Influential & courageous British politician dies

Really sad to hear that the former British politician Mo Mowlan died today.
Mo was the British government's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the historical 'Good Friday' agreement was signed between the main Irish nationalist and 'Unionist' parties. She was the most energetic, dynamic and radical politician ever to hold this post and her presence was vital in making the agreement happen.
She was a true friend of Ireland and was sympathetic to the aim of a United Ireland.

On a personal level, she was witty, irreverent, straight-talking and blunt much to the annoyance of many civil servants and old style politicians.
A BBC correspondent summarised her persona when he told the story today of the circumstances around one interview he had with her in Government buildings. She just strolled into the room, waving her wig around in her hand & saying, "Well Douggie, have you got a comb handy"! When he gave her his comb, she started to brush her wig and then asked him to proceed with his questions!!!

Many in Britain hold that she was the most popular politician of her generation.
Sad to say, she was finally pushed out of the British cabinet by people like Tony Blair & Peter Mandelson who felt threatened by her popularity and left-wing stance.
In that sense, she was from the same stable as other British Labour politicos such as Clare Short, Tony Benn & Ken Livingstone (all of whom were pro-Irish nationalist) and the late lamented Robin Cook (who died last week).

I'll miss her

Graffiti at City Hall!!

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

Graffiti at City Hall!!

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

Graffiti at City Hall!!

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

Graffiti at City Hall!!

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

Graffiti at City Hall!!

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

Graffiti all over City Hall!!

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
If I had a hat, I would surely take it off to honour James Harrold, Galway City Council's Arts Officer.
His present exhibition in the grounds of City Hall has taken what was (& still is) subversive art and placed in the corridors of power. Well done James!
Galway is known as the 'arts capital of Ireland'. This is due to the efforts of a dedicated few such as James who still have to win over an establishment that is quite conservative, philistine and spartan even on issues of culture and arts. For instance, just look at the horrible buildings that have been erected in our city over the last few decades. Horrible!!
James (or JC to his old college buddies such as myself) is like a breath of fresh air that puts colour into what can otherwise be a very grey city.
Earlier this year, he came to the rescue of one of my 'Fionn' primary schools that wanted to make a 3D model of their science project on the theme of the 'waterways of Galway'. He funded the hiring of two artists that supported the children in their creation of a beautiful large scale model of our urban canals & rivers. We hope to have the completed sculpture on display at the official opening of the new museum in early 2006. Then the 'world and his mother' can have a birdseye view of Galway and understand why it is the 'Venice of Ireland'.

Mirrors on a Student's Bedroom Ceiling?
While I am on the subject of our esteemed Arts officer, I remember someone telling me in a pub a few years back that JC had mentioned that I use to have mirrors placed on the ceiling over my bed during my student days.
So to put the rumours to rest once and for all- My ceiling was actually painted black and covered with a moon, stars and the gory face of a huge female vampire. The bedroom walls on the other hand were painted sky blue populated with some nice clouds. Contrasts!!
JC - you would have been proud of my artistic endeavours!
Alas, these wonderful mural creations of mine failed to charm the ladies though!

Finally, I was inspired to write this blog when my colleague Ina recently showed me photographs of some excellent street graffiti in London. So my attitude was, what London has so have we. Even though ours is on a much less grand scale.

Students of the Rainbow Coalition

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
African and Brazilian students of the DERI Internet classes pictured with my colleague Ina & yours truely at the launch of our Community Outreach programme at Galway University.
Guest speaker was government Minister Eamon Ó Cuiv, grandson of the great 1916 republican veteran Eamon de Valera. Ó Cuiv is a politician that I admire greatly for his sense of vision and community (though I have serious differences with him on certain issues such as 'once-off housing' in rural areas).

Being so politically correct, Ina decided to wear a symbolic 'black & white' dress for the occasion.
As you can see, I tried to follow 'suit'!
My African Refugee IT Students

In spite of my previous comment, I still got certain things completed satisfactorily. So all was not lost.
Particularly enjoyable was my morning Internet class with the African refugees from the Eglinton (Hotel) Hostel. At long last, I finally found a suitable summer venue for the DERI Online Social Networking classes.
The Galway Centre for Independent Living (GCIL) has a fine IT suite.
The lesson went really well. The majority of the participants found that they finally cracked it & they were laughing & giggling. The girls were emailing, setting up communities, surfing, creating their own topics... It was really great and I broke into a permanent smile! Tess (Kenya) was playing the keyboard as if it was a piano; Adenike (Nigeria) was printing out some interesting posters from websites; Catherine (South Africa) sent her first ever email! Magret (Zimbabwe) & Ana (Angola) were flying. Only Miranda (Cameroon) had serious problems- she lost her password and couldn't get into Orkut. But, as I told her, there is always next week.

However I did have one major embarrassment. At the last session, I took photos of all the girls to be inserted this week onto their individual web profiles. But what happens?
Everyone of them came into class with dramatically altered appearances. New hairstyles that made the photos look totally unrecognisable.

But I promised to call out to the hostel next Monday for a new photo shoot. Still the girls were warned not to undertake any major facial surgery for at least another 4 weeks.

I have to say that the OSN classes are making a big difference to the lives of these students. It is helping them break the drudgery of their everyday Galway existence & to enjoy life a lot more. Many of them were previously stuck in the hostel 24/7, not getting a chance to get out and do something productive. Now thanks to the Internet classes, they are making friends at home & abroad as well as learning new practical technological skills.
So next week, our online friend Padraig O'Beaglaioch will help them establish sporting activities. He tells me that he is so exicted about the prospect of helping them organise multi-cultural sport games. But I told him that he always gets that way around women!
Disorganised & Anarchic- Its Getting me Down
Had a really frustrating day yesterday. Got only a fraction done of what I planned. This is becoming an ever-growing problem for me. Others say that I have too much on my plate being involved as I am in so many diverse things. However I blame my inability to plan my working day better. I get sidetracked too easily & cave into sudden requests from others for meetings etc. There is no excuse- It is like going out with the best looking woman in the world & then letting your eyes wander. Totally illogical, stupid & silly!!
Anyway, tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of my life and I will rigidly keep by my pre-written schedule tomorrow. That's a public (i.e. Internet) promise!

'Jennie Johnson' Famine ship in Galway

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

Horror behind the Beauty

The 'Jennie Johnson' docked this week in Galway Harbour. A replica of a 19th century sailing ship, she is truly a thing of beauty. With majestic masts & sails dominating the skyline, ornately carved metal fittings gleaming in the sun & a hull gently creaking as its lolls in the water, one could almost imagine the ship's Victorian-era crew happily singing a sea shanty in unison as they unfurled its rigging.

However this stunning creature is a representation of something much more sinister from one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history.
The Jennie Johnson is a replica of the infamous 'coffin ships' that transported hundreds of thousands of starving Irish to the shores of America during the Great Famine of the 1840s. Thousands died in the Atlantic crossings as a result of the unsanitary conditions on the ships. Unscrupulous ship owners decided to make a killing out of the desperate peasants that poured into the ports of Ireland seeking escape from a famine that left one million dead. Once they paid their fare, the passengers were squeezed into cramped holds, given subsistence in the form of rotting food & contaminated water and provided with little if any onboard medical assistance. Dysentery and typhus killed many while others drowned as overcrowded ships capsized in the violent oceanic storms. The transatlantic voyages normally took 3 months to complete. Sadly too many emigrants never had a chance to fulfil the dream of a life in the United States or Canada as they were tossed overboard to a watery grave.

Galway Races 2005 - A Mass of Humanity

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
Up to 40,000 at the Galway Races on one day.
Over 150,000 visited the 7 day festival.

It is truely an egalitarian event with all sectors of society present- from the very rich to the very poor.
It offers a taste of what Celtic tribal gatherings must have been like thousands of years ago

Galway Races 2005 - Horse & Jockey

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
The Stars of the Show

Green Lady at the Galway Races

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
Style and Panache on Display!