The Fascinating History of Computing and Communications Technologies in Galway


On Tuesday night in the wonderful Portershed, I was guest speaker at the launch of  the GIT (Galway IT) group, a gathering of tech enthusiasts who range from veteran developers to young passionate beginners. Thanks to the hard working Liam Krewer for seeing the need for such a club and doing something about it.

My presentation gave an overview of the proud heritage that Galway has in communications and computing from the establishment of the Marconi transatlantic radio station near Clifden in 1907 (the birth of the Global Village), onto the arrival of the world’s second largest computer manufacturing company to Mervue in 1971 (the birth of Ireland’s first ‘digital city’), to the opening of computer stores in 1980, to the establishment in 1983 of an interlinked network of computer labs in the city’s secondary schools (the birth of ‘cloud computing’ and ‘online social media’ in Ireland), and onto the setting of the West of Ireland’s first mobile computer classroom (2008).
For a deep dive into the fascinating history of such technologies, their Galway connections and much more besides, come along to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland, that is supported by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, between 7pm and 9pm on Culture Night (this Friday Sept 22nd). Eircode H91 AEX4

“Shannon” the first ‘Push Button’ Phone for Irish homes

The museum recently took delivery of a classic telephone familiar to domestic and phone users in Ireland during the 1980s.

In 1982, the government’s department of Post & Telegraphs, launched the first push button telephone for the Irish domestic market. The “Shannon” phone came in four colours and was manufactured by Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunications corporation based in Athlone.
Previously, domestic and business phones provided by the state telephony service were based on the 'rotary dial' and were primarily made by Northern Telecom (NT) in Galway city.
Getting a phone installed in one’s home in the 1970s or early 1980s was not easy- the state’s department responsible for the provision of telephones in 1982 had a waiting list of over 80,000 new subscribers which it was expected would not be cleared until the following year.
As well as the push button, the Shannon had features that would have been new to most Irish domestic telephone users at the time including a plug that could easily connect/disconnect the phone to/from a wall socket, and an electronic ‘tone’ ring rather than the ‘bell’ ring of the traditional rotary phone.
Interestingly the government also announced at the launch that they would be providing by January 1983 new style NT rotary phones that would have with a dial built into the handset.

The 'Shannon' telephone can be viewed any Saturday between 2pm and 4pm when the museum is open to the general public.

Connemara Greenway begins at Terryland Forest Park!

Photo shows the lovely painting of the Connemara Greenway by the great artist Helen Caird at Tuatha's "An Nead" HQ in Terryland Forest Park. The long overdue 77km Galway city to Clifden Connemara Greenway (only 16km completed) will begin at the Dyke Road beside the Terryland Forest Park and include a new pedestrian-cycling bridge over the River Corrib at Woodquay. 

The painting with its portrayal of Twelve Bens(Pins) mountain range was designed to show that the Greenway exists for walkers as well as cyclists. 

Photo also shows some of the Saturday morning volunteer crew (Julie, Victor, Ailbhe, Tobias Baum, Paul and myself) involved in our regular litter pick of the forest park.

Live on the Ray D'Arcy Show!

I really enjoyed being interviewed on RTE's Ray D'Arcy Show by the great man himself about the Computer & Communications Museum that I curate.

I have to say in all sincerity that I was struck by not only the professionalism but also the friendliness, humour and down-to-earth nature of Ray and his assistant Niamh.

Photo shows Ray using a 1980 Sony Walkman and me holding a 1980s Motorola mobile phone (aka the 'Brick') whose inventor Martin Cooper was inspired to create this fantastic hand-held piece of communications technology by the 'Communicator' device ("Beam me up Scotty" says Captain Kirk!) from the 1960s children's science fiction television programme Star Trek. Thankfully as a diehard Trekkie fan since my childhood, I am so happy that this series is still with us!

I am glad to report that this great technology heritage facility, that was co-founded by myself and my dearly departed friend Chris Coughlan whom I miss so much, and which has been available for school, university, digital maker, community, heritage and business group visits since 2012, is now open to the general public from 2pm to 4pm every Saturday.
Well worth a visit!

I also enjoyed an interview earlier this week on the same subject with Pat Coyne on Connemara Radio- local community radio at its best.

Supported by the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics (previously DERI) at the University of Galway since its inception, the museum is now managed by an independent board of wonderful experienced techies under the chairpersonship of Philip Cloherty whose members are Frank McCurry, Liam Ferrie, Pat Moran, Alanna Kelly and Tom Frawley.

My Friends, President Michael D. and Sabina Higgins

In a marquee filled with 500+ fantastic caring people from across Ireland that have done great things for Irish society, I was very surprised and embarrassed to be mentioned by President Michael D. Higgins in his speech last Sunday at the Garden Party in Áras an Uachtaráin held to celebrate Irish Heritage.

The event marked the 75th anniversary of An Taisce with the President also acknowledging the work of my good friend and Galway heritage stalwart Derrick Hambleton.
It was a unique experience to sit beside him (with his aide-de -camp on my other side!) and, along with my dear wife Cepta and my other dear friend Duncan Stewart at the table, to witness the President's friendliness, patience and compassion towards the numerous guests who came up to him over the course of the evening wanting to speak, share ideas and have their picture taken with him. The fantastic live entertainment (dance and music) on offer reflected too his indigenous and cosmopolitan interests and causes with Irish (incl Lisa O’Neill and Shaskeen), African and Cuban musicians performing on stage.

I have spent more decades than I care to remember working on many projects related to heritage, education, community, social inclusion, human rights and environmentalism. But getting mentioned for my work, I felt completely reinvigorated and have promised myself that in the months and hopefully years still left to me, I will strive even harder to do more.
For, as our time in the bigger picture of things is short, we should in my humble opinion make a personal commitment to give more back to the planet that gave us life than we take from it during our lifetimes. So for me, as well as prioritising educational technology projects both in Ireland and in Africa as well as on heritage, I want to devote more efforts in tackling the man-made catastrophic Climate and Biodiversity Crises through the Terryland Forest Park and in the highly ambitious Galway National Park City initiative.
Michael D. is patron of the Galway National Park City(GNPC) initiative which has, in spite of the short-sighted decision of the majority of Galway City councillors and senior executive not to integrate it into the Galway City Development Plan in a time of unprecedented Climate and Biodiversity Crises, achieved a number of crucial successes in protecting and promoting natural heritage through local intersectoral collaborations such as the Outdoor Classrooms, the Climate Youth Assemblies, and the seminars on international experiences of promoting green and blue sustainable development. I have now got an even bigger 'spring in my step' to do more through even more innovative partnership projects for the GNPC and the forest park.

Michael D has transformed the office of Presidency and built on the great work of his predecessors Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson. He has thrown open the gates and doors of what was once the official residency of the representative of the British monarch visited only by the colonial elite and wealthy classes, to the people of Ireland from all sectors especially those grassroots volunteers involved in local communities, environmentalism, sports, arts, health, human rights, heritage and the socially disadvantaged. 4000 people attended the eight garden parties held this summer in Áras an Uachtaráin.
He has brought the Presidency to a new level by speaking out forcibly and honestly on the crucial issues that impact on Ireland and the world such as the Irish housing crises, migration, democracy, neutrality and the interlinked Climate and Biodiversity crises. He is in so many ways served as the ‘Conscience of the Nation’.

I have known Michael D and Sabina since I arrived as an idealistic young teenage student to Galway. Both of them form a great team that have never shied away from getting actively involved and taking leading roles on human rights issues in spite of the personal abuse and harassment that they too often encountered. I campaigned and protested with them on the streets and elsewhere on many issues including against the IRFU over the visit of the Springbok rugby team from apartheid South Africa, the conferring of a honorary law degree by my university to President Ronald Reagan when he was breaking international law by bombing the ports of Nicaragua, against the Iraq War led by Bush and Blair which directly led to the deaths and ethnic cleansing of millions of innocent people and the near annihilation of ancient cultures such as the Yazidis and Assyrian Christians, for Palestinian statehood and an end to the ongoing illegal occupation and colonisation of their lands, for gay rights, women’s rights, students’ rights, workers’ rights…… The list is long!

When we in Galway first campaigned in early 1996 for the development of what was then called the Terryland River Valley park that we wanted to include woods, river walks, meadows and a city farm, it was Michael D as the first Minister appointed for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, that gave us the morale boosting public backing that we needed.
His legacy as Minister is strong. For instance, he lifted the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin, was instrumental in transforming the Irish film industry, established TG4 (Irish-language television), and he enacted key legislation to protect endangered wildlife and their habitats in Ireland and to reverse the millennia old destruction and exploitation of our natural heritage.

In my own small way I did what I could when I could to support Michael D. For instance in 1990 (I was wealthier then!), I co-sponsored along with the Arts Council his first book of poetry ('The Betrayal').

Everywhere I travel for my work in the Middle East, Africa, mainland Europe and the Americas, I encounter people who praise our president for his humanity and progressive stance.

I myself agree with him and Sabina on nearly everything. We have some small political differences but that is not unusual as I have never met anyone that agrees with me 100% and more than likely never will!
Compare him to other presidents and political leaders of recent times, such as Putin, Trump, Netanyahu, Erdogan, Duarte, Xi Jinping, Ali Khamenei and Bolsonaro who sow the seeds of division and hate.

I am proud to call President Michael D and Sabina my close friends.

Fond Memories of Christy Dignam in early 1990s Galway.

I have fond memories of Christy Dignam when he, along with Conor Goff, played a number of times for me when I had Club Rapparees in Monroe's Tavern in the early 1990s.
He was a true gentleman with a voice that was so emotional, so spell-binding.

His addiction with drugs though at the time was obvious and so sad to see. Something that couldn’t be defended nor tolerated. It was why his fellow band members and friends in Aslan had to get him to quit the band in the late 1980s.
But he never lost his friendliness and indeed kindness.
The last gig 'Dignam and Goff' played Club Rapparee Monroes was in July 1992 (see photo and extract of Christy at Club Rapparee from our inhouse music newsletter). The two lads were a fantastic acoustic duo but light years away from the frenzy electric dance rock of the 1980s Aslan.
Still songs such as 'Feel It In My Heart' always captured the hearts of the Rapparee audiences. 
Two years later in the summer of 1994 he played again for me, this time in 'Setantas' Salthill as part of the reformed Aslan.
That too, as with all his gigs, was a magical experience. I will never forget that night- the venue was packed with working class Dubliners and boy! did they hero-worship in a way that I have never witnessed before or since.

Rest in Peace Christy- Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Back under an African Sky: South Sudan


After an absence of 7 months, I have happily returned to Africa to continue teaching technology programmes to teachers and students in schools across the continent.
For 8 exciting years, I was a master mentor and course content developer for the Africa Code Week(ACW) initiative. 
Founded by the SAP corporation in association with Camden Trust, UNESCO, Irish Aid, African governments and 130 implementing partners across 54 African countries, ACW represented the largest educational digital movement in the history of the continent.
Now that this wonderful initiative is being transitioned to the African governments and learning from the experiences gained over these years, I am now part of the Camden Trust team, that with Irish government support, led by the visionary Bernard Kirk and working alongside the wonderful Linda Cardiff is helping to continue bringing more much needed technological projects and resources to African education in order to empower its youth especially females, on the youngest continent in the world, to become digital creators and innovators in order to create a better more sustainable egalitarian future for its peoples. 
Our first mission was to the Republic of South Sudan to organise a pilot World Robot Olympiad in a girls secondary school in the town of Rumbek. Such an initiative is needed in a country where there are huge cultural and economic obstacles to female education. Only 17% of girls finish primary school and only 4% complete a secondary school education. Few children can afford books and the classroom blackboard remains the primary means of delivering education.
Our task was only made possible by the fantastic hard working determined ground-breaking pioneering principal of the Catholic Loreto convent compound with its circa 1200 students, its primary and secondary schools, its community medical clinic and farm. Sister Orla Treacy from Bray in county Wicklow is a force of nature. Working in Rumbek since 2006, she has helped transform the hopes and aspirations of young South Sudanese women, creating educational routes that never previously existed, securing funding for them to continue university studies in Juba, Nairobi Kenya and elsewhere before returning to their homeland after graduation to help in developing the youngest country in the world. South Sudan only came into existence in 2011 after securing independence from Sudan. From 2013 until 2020, its people suffered a brutal civil war that led to the death of 400,000 civilians. 
More stories to follow over the coming days now that I am back in Ireland.

Meet the Defenders of the Earth against the Alien Invasion!


Photo shows Paula Kearney (Galway City Council Biodiversity Officer), Conor Ruane and Michael Sheridan from LAWPRO with Tuesday's Tuatha volunteer crew from the ARM corporation ready to begin the campaign to eradicate invasive species from Terryland Forest Park.
Paula, Conor and Michael give us very informative talks on the invasive species prevalent in the West of Ireland, Galway and Terryland Forest Park, the damage that they cause and how they can be eradicated or, at the very least, controlled.
After the talks came the hard work as the volunteers, under the supervision of Paula, used 8 tonnes of mulch and ample amounts of cardboard (donated by Smyths Toys, City Council, ARM and University of Galway) to cover an area of woodland infested with Winter Heliotrope. This result will be monitored by us and city council over the next few months and will serve as a pilot on how the scourge of this plant can be tackled in a non-chemical way.
Winter Heliotrope flowers from November to March and for that reason it seems to have been originally brought into Ireland to provide winter feed for bees and was planted near bee hives. But sadly it now has spread like wildfire across the country covering huge areas of ground with a giant carpet smothering any possibility of growth by other fauna. Two weeks ago I spent a few day working in Dublin and was shocked to see it covering much of the embankments along much of the DART line from Dun Laoghaire to Killiney.

Finally it was great to have Kieran Ryan participate in today's activity. Kieran is involved in a significant reafforestation and rewilding project near Kiltimagh. The Tuatha volunteers hope to visit this Mayo initiative over the summer period.

The Aliens have landed!

Winter heliotrope, one of the invasive species within Terryland Forest

morrow (Tuesday) volunteers are tackling the alien species that have invaded Terryland Forest Park and which are colonising large areas within the park forcing out the native plant life.

As part of Invasive Species Week 15th – 21st May, Galway City Council, LAWPRO and Tuatha (volunteers) of Terryland Forest Park are conducting a walk through Terryland Forest Park tomorrow May 16th to areas infested with terrestrial and aquatic non-native Invasive Alien Species (IAS). IAS are extremely difficult and costly to control and eradicate, and their ecological effects can be irreversible.
All are welcome.
We will look at the identifying the species, risks to the environment and infrastructure, management measures and best practice such as the ’Check Clean Dry’ protocol for water users to minimise the spread of aquatic invasives. Working with volunteers, we will trial a herbicide free method of controlling winter heliotrope (see photo) within the woodland.
The invasive species being discussed include Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Canadian Waterweed (Elodea canadensis).
Invasive Species Week is an annual national event to raise awareness of the impacts of invasive species and to celebrate action being taken to prevent their spread. Organisations across the UK, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man join together to lead activities and share information on the simple things that everyone can do to help prevent the spread of invasive species. Each day will involve focusing on a different theme:
The walk will commence at 11am Tuesday 16th May at the Sandy Road entrance to Terryland Forest

'The Fairy Tree’- Symbol of Magic and of Summer.

May is the month of the white blossom when hedgerows and field boundaries across rural Ireland are dotted with trees covered with what from a distance looks like snow but is instead the beautiful white flowers of the Hawthorn tree. Associated with the fairies, the hawthorn or whitethorn was oftentimes feared by Irish people and in many parts of the country was never brought inside a house. People of my generation were the last generation to truly believe in its connection with the Sí (sidhe) and my own wife for this reason stopped me planting hawthorns in our garden when we first got married!

The remains of prehistoric dwellings known as ‘fairy forts’ dot the Irish landscape and are usually evident by the presence of clumps of hawthorn bushes. Solitary hawthorn trees can also be seen in many farmed fields in rural Ireland. In both instances, local people in my time would never cut them down lest bad luck would befall them. This fear may also have something to do with the scent of the hawthorn flower. It is the chemical compound triethylamine, which is one of the first chemicals produced when a human body starts to decompose.
But triethylamine is also found in human semen and vaginal secretions. So no wonder the tree with its white blossom symbolised the lusty month of May, the arrival of summer as the season of fertility and growth. It was when a hawthorn branch on a tree would be decorated with ribbons, pieces of cloth and flowers requesting a good harvest.
As with the ash, it was also associated with holy wells which were also linked to female fertility.
By September, the pollinated flowers become lush red fruits known as haws.
The April leaves were used as a green salad in sandwiches. Jelly was made from the red berries.

The 'Fighting Irish' put down roots in an Irish forest.


Thanks to the great efforts of community, educationalist and social activist Nell Buckley, the American Notre Dame University has this month become part of the story of Terryland Forest Park. This renowned university from Indiana USA operates a Global Centre at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara for its American students who can attend courses at the University of Galway. As part of a Sustainability programme, Nell has connected the Notre Dame students with the Tuatha of Terryland Forest Park to provide opportunities for environmental, Irish heritage and biodiversity activities. We are delighted to assist these endeavours and are working at putting in place a programme for the new academic year commencing in September. 

To start 'the ball rolling', the American students were brought on a guided tour of the forest park along its new human and nature heritage trails as part of the Galway National Park City 'Outdoor Classroom' initiative which included aspects of traveller and rural farming culture. After the tour the students took part in a litter pick. 
There are several accounts of how this American university got its nickname the 'Fighting Irish'. From its beginnings Notre Dame (Our Lady) had strong connections to Ireland. The founders of this university in 1842 were Irish and French priests. Its connections with Ireland increased dramatically in the subsequent years. One theory is that the nickname came from one of its presidents Father William Corby who served as Union Army chaplain to the legendary Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. A statute of him was erected in 1910 on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg (the first to honour a non-general) in recognition of his bravery. The moniker became mainstream as a result of a violent confrontation in 1924 between Notre Dame students and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) a white supremacist and anti-Catholic movement. The university's role as a high-profile Catholic educational institution made it a target in a country where anti-Catholicism still ran deep. To intimidate the Catholic and Irish-American students, the Klan came in large numbers for a week long gathering to the city of South Bend that lay just south of the university campus. The students in their hundreds took on the Klansmen stopping many of them getting off trains and tearing up their banners and flags. Faced with the hostility of the students, after a few days the Klan called off their 'Klavern' and left the city. It led to the end of this racist movement's presence in Indiana.

Our Team Score Big at Croke Park!


As a child, I was once an unused substitute on our school’s junior Gaelic football team when we played at Croke Park. It was sadly a once-off and the opportunity to play a sport on its hallowed ground never came my way again. 
But this week, after waiting a lifetime, I did manage to ‘perform’ at our country’s most famous stadium.
I co-presented, along with the fantastic Deirdre McHugh at the Ahead Conference hosted at Croke Park, a talk on the Crowd4Access footpath mapping initiative run by the Insight Centre and the Access Centre which is about improving the accessibility for all users of the University of Galway campus. The theme of the conference was on ‘How Staff and Learner Communities Drive Inclusion in Tertiary Education', and particularly in supporting equity/inclusion of people with disabilities in further/higher education.
It was so inspiring and I learnt so much about the great work being undertaken by so many people across Ireland’s universities in developing programmes to integrate those with intellectual and physical disabilities into mainstream university education and then how those that participated as a result have contributed greatly to ensuring cultural and systemic change that benefited all.
Amongst these wonderful pioneers of change are the staff of the University of Galway’s Access Centre who attended the Ahead conference, namely its visionary director Imelda Byrne, Campus Accessibility Project Coordinator Deirdre McHugh, and Mature Student Officer Kathleen Hartigan. We were proud to be at Croke Park as a team of four!
Crowd4Access is a partnership between citizens and professional technology researchers to map the accessibility of footpaths of Irish cities initiated by my fellow Insight colleagues Bianca Pereira and Venkatesh Gurram Munirathnam.
Everyone has challenges when navigating the footpaths of a city, or a university campus. The wheelchair user and the parent pushing a buggy may need access ramps, the runner may need an even surface, the user of crutches may need shorter street crossings, the person with low eyesight may need a good contrast between footpath and the street, whereas the blind may need tactile pavement. Led by the Access Centre, University of Galway staff and student volunteers met for a series of online workshops (given by myself) and on-site mapping sessions to learn about how different people use footpaths in different ways and how to capture and share data on footpath accessibility. Our university community is the first to map a campus and one of a number of local communities nationwide that are through collaborative action mapping accessibility in their localities, and in making this information publicly available using free open-sourced software. 
Croke Park -once the Preserve of the Young Abled Bodied Male.
Whilst I was attending the conference, I was struck by the fact of how the ethos and culture of the Gaelic Football Association (GAA) and the wider Irish society has over the last few decades dramatically changed for the better.
The GAA has since its inception been a powerful force for good within Ireland and the wider Irish diaspora. It was a key part of the struggle against colonialism, of overcoming a sense of backwardness and inferiority promoted by imperial racist British values, and of helping to imbue the Irish people with a strong sense of pride in their rich heritage of language, mythology, music, poetry, and of course sport.
It also helped foster and nurture in local communities across Ireland devastated by famine, poverty and emigration a strong sense of place, togetherness and purpose.
However the GAA also promoted a conservative patriarchy where leadership was almost exclusively the preserve of men and where sport belonged to young able bodied males. There was no place for those that were physically disabled on the playing field, nor of those that were LGBT nor of the ‘foreigner’, most GAA sports were not open to women, and over time it became strongly associated with the Catholic Church. But that has fundamentally changed over the last few decades and today portraits of female players populate the halls of Croke Park which has become a venue for conferences such as the one I attended this week promoting inclusivity, diversity and equality.
Thank you GAA.

My Mother was Brigid.


My Mother was Brigid.
Today is the first time a public holiday to celebrate a woman takes place in Ireland. St Brigid's Day honours the name of the renowned and powerful 5th century Christian female leader known as Bríd (Brigid/Bridget) as well as the ancient goddess of Celtic mythology. The former was associated with fertility, peace, intellect and farming and the latter with healing, fire and of poetry.
Women in ancient Celtic Ireland had strong influential and leadership rolea that we are only now recognising.
Check out my blog article on this hidden history of Ireland from 2010:
In an era when we have pioneering women all over the world taking up positions of leadership in so many sectors as well as courageous females successfully campaigning against sexual abuse, cultural/religious discrimination and misogyny in the USA, UK, South Africa, India and Mexico and as the patriarchal establishments in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, Iran, Belarus and Russia use violence and 'tradition' to undo the gains of feminism, we need to have more days like today to recognise, rediscover and expose the often suppressed role of half of the world's population.
It is time to end male-only control of civil and religious governance. Such a state of affairs has only led to never-ending wars, and has through the climate/biodiversity crises brought the world to the edge of global catastrophe.
Like so many of her generation, my dearly departed and much loved mother was given the name of the popular Irish saint at her birth.
Both the Christian female leader and pagan goddess would have been proud that Bridget Agnew, popularly known as 'Bridie', took on many of their legendary traits. She was a farmer in her youth growing up with dairy cows, sheep, vegetables, fruits and flowers on the small family farm in Monaghan and later in Louth. As a young woman she managed the family's grocery shop in Dublin's city centre.
Like the Brigits of ancient times, Mom suffered but overcame male violence and the threat of societal stigma to ensure that her family got on in life. She followed in the footsteps of other great women that also experienced severe hardship to support family and country. Her mother (my grandmother) Mary Ward was the only sister to seven brothers who had to look after all their needs and keep the small family farm solvent when most of them were 'on the run' as IRA volunteers during the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War. Mom's own grandmother (my great-grandmother) Elizia Eccles spent years as a prisoner of the British Crown in the infamous female jail in Armagh as a result of her involvement in the 'Land Wars'. As a young mother Eliza refused to accept eviction and destruction of her family home by the local absentee Anglo-Irish landlord and being forced to live on the side of the road. She joined others in standing up against state brutality and unjust laws.
They and so many others like them were typical of ordinary poor women in the 19th and 20th century Ireland but their names and stories hardly ever appear in any history book.
In spite of the fact that, though their status in state and religion was as the property of their husbands and fathers, they were the ones that were the birth givers, nurturers, educators, peace-makers, home-makers, clothes-makers and food producers without whom human society would never have existed. They suffered more discrimination and violence than the men of their class in Ireland but it only now being finally recognised that they too stood with their menfolk on the frontlines as fighters, logistic personnel, community organisers and civil rights campaigners against the forces of oppression during the British period and after Independence.
Today is a day my mom would be proud of.

The early 2000s XBox Game Parties are back!

Thanks to the wonderful generousity of Philip Burke, last night we brought a whole new and exciting dimension to the museum's Retro Gaming Zone by putting in place an Offline Multiplayer Gaming Network from 2002 based on the original Xbox console.

Before Broadband became available to most homes, the capabilities and architecture of the first Xbox generation facilitated young people gathering together over twenty years ago in one location with their own consoles and screens to play the same games using a 'local area network' (LAN).
Known as the Xbox 'System Link', it allowed up to 16 players to share the same game.

Our good chippie friend Brendan Walsh made a very long table unit that accommodates four large screens with four of Microsoft's first home video game console. Two of the screens were donated by Diarmuid Keaney and two by Philip Burke who also provided the Xboxes.

Based on the feedback from last night's young participants who gave the system a trial run, the Xbox LAN is going to be one of the most popular interactive exhibits that the museum will have on offer to visitors.

 The World has lost an Angel. Rest in Peace Carole Raftery

Carole was a special one, a person with a kind and generous nature who devoted the last twenty years of her life to working with asylum seekers in Galway. On a one-to-one level, she has done more for people staying in direct provision in Ireland than anyone else and as a result is loved by all of the thousands of people of dozens of nationalities that she assisted in their times of difficulty and transition.

Sadly she passed away on Thursday night.

In the summer of 2004 I called into the Eglinton Direct Provision Centre Salthill in my capacity as Education and Public Engagement Officer with DERI institute of NUI Galway to ask if I could provide computer training workshops to the residents. I did not know what to expect- it was an old hotel in need of major renovations and it had become home to a community of people that were new to Ireland and with whom I had never dealt with before. 
I was met at the reception by a lady with an enchanting smile and an infectious laugh that just radiated warmth and friendliness. I knew then that I would be staying for a very long time. 
In the summer of 2004 I called into the Eglinton Direct Provision Centre Salthill in my capacity as Education and Public Engagement Officer with the DERI institute of NUI Galway to ask if I could provide computer training workshops to the residents. I did not know what to expect- it was an old hotel in need of major renovations and it had become home to a community of people that were new to Ireland and with whom I had never dealt with before.
I was met at the reception by a lady with a gregarious smile and an infectious laugh that just radiated 
warmth and friendliness. I knew then that I would be staying for a very long time.
Carole, supported by the centre’s general manager Patrick McGovern, could not have been more helpful. I first provided courses off site. But within a year we had set up an inhouse computer room (an ‘Internet Café’ as it was called in those days!) populated with reconditioned computers sourced via DERI where residents could be trained in on software applications, communicate with loved ones in their homelands (early days of Skype), undertake online certified educational courses and finally be a location for us to provide weekly coding courses for both adults and children.
Then together working with the HSE (Brid and Maeve), the Galway City Partnership (Suzanne McNena and later Fiona Blaney), state agencies, the residents and others we set up the first ever weekly residents-management-external organisations liaison committee in such a centre, a library, created a residents’ managed website, organised a series of offsite events (fashion shows, children’s’ trips, sports activities) as well as in-house Christmas parties and receptions with mayors, TDs and government ministers…
So much happened due to Carole- she was the engine that kept things happening and moving along. Then in 2014 we secured and established a community garden for residents on old wasteland at the back of the centre with residents led by Lyudvig, with funding secured by Nollaig McGuinness(GCP) and with ongoing horticultural expertise from Kay Synott. The Eglinton front line staff of Patrick, Anne, Noel (RIP), Iva, Murdo, Lubo, Radoslav, Milada, Kevin, Sean… were always there to help out Carole and the rest of us.

Carole’s caring friendly disposition meant that she was looked on by most of the Eglinton residents in a very affectionate way. She was family. She was a listener. She was an advisor. Adults daily came to her for advice, and the kids called her ‘auntie’ such was her kindness and familiarity with them. On a weekly basis she chaired the Friday residents-management liaison meetings and ensured that the concerns of residents went to the appropriate authorities and were acted upon.

Carole devoted her life to others. With her big heart, kind nature and gentle soul, she was the fairy godmother and angel that will never be forgotten by all those who have had the privilege of knowing her and benefiting from her goodness. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.
Then together working with the HSE (Brid and Maeve), the Galway City Partnership (Suzanne McNena and later Fiona Blaney), state agencies, the residents and others we set up the first ever weekly residents-management-external organisations liaison committee in such a centre, a library, created a residents’ managed website, organised a series of offsite events (fashion shows, children’s’ trips, sports activities) as well as in-house Christmas parties and receptions with mayors, TDs and government ministers…
So much happened due to Carole- she was the engine that kept things happening and moving along. Then in 2014 we secured and established a community garden for residents on old wasteland at the back of the centre with residents led by Lyudvig, with funding secured by Nollaig McGuinness(GCP) and with ongoing horticultural expertise from Kay Synott. The Eglinton front line staff of Patrick, Anne, Noel (RIP), Iva, Murdo, Lubo, Radoslav, Kevin, Sean… were always there to help out Carole and the rest of us.
Carole’s caring friendly disposition meant that she was looked on by most of the Eglinton residents in a very affectionate way. She was family. She was a listener. She was an advisor. Adults daily came to her for advice, and the kids called her ‘auntie’ such was her kindness and familiarity with them. On a weekly basis she chaired the Friday residents-management liaison meetings and ensured that the concerns of residents went to the appropriate authorities and were acted upon. 
Carole devoted her life to others. With her big heart, kind nature and gentle soul, she was the fairy godmother and angel that will never be forgotten by all those who have had the privilege of knowing her and benefiting from her goodness. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam

Christmas 2022: The offspring of Santa Claus's favourite tree takes root in the soils of Terryland Forest Park!


A green Christmas gift to the people of Galway: Connecting Galway's past to Galway's future.
Thanks to the genoursity and foresight of Tuatha volunteer Ruan Kelly and his mom, we now have in Terryland Forest Park a sapling grown from a seed of the elm tree which has stood proudly for decades at the front of Galway city's oldest church that dates back to 1320.
Ruan's family for years had a lovely popular food stall at the St. Nicholas Market serving the most beautiful vegetarian dishes. Thankfully for us they managed to obtain some wind blown seed and then nurtured it in their home garden for many years.
Tuatha volunteers Andreas Almqvist, Victor Whitmarsh and myself recently planted this heritage sapling at a prime location in the grounds of Terryland Forest Park.
The church of Saint Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) now has a direct connection to the community-driven public park which serves as a key wildlife sanctuary and 'carbon sink' in the heart of the city leading the way in urban reforestation and in reversing biodiversity loss.
Hopefully the tree of St. Nicholas will bring some much needed heavenly protection to the Green Lungs of the city in the years ahead

An Irishman in New York City – The Big Apple is going Green!

New York City (NYC) is very special to me. As a city that I worked in during my student days at the height of the disco era it holds exciting memories of good times- for instance I saw the Bees Gees on stage in Madison Square Gardens during their Saturday Night Fever phase!

As a family we travelled to the Big Apple annually over the last few years except 2021 due to the pandemic. We were back this April and it was wonderful to see that, a place that had a reputation pre-2020 as “a city that never sleeps” finally, like so much of the rest of the world, woke up after its enforced COVID slumber.

Of course New York has serious social and economic issues which are well documented and highlighted by its own new breed of progressive radical politicians. But what fascinates me most with New York in the present era is its brilliant pioneering eco-projects. That is why I visit. Manhattan, whose streets were only a few years ago dominated by cars, is very quickly being immersed with a pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. The Gung-ho ethos in action. There is a greening of the city that is only made possible by grassroots NGOs, big business, large institutions and municipal government working towards a common goal of urban sustainability. If NYC can go green, blue and smart, then any city worldwide can. Shame on our Galway City Council for still promoting outdated and discredited transport strategies whilst failing to adequately protect and invest sufficiently in our public parks- the green lungs of the city.

More on the greening of the Big Red Apple in future postings.

But I also love visiting the USA to meet my American cousins. None more so than Ed Eccles, a true and honourable gentleman. New York suffered horribly during COVID with over 43,000 deaths. But Ed kept working throughout the crisis, travelling by train from New Jersey into the city on an almost daily basis working in maintenance at the New York University in downtown Manhattan helping to keep its systems operational.  Thanks Ed.

An Irish Christmas, Past and Present

Was Christmas more exciting for children and more satisfying for adults in days gone by? In my humble opinion, the answer at so many levels is an emphatic “No”. But it was different.

Part 1 – Present Day Christmas, A Time of Giving, A Time of Partying
Today people across the world of all religions and none joyously celebrate a secular Santa Claus rather than a religious Jesus Christ. It has become a season of lights, of work parties and most importantly it is the season of the child. The gregarious Santa the bearer of gifts, worshipped worldwide by pre-teens of all religions and none, becomes king of the festive season and the cold dark winter nights magically transform into bright multicolour light shows (though less so this year due to the energy crisis exacerbated by Putin’s brutal destructive invasion of Ukraine).

The spirit of caring and helping is symptomatic of a modern day Christmas with tens of millions of euros being collected for good causes every December in modern day Ireland. There is a wonderful emphasis on volunteering and taking part in fund-raising events to support those who are disadvantaged both at home and abroad. Inclusivity and diversity takes centre stage with children of special needs, disabilities, different ethnicity and faiths being given respect and prominence in the media such as on the Late Late Toy Show and other festive television delights. In Ireland the renowned generosity and openness of our people is there for all to see.

Colourful pop-up Xmas markets are hosted in every city enticing the visitor with amongst other things, live entertainment, an array of Irish handmade produce, fair trade gifts, mouth-watering craft beverages and tasty homegrown organic foods. Post-Ukrainian invasion, Irish towns and villages across the country are still decorated with colourful sparkling bunting and lights, and the gardens and buildings of some private houses look like Las Vegas at night-time.

Over the last few years, the Irish people have been encouraged to Buy Irish, Buy Local, Buy Sustainable, Buy Organic and support jobs and innovation in Ireland.
Thanks to online shopping and special festive product releases, the selection of toys for children as well as electronic gadgetry, clothes, toiletries and jewellery for adults has never been more wide ranging. A guilt-free happy consumerism ‘for good causes’ (family, friends, country, the economically disadvantaged and oneself) takes centre stage.

Post COVID, all age groups thankfully are once again celebrating at Christmas with their peers, from work parties for adults, to school concerts for children and parents, and clubbing/pubbing for the youth (& young at heart!). I myself enjoy organising a very special annual alcohol-free end-of-year multicultural party at my research institute paying homage to the rich culinary and other homeland traditions of our members. The cinemas, streaming and online media libraries such as Netflix as well as music services explode with much anticipated seasonal movies and music blockbusters. Though truth be told, the almost complete absence now of nightclubs in a Galway city famed for its ents is hard to believe.
Children happily write cards to Santa and more likely than not in Ireland he delivers their requested and oftentimes very expensive gifts. Boys and girls wake up early on Christmas morning to rush down to the tree to be overwhelmed with an array of toys. Thank you Santa!

But the most welcome characteristic of Christmas 2022 is the reappearance of the extended family coming together for Christmas. For the first time since 2019, parents, children, uncles and aunts are returning home from distant lands to spend the festive season with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, sons and daughters. In our case, our own youngest son Dáire came home to Ireland from Barcelona where he is studying medical science and in a few days I will travelling to the home of my youth in Carrickmacross to spend a few days with my brother Michael and to hopefully met a few friends from school days.

In times past.
Christmas during my childhood was more frugal, more serious, more religious, less bright and less festive than that of the 21st century. But it was nevertheless magical and wondrous for children then as it is for today’s young generation. But in a different way. In our household we try as with many other Irish families try to keep in 2022 some of these often millennia old traditions alive which have almost evaporated in the last few decades or where their true meaning has been for forgotten.
Part 2 to follow.
Part 2 to follow.

When We Were Young- the university campus of my Student Days

 In the 2022 Cois Coiribe Magazine out this week, there is an interview with me about life on the university campus during my student days. 
What an exciting time it was to be young! Ireland and the world were changing so fast and so many of us wanted to change it for the better.
We were the first in our families to go to third level college, to experience traveling across the European continent (by Interrail), to work summers in the USA (J1 visa programme), to get involved in international campaigns, to live in a city where young people were in the majority…
Lots of students of that era contributed so much good at so many levels to society- in the arts, sciences, business, education, politics, community…
Lots of great friends in the photo with Grainne McMorrow and myself leading a student ‘Education is a Right not a Privilege’ protest.
(p.s notice all the bikes!)
Hope you enjoy the read here.

Mr Origami- A Veteran Star of the Galway Science & Technology Festival’s Sunday Fair

After being absent since 2019 due to COVID, the Galway Science and Technology Festival Fair made a welcome return to the University of Galway campus. Approximately 22,000 visited this major event in the Galway calendar, showing the appetite that people of all ages have for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) in Galway city and county. This was probably our largest attendance ever!

Thanks to all involved- student volunteers, stand exhibitors, grounds staff...all working in unison with manager Anne Murray and the organising committee at the helm.
One person at the Sunday Fair who encapsulates all five elements of STEAM is Tom Cuffe, a true gentleman and Galway's master practitioner of the Japanese art of Origami.
For so many years his one-man stand to the right of the main entrance of Áras na Mac Léinn is one of the most popular stop-off points for visitors wanting an enjoyable hands-on experience. His display of a wide range of intricate paper sculptures is simply breathtaking.
Using folding techniques, and without the use of glue, markers or cuts, Tom helps people to transform simple flat square sheets of paper into birds, geometric shapes and so much more.
Photo shows Tom in a stunningly beautiful waistcoat standing beside my stunningly beautiful wife Cepta.

What can Galway Learn from Belfast?


Let's learn from the positive transformational Experiences of other Cities across the globe in how to make Galway a more livable, attractive, sustainable and biodiversity-rich city.

We in Galway can learn from the experiences and practices of other cities in Ireland, Europe and beyond in how to integrate Greenways and Waterways into urban infrastructure and in promoting sustainability.
All are welcome to attend (online or in person) the 'Urban Blueways & Greenways' seminar/webinar that will take place in the Data Science Institute (DSI) at the University of Galway at 11.30am (90min) on Wednesday November 23 when one of the speakers will be Michele Bryans will talk about the Connswater Greenway project and the effect it has had specifically on the east side of Belfast, and generally for the city. 
Michele Bryans is Chief Executive of East Side Partnership, where she has overall responsibility for management and strategic development.
The event is organised by the Galway National Park City initiative as part of the fantastic Galway Science & Technology Festival

Goodbye dear Friend

With the passing of Michael Tiernan, Galway has lost one of its truest gentlemen and I have lost a dear friend.

Michael was full of wit and charm, was kind and considerate, helpful to all, a lover of Nature, a strong advocate of community, had a grá(love) for the Irish language, and was a true custodian and teacher of traditional Irish heritage skills and crafts. 
For many years, Michael Tiarnan, Michael McDonnell and myself aided by Caitriona Nic Mhuiris of the Galway City Partnership worked closely together to rejuvenate the heritage of our area of Ballinfoile Mor, which was until a few decades ago a rural parish but was now an urbanised suburb of Galway city. We established Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden in 2010 followed soon after by setting up Cumann na bhFear (Men's Shed), the latter being a training centre for metal work, beekeeping, woodturning and other hands-on traditions.
We also worked closely together in the regular planting of trees and wildflowers in the ongoing transformation of pasture land into what is now Terryland Forest Park. Whenever there was a woodland clean-up, a group walk along the boreens(country lanes), a 7 Galway Castles Heritage Cycle tour, a removal of litter from woods, a sowing of vegetable seeds, or a mass planting of trees and wildflowers, the ever-smiling Michael Tiernan was one of the first to arrive and to offer his services.
Dearest Michael, mo chara, you will always be in our hearts and your legacy to your city and locality will last for decades to come

Graduation Day- The End of an Era for our son, for his university and for his parents

Cepta and myself were very proud parents when we stood beside our youngest son Dáire a few days ago as he graduated from his university.
He was one of the final class of students to graduate from the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway). From yesterday it will be known as the University of Galway/Ollscoil na Gaillimhe.
His graduation represents the end of an era for Dáire as he leaves Ireland in a few weeks to commence a postgraduate degree in bio medicine (human biology) in Barcelona. Like his older brother, he has been a gift from heaven to Cepta and myself over the last twenty two years. A cycling, field sports and travel enthusiast; a keep-fit advocate; a lover of aquatic life (thanks to Galway Atlantaquaria); a conscientious student; a kind person who surrounded himself at university by a group of very loyal good friends whom he has known from his early days in Coláiste Iognáid. We earnestly hope and pray that he will soon enter a new and exciting phase of his life by starting a long and successful career in hands-on bio science, a sector that will allow him to work with others to use new technologies to improve the health of people everywhere. 
It seems like only yesterday that Dáire was starting his first day in primary school (Scoil San Phroinsias). It was the same month that our oldest son Shane finished up in the same school to start his secondary education at St. Mary’s College. But it was 2004. How time flies!
For Cepta and myself his graduation brings to an end our involvement as parents in Irish education which began 26 years ago. 
So the day was one of great happiness but also tinged with a little sadness and a few tears.
I could not let the day pass though without taking a photo of Dáire sitting one last time in a Galway university lecture hall (and one in which I also sat as a student fadó fadó!); a photo of him using his student card to enter the campus library one final time and a photo of him joyously throwing into the air his graduation hat in the oldest part of our esteemed campus which dates back to the 1840s. Appropriately it was in the same decade that our university first opened as Queens Collage Galway that my maternal great grandfather Thomas Agnew became the only member of his family to survive the Irish Famine (An Gorta Mór). The rest of his brothers, sisters and parents it seems died from starvation and execution. He alone survived. As with many other Irish families, hunger, eviction and imprisonment at the hands of absentee landlords, the British judiciary and military is part of our history. But that is a tale for another day. Suffice to say that Dáire’s graduation is in my mind a thank you and a tribute to so many of our ancestors who experienced so much pain, death and destruction so that future generations of Irish men and women of all creeds and none could have a better life, one based on dignity, respect, justice and hope.
Finally I have to compliment Dáire for celebrating his graduation by taking part in a 80km charity cycle to the Electric Picnic.