Christmas Truce 1914: A Flickering of Humanity in a Brutal Imperial War

I watched this thought-provoking and emotive French film Joyeux Noel (Merry Xmas) over Christmas. More than any other movie I have seen in recent times, it portrays the true message of Christmas, namely 'Peace on Earth and Goodwill To All Men'.
It was so beautiful to hear in the film the haunting sounds of the Celtic bagpipes. But so sad to know that so many of the men enjoying the friendships that sprung up between the soldiery of the opposing armies during that Christmas Week would be dead within weeks.
So May I wish all readers and their friends and families a joyful festive holiday and a progressive 2012.
Christmas Truce 1914
Along the Western Front on Christmas Eve 1914, soldiers from German, Scottish, English & French regiments organised unofficial ceasefires. Troops ventured into No Man's Land to exchange gifts, play football, sing songs together & bury their dead. Generals on both sides were outraged & ensured that no such large scale fraternization ever happened again by ordering shelling during subsequent Christmases. In an insane brutal war, there were already 3.5million casualties by then; another 32million would die before the war ended.

The leaders of the main warring nations dressed up the conflict as the 'War To End All Wars', a struggle for peace and liberty when in reality they were only concerned about expanding their empires.
For example the war resulted in the victorious French and British dividing up the Middle East between them. In the process, they created an artificial country known as Iraq to unite under British control the oilfields of Kurdistan in the north with the oilfields around Basra in the south. The consequences of such a decision lie with us today.
Irish Nationalists Join War To Enslave Nations
The Irish nationalists under Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party allowed themselves under the pretext of 'Freedom of Small Nations' (Belgium)
to support an imperial war that denied freedom and democracy to so many. Nearly 50,000 members of the Irish divisions of the British military died fighting in a conflict that entrapped even more Africans, Arabs, Kurds, Chinese, Polynesians within the empires of France, Italy, Japan and Britain.
The Irish rebels were aware of this deception by the British. We Serve Neither King nor Kaiser was the motto of the Irish Citizens Army as they joined with the Irish Volunteers in Easter 1916 to overthrow British rule in Ireland.
So I cannot join with those historians of today that are trying to rewrite history and to glorify the deeds of the Irish regiments of the British Army. These Irish men, during the 19th and early 20th century, were a key component of a brutal military occupation force in countries such as South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, Burma and China. Ironically, the Catholic Irish
soldiery, as with the Indian and African members of this army, were despised by their military English officers and superiors who viewed them as primitive and stupid peoples.
Madness of War: Blackadder - Last Scene (Over the Top)
The last episode of Ben Elton's brilliant Blackadder series poignantly sums up the madness of the generals and politicians of the Allies and Central Powers (click image above).
Though I have major disagreements with the democratic deficit within the structures of today's European Union, nevertheless I recognise that it has ended the slaughter that used to characterise the relationships between nations and peoples of the continent of Europe.
 Warhorse -  Slaughter of the Animals in the service of Humanity
As Steven Spielberg's latest film Warhorse shows, animals suffered the most during this human conflict.  Vast areas of forests and other main areas of wildlife habitats were totally obliterated by shell and fire. At least 485,000 horses serving with the British forces were killed and millions more died in the armies of the Ottoman, British, French, Russian, Austrian, Bulgarian, Rumanian and Serbian. Sadly the history of 'civilization' is a history of the enslavement and destruction of  so many other denizens of Earth by humanity in the pursuit of pleasure, torture and self-indulgence.

Creative Communities in Ballinfoile Mór, Galway city

Residents from across the Ballinfoile Mór, Castlelawn, Ballindooley and Bóthar na Choiste areas are asked to attend a Community Night at 7pm on Thursday January 12th in the Menlo Park Hotel when a number of grassroots organizations will be undertaking a recruitment drive as well as showcasing services and projects provided by local volunteers.

Community & Environmental Volunteerism in Ballinfoile Mór

The Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden, Cumann na bhFear (Men’s Shed) and the recently established Terryland Forest Conservation Volunteers will be collectively promoting a wide array of skills that they presently can offer residents as well as advertising others that they need voluntary expertise on. 
Over the last year, members have offered courses or mentoring on metalwork, organic gardening, mural painting, cycle maintenance, hedgerow planting, scarecrow construction, nature studies, heritage awareness, computing, cooking, drystone walling and woodturning. But assistance is required in other areas such as basket weaving, plumbing, orienteering and wildlife pond construction. 

The Makers - The (Almost) Lost Art of 'Making Things'
We are endeavouring to help people from all backgrounds and of all ages to once again rediscover the ability and enjoyment of ‘making things’. It is about moving away from being primarily a nation of consumers to being once again creators of everyday items and produce.
Furniture Restoration

Another fundamental principle of ours is that the skills taught or the expertise provided are feed into projects that directly benefit the wider local community.
The contributions of these groups and that of others such as the Castlegar Boreen Festival have breathed new life into the locality, tapped into the often hidden talents of individuals, awakened interest in local heritage and biodiversity and in the process imbued many inhabitants with a proud sense of purpose and of place.
Drystone Walling in the Organic Garden

This type of creative community volunteerism is a modern urban version of the Irish rural tradition of ‘Meitheal’.

The herculean efforts of committed volunteers are helping to transform Ballinfoile Mór and engendering a sense of neighbourliness.

Harvest Day in the Community Organic Garden

Ballinfoile Community Organic Garden: Local Food Produce & Wildlife-friendly
In the organic garden, residents have built wooden hurdle fences, gravel paths, drystone walls, native hedgerows, a large clay pizza oven, a ‘bug hotel’, a kitchen and an outdoor stage; planted herbs, vegetables and fruit trees; organized gardening courses and harvest festivals. Schools and youth groups have undertaken art programmes such as making scarecrows, painting murals as well as organising nature activities.
In the last year, the garden has been bestowed with the Galway City Mayoral Community Award and was runner up in the national Pride of Place Award.
Hand Prints of Children & Adults Painters Decorate the Door of the Garden's Kitchen

 Men's Shed Movement Arrives in Galway city 
Michael McDonnell welding at Cumann na bhFear, Ballinfoile
The recently established Cumann na bhFear (Irish = Men's Club) Ballinfoile Mór is modeled on the international Men's Shed Movement that originated in Australia a number of years ago. Taking its name and theme from the idea of the male of the household working on his hobbies in the garden shed, the Ballinfoile branch provides a friendly meeting place for men of all ages to try out new things and work on meaningful tasks at their own pace. There is a strong emphasis on projects that have an environmental and social value and that keep alive traditional Irish crafts and skills from metalworking to woodturning.
Blacksmith's forge at Cumann na bhFear

The local members built a blacksmith’s forge, purchased an array of tools including a wooden lathe, restored old furniture and farm equipment, provide classes in a range of skills from woodturning to panel-beating, organise monthly cycle repair workshops for all ages and serve as a venue for the manufacture of props and set designs for youth theatre groups and facilitate rehearsals for young musicians. 

Farming Implements: - Before Restoration

Farming Implements: - After Restoration

Galway City Council leased to the group  an excellent two story premises (complete with workshops, meeting room, kitchen, toilets and offices) in the Sandy Road Business Park.

 Community-planted Silver Birch trees in Terryland Forest

Conservation Volunteers for Terryland Forest Park
The new Conservation Volunteers group for the Terryland Forest Park will be involved in tree planting, boundary structure repairs, path maintenance, nature tours, biodiversity enhancement and community clean-ups.
The volunteers want to return the park to the principles of its founders when they established the park in the late 1990s in order to create a large urban woodland populated by native Irish trees that functions both as a Wildlife corridor and a People's Park. By creating a forest in an urban setting, it was to serve as the Lungs of the City, encourage citizens to reconnect to Nature and act as a sanctuary to indigenous flora and fauna at a time when across the planet, commercial farming, habitat fragmentation, deforestation, pollution, road construction, urban sprawl and the resulting global warming is leading to a mass extinction of species.
Household Waste dumped in Forest Park

Community initiatives in Castlegar include some wonderful heritage signage along the old rural bótharin network.
 Heritage Signage in Castlegar

Tracks 'n' Trails across rural Galway City
The Friends of the Galway Forest coordinate regular community clean-up of the city's parks, undertake heritage cycle tours on the east side of the city and will be working with other NGOs such as Castlegar Connect to develop a series of greenways linking the castles of Tirellan, Castlegar, Menlo and Clooncauneen.
In September the group collaborated with Councillor Frank Fahy and local land-owners in starting the clean-up of an old bog road near Carrowbrowne that will act as a vital link in this pioneering trail. This particular botharín has been destroyed by organised criminal dumping of a vast quantity of fridges, cookers and furniture that has contaminated the environment and ecology of the area. 
Constructing a Greenway near Carrowbrowne. Michael Tiernan holds a traditional 'grappler' used in times past to clear water-logged ditches of debris

At the Community event, Councillor Fahy will also outline proposals on heritage enhancement whilst Rosie Webb, senior executive architect at Galway City Council, will showcase a series of maps produced by the architectural students of the University of Limerick that provide information, analysis, plans and guidelines on the regeneration of the Terryland Forest Park as an important cultural and amenity facility as well as a primary wildlife habitat.
 Beautiful rural landscape of Castlegar

The current recession caused by the greed and gambling antics of an oligarchy of bankers, property speculators and certain politicians has dashed the dreams and expectations of so many ordinary people. It has led to mass unemployment, high emigration, an increase in criminality, the closure of many community partnerships and an upsurge of depression amongst so many.
Making a 'Bug Hotel' Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden

But becoming involved in pro-active neighbourhood schemes can empower citizens and foster a sense of belonging and of personal value to a community.
Volunteerism is the gel that binds people together in a positive manner, particularly in times of economic and social stress.

Community Tree Planting in Terryland Forest Park

You Can Make A Difference!
Together We Can Make Ballinfoile Mór A Wonderful Place to Live In!

So Get Involved, Sign Up for a Local Volunteer Group & Attend Our Celebration of Community Initiatives at 7pm on January 12th in the Menlo Park Hotel

The High Price of Materialism

Great Video on the dangers of a world that is being dominated by commercial consumerism.

It should be a wake up call to what really matters in life. We have to recognise that the world does not revolve around ourselves, that we are part of a bigger picture, that we belong to a community and to a planet both of which are in  a delicate state of being due to a society that promotes self-promotion and greed at the expense of intrinsic values. For it is only in giving to other humans and to the Earth can we truly feel that our few years of existence is worthwhile. This principle underpins every science course I teach, every technology I promote, every environmental, political, social and community campaign that I get involved in. 
The personal enjoyment is in giving knowledge that enriches or empowers the lives of others, and to realise that so many others all around me also giving their time, energies and resources to do likewise.
That puts a smile on my face every time!

Enjoy the video!

Nature is the 99%, too - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Nature is the 99%, too - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

The 1% that control the politics and economies of so many countries are not only destroying the lives of  99% of the human populations in their immoral quest for power & profits but also the other 99% of species of planet Earth.
We must save our fellow creatures and in so doing save mankind from destroying itself. Science shows that all species are interdependent and part of Nature.


First Telephone, Transistor and Google Storage Device replicas On Show at Galway Science Exhibition

A press release that was published in the current edition of Galway City Tribune:
A unique series of exhibits were unveiled at the remarkable and highly successful Galway Science and Technology Festival Exhibition that took place in NUI Galway (Galway university) on Sunday last. 
Visitors to the Computer Museum exhibit at the Galway Science & Technology Festival

Replicas of some of the most important inventions in the history of modern communications were  displayed in the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland which was re-located to the main campus for the event. 
 Replica of Google Server at Scoil Bhríde Mionloch stand

“Three recently arrived artifacts represent significant milestones in the history of communications technology,” according to Brendan Smith Outreach Officer of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at NUI Galway
First Telephone 
Replica of Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone on display at the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland
in DERI, NUI Galway

“The telephone or ‘electrical speech machine’ was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. He later founded what became known as Bell Laboratories, probably the most influential research facility of modern times, which can list amongst its achievements the laser,  synchronised sound and motion picture, the solar cell and the Telstar space satellite.  Today it is a part of the Alcatel-Lucent corporation, an industrial partner of DERI. 

First Transistor Comes to Galway
One of their engineers Toby Joyce  originally from Clifden, arranged for the transfer from Bell Labs in New Jersey to Galway of not only a replica of the first telephone but also that of probably their greatest invention, namely the ‘transistor’ that was developed in 1947 and became the basic building block of modern electronic devices.
Replica of first transistor

“DERI has passed on these fascinating artifacts to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland that operates under a multi-sectoral board chaired by Dr. Chris Coughlan of Hewlett-Packard with representatives from Engineers’ Ireland, NUIG, GMIT, small businesses and Irish Diaspora groups as well as DERI.

Google- the Galway & Irish Connection
“The museum will also play host to a very intriguing exhibit being constructed by Scoil Bhríde Menlo (Mionloch)  and Cumann na bhFear in Ballinfoile. It is a model of the Google original storage device from 1996 . The company’s founders put together a server consisting of 10 hard disks of 4 gigabytes each, then the largest capacity drives available, encased in a cabinet covered with children’s Lego bricks.  
It is appropriate that this school is undertaking this task as Google was founded in a garage in Menlo Park, California, so named in the 1850s by  two Irish immigrants,  Oliver and McGlynn, in honour  of their Galway birthplace.

Our institute has had a close working relationship with Scoil Bhríde as we have provided laptops on loan for the last four years to all their pupils in fifth and sixth year classes in an effort to promote eLearning education."

The Cumann na bhFear (Irish for "Men's Club") is a recently formed group in Ballinfoile Mór that is modeled on the Men's Shed movement that originated in Australia. Two of its founding members, Michael McDonnell and Michael Tiernan, helped construct the metal stacking unit (above), secured many of the old hard disks and made an exact copy of the 'clouded' perspex panels used as the sides of the original Google server by cutting out sections from a shower door!
Michael McDonnell and Michael Tiernan cutting panels out of an old Shower Door

Halloween - Another significant contribution to World Culture by the Irish & Celtic peoples!

Halloween's Pagan Celtic Roots
Today Halloween is joyously celebrated by children across many parts of the world. There is a popular misconception though that Halloween is a modern American invention. Not so. Like so many other things that have brought great happiness to humanity for millennia, its roots lay firmly in the culture of the Irish Celts!
(Photo- my son Dáire & 'friend'!)

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

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

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

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

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

Antecedents to the Pumpkin & 'Trick or Treat'
But Samhain was also a time when creatures from the supernatural world could enter into the world of mortals. 'Fairies' (Irish='Sidhe' as in ‘Banshee’/‘female fairy’) and the spirits of the dead would walk the earth. Many of these beings were benevolent and the spirits of dead ancestors; so families laid out extra food and set aside a table space for their ghostly visitors. This metaphorised into the custom of today's children dressing up as demons and witches & calling to the neighbours' houses to receive presents.
But there were spirits that came on the night of Samhain that were malevolent. Candles were placed in skulls at the entrance to dwellings as light was feared by these dark foreboding creatures. This protection against evil became transformed in modern times into the positioning of hollowed-out turnips and later pumpkins with carved out faces and internal candles at windows and doorways.
Centuries-old party games of trying to eat an apple lying in a basin of water ('bobbing') or dangling on a string tied to a ceiling ('snapping') are still popular festive past-times with Irish children.
The apple is probably the most common edible fruit in Ireland. It was also strongly associated with the spirit world and the fairies (sidhe). In the Arthurian legends, the mystical island of Avalon is where King Arthur obtains his magical sword Excalibur and where he is taken at the end of his life by the Lady of the Lake and her female fairy companions (banshee). Avalon comes from the Welsh word afal or Irish aball.

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

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

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

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

Finally, the name Halloween comes from a mix old English and Irish with Hallows meaning holy and een from the the Irish 'ín' meaning little signifying the night before the big or main event of All Hallows Day which took place in the Christian calander on November 1st. Alternatively een could be a version of Eve as in Christmas Eve.

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

Michael D. ABÚ!!

What a Great Day for the True Community Values of the Irish People!
A Warrior that has fought many battles in the name of Justice, Liberty, Equality & Fraternity has today won an historic victory against the mass forces of greed and elitism.

Have a look at my articles below to know what Michael D Higgins represents to so many of us
Michael D Higgins - the Conscience of the Nation
What has Michael D Ever Done for Ireland and the Irish People?
Michael D Higgins: The Great Advocate of International HUman Rights in the History of Dáil Éireann

Michael D. Higgins - An Irish Legend!

In the last day of campaigning, Michael D. Higgins visited Galway university where he gave a rousing but dignified speech to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters that included myself.
He has served the people of Ireland and the world so well for over 40 yrs. The country will benefit from a progressive, humane, intelligent, erudite visionary who has worked at all levels of society and is brimming with energy.
Whoever designed the Celtic motiff poster that has accompanied the campaign should be awarded a medal. Truly stunning, the painting portrays Michael as an ancient Celtic chieftain accompanied by two Irish wolfhounds and surrounded by his people as they congregate on a hill overlooking a wooden stockaded fort. Beautiful!!!!

Click here for Michael D Higgins: Conscience of the Nation

Click here for a short video of Michael D's through the years

A Vote for Gallagher is a Vote for a Discredited Establishment that Robbed Our Country & Our Children's Futures

Cracking Presidential Debate on Frontline last night!
Martin McGuinness played a blinder exposing Sean Gallagher as representing the worse excesses of FF cronyism. Organising political party fundraisers with a €5,000 entry fee in return for an 'audience' with the Taioseach/Prime Minster of the country (are meeting with the leader of Ireland only available to the wealthy?), going to a wealthy business person's home to collect a monied envelope, receiving a huge director's loan (to avoid tax) & admitting he was an admirer of the unpatriotic tax exile Denis O'Brien who was condemning by a judicial review as having corrupted the Irish political system.
Combined with the fact that Gallagher was a member of the FF National Executive, refused to condemn the last government for their incompetency and a big property owner with a business customer base amongst big builders shows he was part of the FF-property speculator-financial elite that siphoned off our taxes over many decades to fund their rich lifestyles, who bankrupt the country, who destroyed so many of our livelihoods and whose 'old boys network' policies led to a mass emigration of our brightest and best.
He certainly was not an ordinary honest decent rank and file member of the party as he has tried to portray so many times. 
If he gets elected, it will be a victory for a discredited immoral 'me-fein' establishment.

A Vote for Gallagher is a vote for Those that Stole Our Hard-Earned Monies & Robbed Us & Our Children of a Future!

What has Michael D Higgins Ever Done for Ireland & the Irish People?

Helping to Liberate Irish Women from Servitude and Discrimination
In the early 1970s, women were treated in Ireland as second-class citizens by the state and as the servants to men by the Catholic Church.
Married women were barred from working in the Civil Service; divorce and the sale of contraceptives were illegal; women got paid less than men for doing the same job; children’s allowances were paid only to fathers; barring orders did not exist to protect wives from violent husbands; wives could not legally refuse to have sex with their partners; women had no legal rights to a share of the family home.
For young women in education and work, there were even problems trying to obtain bank loans. Unlike their male counterparts, the banks were hesitant about providing loans to female students as it was felt that soon after leaving college, they would get married and lose the ability to repay by becoming house-bound wives with no independent incomes.
Michael D Higgins was at the forefront of all the major campaigns to secure equality for women. He was one of the very few members of the Oireachtas that stood by these issues of women’s rights from the 1970s onwards. As with Noel Brown a few decades previously, he earned the wrath of conservative and religious mainstream society at the time, condemned as someone that wanted to under the family values. This was particularly evident in the Divorce referendum campaign of 1985. Yet he never backed down in spite of the verbal and written tirades hurled at him. 

Condoms for All
At the height of the Aids epidemic in1992, I was part of a nationwide campaign known as CondomSense that wanted to liberalise the sale of condoms. We saw such contraceptives as offering greater protection for women from unwanted pregnancies and STDs. At this time, these pieces of rubber could only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription from a pharmacy for ‘bona fides’ family purposes. I was the only publican in Galway city that decided to openly defy this law by installing condom vending machines. I was prosecuted by the state and a jail sentence hung over me as I was brought through the courts system. However by the summer, the government caved in and introduced a Health Amendment Act that allowed the sale of condoms outside of pharmacies and without a prescription (though not in vending machines).
Yet again, Michael D Higgins was the only Galway TD that stood with us. 

Children’s Rights: Ending Illegitimacy
In 1984, Michael D Higgins and Mary Robinson put forward the bill that removed the label of 'illegitimacy' from children of unmarried parents.    
He was helping to put into law the committment given by the Irish rebels in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic of 1916 in "cherishing all of the children of the nation equally" 

Towards a Cleaner Safe Environment
In 2000, I was one of the leaders of a large scale community movement known as Galway for a Safe Environment(GSE) that wanted to introduce a pro-recycling waste collection system and to stop the installation of a municipal waste incinerator. Over 22,000 people supported the campaign which was successful in stopping the incinerator being built and in having Galway city become the first local authority in Ireland to implement a domestic bin collection system based on recycling and composting.
Once more, Michael D was the only Galway member of the Oireachtas that stood with us from the beginning. Though others such as Fine Gael’s Pauric McCormack did later come on board.

Defender of Biodiversity
As Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D signed on behalf of the Irish government in 1997 the EU Habitats Directive that requires member states to maintain or restore favourable conservation status for certain habitats and species.
Monvea Bog, Co. Galway
Of particular importance were the Irish bogs which account for 10% of the world’s total. This Habitat Directive was and is vital to protect the small number of bogs that are classified as Natural Heritage Areas. Peatlands possess unique biodiversity as well as being important areas for flood prevention, water quality and as critical storage areas for carbon, up to 57,402 tonnes of carbon per year (EPA BOGLAND project).
Michael D became one of the few Irish government ministers ever to enact legislation to protect endangered wildlife and their habitats and to reverse the millennia old destruction and exploitation by mankind of the planet’s natural heritage.
Today we have private turf-cutters condemning Michael D for what he did in 1997. They have little respect for the long-term consequences of their actions to life on Earth. As co owner (i.e. guardian) of a bog and as a son of man whose family lived and worked on the great Bog of Allen for generations, I wholeheartedly congratulate Michael D for his actions.
The Fianna Fáil government in 1999 allowed people affected by the ban to have 10 year period of grace. Sadly continued turf cutting was and is not compatible with the conservation of these sites and rare intact raised bog has decreased in area by over 35% in the last decade.  The major cause of the loss and degradation of this priority habitat type is domestic peat cutting. 
 Eco-Tourism, Inverin Bog. Co. Galway

Giving Respect and Recognition to the Irish Language,
Arts and Culture
When Michael D Higgins became the first minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht in 1993, the state finally recognised arts as a fundamental part of the life of a citizen, and gave it a status similar to the right to education, to work, to health, to justice and to housing.
Michael D did not just get a seat at the cabinet table in 1993. He demanded and secured the establishment of a new state office that finally gave due respect to something that was recognised outside the country and in ancient Ireland as being synonymous with the Irish people- a love of music, literature and art in all its forms but was until his ministry often viewed as a luxury and something for the privileged few.
By setting up a nationwide network of arts centres, galleries, libraries and theatres, he returned the arts to the common people and made it part of the fabric of so many communities across Ireland. 
A Community Arts Halloween parade in Ballinfoile, Galway city

As Minister, he expanded the Irish film industry from a small sector generating 11million pounds into an internationally recognised industry that was worth 186 million by the time he left office.
Michael D is of course a renowned artist in his own right. In September 1990, Salmon Publishing launched his first book of poetry. Entitled ‘The Betrayal’, I am proud to say that I was its official sponsor and listed as such on the inside cover.

Stimulating an Irish Language Revival
Michael D established TG4, Ireland’s first Irish language television station thereby reinvigorating our native tongue and giving work and pride to so many people that wish to use Gaelic in their everyday lives.

Rediscovering Ireland’s Inland Navigable Waterways
Over the course of the 20th century,  Irish canals became increasingly ignored by the state as rail, road and air took over as the main arteries of transportation. Our canals and inland waterways fell into disuse, were abandoned and largely forgotten. A major achievement whilst he was Minister was to reverse this trend and allow Ireland’s inland waterways to become major opportunities for sustainable national and local tourism. He began connecting the waterways with the result that Ireland today has over 1000 kilometres of navigable waterways, providing employment and tourism in localities across the country.
Encouraging Youthful Creativity &  Imagination

Michael D has always being more than just a career politician. He is multi-faceted in nature and has taken on many roles throughout his life- factory worker, lecturer, poet, socialist, humanitarian, journalist…
But all of these different elements have been united by a common egalitarian vision of the world. His talks and writings express a humanistic vision of life.
He ended political censorship by the state when he abolished Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act that denied Sinn Féin and other political parties the right to be interviewed and to be heard in the media.

Whilst a radical student leader at UCG, I was enthralled by his lectures that questioned the injustices of the world past and present and held out a vision of a better tomorrow. He supported our student union campaigns to make ‘Education a Right not A Privilege’ and to question social injustices in all its form whether it was in apartheid South Africa, Catholic Ireland, US-backed dictatorships or in Stalinist Eastern Europe. He encouraged these issues to be raised within the university halls and walls. During the 1980s, he brought progressive politics into mainstream youth culture by writing an incisive regular column in the weekly Hot Press magazine, the staple diet for rock music enthusiasts.
He has a deep affinity with creativity and imagination in science and engineering as much as in the arts.

Over the last decade I have dedicated a lot of my time endeavouring to ensure that technology can benefit all sectors of society. Michael D consistently supported this social inclusion approach and would always make himself available to attend and officiate at events that I was organising related to neighbourhoods, asylum seekers, older peoples, open data and so much more. 
Michael D. Higgins in 2007 at the launch of the community website by the residents of the Eglinton Asylum Seekers Accommodation Centre, Salthil Galway city

Vote Michael D. Higgins for President of Ireland