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

UCG Student Days & Nights– The wonderful Stories that must be told!

 

Dancing in the Aula on a Friday night, UCG, 1979

A few weeks ago, I completed a month’s leave of absence from my employment at NUI Galway. I took this break for two reasons:
(a) to concentrate on promoting the ‘Galway National Park City’ initiative and particularly to lobby the councillors of Galway City Council to include this designation within the Galway City Development Plan 2023-2029 in order to make our city a flagship for sustainability and environmentalism that other cities would emulate. In spite of the support of many councillors (Niall Murphy, Imelda Byrne, Owen Hanley, Frank Fahy, Terry O’Flaherty, Deputy Mayor Martina O’Connor and Mayor Colette Connolly), that did not happen. A motion to have it deferred to a later date was passed. This is no bad thing as it will give time to prepare further to ensure that City Hall adopts an initiative that has been endorsed by President Michael D. Higgins (our patron), Duncan Stewart as our National Champion, Kathryn Tierney as our EU champion, and over 100 champions from across all sectors of local society. But more on that anon!
 
(b) to start the research for a book that I have postponed for far too long about student life in Galway during the period of 1975-1981. Over the years, I have gathered together a wonderful collection of photos and stories of that exciting era which I and so many of my good friends were part of.
Thanks to the introduction of state grants for third level education I was part of a first generation of young people from small farming and working backgrounds who got the opportunity to go to university and the technology colleges. We had no idea what to expect. But the change to us personally and to Irish society was monumental. We arrived to what was essentially a large but quiet town in the West of Ireland as starry-eyed young teenagers leaving home for the first time. It was my first time west of the river Shannon.
 
As the days, weeks, months and years rolled by, we immersed ourselves in the freedoms offered as the campus became an exciting spicy melting pot of radical priests, nuns, monks, capitalists, liberals, communists, socialists, republicans, artists, musicians, army officers, scientists, innovators and so much more. Every issue under the Sun (& beyond) was debated and argued at meetings, over coffee in the daytime and over pints on Thursday nights. By the time most of us had left UCG (later NUIG) and RTC (GMIT) a few years later, it had been transformed beyond recognition into a vibrant cosmopolitan city pulsating with social, political, economic, scientific, technological and artistic activity, made possible by the youthful creativity of its new population of students and those that came to work in its new factories, arts centres and expanded hospitals. We felt like pioneers opening up a new frontier where anything was possible and very little was out of bounds. 
 
In our time in Galway we were also part of the first wave of Irish youth that discovered the newly unfolding Global Village as we spent summers working as far afield as Atlantic City, New York, San Francisco, Paris, Amsterdam and Munich; or travelling by ferry, train, and camper van to Athens, Berlin, Belgrade, Kabul, Kathmandu and Marrakesh. When we didn’t travel abroad for the summers, we hitchhiked to the many open air musical festivals that started to appear across the country including Lisdoonvarna, Ballisodare, Slane to Carnsore Point. 
 
In UCG, we studied hard and attended lectures given by inspirational lecturers (Michael D Higgins, TP O'Neill, Pete Smith, Emer Colleran, Gearoid O'Tuathaigh, Iggy O'Muircheartaigh, Chris Stevens, Gerry Humphreys, Nicholas Canny, Mícheál Mac Craith, Breandan Mac Aodha, Ollie Ryan, Rosaleen O'Neill, Owen Bourke, Jim Gosling, Kevin Boyle, Tony Finan, Frank Imbusch, Leo Smyth, Bill Shade, Jim Flavin, Ma Heavey, Tom Boylan, Jimmy Browne, Hubert McDermott…); played sport or organised a plethora of cultural events; often protested, marched and occupied college or state buildings as we passionately fought against discrimination on all fronts both at home and abroad; on Thursday and Friday nights we socialised in the city centre, danced in the nightclubs of Salthill and partied (no drugs, no violence) late into the night in student houses across Galway. 
 
So it is long past the time that the seriousness, inventiveness, madness and humour of this previously unwritten part of modern Ireland was captured and made known to present and future generations.
I made friendships then that have lasted a lifetime. I owe it to these good folk to ensure our times together will not be forgotten.
Publication Date: 2022.
 
p.s. Photo was taken at a Friday night Disco in the Aula section of the Quad in UCG. This was a regular event organised by the Students' Union. No alcohol was served. Students just went along to dance the night away!
p.p.s. If anyone feels they may have photos/images or some interesting stories to tell related to the period 1975-'81, please do not hesitate to contact me

Boycott Israel until it ends the Illegal Occupation & Colonisation of Palestinian West Bank & East Jerusalem.

 


Well done to the American company 'Ben and Jerry' for ending the sales of its ice creams in the Palestinian lands that are recognised by the United Nations as occupied and colonised by Israel.

Israel is a racist apartheid state. The same type of boycotts that took place against apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, which I was part of, need to be introduced today against Israel.
It was abhorrent to read that Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations and the US, Gilad Erdan, said that the company’s decision was “the de-facto adoption of anti-Semitic practices and advancement of the de-legitimisation of the Jewish state and the dehumanisation of the Jewish people”.
In no way is being against the brutal aggressive racist colonial policies of Israel "anti-Semitic". It is well past time that civic organisations and governments stood up to this abuse of the term "anti-Semitic" by Israel and its right wing supporters to stifle condemnations of their immoral racist policies. I knew many Jews that across the world that are standing up for the rights of Palestinians and demanding the end of the occupation.
Thanks Thomas Cuffe for previously highlighting this progressive action by Ben and Jerry.
I also would support a boycott of China over its actions against Uighurs, Tibetans and the people of Hong Kong

Transatlantic cable - Birth of the Global Village

 
We are thrilled that Dr. Cornelia Connolly of the School of Education at NUI Galway recently donated a piece of the renowned 19th century transatlantic cable to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland.

In 1866 a cable was laid down from Valentia island in Kerry to Newfoundland providing the first permanent electrical communications link between the continents of the Americas and Europe.
Thus began the Age of Global Communications with the west of Ireland becoming key hub in this network. Its importance was reinforced in 1907 when Guglielmo Marconi established the first regular radio communications service across the Altantic between Clifden in county Galway and Glace Bay in Canada. 
 
Check out Cornelia's article on the Transatlantic Cable that was published in RTE's Brainstorm:
 
Unfortunately due to COVID restrictions, it looks likely that the museum will not reopen to the public until early 2022.

Please Help! Your Submission today (July 30) can help make the Connemara Greenway become a reality!

We in the Connemara Greenway Alliance are requesting people that want to see and to enjoy what could be one of Europe's most pictureseque walking and cycling routes to make submissions before 4.30pm today (Friday July 30) to the Draft Galway County Development Plan 2022-28 in order to have it included as a priority piece of infrastructure that will help revitalise the towns and villages along the route between Galway city and Clifden.

The submission will take approximately 7 mins to complete. Please go to https://consult.galway.ie/
The Connemara Greenway Alliance, of which I am a member, has prepared a ready-made cut and paste submission which one can use and is available at:
We sincerely thank all of those that have already made submissions. This is the Alliance’s final big push to get the Connemara Greenway from Galway city to Clifden included in the Development Plan and have it completed as soon as possible.
 
As well as the health, social and commuter benefits for the people of Connemara, the green tourism potential of this Greenway will bring huge economic benefits especially in the hospitality and services sectors. Dr. Pat Collins of NUI Galway undertook an economic research analysis of the potential impact of the Greenway and estimated that it would bring in €17million+ per annum to the region.
There will also be additional advantages to the city. With the construction of the planned walking/cycling bridge on top of the old railway limestone stacks in the River Corrib at Woodquay (as you know, City Hall has already secured funding from government under the Urban Regeneration Scheme), its terminus would help secure the Dyke Road as a unique blue and green hub combining a blueway along the Corrib stretching to the heart of Mayo; a forest way through the 120+ acre Terryland Forest Park; a boreen walking network to Menlo, Castlegar and Carrowbrowne; and a Greenway to Headford.
Sadly, in spite of the investment flowing in from central government, its development is extremely slow. 
Only c15km of the 76km route has been completed. This section is at the western side with no progress whatsoever being made between the city and Oughterard.
A few weeks ago, the Limerick Greenway opened to great fanfare with Greenways already operational in Waterford, Tipperary, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Monaghan, Louth...
So as an integral part of the walking/cycling, ecological corridor and Outdoor Classroom infrastructure for Galway city and country, your submission can help make the Connemara Greenway become a reality sooner rather than later!

A ‘Green Highway’ in Galway City - Build It & They Will Come!

 

The survey of the Terryland River and its surrounding area, presently been undertaken by full-time summer intern Tara Speares and her supervisor Dr. Colin Lawton of NUI Galway, is further reinforcing the scientific evidence from over many decades that the community-driven council-managed Terryland Forest Park is having a significant positive impact on the numbers and species of biodiversity in Galway city and shows the critical importance of an ‘ecological corridor’ or 'green highways' (one of the objectives of its founders) in restoring wildlife in urban environments. Terryland connects the Corrib Waterways into the farm lands of east Galway. The park is Galway’s largest and oldest (2000) ‘rewilding’ initiative but hopefully not its last. With the continued huge growth in human populations and cities worldwide, it is crucial that we make significant spaces in urbanised areas to serve as wildlife sanctuaries as well as ensuring their protection from human footfall. Otherwise we destroy the very thing that we are trying to nurture and preserve. Parts of Terryland Forest Park as with parts of the other borough parks (Merlin Woods and Barna Woods/Rusheen Bay) across Galway admirably fulfill this function.

Photo shows Dr. Colin Lawton and intern Tara Speares with wood mice temporarily captured in ‘traps’ whose data was recorded before being released back into the wild. I enjoyed watching the freed little mammals disappear into the undergrowth of the woods and riverbanks.
Colin has a long and distinguished role in assessing the impact of Terryland on the city’s biodiversity as he has been undertaking different types of mammal surveys on its lands since 2004. His efforts provide important scientific data to policy makers, scientists, and environmentalists. Thank you Colin- we really admire and appreciate your great efforts!

The Kids Know What is Best for Our City! Let's Listen & Learn from them!

 

The benefits of a partnership and inclusive approach towards developing a future Galway city that is sustainable and integrates nature into its infrastructure was shown yesterday when children from 13 city primary schools took part in Glór na Óganach ('The Voice of Youth') organised by the Galway National Park City (GNPC) initiative supported by the Galway Education Centre. It was an online event chaired wonderfully by Fionnghuala Geraghty, a teacher of Scoil Chaitríona Senior, where pre-teen students gave their opinions by way of talks, pre-event surveys and classroom discussions about what they want in a post-COVID Galway. This event was unprecedented and amply shows the important need and role of a multi-sectoral movement such as the Galway National Park City initiative.

We often talk about what children want but very seldom give them the opportunity to voice their own opinions on how they wish society to develop.
But their answers and comments yesterday were breathtakingly fresh, honest and full of common-sense. They displayed an awareness of the benefits of looking after nature in the city and having increased areas for biodiversity, in planting more trees and having more wildlife; in the need for information noticeboards in areas of nature; in the need to lessen screen time and to play outdoors in clean, safe green spaces and in playgrounds with flowers, more hands-on play equipment and having both walls and trees that they could climb; in the attractions of having lots of classes outside; in having safe walking and cycling routes to school and in/around the school, in banning once-off plastics and in increasing the possibilities of enjoying the local waterways.
Interestingly the overwhelming majority of these boys and girls felt that it was the woods, the seashore and the wildlife that they most liked about Galway city.
They were also fully aware of the dangers of biodiversity loss and of climate change.
So it was heartening to know that our youngest generation have strong feelings of what is most beautiful about our city, are expressing deep concerns about what is wrong with it and know what needs to be done to make it better for both people and wildlife.
So the challenge is for the adults to listen and to learn from the children in order to ensure that we hand them over a ‘liveable’ planet.
We will publish a summary of proceedings over the next few weeks.
Glór na Óganach was the first gathering of pre-teens on the subject of a future city. But not the last. There will be a follow-up in November as part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival and a third will take place in Spring/Summer 2022. A similar thematic gathering of teenagers from second level schools will hopefully be hosted in the festival also. Yesterday’s was the first such event and we will all learn from the experience, improving on it and looking at the possibility of hosting a children’s forum tríd Gaelige and a forum for infants, 1st and 2nd classes.
Finally I extend a big 'Bualadh Bos' (round of applause) to Fionnghuala Geraghty for her awesome work in preparing the teacher/student surveys and in chairing the event, to the Galway Education Centre for its support and of course to the teachers from the 13 schools who made it all possible in the final week of the school year when they are exceptionally busy. We really enjoyed working with ye all. Go raibh míle maith agaibh!

I am deeply worried about the future of my beloved city of Galway

In response to the COVID pandemic-which is just another of the painful but connected symptoms of unstable destructive weather, global warming, rising sea-levels, flooding, desertification, marine acidification, loss of soil fertility and biodiversity collapse that is harming our personal, collective and planetary health- progressive political leadership in cities across the world are working in partnership with scientists, engineers, health professionals, neighbourhoood groups and others to put community, sustainability, public transport, walking/cycling, parks, woods and wildlife sanctuaries centre stage in a radical rethink, redesign and rebuild of their urban infrastructure.

However the recently published report from the council’s Chief Executive, in response to submissions made by so many enthusiastic members of the general public last March on what should be included in a plan that will shape the city development until 2029, scares me.
The top official in City Hall considers that the ‘Galway City National Park City’ initiative (www.galwaynationalparkcity) which he admitted was supported by numerous submissions-and which wants to make Galway a city where places, people and nature are better connected-was “premature to incorporate into plan policy at this stage”.
I am deeply worried that our city could now find itself on the wrong side of history with outdated policies as we witness other cities across all continents rise to the challenge of building a better urban future and who are coming together to follow the inspiring lead of London which adopted this designation in 2019.
I am earnestly hoping that the majority of our councillors will display the vision, the courage and the political leadership that is so needed at this critical time in the history of humanity as we try to navigate through uncharted waters in stormy unpredictable dangerous weather. But as Duncan Stewart stated recently the National Park City initiative could make Galway the “Lighthouse of the World.”
Please read my article on this issue from a recent edition of the Galway Advertiser

Happy 30th Birthday to my son Shane!

 

I am so proud of my eldest son Shane. He has brought 30 years of happiness to Cepta and myself.
Good-natured, hardworking, dependable, generous, loyal, focused, an organiser par excellence, and sporty. Like his younger brother Dáire (photo), he has been a life long Man United supporter and wore his treasured Champions League 1999 Final jersey on his birthday. Due to COVID restrictions, we had to limit the amount of people who could attend his birthday celebrations in our home garden. But it was so wonderful to witness that so many of his friends that he had during his primary and secondary schooldays are still his close friends today and were there for his special occasion.
Our home garden was also the location for his first birthday in 1992 when his mom Cepta not surprisingly held him in her arms. And darling Cepta still has her arm on his shoulder 29 years later.
1991- The Year of Shane
The world has changed so much since the year that Shane was born. In 1991, I was setting up Galway's first 7 day live music venue and a nightclub, helping to provide a platform and opportunity for young bands of all musical styles to perform as well as a venue for national and international acts from all over the world (Galway's first World Music pub); was on the organising committees of the 'Release the Birmingham 6'/'Maguire 7' campaigns, the 'Spirit of 1916' 75 years Celebrations, the Tirellan-Crestwood-Castlelawn-Brookdale-Sandyvale residents, and the first combined Galway City Residents Associations' campaign committee; and ran for election to the Galway City Council (corporation)- It was only the only occasion I went for political office, campaigning as an independent 'Community Action' activist. With all these distractions in that year and beyond, I have to state that I was not the best of fathers. Far from it. Thankfully though for Shane and Dáire, they were both blessed in having a strong, dependable, caring and loving mother who gave them so much time whilst still working full time as a manager of the busy UCG students’ union travel office. My darling wife Cepta has also been my pillar of strength through both the tough times and happy times of our long life together.

The Howl of the Wolf is heard once again in the woods of Galway

Over the last few weeks, a number of schools have taken part in guided tours of Terryland Forest Park. As part of the Galway National Park City initiative promoting the ‘Outdoor Classroom’ ethos, and to celebrate the park’s 21 years, we are developing a series of natural heritage sculpture trails for the benefit of visitors of all ages that will be fully in place by July with drawings by ‘artist in residence’, the highly talented Helen Caird, and stone carvings by the equally gifted Ray Flaherty.

One of these exciting and educational tracks is called ‘Extinction’ dedicated to the apex fauna of Ireland that were driven to extinction in previous centuries for many of the same reasons that are occurring today in Amazonia, Indonesia and Africa- namely deforestation, habitat loss, large scale farming, industrial activity and hunting. 
 
The wolf is one of the animals carved into large stones along the trail. 
 
The Grey Wolf species lived in Ireland for almost 28,000 years.
The animal had a somewhat uneasy relationship with the Gael. Whilst they were sometimes hunted to protect livestock, nevertheless in Celtic mythology the wolf was admired for its bravery and was associated with legendary warriors, kings and early Christian saints. There are very few references in Gaelic sources of wolves attacking people. As one of its Irish names (Mac Tíre = son of the land) alludes too, it was accepted as an intrinsic part of the natural landscape with the howling of a wolf pack not feared but rather viewed as uplifting music. British colonists however saw the wolf as a danger to their way of life. The large scale destruction of the Irish forests from the 17th century, to make way for pasture lands for sheep and cattle, led to its extinction. Wolves were systematically persecuted, public hunts were organised and large rewards (bounties) offered for their killing. The last known record of a wolf in Galway (Castlegar) was from the 1740s- it disappeared altogether from Ireland in the 1780s.

Final session to School Parents for 2020/21 & the early days of Social Media,


 
Just finished an Internet Safety workshop to the parents of Scoil Shéamais Naofa Bearna. Thanks to príomhoide Máire Báicéir for the opportunity.

It is my final session for parents for 2020/21. 
 
The early days of Social Media (2004-2009).
When I started Cyberbullying Awareness activities for parents, youth and teachers in 2005 I was one of the first to do so.
Online social media was in its infancy with Orkut, Myspace and Bebo probably being the big three in this domain. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat had yet to be invented.
'Blogging' (blogspot) was very popular, allowing ordinary non-techies to create their own website for the first time.
There was an innocent then about our use of the web. We passionately believed in the power of online SOCIAL media as a force for good and for sharing stories and images between old friends from the real world and new found friends from the world of the World Wide Web.
I use to give a range of workshops on setting up websites, via a blog, and a personal social media account, via Orkut etc, to ethic minorities (e.g. Brazilians in Gort and the residents of the Eglinton asylum seekers accommodation centre), businesses, community groups, schools, politicians (including a young city councillor by the name of Niall O Brolchain!). For the vast majority of participants from across all sectors, it was their first time to have an online presence.
 
The Nastiness was there.
But sadly even then the nastiness and cyber bullying had started. Online harassment campaigns, stalking and misogyny were all there with the sexual abuse of young teenage females being to the fore.
It does not have to be like this!
I remember well the government promising in those early days to clamp down on online nastiness and bring the culprits to task with the promise of new legislation and the establishment of a digital safety office. In spite of many requests and many promises, I am still waiting for this to happen.

Friday May 28th: The 'Outdoor Classroom' in a clean green & blue Dyke Road-Terryland Forest.

 

On Friday I took a group of primary school children on a guided walk from the Woodquay 'Plots', along the banks of the River Corrib to Terryland Castle and on into the woods and meadows of Terryland Forest Park. The teachers and pupils interacted with this beautiful natural environment using their senses, making boats from reeds to float in the waters of the Corrib, studying the diverse range of flowers and trees and enjoying the new educational heritage sculpture trails.

Thankfully there was no major occurrence of litter either along the river banks or in the woods. It was very clean. But a weekend of partying near Terryland Castle has subsequently done so much harm.
In 2019, Galway City Council abolished the Cash-for-Cans scheme that was introduced in 2011 at the instigation of community lobbying supported by councillor Catherine Connolly (now TD). I have to compliment the then City Hall officials for their support in implementing this pioneering scheme, the only local authority in Ireland to do so but a scheme that did and still does exist in many other European countries. Sadly the government that year refused our demands to bring in a similar nationwide initiative that would also include glass bottles. However the present government has promised to roll out in 2022 a new deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and cans. This is welcome news. But it needs though to be extended to include glass bottles and metal cans and it should be introduced NOW! Every day that we don't act the natural environment suffers.
Likewise the present council needs to be more proactive and show leadership on this. We have to wait until 2022 for full time wardens for all three main parks to be introduced- thanks to Councillor Imelda Byrne for tabling a great motion supported by all councillors and for working closely with me on this. I can understand at one level (budget) why it will not take place until then. But, in the interim, why can the council not put in place, as promised, bins at the entrances to major green areas and to work with the community to set up and support units of park volunteer wardens? Ryan Crowell and myself showed a few weeks ago (see a previous posting from last month) that having a presence on the ground and talking to those socialising outdoors can make a huge positive difference.
Furthermore there has to be a much harder line taken against those littering with a need for more prosecutions. However for that to be effective, on-the-ground wardens are required.
There is also the ridiculous situation that, due to GDPR, we are told the names of those that are actually prosecuted cannot be published in the media. Local government and national goveernmment need to take a test case to Europe on this- laws are suppose to help society and the public, not to protect the anti-people protagonists.

Ballymurphy Massacre & the British State’s Dirty War in Northern Ireland.

After 50 years, the truth finally come out yesterday in a British court that the British Army shot dead nine innocent people over three days in west Belfast during August 1971. All the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre were members of the nationalist community. 
 
At the same time as these murders were being carried out hundreds of homes were being raided across Northern Ireland by the British military with hundreds of people arrested and imprisoned without trail in internment camps. Many were immediately humiliated and tortured by their captors. Very few of these prisoners were associated with the IRA (the supposed reason for their arrest); many were members of the civil rights movement and left-wing organisations. 
 
7,000 people mainly nationalists at this time were forced from their homes in the North due to burnings and attacks by mobs. Thousands fled over the border with refugee camps being set up in the South. In spite of the fact that British Loyalist paramilitaries were targeting Catholics and carrying out indiscriminate bombings in the period, not one member of these Unionist sectarian gangs was arrested and interned. The Unionist government in Northern Ireland made sure of that.
Over the full period of internment that continued until 1975, of the estimated 1,981 people interned; 1,874 were nationalist, while 107 were loyalist.
 
During the course of the killings in Ballymurphy that included a priest holding a white flag attending to a wounded person, the British Army press officer on the ground was telling the media that those shot were IRA gunmen. That officer, belonging to the First Parachute Regiment, was Mike Jackson who was head of the British Army (Chief of the General Staff) during the illegal invasion of Iraq by British-American forces in 2003. A few months later (January 1972) he was in Derry when the same regiment shot 26 civilians (13 died immediately) during a peaceful Civil Rights march.
 
Boy on the Border
As a young boy living a few kilometres inside the border in Carrickmacross county Monaghan at the time, I witnessed the families fleeing for safety, victims of vicious pogroms in Belfast and elsewhere. I use to listen to the BBC/UTV television channels and the British mainstream media telling the world that the British military in the North were a peacekeeping force protecting the ordinary people of the North from the terrorism of Irish republicans. As a member of a Catholic family living in Ulster (Monaghan), I would hear Ian Paisley being quoted at Loyalist rallies stating “(Catholics) breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin" and that “Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners”. I knew then what was being said and written were pure lies. I realised even as a young teenager that the British media were very much part of the propaganda war effort. Censorship applied. Fake news was continuously being spread. An example was the front page of a News of the World newspaper in 1977 showing a (false) image of a Soviet (Russian) submarine off the coast of Donegal (supposedly delivering weapons to the IRA).
 
As a student activist in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was painfully aware of the dirty tricks and terror campaign being organised by the British state. Bombings and bank robberies took place in the Republic and in the North carried out by British military, their spy network, their special forces such as the SAS, their allies in the Loyalist military and agent provocateurs (e.g. Littlejohn brothers) which were blamed on the IRA. Other covert operations involving collusion between British clandestine security forces in Northern Ireland and loyalist paramilitaries led to killings on both sides of the border. According to witnesses including some former members of the British forces and of loyalist gangs, this included the Miami Showband massacre (July 1975) and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 (33 deaths). During the 1980s and 1990s I was involved in the campaigns to release the imprisoned Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven and Guildford Four, innocent mainly Irish people living in the UK framed by the British police for the murderous IRA bombing campaign in Britain.
 
British Heroes of Justice and Truth
But there were the courageous few in Britain who were not afraid to speak out and demand justice and truth even though they were subsequently ridiculed, lied about, harangued and even framed for crimes that they never committed by the British media and British state. These heroic people included ex-British soldiers such as Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd (who also exposed the British Intelligence cover-up of abuse of children in the Kincora Boys Home Belfast by Unionist paramilitaries) and those unnamed squaddies who gave evidence of the psychopathic behaviour of some of their fellow soldiers involved in the shooting of unarmed civilians; British politicians such as Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Jeremy Corbyn and Clare Short; British investigative journalists such as Chris Mullin; lawyers such as Michael Mansfield and Gareth Pierce; artists such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Vanessa Redgrave; and British police officers such as Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker who exposed the shoot-to-kill actions of the security forces under which suspected IRA members were deliberately killed without any attempt to arrest them.
 
Why A Reign of Terror in Northern Ireland?
So the question has to be asked, why was such a brutal system imposed by the British establishment? The answer was partly due to the desire to protect a right wing corrupt sectarian elite in Northern Ireland because they were loyal to a British state that still had 'big power' imperial aspirations. But it was also because of the situation happening globally during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. It was a time when all across the world (United States, Vietnam, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Algeria, South Africa, Palestine, Iran, Czechoslovakia, Poland…) peoples and the youth in particular were rising up against racism, discrimination, tyranny, occupation and colonialism. In the case of this island, there was a fear amongst the powerful elite in Britain that a ‘Catholic’ Ireland could go the way of a ‘Catholic’ Cuba and become a bastion of communism that could spread to neighbouring countries.