Butler, Tina O'Connell, Kate Howard, Martin Brennan, Felicity Gillespie, Michael Tiernan, Douglas Rafter, Mary Kyne, Mags Amond, Thomas O Dúbhda, Mags Amond, Terry Morley, John Power, Niamh Costello, Colm Canny, Micheal O Cinneide, Denis Goggin, Phil James, Nollaig McGuinness, James Harrold, Cllr Frank Fahey, Mark Lohan, Catherine Connolly, Eamon O Cuiv, Elaine O'Riordan, Clare Riordan, Mairead Farrell, Terry O'Flaherty, Diarmuid Keaney, Micheal Keaney, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Brian Barrett, Terry McDermott, Siobhan McEvoy, Feargal Timon, Jonathan Hannan, Eoin Gill, Sheila Domegan as well as countless teachers/principals such as Cepta Stephens, Maire Keady Baker, Kate Murray, Nuala Dalton, John Duggan, Martina Tarpey, Leo Hallissey, Ger O'Dowd, Irene Mc Goldrick, Caroline Bond, Finbarr O'Regan, Niall Ó Ceallaigh, Maria Burke, Niall Coll, Teresa O'Dowd, Anne Burke, Mait O Bradaigh, Anne McGrath, Celine McCormick, John Reilly, Frank Keane, Catherine Harrington, Michelle Kerrigan, Catherine Hickey, Davina Daly, Mary Smith, Mary Howley, Colin McCaul, Aoife Winters, Barry Maguire, Mary Dillon, Maire Browne, Pat Keane, Orla Doyle, Martin Faherty, Sean Tuohy, Grainne Dooley... who I have worked with a lot over so many years.

With the world in such a deepening crisis due to climate chaos, biodiversity loss, political instability and rising social inequality, benign technology and science research and its' application is critical in coming up with solutions that can help save the planet and human society from the excesses and narrow-minded greed of much of human civilization.

Furthermore, as Tina O'Connell alludes too, Science and Technology without the Arts, and indeed Heritage and Culture, is incomplete. Which is way I have always practised a holistic approach towards teaching and mentoring.

Photo shows (L-R): Mark Redmond (CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce), Mark Gantly (President of the American Chamber of Commerce), myself and President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh (NUI Galway).

Finally a big thank you to my beloved wife Cepta for her endless patience and kindness in allowing me the space over so many decades to spend so many days and nights on work and volunteer assignments. A true angel!

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

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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.