Brian Cowen Gives Graveside Oration at my Uncle's Funeral

A few days, my father's oldest brother sadly passed away.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Michael Smith was a true gentleman, full of wit and charm, loved by his community, neighbours, friends and family. He was a great Gaelic footballer in his youth, a man that was throughout his long life a great traditional musician, a well known stalwart of Comhaltas na Ceoilteorí Éireann, a lover of the Irish language and a great community volunteer in his home village of Cloghan in county Offaly.
I was deeply moved when a lone accordionist played a medley of Irish tunes at the graveside.
Uncle Michael was brought up on a small farm with none of the trappings of wealth. My grandfather Patrick was a farm labourer that had to hire himself out as a ploughman, drover and thatcher to put food on the table. A great all-rounder. But poor like many of his generation.
As with all of his brothers and sisters, Michael worked hard to break out of the poverty trap. As a youngster he spent summers digging turf on of the family holding in what was then the vast Bog of Allen. He found employment at Ireland's first milled-peat fired power station at nearby Ferbane when it was opened by the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) in 1957. It used the turf from the local bogs. He worked himself up to become a senior manager and stayed with the organisation until his retirement.
My grandfather was a great IRA man who fought in the War of Independence. He was captured in a shoot-out during an ambush of a British army unit and spent 2 years in a military prison, securing his freedom only after the ceasefire and the ending of the war. Like the rest of his family, he fought on the losing Republican side during the Civil War.
Like many republicans of that era, the Smiths went with DeValera when he left Sinn Féin and established Fianna Fáil as he continued a campaign for a better more egalitarian more just society that what appeared in the form of the Irish Free State. Uncle Michael followed the family tradition and believed wholeheartedly in the early traditional radical values of the party, that was then the main party of the rural and urban working classes.
He became an important organiser of Fianna Fáil in Offaly over the years and helped out Brian Cowen from when he started out on his long political career. Michael stayed a party loyalist to the end of his days.
Hence it was no surprise when our former Taoiseach gave a deeply moving oration.
My mother's family also came from the same nationalist, republican small farming tradition that went with DeValera in the 1920s.
Yet to be honest, I had to hold back my anger at the funeral, and not say anything that would disrupt the sorrowful occasion and upset the mourners. For I, like the majority of people in this country, am livid at the way Fianna Fail has brought ruination to the country in order to bail out banker friends and property speculators who epitomized greed and arrogance. It seemed for Cowen and co that favours to rich friends mattered more than duty to the citizens of Ireland.
So I was genuinely shocked during the funeral at seeing how many people clapped and chatted with Cowen as if he was some great hero.
I stayed away from the man. But I was in the minority.
For ever since my youth I have been highly critical of a party that betrayed many of its radical founding principles especially with the setting up of 'Taca' by Charles Haughey which soon led to Fianna Fáil becoming hijacked and corrupted by a parasitical elite of 'nouveau riche' property developers, absentee landlords, land-grabbers and carpetbaggers who saw the party as a way of using political connections to secure lucrative government contracts and land re-zonings. There was no real sustainable national wealth created by these men.
There were and are honourable people in the organization such as Eamon O'Cuiv and Noel Treacy. But not enough.
I am proud to say though that most of my brothers and my sister concur (I think!) with my political beliefs and saved me from being viewed by the older family members as the lone radical black sheep. But even most of these cousins have changed their perceptions as the reality of the causes of our recession have been exposed and the betrayal by Fianna Fáil to all those of previous generations who suffered death, imprisonment and torture so that future generations could live in a self-governing democratic society free from the evils of enforced emigration, privilege, absentee landlordism and poverty.

Tradiitonal Craftmaking, Growing Food Locally, 'Meitheal' & Community Self-help Alive & Well in Galway City

Photo: Local children painting the kitchen/storage/toilet container at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

A edited version of my letter below appeared in this week's Galway Independent:

Community Self-reliance

Photo: Local Volunteers in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

Dear Editor,

In response to the recent letter from Councillor Nuala Nolan, members of the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden would be delighted to transport seaweed from Ballyloughnane strand to the Ballybane Organic Community Garden. Since last spring, we have secured council permission to harvest some seaweed from the same beach for use as a sustainable natural organic fertiliser in our own green facility.

In the spirit of the traditional Irish ‘Meitheal’, we previously made available indigenous marl to our Ballybane colleagues for the construction of their outdoor piazza oven which represented a small gesture of thanks to a community garden that has inspired so many others across the city.

Photo: Local resdients & members of 'Lisbrook' Asylum Seekers Accommodation Centre working in Community Garden

The destruction of the Ballybane garden shed was sad news particularly for all those hard-working volunteers who have given their time, energies, skills and vision in helping to improve the quality of life within the Ballybane region. We too have experienced a rise in anti-social behaviour with severe damage recently to our garden’s poly-tunnel.

Photo: Volunteers involved in the Big Spring Clean-Up adjacent to Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

On Sunday last, fifty volunteers participated in a clean up of the adjacent woodlands that led to three vanloads of rubbish being collected that was the end result of fly-tipping, bush-drinking and the illegal erection of barbed wire- barriers by unscrupulous owners of emaciated horses who are denying other residents the use of what is after public lands. All such problems are endemic across Ireland with citizens feeling increasingly angered and betrayed by the failure of government to systematically prosecute the perpetrators.

Photo: Galway City Deputy Mayor Frank Fahy surveying foundations of wildlife pond at Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

So now is the time for city neighbourhoods to increase co-operation and share resources as well as to face up to both mindless local vandalism and the national economic cutbacks that is a consequence of the ‘me-feinism’ ideology of greedy bankers, property speculators and political cronyism that could destroy a growing sense of togetherness that has been evident within many urban suburbs over the last few years.

Photo: Jack O'Connor preparing the stone for the planned drystone wall at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

Likewise, we need more than ever before to look at our ‘own doorstep’ and ascertain what human and physical resources exist amongst us that can improve local services and facilities.

Photo: Building a 'Living Willow Tunnels' at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

For instance the Ballinfoile Community Garden has benefited from the oftentimes dormant talents of residents who have in our case built a performance stage, pathways, raised beds and willow/hazel fencing; laid out a wildlife pond, planted native hedgerows and introduced young people to an almost extinct folk knowledge of medicinal properties of common herbs and old techniques of vegetable/fruit planting.

Photo: Volunteers planting Willow Tree woodlands at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

To facilitate both individual and community self-reliance, we are supporting the first public meeting of Grow It Yourself (GIY) in Galway city which is taking place at 7.30pm on Tuesday May 17th in the Menlo Park Hotel. So anyone who has an interest in growing one’s own food in anything from a small window sill container to a field, should attend this event which will be launched by famed GIY founder Michael Kelly from Waterford.

Photo: American students from Galway University (NUIG) helping out at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

Photo: Sellling the Fruits of the Volunteers' Labours at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

April Fools' Day in Ireland- Is the Joke on Us?!

Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar

Is the Joke on the Irish people as the new Irish Fine Gael/Labour coalition government breaks public promises made only a few weeks ago just prior to the General Election?!

Yesterday it was yet again more monies to the failed Irish banking sector as the government gave over 24billion euros. This represents the fifth bailout of these incompetent financial institutions that has led to the debt enslavement of the Irish people for at least another generation. The fifth bailout in just over 2 years when we were told at the first bailout in 2008 by the then Fianna Fail/Green government; that the 5billion euro given from the Irish taxpayer then would be the last, & would represent the cheapest bailout by a state in the history of the world. Now we find out that, at a present total of over 70billion euros, it is the most expensive ever in the history of the world!!

This Fine Gael/Labour lot is behaving like the last bunch.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said in February that Labour in government would not take orders from the European Central Bank (ECB) when the interests of the country was been undermined. He called on the electorate to trust Labour to change the terms of the EU-IMF bailout package and stated bluntly It’s Frankfurt’s (ECB HQ) way or Labour’s way”. Check Irish Times article.

Leo Varadaker said, on behalf of Fine Gael, on Feb 10th:
"Any bank coming to us looking for more money is going to have to show how they are going to impose losses on their junior bondholders, on their senior bondholders, and on other creditors before they come looking to us for any more money. Not another cent."

Read the Irish Examiner for more.

So yet again, these mysterious bondholders (i.e. financial gamblers)
are protected whilst those others responsible for the crisis- the politicians, bankers and property speculators - still enjoy ostentatious lifestyles while we continue to pay for their greedy ways.
I thought that this new bunch of ministers were supposed to bring morality, justice and public service back into governance?