London Developers support National Park City status for Galway

 

Martin Gettings, Group Director Sustainability,  Canary Wharf Group

“One of the most inspirational forward-looking meetings ever to take place in Galway in the modern era was recently organised by the Galway National Park City initiative for the benefit of the councillors and officials of Galway City Council. Chaired by Micheál Ó Cinnéide, ex director of the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) , and formally launched by Mayor Colette Connolly, presentations were made from an array of world renowned London-based developers as well as a senior official at Cardiff City Council; the chief executive of World Urban Parks and former senior government official in Australia; a former European Union official recently involved in the development of the Green Deal; and the founder of the London National Park City. All these experienced and highly respected individuals spoke of their support of the ‘National Park City’ designation and the benefits that it could bring Galway. In a week when governments, businesses and civil society are coming together at COP26 in order to tackle the interconnected crises  of Climate Chaos, biodiversity loss and pandemics which are the defining characteristics of our age, it is recognised that the main battlefront in this war to save the planet lies not in the shrinking tropical forests, the melting ice-caps or the vast expanse of the warming oceans but rather in the cities where over 50% of the human population now live. For cities consume over two-thirds of the world's energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. And it is coastal cities such as Galway that are most at risk from the devastating impact of global warming, such as rising sea levels and powerful seaborne sto

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned that we are still on track for a climate catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions as there is a huge gap in leadership on tackling the crisis.

The Galway National Park City initiative could play a part in overcoming this serious deficit. It principles are available at www.galwaynationalparkcity.com. It represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to harness the fantastic range of talents and world class expertise found amongst the stakeholders of our great city, to reimagine our urban landscape, and to be a leader and a role model for other Irish cities to emulate. But time is our enemy in this fast changing world. Galway City Council must now grasp the opportunity that it is being presented to it by a coalition of champions drawn from education, business, scientific research, technology, architecture, arts, youth, health and community interests and to follow the lead of national, regional and local governments stretching from Cardiff to Adelaide in supporting this new and inspirational designation.”

-Brendan Smith, convenor, Galway National Park City initiative

 

 

Extracts from the speakers presentations

 

“The National Park City is a positive vision for the future that can bring people together to make life better in cities… with nine out of ten Londoners supporting it…(it is) not a reward for what is already there but a challenge and incentive for coming up with a plan for current and future initiatives…to share best practice with other cities across the world… a reference for inspiring development and is part of the Mayor Sadiq Khan’s environment strategy to make London 50% green…people have been working for decades to make the city greener, healthier, wilder, to get more people out of doors but the National Park City status is about joining up and connecting everyone from local residents to developers towards shaping a new identity for London and Londoners to have our city known not just as a cultural or financial centre but also as an ecological centre where 15,000 species live and nearly half the city is physically green and blue.”

- Daniel Raven-Ellison, founder of the London National Park City

 

 

“Quintain develops and invests in property in the UK and Ireland, most famous for our 85 acre site at Wembley Park and previously Greenwich Peninsula. We look at the National Park City as a positive thing and an asset…(it is) about development that creates new natural landscapes… helping to link new green spaces with existing green spaces in North West London…Key aspect of the London National Park City is in connecting peoples…creating new greener and wilder spaces and championing them…In the National Park City “Developers’ Forum”, we have other developers that are like-minded and abide by the same principles.”

-Julian Tollast, Head of Masterplanning and Design, Quintain

 

 

Matthew Weaver

 

Fabrix is a property investment and development business, specialising in bringing value to underutilised and overlooked urban spaces. Through a fresh approach to finance, technology, and architecture, Fabrix is pioneering a highly flexible model of urban development….We combine the highest standards of design and environmental performance to create healthy, desirable spaces that are future-proofed for the ever-changing urban landscape…COVID has brought into focus the need for healthy workspaces…including (the) introduction or re-introduction of nature into the urban landscape…National Park City Developers’ Forum is helping to have the principles of making city greener, healthier and wilder happen…the National Park City principles were never seen as a hindrance, in fact the principles have guided us (and) ensured that our plans have received a high level of support from…investors… residents, business and community organisations.”

-Matthew Weaver, Corporate Investment Manager, Fabrix

 

 

Natasha Zlobec  
 

“Sectorlight works predominately with developers but also…connecting people with places in a meaningful way be it in a home, office building or in the neighbourhood of a city…noticed a huge enthusiasm amongst our clients for the National Park City movement…public mindset has changed due to lockdowns. Connecting to outdoor green space and to nature has become much more important…months of lockdown has fuelled demands for more green spaces in built environment…developers across all sectors (are) now interested like never before in greener and healthier spaces for a way of…attracting new talent and…engaging their audiences…our clients…interested now in what is happening not only with their own buildings but also in the wider area in the public realm….We are working with entire districts to entice people back… (there is an increased) drive to create more attractive, more engaged public spaces… a demand for green and blue spaces that bring people together to enhance wellbeing…People do not want their environment to be grey and dull, they want green, blue and vibrant public and private spaces that work for nature as well as for people.”

-Natasha Zlobec, Creative Director, Sectorlight and strategic advisor to the Developers’ Forum of the London National Park City.

 

 

“At AECOM, we believe infrastructure creates opportunities for everyone – uplifting communities, improving access and sustaining our planet…The National Park City movement is not a signal to the world that we are restricting development… (rather it) provides a framework for providing higher quality development…it is (about) greener, healthier liveable climate-resilient cities…While it may be a challenge to the ‘development community’ as a whole, (nevertheless) it is one that we need to rise too.”

-Michael Henderson, Director of Sustainability, AECOM Europe.

 

 

Emily Hamilton

 “The National Park City Developers’ Forum has allowed developers to come together to share their experiences…Developers have seen that making a place greener, healthier and wilder can be an incredible catalyst to making places more liveable. ‘Development’ and National Park City principles…are very much linked…Investors from sustainable investments funds …such as pension funds...are wanting to invest in greener projects.

The Forum is about developers working outside their red line boundaries, about getting developers with plots of land beside each other to speak to each other and (develop greenways and green connections)…The growing Sustainable Finance Investment landscape is a huge opportunity for Galway through the Galway National Park City to get the best investment for your city.”

-Emily Hamilton, head of Environment Protection, Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance (ESG) at Savills Investment, and co-founder of the Developers’ Forum of the London National Park City

 

 

“I have a background in government, in creating partnership models and (being a) world commissioner on protected areas. The question for Galway and for all of us is ‘Do you lead or do you follow?’…It was not government that created the ‘national park’ (idea) but an individual with a vision. There was no legislative basis for it. So why would you do it? … For the value that nature gives us in our health (is) obvious…in the 1980s national parks started to occur in cities…they were a community-driven process…I was involved in the ‘healthy parks, healthy people’ initiative… but what has shifted now is the move towards a true partnership (between governments and)…communities…enabling and empowering them”

-Neil McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer of World Urban Parks

 

“In the last 30 years we at the Canary Wharf Group have transformed this east end site into Europe's largest ever regeneration project… We recently became the UK’s largest sustainable developer due to the fact that we have delivered over 11,000,000 million square feet of sustainably certified floorspace; have not sent any waste to landfill from our managed areas for over a decade; use only renewable electricity; are committed to net zero carbon by 2030; and are close to nature with the first developer-led Biodiversity Action Plan in the UK (2004)… we have supported the bid for London National Park City status since day 1!...The pandemic for all its ills has has had the effect of galvanising our resilience and heightened our understanding that, when it comes to global challenges, we stand as one. It has started to re-forge our relationship with the built environment. People are starting to realise, more and more, the effects that ‘place’ can have, not only on their own health and wellbeing, but on local and global ecosystems…To tackle ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ we need ‘Sustainable Development Action’. And we have aligned our strategy with the sustainability development goals (SDGs)…All of this means that we can now raise green finance based on our existing green portfolio and our future plans…We see the aims of the National Park City as in absolute alignment with this. In fact it underpins this and gives a purpose for delivering the SDGs and a mandate for Green Finance and Social Bonds.

Is National Park City status a barrier to development? No! It’s the opposite. It’s an enabler!!

When a city has National Park City status it drives quality planning and development which takes into account the needs of all its residents, large and small

We use the equation, more biodiversity = more green space = more nature = more happy people = more attraction = more investment, and so on…

A city with a National Park City status helps create the conditions for places, people and nature to thrive. We truly believe that the… collaborative…culture that built Canary Wharf is the same that we need to address the climate and biodiversity crises…We’ve entered (an era) where climate action, wellbeing and resource use aren’t just another problem, they are going to be the reason we’re all in business.”

Martin Gettings, Group Director Sustainability,  Canary Wharf Group

 

 

“The Green Deal is the first time that the environment is at the top of European Union’s agenda and at the heart of economic development...its lynchpin is the Climate Law agreed by all governments in June 2021. 75% of the EU’s population live in cities. So anything that works -new ideas and new approaches - in a city on environmental and climate change can help all of us…The EU’s new City Action is “to support, promote, and showcase 100 cities in their systematic transformation towards climate neutrality and to make these cities into experimentation and innovation hubs for all cities. ” It is about how sustainability needs a transformation of our mind set but also the direct engagement of its citizens …bringing people together from all walks of life and enables them to inspire and learn from each other and how they can act as volunteer climate change ambassadors. This is what the Galway National Park City (is all about)…it is a movement from the ground up of committed people, volunteers who are engaged…in the green transition…it clearly fits into the EU Green Deal because it is really where citizens are trying to create a green deal, a local green deal for Galway…it is direct evidence of citizen engagement,

If the Galway National Park City was recognised in the Development Plan by Galway City Council, I would feel that it would be a hook to apply for EU funding because it is a (true) recognition and evidence of citizen engagement…”

-Kathryn Tierney, ex official at Directorate General Environment of the European Commission and a policy coordinator for the European ‘Green Deal’

 

“Cardiff Council passed a motion in January to support the development of a National Park City for Cardiff..it has widespread endorsement from all the political parties… Cardiff is one of the greenest cities in the UK and wants to be a carbon neutral city by 2030…Community engagement is critical for the council and the council sees the National Park Movement as a tool for engaging with a wide range of stakeholders…council wants to be a faciliator for the movment. The council is experiencing budget reductions but we don’t feel that we will be hostages to fortune and are committed to building the momentum, the campaign and in achieving the status of National Park City.

-Jonathan Maidment, Head of Parks & Harbour Authority, Cardiff Council

Galway city's Woods, Parks and Green Spaces finally Get Wardens!

 
I am happy to report that the on-the-grounds staff that our precious forests, parks and green spaces have so desperately required for decades has finally being sanctioned and funded by City Hall.

Last Christmas, I was devastated by the damage (see photos above) done to Terryland Forest Park by a group of anti-social elements who ripped up trees and fences for firewood, covered its woods with cans, bottles and other detritus, and intimidated visitors. (Read my article that I wrote in response to this destruction which appeared in the Galway Advertiser on January 7th). 
Our community campaign that followed demanding the establishment of a unit of full time on-the-ground wardens for our city's parks gathered public support and the agreement of councillor Imelda Byrne to put forward a motion for such new staffing to occur. 'Maith thú' Imelda.
Her motion was unanimously passed by her fellow councillors at a meeting of Galway City Council last Spring with an agreement that the funds would be allocated in the 2022 budget. This was confirmed last night at a finance meeting in City Hall.
Admittedly, the new three wardens are to be known as 'community wardens' with a remit for parks, rather than as 'parks wardens'. But it is a good start and we can work on the detail later. In a time when urban forests are so crucial in tackling Climate Change, acting as carbon sinks and restoring biodiversity, that is a day fro Galway to be proud off. Thanks Imelda Byrne, all city councillors and officials, and of course veteran environmental forest park activists such as Car Stanley, Colin Stanley, Ryan Crowell, Dan Clabby, Peter Butler, Martina Finn; Galway City Community Network representatives such as Eleanor Hough, Ann Irwin and Derrick Hambleton and so many others.
There is also good news that our other demands for a Biodiversity Officer and a Tree Officer have also been sanctioned. The former post is to be filled next month and the latter in February. Onwards & Upwards/Beir bua!!!

Celtic Origins of Halloween



Halloween's Pagan Celtic Roots
Today Halloween is joyously celebrated by children across the Western world.
There is a popular misconception though that Halloween is a modern American invention. Not so. Though our American cousins have to be congratulated for making this very special festival a fantastic children-centric occasion nevertheless, as with so many other things that have brought great happiness and joy to humanity for millennia, its roots lay firmly in the culture of the Irish Celts!
(Photo shows my son Dáire & 'friend' that was taken a good few years ago)

Yet in the modern repackaging of this ancient pagan festival, many of the fine traditions that were once such an integral part of the festivities have disappeared. For instance our Celtic custom of placing human skulls with candles at entrances to domestic dwellings in order to ward off evil spirits has been replaced by lights in hollowed-out pumpkins! Likewise the visits of children dressed up in ghoulish and macabre fancy dress going door-to-door looking for gifts of sweets and fruits is a poor substitute for the former visits of the ghosts of our ancestors who used to drop in once a year on October 31st for a nice meal with their living relatives (we would prepare a place for them at the dinner table).
It was said too that live captives were placed in wicker cages above huge bonfires and burnt alive (as portrayed in the classic British 1970s cult film “The Wicker Man”). But such horror stories were originally spun by those nasty Romans when they were at war with the Celts. So it was probably nothing more than malicious enemy propaganda. After all, what do you take us Celts for? Barbarians?!!

As with so many other annual family festivals, Halloween has become so commercialised by 'Americanised' popular culture that its true origins and religious aspects have long since being forgotten.
So here is the true story of 'Féile na Marbh' (Festival of the Dead'):

Christianisation of 'Samhain'
Yet modern-day Americans were not the first people to re-brand the festival. In the middle ages the Catholic Church created the Christian festival of 'All Hallows Eve' or 'All Souls Day' when people were asked to remember and pray for their dead family members.
This event was superimposed onto the ancient pagan Celtic festival of 'Samhain' which marked the end of the summer season characterised by heat & light and the coming of the dark cold barren winter months.

Celtic Festivals
Typical of many agricultural societies, the Celts had four major annual festivals based on the cyclical differences experienced in the changing seasons of nature and their corresponding weather patterns. The other three were 'Imbolc' (spring) 'Bealtane' (summer), 'Lugnasa' (autumn). The latter was associated with harvest time.

Bon(e)Fires
Samhain was a time when food was hoarded as people prepared for the cold season when no plants grew. While many domestic animals such as cattle were brought indoors for the winter, others were slaughtered and most of their meat salted for storage whilst the remainder was cooked for the big feast. As with all Irish festivals, communal bonfires were lit as people gathered together at warm fires to socialise and to give thanks to the deities. Bones of the slaughtered animals were thrown into the fire as symbolic gifts to the gods, an action which give rise to the term ' bone fires' or 'bonfires'. Embers from this sacred fire were taken by local people to their households to light their own domestic fires.

Antecedents to the Pumpkin & 'Trick or Treat'
But Samhain was also a time when creatures from the supernatural world could enter into the world of mortals. 'Fairies' (Irish='Sidhe' as in ‘Banshee’/‘female fairy’) and the spirits of the dead would walk the earth. Many of these beings were benevolent and the spirits of dead ancestors; so families laid out extra food and set aside a table space for their ghostly visitors. This metaphorised into the custom of today's children dressing up as demons and witches & calling to the neighbours' houses to receive presents.
But there were spirits that came on the night of Samhain that were malevolent. Candles were placed in skulls at the entrance to dwellings as light was feared by these dark foreboding creatures. This protection against evil became transformed in modern times into the positioning of hollowed-out turnips and later pumpkins with carved out faces and internal candles at windows and doorways.
Centuries-old party games of trying to eat an apple lying in a basin of water ('bobbing') or dangling on a string tied to a ceiling ('snapping') are still popular festive past-times with Irish children.

The apple is probably the most common edible fruit in Ireland. It was also strongly associated with the spirit world and the fairies (sidhe). In the Arthurian legends, the mystical island of Avalon is where Arthur (of the Celtic Britons) obtains his magical sword Excalibur and where he is taken at the end of his life by the Lady of the Lake and her female fairy companions (banshee). Avalon comes from the Welsh word afal or Irish aball.

Fortune Telling at Halloween
Central to the Irish Halloween is the eating of a fruit bread known as 'Barmbrack' from the Gaelic term 'Báirín Breac' (speckled or spotted top). It is still a popular festive food today.
Various symbolic pieces were placed in the dough before it was baked such as a ring, a pea and a stick. When an item was found in the slice when it was being eaten, it told of the future that awaited the recipient. For instance, the 'ring' signified marriage within a year; a 'stick' represented a bad or violent marriage; the 'coin', wealth and a 'pea', a long wait before marriage.

Irish Export Halloween to North America
The Irish emigrants of the nineteenth century introduced Halloween and its rituals to America. Within a few decades, the festival was transformed into the fun and games event of today.

Significant Irish Contributions to World Culture:
No. 7642- 'Dracula'

Considering our national passion of asking the dead to resurrect themselves & drop into the house for a late night meal & party, it should come as no surprise that the world's most well known vampire Count Dracula was the creation of an Irishman, the novelist Bram Stoker in 1887.
His inspiration though was Carmilla, a book about a lesbian vampire created naturally enough(!) by another well known Irish writer, Sheridan Le Fanu.

(Photos from Macnas Halloween youth parade in Ballinfoile, Galway City)

Climate Emergency requires a United Front of Galway’s Stakeholders

 

Drowned Galway photomontage by Joe Lee, a HopeItRains project for Galway 2020

The recent United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report signed off by 195 governments is a truly terrifying read. It makes clear that Global Warming- characterised by more intense and frequent heatwaves, storms, rainfall, flooding and melting glaciers as well as rising sea levels- is due to human activity. It further stated that no part of the world is safe from its consequences and that these changes are accelerating.

 

July was the hottest month since records began and possibly in over 125,000 years. Temperatures have risen by an average of 1.1 degrees since the Industrial Revolution started. A rise of 2 degrees can be expected and up to 3-4 degrees within the next few decades if urgent action is not taken. Such an increase would make life unbearable in many parts of the globe, causing large scale population migration from areas worse affected as people desperately try to escape to places more climate stable leading possibly to conflict within and between nations. Antonio Guterres, the UN’s secretary general,  stated bluntly that the report is a ‘Code Red for Humanity’.  

 

What is particularly poignant is the fact that the causes of these catastrophes, namely greenhouse gas emissions from carbon (deforestation, fossil fuels etc.) and methane (livestock, landfills etc), have actually doubled since the IPCC gave its first report in 1990 and nineteen years after the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change signed by 154 states agreed to drastically reduce these gases.

 

Linked into Climate Change is the collapse in biodiversity worldwide. The UN has stated there is an urgent need to rewild and restore an area the size of China to meet commitments on climate and help save one million species from extinction.

 

The failure of the global political system to honour these commitments represents a serious dereliction of duty as governments everywhere prioritised ‘development’ in the form of jobs and economic growth with little concern for the repercussions. Many politicians and others wrongly portrayed environmental protection as a barrier to progress. Unfortunately this outmoded and dangerous philosophy still holds a powerful influence today in our city and in our country.

 

For the people of Galway, Climate Chaos is right here, right now and it’s personal.

Most scientists accept that COVID (and other recent pandemics), which has caused so much disruption and tragedy to our lives, was due to wildlife with their naturally occurring viruses being removed from their ever-decreasing habitats and sold in food markets.

Many Galwegians use to regularly take holidays in sunnier Mediterranean climes. But this region stretching, from Spain to Turkey, is now suffering from unprecedented heatwaves, wildfires and floods, with Sicily experiencing the hottest temperature (48.80 degrees) ever recorded in Europe.

 

Lying at the political and economic heartland of our European community, Germany and Belgium were devastated in July by flooding which Belgian Minister Annelies Verlinden described as "one of the greatest natural disasters our country has ever known.” It will cost Germany €30 billion to repair the damage caused. Australia and western USA, where so many of us have family members, are caught up in a vicious cycle of  menacing heat, drought and fire.

NUI Galway’s Atmospheric Research Station at Mace Head in Carna recorded its highest ever atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

 

Gordon Bromley, climate scientist of NUI Galway, warned that Galway will suffer badly from the rising sea levels and coastal erosion which is already happening, is irreversible and is worsening.

 

But the battle to save the human species from self-destruction and to stabilise Climate Change will not be lost or won in the shrinking tropical forests or the warming acidic oceans. It is in the cities that the ‘call to arms’ has to be heard and heeded, planetary saving technologies forged and the necessary strategies implemented.

Cities consume two thirds of global energy supply and generate three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions. It is where 56% (and rising) of the human population live and represents the primary markets for the meat and palm oil products responsible for 80% of rainforest loss.

 

Galway’s geographical position of expansive Atlantic shoreline and fast flowing high volume Corrib waterways, its high level of oil-based energy consumption, its car-centric transport infrastructure, and its urban sprawl means that it is especially vulnerable to the new climatic conditions. Unless there is a drastic cultural shift locally, it is questionable whether we can meet the required targets of a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

 

In a time of such a crisis, the need for visionary political leadership and a unity of purpose from all sectors of local societies is called for with everyone being given an opportunity to play their part and where policy makers are leading by example. ‘Think Global, Act Local’ has never been more important.

 

Is this happening in Galway? On the positive side, Galway City Council has done some great things this year. It passed a motion to declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. Additional state funding, from a government which is prioritising Climate Change, has meant that cycle ways along main roads are being bult, construction will take place of a pedestrian/cycling bridge from Woodquay over the Corrib as the terminus for the Connemara Greenway, the position of a city biodiversity officer has been advertised, the All Ireland Pollinator Plan adopted, Nature for Health and Love Your Beach programmes rolled out, planning is underway for a flood protection scheme and a decarbonisation zone in the university catchment area has been mapped out.  Mayor Colette Connolly and Deputy Mayor Martina O’Connor have publicly declared their intention to make Galway a National Park City, a designation that represents a wonderful opportunity post-COVID to reimagine our city and to build back greener and bluer.

 

But sadly there seems to be a reluctance by some in City Hall to move away from a ‘business as usual’ model and have meaningful engagement with those from Civic Society who represent a new way forward. The Climate and Biodiversity Emergency motion has a proviso that such a declaration should not interfere with development; policies adopted in 2002 to create a safe city wide pedestrian-friendly cycling-friendly infrastructure and wildlife corridors (linking parks and waterways) have yet to be implemented. Planning for new ‘living’ inner city villages of affordable housing occupied by families and peoples of all ages has not been prioritised. Hydro power as a renewable energy source is not being tapped and there is no plan to ensure that we know what the city’s current (baseline) carbon usage is. The call for the transformation of the Dyke Road (that is below water level) into a largely unique cycling-walking route through a riverine and woodland zone has been ignored.   The council recently failed to buy privately-owned grassland within Terryland Forest Park, which was advertised for sale at €30,000, thus impacting negatively on the city’s capability of planting new woods as per government policy and undermining over twenty years of volunteerism in developing this park as a ‘carbon sink’ and ‘wildlife sanctuary’. There is a refusal to give our main public parks the legal status necessary to protect from being used for future built development.

Some senior officials said that a proposal to include a Galway National Park City (GNPC) designation into the Galway City Development Plan 2023-2029 was ‘premature’ and could interfere with ‘development’ whilst one councillor thought it was ‘airy fairy’.

 

The GNPC designation with over 100 champions reflecting a wide strata of local society, with President Michael D. Higgins as patron and Duncan Stewart as its national champion is clear, with a mission statement for our beloved city “achieving a Greener, Bluer, Healthier, Safer, Beautiful, Sustainable, Equitable, Harmonious and Wilder environment where people value, benefit from, and are strongly connected to the rest of Nature.” It is about promoting a strong sustainable development ethos in our buildings and neighbourhoods as much as in our open green spaces. Its champions and their organisations are already working together on new exciting cross-sectoral eco-projects around concepts such as the Outdoor Classroom, rewilding, the Circular Economy and renewable energies. It is attracting offers of funding for eco programmes from philanthropists and corporations.

When London became the world’s first National Park City, its Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “This status is a truly fantastic reflection of our vibrant and dynamic city and our amazing network of green spaces, rivers and natural habitats…(will)…help tackle the global climate emergency and ecological crisis and address the decline in biodiversity.”

Lord Benyon, UK Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, stated last month that the National Park City model fitted in with government policies, offering an opportunity to deliver a quantum shift in improving access for all to green spaces, protecting more natural landscapes and helping in nature restoration as well as in benefiting the mental and physical health of citizens.  The government of South Australia wants its capital Adelaide declared a National Park City in time for COP26. Environment and Water Minister Derek Spiers said this designation was a call to action for the people of Adelaide, was leading to increased community involvement particularly in restoring and in enjoying the natural world. Kathryn Tierney, GNPC European Champion and a former policy coordinator at the Directorate General Environment of the European Commission, pointed out that the Galway National Park City, with its grassroots and wide cross-sectoral champions membership base, is the embodiment of  the EU ‘Green Deal’ in action at a local level.

 

The Climate Chaos that is upon us will impact on all aspects of our lives. Galway can only become resilient and ensure a viable future by an active partnership of all key local stakeholders. ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’. The city belongs to us all and local government cannot do it on its own. City Hall has to reach out and embrace partnership not ignore it. The GNPC membership represents the widest potential collaboration possible with an array of expertise and talents that should be enthusiastically welcomed and be put at the service of our citizenry. Membership of the ‘coalition of the willing’ includes world renowned scientists, engineers and others involved in habitat restoration, renewable energies, climatology, green innovation, waste reduction, marine science, smart technologies; medical professionals who are using Nature as a ‘green prescription’; teachers, artists, community volunteers and waterways advocates; youth wanting to play their part, have their say and implement their ideas; architects promoting new sustainable built development; and businesses using green jobs and eco-industrial processes such as SAP whose strategy is to be carbon neutral by 2023, and Thermo King whose parent company is committed to reducing its customers’ carbon emissions by one gigaton by 2030 – equivalent to 2% of the world’s annual emissions.

 

Thankfully the council has agreed with our request to participate in a September meeting addressed by Daniel Raven-Ellison, founder of world’s first National Park City, and internationally-renowned UK-based developers (who are supporters of the London National Park City). It will be chaired by Dr. Micheál Ó Cinnéide, ex director of the EPA and of the Marine Institute.

According to legend, opening “Pandora’s Box” unleashed evil forces into the world. But ‘Hope’ remained and Hope springs eternal.  Yet we may still feel that the small population of Galway can have little impact on tackling global Climate Chaos. But not so. For we only have to pay heed to what EU President Ursula von der Leyen, quoting American anthropologist Margaret Mead, said at the  launch of Green Week 2021, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” 

 

This article first appeared in the Galway Advertiser on August 25th 2021. I wrote it in my capacity as  Convenor, Galway National Park City initiative


Joe Murray - One of life's gentlest and kindest gentlemen is no longer with us. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam

Today I attended the funeral mass for Joe Murray, a true friend and comrade from my student days at UCG.
Joe was our local postman when I lived then with student friends in a rather famous/infamous(!) rented house in Hazel Park. Many's the night Joe would pop in for tea and a political chat when he was out campaigning/leaflet dropping for the Labour Party or earlier in the day after he had completed his postal rounds. It was usually a few hours later that he would cycle off to his homeplace in Shantalla happy in the knowledge that a few of us around a table in a rented house in Galway had analysed and come up with solutions to all of the problems of the world!

We struck up a friendship then that has remained strong over the decades in spite of years apart. He was a man with a heart of gold, an analytical brain, a soft sense of humour and a gentle smile. Friday before last was my final visit to Joe in hospital when we were making arrangements for his bike to be brought to Richard Walsh's Woodquay for repair before I was to cycle it to the Eglinton Direct Provision Centre where it was to be handed over to an African friend of mine that needed it. This was Joe's request to me. He wanted his bike, that was his mainstay for so long, to be given to a person that could really benefit from it. During our bedside chat, after we finished watching the Lions-South Africa test match (he loved rugby with a passion) on his iPad, Joe proudly showed me the letter that he had recently received from our mutual friend President Michael D. Higgins.
It meant so much to him. For Joe was one of the reasons why Michael D got elected multiple times as a Galway councillor, as a TD and finally as President of Ireland. As a life long Labour Party member, he was one of those dedicated, reliable, hardworking, solid foot soldiers that was out there every night and day, hail rain or snow, ensuring that Michael's philosophy of liberty, fraternity and egalitarianism were known.
Our President, being the loyal caring person that he is, was in the church today along with his darling wife Sabina. Neither of them have ever lost contact with their old friends from the early days of struggle and campaigning when we were all (from an array of left wing parties and from no parties) fighting for a better just and more humane world.

Along with chatting to Catherine Connolly TD, councillor Níall Mc Nelis, Andrew Ó Baoill and Nuala Nolan, it was especially lovely today to see so many of the activists from the time when Michael D. was first elected to Dáil Éireann attending his funeral to give their respects- Niall Kelly, Liam Boyle, Pat Hardiman, Peter Kenny, Liz Hackett, John Cunningham.... Joe's friends have been his friends for so long- it was a tribute to his warm endearing character.

Joe was an old style socialist and trade unionist who wanted to ensure that the working class overcame centuries of exploitation to secure political power. It was therefore appropriate and a tribute to Joe’s life-long and deeply held political beliefs that musician Greg Cotter gave a wonderfully powerful moving rendition in the church that he loved of the classic American socialist song ‘Joe Hill’ "...In every mine and mill, Where working men defend their rights, It's there you'll find Joe Hill...". It brought tears to my eyes as it reminded me of many battles fought but not always won.
My last campaigning meet ups with Joe were in December/January when he was gung-ho about ensuring our fellow UCG progressive Mike Jennings got elected to the NUI Galway Governing Body.
Joe knew for many months that he was dying from cancer. We had our last coffee together in June in a café near the hospital where he had just come from one of his regular clinical visits. After the banter and the sharing of stories, I told him that he would of course feature in my book coming out next year on “UCG Student Days & Nights”. The book will be richer for his presence.

The photo is one I took of Joe in 1984 at his summer graduation in University College Galway (UCG). No wonder he has such a broad smile, for Joe and his fellow students made history that day being the first class to graduate from the part-time evening BA programme. This degree was a trailblazer for the university, as it represented an early attempt to reach out to ordinary working people from office, factory and shop in providing third level qualifications.

Rest in Peace Joe

 

-       Brendan Speedie Smith

The Lady with the Voice of an Angel that sang of a Green Blue World devoid of stupid Wars has left us. Rest in Peace dearest beautiful Nanci

 

 
Rest in Peace dearest beautiful Nanci.
 
I am so saddened to hear of the death of the American country and folk singer Nanci Griffith. A passionate environmentalist, pacifist and progressive activist, her version of 'From A Distance' (see lyrics below) captured my heart and soul when I first heard it in 1988. It just blew me away. Her unique voice put meaning, belief and sincerity into every single line of that song that inspired me then and still does today.
33 years ago she gave us all a reality check; told us all to look at the Earth from outer space; to see its defining characteristics of beautiful blue oceans, green lands and snow capped mountains; to look at what each of us have in common rather than differences of skin colour or creed; to question why we are endlessly fighting each other in stupid wars fueled by greed and hate; and asked us to unite together to end hunger, disease and environmental destruction.
In 2021, Nanci's message was never more important.
There are a few lucky ones probably reading this post that had the privilege to hear her sing, when she first came to play a concert in Galway, in an informal musical session in the legendary and sadly missed Hogan's Bar in Bohermore where Richard poured the best pints of stout and Bridie served the best quiche.
Godspeed Nanci.
FROM A DISTANCE
The world looks blue and green
And the snow capped mountains white
From a distance
The ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight
From a distance
There is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It's the voice of hope
It's the voice of peace
It's the voice of every man
From a distance
We all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns,
No bombs, and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed
From a distance
We are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope
Playing songs of peace
They are the songs of every man
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance
From a distance
You look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance
I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting's for
From a distance
There is harmony
And it echoes through the land
And it's the hope of hopes
It's the love of loves
It's the heart of every man
It's the hope of hopes
It's the love of loves
This is the song for every man
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance