This is the text of one of my previous posts that I think it is worth republishing at the time of the year that we celebrate the birth of a figure who preached tolerance, peace and love to all living things, but who ended up being tried as a threat to state and religion before being tortured to death.
Sadly his followers since have too often inexplicably used his name and teachings to kill
and maim on all continents and in all centuries.
Just as astonishing is the fact that a modern day Jesus Christ from the biblical lands of Israel/ Palestine would more than likely be killed in his mother's womb or die a very young man.
For an evil stalks that blood-stained land
masquerading on one side as "Allah" or "God's Will" and the other as "Defense of Democracy & Western Values" in a county known ironically as the 'Holy Land'.

Could the story of the Nativity happen today in Palestine? Unlikely.

For would a poor young unmarried teenage girl in the West Bank, who had just announced that she was pregnant, not become a victim of male ‘honour’?
Even if she did survive, she and her new husband would have found it extremely difficult to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem due to road-blocks and travel restrictions placed on local inhabitants by the occupying Israeli military; the shepherds would have probably lost their grazing lands to compulsory acquisition for the erection of the ‘Security Wall’ and Jewish colonial settlements and the three wise men from Iraq (Mesopotamia) would have being denied entry visas.
But even if the birth did manage to occur in Bethlehem, Israeli military border controls would have probably barred Mary’s family from crossing into Egypt to escape religious persecution thus sealing their faith.
Yet there is no doubt that an adult Jesus of the New Testament and of a modern Middle East would have ended their lives in a similar terrible fashion. For anyone preaching a message of peace and love, a call for people’s liberation from poverty and oppression, of respect for all races and creeds, of freedom for prisoners and an end to the oppression of women, would have made himself both an enemy of the state and of a religious fundamentalism that preaches intolerance towards non-believers and death to all blasphemers.
Yes, death would have come either from an American-made laser guided missile or from execution by a death squad after the customary gruesome torture.

Holding Out For A Hero

Jennifer from "Women's Heart" who does so much for women suffering from abuse

I recently had this letter published in the Galway Advertiser:
In a time of great economic uncertainty, our younger generation more than ever before need positive role models and motivational leadership to inspire them to work towards creating a better tomorrow for themselves and for society.

Therese Carroll leading a merry band on a community clean-up in Ballinfoile Park

Thankfully there are in Galway, as elsewhere across Ireland, legions of citizens who do serve as iconic heroes to our teenagers. Every week, ordinary people living amongst us give their time and energies ‘free gratis’ to work for others in sporting clubs, neighbourhood associations, arts organisations and community support groups. From the volunteers who can be seen training children on the playing pitch in all types of weather; to the providers of food and solace for our older people living alone, through to the members of An Taisce defending our heritage from the uncaring bulldozer. There are, too, the front-line state workers in schools, hospitals, police/fire stations and local authorities who take the term ‘public servant’ at face value. Let us also not forget that our city was a shining example to the world of community volunteerism in action during the Volvo Ocean Race.

Gort's Quadrilha Festival that was organised by local Brazilan volunteers

Sadly the demise of the Celtic Tiger has exposed the unpalatable truth that there are too many villains in high office who seemed to have viewed public service as an opportunity for personal gain rather than for serving the common good. Recent revelations have robbed us of sufficient examples of selfless heroism where one would expect to find it in abundance, namely in the higher echelons of state institutions whose raison d’etre after all is ‘to serve the people’.

Sharon McHugh with community volunteers at the first 'Glan Suas Gaillimh' clean-up

Yet the forthcoming budget presents a golden opportunity for TDs of all political parties to start the process of winning back public confidence by leading by example. Politicians must first tighten their own belts before asking the citizenry to make sacrifices in the national interest.

The success of the GAA in sport & culture is due to its army of parish-based volunteers

Over the last year this has not happened as it seems that too many of those that caused our recession are being protected by an ‘old boys network’. For how else can one explain why top civil servants, bankers and directors of state agencies, who resign after being found out to be incompetent, walk away with huge taxpayer-funded ‘golden handshakes’ and life-long pensions? Or why most members of the boards of discredited banks still hold office? Or why senators from a largely meaningless institution (Seanad) still manage to earn on average €47,000 annually in expenses alone? Or why former government ministers from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour can sit as public nominees on the boards of financial institutions earning up to €100,000 in yearly fees while failing to protect the common interest? Or why An Taoiseach is one of the world’s highest paid political leaders? Or why serving TDs refuse to give up ministerial pensions that can be up to €40,000 per annum? Or why top managers of public organisations are allowed to benefit from an annual lucrative financial bonus system for doing nothing out of the ordinary?

Thousands give their time every week to help bring some sunshine into the lives of asylum-seekers

Surely savings should be made in these non-essential areas first before cutting into the coffers of front-line services?

The trojan efforts of community organisations are now threatened by government cutbacks

Of course, there are conscientious politicians locally and nationally from all political parties (and none) who work tirelessly for their constituents and who energetically investigate questionable practices and expenditures.

Environmental campaigners such as 'Friends of the Forest' have campaigned for years against built development that destroys green spaces & wildlife habitats

But they need to unite and demand a full root ‘n’ branch reform of our political system in order to secure proper democratic accountability and regain the public’s trust.

Important School festivals such as the Galway Science & Technology Festival rely on voluntary personnel for survival

Our young people need patriots to emulate amongst our present political leadership rather than only amongst the men and women of dead generations who sacrificed so much to give us a democratic republic.

Learning about our seashore and its wildlife during the annual BeachWatch

Ironically it is the heroes of local communities who have worked so hard for so little pay who now face the axe as a result of the actions of property speculators, bankers and their bedfellows that have left us with national bankruptcy and a blighted urban landscape. Ireland's National Aquarium organises a series of annual public aquatic awareness events

Hopefully our TDs will ensure that the recommended An Bord Snip’s cuts aimed at young people will not be included in the forthcoming budget. For we must not deprive our children of a future by curtailing investment in schools when it is needed to provide the foundations for the much needed ‘knowledge-based’ economy that could make us world leaders in green and high technology industries. Nor should we slash the community-support schemes in deprived neighbourhoods that are the legacy of irresponsible development and planning.

St. Patrick's Day Parade, Galway city

Likewise government must give back to our unemployed people a sense of dignity by looking at productive alternatives to the ‘soul-destroying’ dole system such as creating worthwhile Roosevelt-era ‘New Deal’ public work schemes.

August Rural Village Fair in Monivea Co. Galway

Battle to Save Planet Earth starts today in Copenhagen

Mankind's Global Legacy?

Since the dawn of Civilisation, Mankind has nonchalantly wiped so many other species off the face of the planet. Now our arrogance & selfishness is putting the fate of humanity itself at risk.
Hence the nations of the world have come together in Copenhagen today to decide whether w...e will try to save our own skins. Our future though relies in reversing our almost genetic trait of treating other living things as only existing to serve our selfish interests. Our satantic power to destroy must now be transformed into a godly power to protect biodiversity. In saving others and their habitats, we will find the key to our own salvation.

Time for Minister for the Environment To Introduce Refundable Charge on Drink Cans & Bottles

The recent ‘Gaillimh Suas Glan’ initiative coordinated by Galway City Council's Environmental Officer (Sharon Carrol) and City Parks , in conjunction with our group, the ‘Friends of the Forest’ was a very good example of the benefits of council-public co-operation. We are delighted with the response of Galway residents to the first monthly clean-up of the city’s green spaces that proved such a fine . Over a two hour period on a Sunday in November, thousands of pieces of litter were gathered from one section of the Terryland Forest Park. Beverage cans represented the largest class of items collected at 35% followed by drink bottles at 32%.
We are concerned though that legislation has not been introduced by the Minister of the Environment for a refundable levy on beverage cans and bottles. For there is a growing incidence of litter, particularly discarded drink containers, being dumped in our green areas that if left unabated will lead to an environmental disaster. Not only is this type of refuse undermining the beauty of our natural landscapes but it is also leading to a serious contamination of our waterways and the destruction of wildlife habitats.
Since July 2007 local community activists have been lobbying the Minister to introduce this levy. This policy has had considerable success elsewhere in Europe particularly in the Scandinavian countries. 90% of beer and soft drinks containers are returned in Sweden while the market share of non-returnable bottles in Finland is deliberately kept small at 5%. Furthermore, such a monetary pay-back scheme existed in Ireland until a few decades ago.
It is a win-win system for all concerned – local communities, local authorities, the environment, waste management and of course wildlife.The monies saved could be used to encourage greater public use of wonderful green spaces by funding the provision of park wardens, regular outdoor family events and park facilities such as picnic areas, community gardens and eco-learning centres.
But as of yet we have had no positive response from Minister John Gormley. His department recently informed us that the long overdue consultancy report on waste management is expected before Christmas. We earnestly hope that a Minister for the Environment, who is also leader of the Green Party, will take onboard a grassroots initiative that if implemented will help dramatically reduce litter pollution in Ireland.
Sadly it has been government’s own policies that have contributed to the polluting of our countryside, an associated rise in anti-social behaviour and an extra burden on our health services. Over the last decade, the unprecedented growth in off-licences selling cheap alcohol has led to an epidemic in under-age outdoor binge drinking that has undermined community spirit, destroyed peoples’ lives and polluted parks. It is time that the government introduced laws that will clean up the mess created by their own policies.

Catholic Church Protected Evil & Condemned Children to Suffer Years of Sexual Abuse

Today was a landmark day for victims of the Catholic Church in Ireland with the publication of an independent Commission's report into child abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin from 1974 to 2004.
The report clearly shows that there was a deliberate cover up of clerical abuse by the Church authorities. The bishops saw their primary goal being to protect the financial assets and reputation of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. They gave no recognition of the sufferings being done to the children by their members. Those courageous few adults that tried to expose the evil being done by priests were condemned as liars and misfits. Time and time again, the ecclesiastical authorities malevolently moved the perpetrators away from the public glare to church positions in others parts of the country or abroad allowing them to continue to commit crimes against yet more innocent children.
'Above Suspicion'
The hierarchy openly felt that they were superior to the state and not accountable to civil law. Such a exalted opinion of themselves was probably shared by the majority of the populace for much of the 20th century who treated clerics as above suspicion because they were adjudged God's intermediaries. Certainly the police and other state institutions agreed, colluded with the cover-up and undertook no action when asked to do so by the victims.

Lack of 'Christianity' in the Catholic Church
As a practicing Christian and a lapsed member of the Catholic Church, it still astonishes me that the world's largest Christian church became so corrupt; that it deviated so much from the teachings of Christ; that it promoted, perpetuated and protected evil while preaching a message of 'love and peace to all mankind'; that clerics who took vows of chastity metamorphosed into serial paedophiles and rapists; that bishops, who were supposed to be followers of the Christ that lived the life of a pauper, lived in 'palaces' and called themselves 'princes'; that most priests and bishops, if not themselves practicing child abuse, knowingly turned a blind eye to these horrible acts and saw their role being to protect the perverts. By their actions and in-actions, they condemned generations of innocent children to a life of 'Hell on Earth'.

Condemned by the Bishop of Galway
In the early 1990s, I myself was publicly condemned by the then Bishop of Galway for allowing the sale of condoms on my pub premises. I was dismissed as a wrongdoer, as corrupting the morality of youth. The bishop said that I was ignoring a central tenet of church law which was that sex existed for 'procreation' and not for 'pleasure'. A few months after these attacks, the bishop fled Ireland when it was found out that he had a teenage child by his mistress! He was the first senior cleric to be exposed for having a sexual affair.
Click here to read more on this story.
I actually had and still have great respect for Bishop Casey. He was a good man on so many levels and I sure don't believe that having consensual sex with an adult woman is wrong.
Anyway, his actions paled into insignificance compared to what soon followed. It was only after the Casey affair, when the spotlight was turned for the first time onto the private lives of clerics, that it became public knowledge that hordes of rampant paedophiles were operating inside hallowed walls.
Today's report though dealt solely with a 30 year period in one archdiocese in Ireland. We can be sure that such abuse happened from the time that the Catholic Church began to monopolise power in the country (19th century) and when it was given responsibility for the physical and spiritual care of young people and the right to establish orphanages and schools. It is also true that this evil was exported to all areas of the world where Irish priests established missions, schools and churches.
This clerical wickedness has done so much to undermine the great acts of goodness and charity carried out by other Irish nuns, brothers and priests. But power and privilege as well as blind obedience to their whims by the populace turned too many of the clerics into monsters.

Time for Renewal
The Church must immediately undergo a period of renewal and return to living the teachings of Christ by fully embracing Liberation Theology and promoting Environmentalism. The Papal Nuncio, who refused to reply to the letters from the Commission, must be expelled from the country; the Pope must issue a public apology to the people of Ireland; the hierarchy should leave their 'Palaces' and cease to be known as 'Princes' or be addressed by aristocratic titles such as 'Your Grace' or 'Your Eminence'; celibacy for clerics should be optional and women should be admitted to the priesthood. For a male-only institution, which is against all the laws of nature, obviously became a breeding ground for paedophilia.

Thierry Henry- Death of Chivalry & the White Knight

I use to look on Thierry Henry as a giant in the world of sport. He seemed to embody all the attributes of the 'gentleman footballer'-debonair, chic, knowledgeable about so many topics, always so calm and elegant in the heat of the fierce battles that took place on the playing fields of Europe and beyond.

He was an icon that you were proud to tell your children to emulate. A consummate professional.

But his behaviour on Wednesday against Ireland smacked of all that is corrupt in the cynical world of professional sport. His deliberate double handling of the ball broke all the rules of the game. But it was compounded by his celebrations after Gallas scored and his lying immediately after the game when he stated that he didn’t know if he had touched the ball.

‘Sportsmanship’ was dealt a death blow by the whitest of all knights. Good has become evil. For Henry has given the green light to children and everyone else that the ‘ends justifies the means’. In a period when people are disgusted with the antics of politicians, priests, bankers, business leaders and top civil servants who preach of honesty, personal sacrifice and decency while milking the system for personal gain, we need true role models more than ever before. But the French captain has dashed our hopes that football is still a beautiful game played by heroes.

By his latest deeds and words, he wants us now to recognise lawbreaking as a virtue.

Of course the stance of FIFA has only reinforced this criminality. Their motto of ‘Fair Play’ was exposed as a facade when they seeded at the last minute the teams in the World Cup play-offs in order to ensure that the large wealthy countries secured an unfair advantage in getting through to the finals in South Africa. They lied too when they said that there was no precedent in re-staging the Ireland-France game. In 2005, they had the Bahrain – Uzbekistan match replayed due to a disputed penalty decision by the referee. However this time the world football governing body wants the money-generating galaxy of French stars to go forward at the expense of the minnows of Ireland.

Henry and FIFA together have shown that power and wealth take precedence in the world of sport just as is so often the case in the world of politics and business. Both have 'blood money' on their greedy hands.

Community-Inspired Campaign To Clean Up Galway City's Forests & Parks Gets Underway!

Our Environmental campaign group ‘Friends of the Forest’ have joined forces with Galway City Council in order to implement a new initiative designed to secure public participation in regular major monthly clean-ups of the city’s public spaces.
While we fundamentally disagree with local authority officials' still existing plans to build a road through this most precious urban forest park that will all destroy its proposed development as an important ecological corridor , nevertheless we see no reason why we should not work with City Hall to increase public use of the forest and to help eliminate the waste crisis that exists in this important natural heritage area.There is a serious and growing litter problem in parks and other green spaces across the country. However, because of the local authority recruitment embargo, ordinary citizens must re-discover 'civic pride' and take up the challenge of helping to keep our valuable green resources clean in order to protect our increasingly threatened wildlife and to encourage greater use of woods and parklands by schools, arts groups and local communities.
Inspired by the international ‘Beach Watch’ project organised in Galway by Atlantaquaria (Ireland's National Aquarium), Friends of the Forest held a series of meetings with City Hall’s Environmental Education Officer Sharon Carroll and the Superintendent of Parks Stephen Walsh on implementing regular high-profile mass clean ups that would each month focus in on different public spaces across the city.The result is that the first of these major clean-ups known as ‘Glan Suas Gaillimh!’ (Irish for 'Clean Up Galway!') operating under the auspices of Galway City Council will start at 2.30pm on Sunday November 15th in the Terryland Forest Park.
Follow-on clean-ups will include Merlin Woods, Barna Woods and our seashores.
It is hoped that residents of all ages from all across the city will take part in this major partnership initiative that could make such a positive contribution to our city’s image and well-being.So well done to Sharon McHugh & Stephen Walsh for bing so supportive and proactive in doing every thing possible to ensure the success of Glan Suas Gaillimh!
Sharon in particular has gone over and beyond the call of duty to involve children in the clean-up as a continuation of her work with schools on the Green Flag initiative This litter drive will represent an important step in re-engaging the people of Galway with City Hall’s environmental policies. We are also now hopeful that Council will re-introduce an annual eco-programme for Terryland Forest Park and elsewhere that will include family tree planting days, community arts events and educational nature tours. Continued tree planting is urgently needed to offset global warming with our forests acting as ‘carbon sinks’. As well as being major biodiversity zones, forests also serve as important passive/active amenity areas.
The Friends of the Forest are also continuing their three year lobbying of the Minister of the Environment to introduce a national refundable levy on all drink containers purchased at off-licences and other retail outlets. As discarded cans and bottles are probably the number one cause of litter in Ireland, a refundable levy would have a beneficial impact on our environment by providing an economic incentive for people to keep Irish parks, roads, and waterways clean.
Such a monetary pay-back scheme existed in Ireland until a few decades ago and is very successful today in other countries.
The monies saved could then be used to encourage greater public use of our wonderful green spaces by funding the provision of park wardens, regular outdoor family events and park facilities such as picnic areas, community gardens and eco-learning centres.

'Communities United Against Cuts' Protest

At last, those working with communities are starting to unite and fight back against proposed government cuts that will devastate neighbourhoods and led to ghettoisation and a social meltdown that will undermine all the good work done over the last decade by organisations such as Galway City Partnership.
Why should the innocents particularly the disadvantaged be forced to suffer and to pay for the sins of the coterie of selfish 'me fein' property speculators, bankers, planners, top civil servants and certain politicians that got us into the recession that Ireland is now facing?
Galway city recently saw a fantastic colourful crowd of over 1,000 community activists of all ages protest against the threatened state cuts to the community sector. It will be the first of many such rallies over the coming months.
See my previous article entitled Economic Meltdown Could lead to Social Meltdown

Horse-Drawn Cart on a Busy City Road!

On Sunday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see a man standing up on an open cart steering its horse through a Kirwan Roundabout populated by speeding cars driven by aggressive drivers.
I just had to take this brave man's (& horse's) photo! So I flagged him down & got talking to him.
A true gentleman, his name is Michael Cunniss & he has worked with horses all his life.
Only a few decades ago, a sight of a horse-drawn cart would have been a common everyday occurrence in Irish towns. Now, our modern roads are just too dangerous not only for horses, but for pedestrians & cyclists. So much for progress!!

Arrogance of the Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue defies belief!

(Click on picture for larger version)
It is not surprising that John O'Donoghue and his government defenders can use in his defense that he abided by parliamentary rules thereby breaking no laws in the huge expenses that he accumulated over the last few years that was paid for by the ordinary tax-payers of Ireland.
But hasn't the ruling establishment since time immemorial written the laws to protect their own selfish interests? Morality and ethics sadly does not figure high on their agenda.
Yet even still his behaviour goes way beyond these low political standards.
For what can you say about a servant of the state that reclaimed a miserly stg£1 donation that he made to Unicef while on a visit to Scotland? Or who stayed at a 5 Star hotel and spent 65,000Euro of taxpayers monies with other TDs while attending a Conference in South Africa on Combating Poverty?!
Due solely to public anger at these unethical abuses, he has been forced to announce his resignation, the first time that this has happened to a person in such high political office since the foundation of the state?
A honourable act on his behalf? Not bleeding likely? For he has postponed his resignation until next week knowing that the Green Party at their convention over the weekend may decide to pull the plug on the government leading to the dissolving of Dail Éireann and the announcement of a general election. Clever man that John is, he knows that, as he will be still hold the office of Ceann Comhairle, he will automatically be given a seat in the next parliament hereby avoiding the anger of the people.
Selfish interest comes before civic duty.
What is the morality and sense of patriotic duty in this Green-Fianna Fáil Government. Let all true civic-minded people in both parties stand up and be counted. Demand an immediate end to politicians and top civil servants filling their pockets at our expense and a return of integrity and honesty to Irish politics.

Lisbon Treaty Does Not Deliver the Reform to the EU that is Needed

Irish Agriculture on Its Knees
acknowledging the progress initiated by the European Union in such areas as human rights, the environment and ending the military conflicts between states that once was endemic across much of Europe, nevertheless there are serious discrepancies in other policy areas that are incorrectly promoted by Irish EU proponents as success stories.
Ireland’s traditional agricultural and fishing communities have been devastated by EU membership. In a time when food security is becoming increasingly important due to the sharp rise in world population and the looming global energy crisis, the numbers working on Irish farms and at sea are only a small fraction of pre-1973 levels while more and more of our food is imported from countries who let their own people starve, destroy biodiversity and drain off scant water resources so that they can export agricultural produce to Europe and elsewhere. The Common Agricultural Policy has done nothing to develop sustainable agriculture. With its rich grasslands, Ireland could become an international centre for organic agriculture, something never grasped or understood by successive Irish government.
Likewise, the depletion of our fish resources and the livelihoods of our once proud fishing communities were caused by the free rein given by the European Commission to the foreign fleets allowed inside our waters.
These problems are not unique to Ireland though. Other EU countries have suffered similar fates.
I have only recently returned from southern Portugal where many villages lie almost devoid of young people, where the fish-processing industry of Portimao has been obliterated and where farmers are giving away the fruits of their labour in spite of the unprecedented demand from the burgeoning tourist sector of the Algarve. This is because the local hotels and supermarkets chains import food produce from Africa and elsewhere rather than give a living wage to indigenous producers.Portugal is also where I saw many young teenage Eastern European girl prostitutes along the roadsides, the victims of vicious pimps and human traffickers who have become beneficiaries of the easing of border restrictions within Europe over the last decade.
It is obvious that the European Union needs radical reform. But not what is proposed by the anti-democratic Lisbon Treaty, which as our EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, said would be rejected by 95% of European citizens if they were given the right to vote on it.

Click here to see my article written immediately after the Irish electorate last year voted No to the Lisbon Treaty.

Economic Meltdown Could Led to Social Meltdown with the Return of Ghettoisation to Ireland

I recently had the following article printed in the Galway City Tribune newspaper

Community support cuts and the abolition of the Department of Communities, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs will have devastating negative effects on urban neighbourhoods.

Due to EU directives there have been moves over the last decade by European governments to tackle high levels of social exclusion particularly in urban areas caused by decades of bad planning and developer-driven economics. The aim was to promote sustainability, integration and inclusivity. These policies are now threatened by An Bord Snip Nua which recommends huge cuts in community support programmes that defy all logic to those working with grassroots organisations and will promote rather than end ghettoisation, anti-social behaviour and social alienation.

Now that Ireland is experiencing the cold winds of mass unemployment caused by the economic meltdown, we need more rather than less policies designed to engage with people suffering from social disadvantage.

Providing young people in particular with meaningful state-supported jobs designed to help their neighbourhoods is a more productive alternative than the disillusionment of the dole both for the individual and for society.

It is interesting to note that the only government department recommended in the report for abolition is the Department of Communities, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs. This stance betrays the moral and economic philosophy of the author and is sadly reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher when she famously said, “There is no such thing as society, there are individual men and women and there are families.”

The establishment of this government department a few years back was a belated recognition by the state that measures to combat endemic poverty and social exclusion for both rural and urban communities needed to be coordinated by a one-stop-shop central agency if we were to counter the negative impact of urban sprawl, the destruction of rural society caused by the collapse in the family farm infrastructure and if Ireland was to avoid the huge urban ghettoes and deep social divisions of other European countries such as Britain and France. The department’s Minister, Éamon Ó Cuív, is one of the few politicians in Dáil Éireann that has a strong ideological and practical understanding of the concept of ‘community’ in Ireland. While the department’s programmes such as RAPID are painfully slow in securing their objectives, nevertheless they are starting to made a difference in terms of regenerating areas by integrating the planning, investment and development available for local communities. Now years of hardwork by activists and officials could all go up in smoke.

Famous Irish Quotes & Sayings - Part 12

What is Irish diplomacy?
It is the ability to tell a man to go to Hell,
so that he will look forward
to making the trip!

Enjoying the Beautiful Green Rural Landscapes of Galway City

Recently I co-organised, on behalf of Galway City Council and the Galway City Community Forum, a cycle tour of the stunning beautiful rural countryside of Galway City as part of Ireland's first National Cycle Week.Entitled 'Off the Beaten Path' the event was actually a journey of discovery for many of its participants. For in spite of urban sprawl, construction of major busy four lane road systems, destruction of wildlife habitats, growing pollution and the economic collapse of Irish agriculture over the last few decades, there are still some very awe-inspiring lowly populated green landscapes lying within the boundaries of Galway city.We ignored the hustle and bustle of housing estates, shopping centres and highways.Instead we travelled along secondary roads to enjoy the sights and sounds of an increasingly threatened but none-the-less vibrant countryside dominated by small farms and natural features such as lakes and bogs.Commencing on Bóthar na Choiste (Irish = Coach Road), I brought participants through townlands whose ancient names reflect the respect that Irish people once had for Nature -Ballinfoile (Town of the ridge), Ballindooley (Town of the black lake), Killoughter (High Wood), Menlo (Small Lake), Coolough (Hollow at the base of the cliff)...
We travelled over hills, along botharins, past abandoned farms, ruined castles, karst outcrops, bogs, lakes, dykes, turloughs and meadows.
The trip included a picnic in the grounds of Menlo Castle.
To liven the journey up, I recounted tales of headless horsemen, ancient battles, haunted ruins, tragic drownings, lost gardens and of the great forests and the once proud wolves that once characterised the area.

Though I can have ongoing battles with City Hall over a myriad of community and environmental issues, nevertheless I can only heap praise on the city officials who contributed to the success of this event, namely Therese Carroll, Michael Forde and Cathy Joyce.

I enjoyed leading the trip so much that I am organising a similar excursion again on Sunday August 30th as part of Ireland's Heritage Week. But more importantly, the event has only made me even more determined to increase my efforts with local communities to protect the vestiges of our once glorious natural environment, with its rich native flora and fauna, from greedy developers so that future generations can enjoy Ireland's green beauty.