Environmental Damage being done to Terryland Forest River, October 2013

Letter sent to Paul Costello of the OPW
Greetings Paul.
I was notified earlier this evening by Tom Cuffe of Birdwatch Galway that the operations of the OPW digger was seriously damaging the ecology of the Terryland River and surrounding banks.
I was so concerned by what he said that I took time off work to investigate.
I was deeply shocked by what I saw when I got to the digger's location adjacent to Galway Bay FM.
1. The digger was dredging up the river bed thereby eliminating an aquatic habitat  in the process.
2. Most (but not all) the knotweed that previously covered the banks was gone, at least from the surface area. But large amounts of this invasive weed now was covering the waterways and being moved by the currents further along the course of the river! The digger was scooping up quantities of this weed from the waters, but much was being left behind. Rather that controlling this dangerous  invasive species, the present OPW works is contributing to its spread.
It would seem to me that the OPW should remove the Knotweed manually with a team of staff rather than by machine which is as stated doing more harm than good.

3. Native trees such as willow that grew near the river and provided nest areas for bird life were ripped up.
I attach a photograph that I took today of this environmental damage.
Mr. Cuffe has spent five months conscientiously surveying the amazing array of butterflies, moths and bird-life that inhabited this area of the Terryland River as part of a nationwide biodiversity survey. He is utterly devastated that the habitats of many of these species is now destroyed.
Hence I hereby ask the OPW to stop their digger operations with immediate effect in order to save the remaining river area habitats along the river and allow an environmental impact assessment to be undertaken with Galway City Council Parks department in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife service before further work in undertaken.
Terryland River, Summer 2013. Excessive Plant growth blocking water flow & hindering aquatic wildlife
As you know I lobbied you and the OPW earlier this year for works to be undertaken in order to professionally remove the knotweed from along the riverbanks as well as much of the plant-life that was choking the waterways thus hindering the movement of fish and water fowl.
You informed that it was already the plan of the OPW to undertake these works this year.
But this present activity is ecologically destructive and is not what I expected.
I expect that you yourself did not realise the damage that was being done as your emails of earlier this summer expressed realisation that the knotweed should be removed in a professional manner, hopefully in a sealed container for incineration. Furthermore, it is a great pity that your stated opinion in August that the OPW should meet onsite with members of the Terryland Forest Park Steering Committee as well as the parks, environment and maintenance sections of Galway City Council to discuss the situation in advance of the works commencing did not materialise. If this get-together had taken place, probably the present situation would not have occured.
I look forward to hearing from you,

Le meas

Brendan Smith
Terryland Forest Park Steering Committee

The Web: New Front Line in War against Teens

Internet Safety has taken over much of my working life over the last year. Ever since the tragic deaths last year of Erin Gallagher and Ciara Pugsley, I have been increasingly providing talks and workshops in schools and with youth support groups on Cyberbullying and related issues throughout the West of Ireland from northern Sligo to southern Clare- daytime with students/teachers and evenings with parents. I love the Internet and firmly believe that it is the greatest man-made benefit to human society and to the planet for millennia.

But there is a dark side to the Web facilitated by light touch regulation, government inaction and adult ignorance that is placing our young people at increased risk not only as a result of cyberbullying and public humiliation on popular social media sites but also with areas such as online stalking, grooming by predators and an upsurge in online child pornography.

One of the most worrying trends is the increasing sexual objectivity of teenage females who are the prime victims of online porn.

I will publish a full media article on this subject next month.

42 Year old renowned Galway Computer Comes Back to Life!

A minicomputer of the type that was made in Galway from November 1971 was switched on last Friday as part of the special The Gathering Ireland reunion weekend attended by c320 former staff of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).

After days spent repairing and replacing parts, former DEC technician Joe Hurley got the 1971 PDP11 minicomputer up and running much to the delight of the ex-DECies that came along to witness this historical moment in the 'Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland' located in the INSIGHT (formerly DERI) Centre for Data Analytics in NUI Galway. The 16-bit minicomputer was the flagship of the corporation's product line for much of the 1970s and 1980s. 

As Joe switched on the unit, rows of lights started flashing on its front and a noise like the sound of a jet taking off filled the room, followed soon after by an almighty roar from the crowd of onlookers. A few tears were shed as happy memories flooded back of life in DEC, a corporation that made Galway one of the main centres of hardware manufacturing in Europe.

Abolish Seanad Éireann- a Failed Elitist Undemocratic Political Entity!

The second chamber of the Oireachtas, Seanad Éireann, is an insult to democracy, is symptomatic of an abuse of power by political parties and a waste of the monies taken from hard-working citizens in the form of taxes that are supposed to be used to pay for essential public services such as health and education rather than to provide party apparatchiks with exorbitant payments.

The Seanad is structured mainly around panel seats for agriculture, culture, industry and other sectors of society. Yet as the Senate electorate consists primarily of TDs, senators and councilors, it has never reflected these social strata. All of the political parties have traditionally used this institution as a rest-home for their members rejected by the electorate or as a launch pad for aspiring TDs.  
A typical day of low attandence in the Seanad.
It has therefore been a toothless kitten for most of its history, providing senators with large annual salaries, staff and expenses during the years of the Celtic Tiger whilst having one of the worst attendance records of any political representative entity in Europe.  A few notable courageous independent-minded senators have made important contributions that have benefited the nation. But these members were the exception and came mainly from an elitist university panel voted in by third-level graduates.

Only two pieces of legislation have been rejected by the Seanad in a history stretching back to its foundation in its present form in the 1930s.
As a result of the calamitous decision of the last government who committed the greatest crime in the history of the state by bankrupting the country and its future for decades to come in order to bail out unscrupulous private banks and foreign gambling bondholders, ordinary decent hardworking citizens and their families have suffered increased unemployment and enforced emigration. Those that are lucky enough to hold onto jobs are enduring wage reductions; increased taxes and decreased public services; the closure of schools, Garda Stations and hospitals which they are asked to suffer in a spirit of renewed patriotism in order to save the country from the abyss. 

I have no problem in answering the nation’s call and making personal sacrifices to ensure economic and social freedom for generations not yet born as our forefathers and mothers did throughout our history. But I fundamentally disagree with handing over monies in the form of taxes to be squandered by paying unnamed foreign gamblers as well as political party senators; by providing huge salaries to individual property speculators in NAMA to keep them in the ostentatious lifestyles that they were formerly accustomed too; by allowing Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern and former government ministers as well as the former financial regulator and other top civil servants, who collectively mismanaged the country and/or who abused their positions of influence, to ‘retire’ as young men in order to enjoy huge ‘golden handshakes’ and pensions worth up to 150,000Euro per annum for their rest of their long lives whilst they also continue to earn big fees from private directorships, after-dinner speeches and media work. I disagree too with former civil servants and politicians such as Alan Dukes being appointed to lucrative positions in state-supported institutions whilst still being allowed to draw down taxpayer-funded pensions.

The new coalition was swept into office by an angry electorate. When he took office, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised to implement a ‘democratic revolution’ that would sweep away the political cronyism of previous governments which had brought the whole democratic process into disrepute by awarding taxpayer-funded state contracts, positions on state boards/quangos, senate seats, land re-zoning and legislative bias that too often benefited property speculators, bankers and party members.
Sadly promises made are quickly forgotten as the government parties continue to look after the “old boys (and girls) network” rewarding discredited civil servants and party loyalists rejected by the electorate. At the same time the perpetrators of the crisis go unpunished and continue to taste the good life on the backs of hard-working taxpayers.
However Enda Kenny’s recent decision to keep by his pre-election promise to abolish the Seanad must be praised as a first step in fulfilling the promise of a ‘democratic revolution’.

Maybe there is a need for a second more accountable chamber of Oireachtas comprised of the different components of Irish society from the Diaspora, farming, business innovation, arts, heritage, education, social inclusion etc. Packed with party hacks and vested interests, this will never happen whilst the existing Senate remains in existence.