Arab Uprisings Reminiscent of Eastern Europe

Is history repeating itself? The wave of popular revolutions sweeping across the Arab world is reminiscent of events in Europe over twenty years ago. A series of mass street protests and strikes across Poland ended the fifty-four year authoritarian rule of the Communist Party when the regime was forced to hold democratic elections in 1989. Like a game of dominoes, the success of Polish ‘people power’ caused a knock-on effect of uprisings across all of the one-party Stalinist countries of eastern Europe. The seemingly indestructible edifice of militaristic Soviet puppet governments imploded within a matter of months.

Violence though was lessened by the ground-breaking decision of the Soviet Union under a reformist Mikhail Gorbachev government not to intervene in its satellite states as it had done so often in the past.

But the struggle for liberty and democracy knows no boundaries. Within a few years the USSR itself, then the world’s second superpower, disintegrated as its own peoples finally unshackled their chains of bondage.

In 2011 the majority of the Arab states, reeling from mass popular protests, are mainly one party regimes kept in power this time by the economic and military support of the USA, the world’s number one superpower.

Egypt for instance has long being the second largest (after Israel) recipient of American aid. Yet these funds, totalling c$2bn annually, are not used to improve the quality of life of the poverty stricken Egyptian people but primarily to buy arsenals of sophisticated weaponry from American arms manufacturers to keep a hated elite in power and to help Israel maintain its illegal siege of Gaza.

Thankfully it is Barack Obama in the White House and not George Bush leading to the hope that the Arabs will be able to eject their rulers from Yemen, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Of course the struggle for freedom and justice cannot be contained and inevitably it will be the turn of the Israeli colonists in the West Bank to face the wrath of both the enslaved and the exiled Palestinian peoples supported by the freed Arab populace of neighbouring countries. Peace in a war -ravaged Middle East will possibly then have a chance to blossom in a more fertile soil.

Green Party At Last Re-Discovers Some of Its Core Values as O Cuív attempts to Rekindle Social Principles of old Fianna Fáil

At last the Ireland's Green Party has finally re-discovered some of their fundamental principles and core values, by refusing last week to accept Taoiseach Brian Cowen's attempted 'stroke' of appointing new appointments after the mass ministerial resignations, & decided this week to resign from government.
So well done Gormley and co on this issue!

'Tis a pity though for the rest of us that they did not refuse the blanket bank bailout in 2008 nor vote against the loss of economic sovereignty in 2010 amongst other things.
Sad too that they never ensured, in their 3.5yrs in office, reform of local and national government reform of the civil service, reform of the financial sector, desperately needed curriculum reform and re-investment in education, support of local eco community campaigns such as the 'Stop the Headford Road through the Terryland Forest Park' in Galway City, protect the destruction of bogs across Ireland, introduce a levy on beverage bottles and cans, end party political influence in appointments to quangos & semi state/state agencies, the passage of a Climate Change bill, the abolition of corporate funding to politicians, protection of communities against cutbacks to their neighbourhoods and support groups, secure public ownership of Ireland's natural resources such as natural gas, end the Shannon stopover, protect the national heritage locality around Tara from motorway construction...
But still a positive though belated move.

Éamon O'Cuív- attempt at a return to core values of early Fianna Fáil
I am glad too that Eamon O'Cuiv has made a bid for the leadership of Fianna Fáil. Though he was part of the government that brought the country to near ruination, nevertheless I believe that he is not tainted by the 'me feinism' of the greedy self serving pro-property speculator mentality that is endemic amongst too many FF politicians. Though I disagree with many of his policies, I still think that he is an honest public servant that has a strong community and social inclusion ethos, a sense of justice and civic duty, a belief in the importance of national and cultural identity including a love of the Irish language.

'Men of No Property'
In other words, the values and beliefs that were part of the republican movement of the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and early Fianna Fáil. During these wars of liberation, many members of my family fought with the IRA, were prepared to give their lives to defend and give recognition to these principles. Ultimately they heeded the call of De Valera and followed him into Fianna Fáil. I am sure that they are now turning in their graves at how the party has gone from being the party of the downtrodden and men of no property to becoming the party of the absentee landlord and property speculators' who have the arrogance to call themselves up 'developers'.

Yet, 'tis a pity though that O Cuív became such a supporter of Cowen & did not stand up to & speak out against the other FFers who were too close to the financiers & property speculators

Call for Local Communities to Initiate Annual Green Calendar of Park Festivals, Picnics & Nature Tours in Galway City

A meeting of community groups organised by ‘Galway Friends of the Forest’ will take place at 7.30pm on Wednesday January 26th in the Menlo Park Hotel in a new initiative designed to encourage increased engagement by communities and schools with leisure parklands and wildlife habitats in their localities.

Green Calendar for Galway City

Members of resident associations, environmental groups and other community organisations are asked to attend to start the process of laying down the framework and events to fill up an annual ‘green’ calendar for Galway city that hopefully will benefit tourism, energise local communities involvement with their green spaces by tapping into local heritage knowledge and involve them (& schools) in protecting the wonderful but often threatened areas of natural physical beauty and biodiversity that exist within our urban boundaries.

Galway County's Golden Mile

In the process, consideration will be given to following the example of the neighbouring local authority who have pioneered the ‘Golden Mile’ programme across the villages and roadways of county Galway which successfully involves farmers and other locals in restoring the natural ecology and social heritage of the rural landscape. In so doing the scheme has helped engender a sense of collective pride amongst local inhabitants towards their historical inheritance.

City Hall officials and researchers from the School of Geography at NUI Galway and the School of Architecture University of Limerick will also be in attendance at next week’s meeting to outline some concepts that they have on increasing community engagement with green spaces such as the Terryland Forest Park.

A good presence is vital for this initiative as it represents a golden opportunity to unite with diverse communities across the city, tap into further NUIG expertise, reconnect with progressive elements in City Hall and come up with something innovative (Green Calendar) that can benefit all of the people (& tourists) of Galway.

Sunday Park Picnics, Heritage Cycle Tours, Nature Walks, Harvest Festivals....

It is envisaged that the proposed calendar could include a series of coordinated community tree plantings as well as nature walks along the seashores, rivers and/or woodlands in every locality during Springtime; Family Picnics in the city’s major parks, workshops on old traditional skills such as stonewalling and the ‘Off the Beaten Track’ heritage cycle tours that already take place in the rural landscapes of Menlo and Castlegar over the summer months; berry picking and bulb plantings by school children, arts fetes, ‘boreen’ and community garden harvest festivals in the autumn; local residents’ clean-ups of green spaces and hedgerow coppicing during the winter months.

As it is, there are already in existence a lot of excellent ‘green’ initiatives involving neighbourhoods and particularly schools happening across the city supported by a diverse range of agencies and institutions including Galway City Council, An Taisce, Galway Education centre, RAPID, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Birdwatch, Galway Civic Trust, Galway Bat Group, NUIG and Atlantaquaria.

There are also plans by City Hall to finally put in place a city-wide pedestrian and cycle ‘greenways’ infrastructure.

Time to Unite!

Hence it is a good time to coordinate the different eco-programmes under a shared calendar and exploit the potential of parks and woodlands to develop a network of outdoor classrooms for our schools and of outdoor scientific laboratories for our third level research institutes of such parks as is the case to a small degree with the multi-habitat Terryland Forest.

Destruction of Galway's Natural Heritage

But it has too be admitted that too much of our natural heritage areas are increasingly threatened by illegal dumping, encroachment by built development, pollution, and anti-social behaviour.

Hence many people feel threatened by our forests and parks.

Way Forward: Involving Local Communities

Encouraging local communities to hold events in green spaces and involving them in the management of these areas, as was the case years ago through the Terryland Forest Steering Committee and could be again through similar schemes and the introduction of a conservation volunteer movement, would engender a sense of local pride and decrease opportunities for anti-social activity such as bush drinking.

The local authority also has responsibilities under local, national and international legislation to preserve, protect and manage our natural habitats, hedgerows, the traditional drystone walls network, overcome habitat fragmentation by creating ecological corridors or green highways for wildlife.

Sadly in spite of the best efforts of many people within the parks and enviroment sections of City Hall, this is not happening to the extent that it should. Galway city is the least forested city in the least forested country in the European Union.

So we earnestly hope that interested parties would now come together to develop a new multi-sectoral partnership involving City Hall, residents associations, active retirement groups, organic garden committees, schools, third level institutions, community campaigners, environmentalists and state agencies that could produce a coordinated annual city-wide eco-programme for all ages that would make us the envy of the rest of Ireland.