Denis O'Brien - The 'Voldemort' of modern Ireland.

On December 10th I along with tens of thousands of ordinary Irish people took part in the 'No to Water Charges' protest in Dublin. It was a joy to be part of a mass demonstration of people of all ages that was more than just about the imposition of another stealth tax. Rather it represented the last straw for citizens throughout Ireland who they have finally said "Enough is Enough”.

The last two governments have implemented a string of austerity cuts to pay for the gambling debts of greedy anti-patriotic bankers and property speculators. Yet those who have bankrupt the country are allowed to get off scot free for committing the biggest crime in the history of the Irish state whilst hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women have as a result lost their jobs, their homes or have emigrated. The fabric of many families were torn apart. For some individuals it was too much to bear and they took their lives.
But the people protesting have not forgotten or forgiven those who are responsible for their pain.
It was very noticeable that coverage by the mainstream print and television media of the huge protest deliberately avoided any mention of the anger directed by demonstrators towards tax exile Denis O'Brien, the man whom the tax-payer funded (€200millions) Moriarty Tribunal found had undermined the Irish body politic. Yet it is he who owns the company that won the contract to install meters for Irish Water!
It is obvious then that because of his omnipotent power (in Newstalk, Today FM. Irish Independent, Topaz...) and his payments to politicians and political parties, the media, Fianna Fáil and the government are too afraid to condemn him. Like Voldemort in Harry Potter, he is the man Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The Irresponsible Few
However one noticeably dark element of the protest was the actions of a very tiny number of idiots who later on blocked O’Connell Street Bridge for hours thus inconveniencing many people working in the city and stopping thousands of protestors from leaving Dublin to get home to Galway, Waterford, Sligo and elsewhere. I myself went over to talk to them, pointed out that I too was a protestor and wished like many others to get on buses that could not move because of their actions.. A few of them gave me a tirade of abuse and threatened to physically assault me. It was obvious that all they were looking for was a confrontation with the police, which would have only damaged the No to Water Charges campaign and undermined all the positivity of the protest.

Dr. Sarah Knight: A Wonderful Advocate for Science Outreach in Galway

'Saving the Planet', Planting trees with her son Cian, Terryland Forest Park, 2013
A damper was put on my Christmas a few days ago when my good friend and long time university colleague Dr. Sarah Knight finished up as Outreach Officer at the Ryan Institute of NUI Galway. I will miss her so much.
Sarah with Lindsay Cody, 'Open Your Mind' research talk on 'Violence Against Women', NUI Galway, 2009
For Sarah was an inspiration and a positive role model for so many of us involved in bringing science and technology into schools. By her departure, our university has lost one of its greatest assets.

Sarah in Clontuskert National School, 2011
Sarah’s focus was in promoting marine, environmental and energy science with an emphasis on the research being undertaken in these areas by the Ryan Institute. Sarah took what are exciting fields of science and amazingly made them even more exciting much to the enjoyment and benefit of pupils in schools across Galway city and county. 
Science Festival, Leisureland, Nov. 2009
With her happy persona, radiant smile, infectious laughter and deep scientific knowledge she was always a big hit with children.
The range of hands-on projects that she coordinated had a common denominator -the WOW factor! One of my favourites and probably one of her finest creations was a large 3D tabletop model of Galway Bay that wonderfully demonstrated how sea currents moved along the Galway coastline. 

 A smiling face in the crowd, 'Open Your Mind'  research talk, NUI Galway
Sarah was a permanent fixture at a myriad of science festivals over so many years including Baboro, the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival, school tours of NUI Galway’s research centres, and the annual Ocean Day at the National Aquarium of Ireland aka Atlantaquaria.  Not surprisingly she was selected as a university representative on the board of the Galway Science Forum (formerly known as the Galway Science & Technology Festival). 
Sarah with her fellow Outreach Officers, NUI Galway, January 2009
Within NUI Galway, she was part of the organising committee of the pioneering Open Your Mind research competition and later took on the role as chief coordinator of the Thesis-in-3 challenge aka Threesis where speakers had to present three slides in three minutes in front of three judges. 
Thressis Poster - designed by Sarah Knight
The latter is now a permanent fixture in the university calendar.   
Science Advocates  at NUI Galway
Sea Science Exploration Zone
But her greatest legacy amongst many legacies that she has given to Galway science is the establishment of an interactive Sea Science Exploration Zone at the Galway City Museum that she and museum official James Reynolds spent many months planning, designing and securing funding for. 

With James Reynolds at the Submarine exhibit, Sea Science Exploration Zone, Oct 2014
One of my most abiding memories of Sarah and what typified her 'gung-ho' and hands-on approach was seeing her a few months ago decked out in rough clothing, sleeves rolled up, working away like a beaver with hammer and nails as she putted the finishing touches to the Sea Science exhibition just days before it was opened to the public.
Community Clean-Up, Terryland Forest Park, 2008
Yet Sarah’s interest in science extended beyond her official duties. She was also an active community environmentalist, participating in many seashore, park and forest cleanups, in tree plantings in Terryland Forest Park, and getting involved in the successful 2008 community campaign to stop  a road being built through Terryland Forest Park which garnered over 10,000 signatures. 

Sarah at the 'Friends of Terryland Forest Park' Campaign stall, Shop Street, 2008

Sarah at a Clean-Up of Merlin Woods, 2009
Galway Bay Clean-Up, Salthill, 2009

Galway Bay Clean-Up, Salthill, 2010
Planting trees with Jim Lenaghan, Daire Smith, James & Patrick, Terryland Forest Park, 2011
 You will never be forgotten Dr. Sarah Knight!

Middle East becoming a Human Slaughterhouse.

Assyrian Christians demonstrating in Beirut
 The persecution of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon is wiping out indigenous cultures that have existed for thousands of years. 
Followers of Islamic Caliphate (aka ISIS) are endeavouring to make the Middle East, once the cosmopolitan heart of the world, a mono-religious and monocultural region. They see no reason for the existence of secularism, atheism, socialism, feminism, Alawites, Yazidis, Christians, Jews, Druzes and Shi'ites. Their message is one of misogyny, hate and a glorification of death to the 'unbeliever'. They have introduced stoning to death, beheadings, crucifixion, female slavery and the covering of women in public as normal societal traits.

Iraqi Christians in Mosul before the arrival of ISIS
Credit must go to the Kurds for holding back this tsunami of evil. Sadly ISIS is growing in influence and power by the refusal of Turkey over and above pure tokenism to aid the Syrian Kurds in their life or death struggle against the Islamist; by Saudi Arabia's promotion of the puritanical strain of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism; by the United States destruction of Iraq and support for expansionist Israel; by Europe and the West's decade-long adherence to support the enemies of the Assad regime at any price.
But today it is not only in the Middle East that Christians are being attacked. They are now the most persecuted and discriminated against worldwide.
Check out Irish Times article from December 2014

An Urban Forest's Weird & Wonderful Arthropods at Galway Science Fair

4th year science students Paul Brett and Lauren Browne showed visitors to the Terryland Forest Park stand at the Galway Science & Technology Festival Fair, samples of the dozens of species of arthropods that they discovered in the Terryland Forest Park. 

Paul's research provides ample proof that the man-made woodlands of this urban natural heritage area is a vibrant treasure chest of invertebrate animals that include spiders, beetles and millipedes whilst Lauren uncovered nymphs, water beetles and crustaceans in the Terryland River. 

Both students are working under the supervision of Dr. Michel Dugon aka 'The Bug Doctor'. 
The completed report of their findings should be available for viewing to Terryland volunteers and supporters early in 2015. 

We thank all three university personnel for their invaluable research that will contribute so much in helping to make Terryland Forest Park a major Outdoor Classroom and Outdoor Laboratory for the schools and colleges of Galway.

University institute Celebrates a Family Multi-Cultural Christmas in Galway

A wonderful sharing of gifts, foods and festive traditions took place yesterday in Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway as staff, students and their families celebrated Christmas together.
Bangladesh stand
With festive songs of good cheer, thematic digital imagery, balloons, streamers and other decorations  providing a Christmas atmosphere,  the location was populated by an array of exhibit stands overflowing with a mouth-watering selection of baked and cooked recipes of puddings, pies, buns, cakes, salads, meats and jams from the myriad of countries that make up the peoples of the institute.

The hall was dominated by a Christmas tree where a gregarious female Thai Santa and her giant Irish male elf handed out sacks of wrapped presents as part of the wonderful Chris Kindle swapping of gifts tradition.
Santa and the Chris Kindle team
The event was enjoyed by all participants that paid homage to the family of nations that is a such powerful characteristic of our institute.
Vietnam & Nepal




Santa handing out gifts to children
Spot the Irish in the crowd!

Insight is one of the leading global institutes involved in data analytics research. We live in a data rich world, where almost everything we do results in a data record being created and stored somewhere.  The centre’s vision is to create a healthier, safer, more productive world by empowering a data-driven society to enable better decisions by individuals, communities, business and governments. 

Its reputation has attracted young researchers from all over the world thus creating a dynamic technology innovative cosmopolitan hub in Ireland.   

Standing Up Against Those Who are Robbing our Natural Resources & Impoverishing our People.

Yesterday, I joined the Galway march against water charges. It was exhilarating to be part of a vibrant community of people of all ages from all backgrounds who are prepared to stand up to the anti-people anti-patriotic establishment who are intent on turning our natural resources into commodities that hard-working people are now forced to purchase in order to pay off the gambling debts of greedy bankers and speculators.

Those that benefit from the water charges are those that bankrupted Ireland in 2008 and led to over 200,000 people being forced to emigrate, hundreds of thousands losing their jobs, their family homes and their families.
Those that benefit are people like the unscrupulous Denis O'Brien, who the taxpayer-funded Moriarty Tribunal stated made payments to politicians for favours and who in the process undermined our democratic institutions, but yet this Fine Gael and Labour government is too afraid to bring to justice.

By failing to initiate action against Denis O'Brien and Michael Lowry, Labour has sold out on the principles of its socialist founders.

Kurdish Women Defeat Islamic Caliphate.

So appropriate that misogynist Islamic Caliphate, who deliberately target and murder professional women in towns they capture, are being defeated in Kobane Syria by Kurdish forces containing female soldiers led by female Kurdish commanders such as Baharin Kandal, Narin Afrin and Afsin Kobane (nom de guerre).

Check out BBC News article.

Women make up one third to one half of the peshmerga secular PKK resistance. There are all female units within the YPJ of the Syrian Kurdish resistance.

Photo: AFP News
I salute these brave warriors that are standing up for humanity against a nihilist religious fundamentalist force of evil that has nothing to offer the world except genocide, beheadings, crucification, torture, rape, female slavery, forced marriage and mass public executions. 
They are showing women all across the Middle East that their sex are equal to men.
Thanks to US air strikes, the Kurds are managing to stem this tide of hateful men dressed in black, whilst the cynical Turkish military do nothing.

Check out my previous blog article on the subject of the Islamic Caliphate entitled
Islamic Caliphate must not be allowed to destroy the multi-cultural & religious diversity of the Middle East

The Sad Case of Irish Water: Robin Hood in Reverse- Stealing from the Poor to Pay the Rich.

Gene Kerrigan in today's Sunday Independent (Oct 19th 2014) is so perceptive in his analysis of the Irish Water debacle. Check out the article

Through the establishment of the semi-state company Irish Water, the government is starting the process of robbing a national public resource for the benefit of a small elite. The civil servants transferred to the company continue the tradition of what they were used to in the 'public' service by getting taxpayer-funded regular bonuses for doing nothing special; politically-connected consultants get millions in fees paid for once again by the taxpayer. Then at the end of it all, we will probably find a national resource taken from us & privatised for the benefit of business people who are close to the political establishment, an example of the cosy old boys network that looks after each other so well.
People like tax exile Denis O'Brien, who was found by the taxpayer funded The Sad Case of Irish Water: Robin Hood in Reverse- Stealing from the Poor to Pay the Rich.
Gene Kerrigan in today's Sunday Independent is so right. Thru Irish Water, the government is starting the process of robbing a national public resource for the benefit of a small elite. The civil servants transferred to the company continue the tradition of what they were used to in the 'public' service by getting taxpayer-funded regular bonuses for doing nothing special; politically-connected consultants get millions in fees paid for once again by the taxpayer. Then at the end of it all, we will probably find a national resource taken from us & privatised for the benefit of business people who are close to the political establishment, an example of the cosy old boys network that looks after each other so well.
People like tax exile Denis O'Brien, who was found by the taxpayer funded Moriarty Tribunal to have corrupted Irish politics, could well benefit. The Irish Water saga has shown that 'Cronyism' paid for by hard earned money taken from you and me (the little people) is alive and well in Ireland. to have corrupted Irish politics, could well benefit. The Irish Water saga has shown that 'Cronyism' paid for by hard earned money taken from you and me (the little people) is alive and well in Ireland.

No to Water Charges!

Well done to the 100,000 plus people who marched in Dublin against the imposition of another tax designed to force ordinary hardworking people to pay for the gambling debts of an elite who bankrupted the country, destroyed the lives of so many citizens and forced 400,000+ to emigrate. 
I would have been on the protest where it not for work and community commitments in Galway. But thanks lads for keeping the flag of resistance flying in our capital. Thanks too to the voters yesterday in Roscommon, Leitrim and Dublin for electing candidates that are against the cronyism and old boys network of many (though not all) in the main political parties.

Islamic Caliphate must not be allowed to destroy the multi-cultural & religious diversity of the Middle East

Islamic Caliphate: A Cancer that is destroying every religious, ethnic and cultural group and people that do not conform to their hate-filled ideology.
In the last few days 120,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey as Isis go on the offensive in Kurdish Syria.
In the modern world each society has to embrace diversity and promote laws that protect human rights and ban practices/traditions that deny equality to others based on sex, race or creed.

Rolling Back the Cancer that is ISIS.
May we see at last the return of Yazidis, Alawites, Druze, Sunni Kurds, Turkoman, Christians & Shiites to their ancestral homelands in Iraq and Syria.
The Middle East belongs to all faiths & those of no faiths. The attempt by ISIS to destroy thousands of years of culture must not be stopped.

The United States and their allies Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have over the decades destroyed much of the Middle East. 
But nobody else today is defending the ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq. Sadly, if it was not for the US airstrikes of a few weeks ago, the Yazidis, Christians and other ancient communities millennia would have ceased to exist in northern Iraq. Likewise the same could happen in northern Syria. As I said many times over many years, the US destroyed Iraq, Palestine, Libya and Afghanistan. I have good friends that suffered death and exile over these actions. But these crimes against humanity must not mean that the world can allow itself to sit idly by and watch genocide at an enormous scale occur at the hands of ISIS. I also have good friends amongst these communities now under threat from ISIS in Syria because they are independent minded women, because of their secularism. because of their religion, because of their ethnicity.

Galway is ‘Youth Coding Capital’ of Europe

Coderdojo session, NUI Galway

An information and registration event for both young people and parents interested in having their children learn computer coding will take place from 2pm-3pm in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in the Dangan Business Park, NUI Galway.

Coderdojo session, NUI Galway
The event will introduce attendees to the programming and electronics courses being provided in a relaxed social environment from mid October by Coderdojo, Ireland’s fastest growing youth movement. Sessions will be held in the IT Building and at Insight in the university. At a dojo (Japanese term for training centre), young people between the ages of five and seventeen learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs and games. Dojos are set up, managed and taught by volunteers. The first Coderdojo was established in Cork in June 2011 by James Whelton and Bill Liao. Since then it has become an Irish technology export success story active in forty-three countries.

Coderdojo session, NUI Galway
According to Brendan Smith, one of Coderdojo Galway’s co-founders, “There is a real appetite amongst our young people to learn how to code. They want to move on from playing computer games to making their own versions. This is shown by the fact that every Saturday, in towns across Galway including Athenry, Clifden, Eyrecourt, Kinvara, Loughrea, Mountbellew and Tuam as well as in NUI Galway, hundreds of enthusiastic children and teenagers create their very own games, digital stories and web applications facilitated by volunteer Coderdojo mentors. 
Coderdojo session, NUI Galway
The language used for beginners to coding is Scratch. Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scratch is the most popular computer language for young people worldwide, being a significant catalyst in the huge uptake in coding across the world over the last few years. It has a cross-disciplinary ethos and structure that combines mathematics with elements of arts, engineering and personal development. So we are using this opportunity to encourage our young coders or ‘ninjas’ to showcase their projects to the general public.” 
Computer Coding class in Galway Primary School, mentored by Insight volunteer
Brendan goes on to say that “Coding is the new literacy of the 21st century. It will be as important for our children to learn how to programme as it is how to read and to write. It is the foundation stone on which the modern technology age is being built. Hence for Ireland to develop a sustainable knowledge economy and society, it is vital that we harness the creativity of our youth to innovate the beneficial products and processes that the world needs. Thankfully there is at present a convergence of a diverse range of digital initiatives happening in this region that could transform Galway into becoming the Youth Coding Capital of Ireland and indeed of Europe.  The success can be demonstrated by the fact that during the inaugural Europe Coding Week held last November, not only was Ireland the most active country but Galway city and county hosted the highest concentration of events of any location in Europe.
The region has elements that could allow it to become known as the ‘Silicon Galway Bay’, a European version of California’s Silicon Valley. Many of the world’s leading corporations in the biomedical and information technology sectors such as Avaya, Boston Scientific, Cisco, Electronic Arts, Hewlett-Packard, Medtronic and SAP, are already based here. These industries have developed links to research centres located in GMIT and NUIG such as Insight, Ryan and REMEDI which are providing the scientific expertise to sustain their presence in Galway and underpin their status as leaders in cutting edge product development. Insight at NUI Galway for instance is part of a cross Ireland university research centre designed to provide a national ICT research platform based on world-class research programmes that will serve as a global beacon for the science and application of Big Data Analytics. 
Digital Female Solidarity: 'Rail Girls' workshop Insight NUI Galway June 2014
There is also the presence locally of Irish-owned high tech manufacturing and services industries such as Creganna and Storm Technologies. But we can be even better than Silicon Valley in many respects. For whilst the San Francisco Bay area is the world’s premier powerhouse of leading edge industries, technological innovation and research, nevertheless there are serious social and economic problems that  manifests itself in a high income disparity, a disconnect between businesses and local communities as well a low percentage of quality opportunities available for the indigenous population with approximately 50% of the jobs in the high tech sector being taken by people from outside the United States. Yet Galway has traditions and characteristics that, supported by new government education policies, should ensure that our local school-going populations and communities secure the maximum benefit vis-à-vis employment and services. 
091 Labs stand at the Galway Science & Technology Festival, NUI Galway
Key to this development is the teaching of coding to our young people in schools and clubs, which is happening at a higher level here than anywhere else in Ireland thanks to the volunteerism and deep sense of ‘community solidarity’ that is such a strong feature of Galway society. 
This is epitomized by the actions of the prime ‘movers and shakers’ in the industrial, political, educational and local government sectors who have over the years collaborated under the auspices of the Galway Education Centre, Junior Achievement and the Galway Science and Technology Festival, to deliver important learning initiatives in schools and colleges across the Western region. 
Computer Coding class in Mayo Post-Primary School, mentored by Insight volunteer
Modern version of Meitheal reaching into schools
 In a modern industrial urban version of ‘Meitheal’ that was once the hallmark of traditional Irish rural community support, these visionaries have promoted and harnessed an army of young professional mentors from industry and third level colleges who give their time and energies to teach in primary and post-primary classrooms delivering science courses whilst acting as positive ‘role models’ for our young generation.  
School Mentors, Hewlett Packard
Over the last year, volunteer tutors from Hewlett Packard, GMIT and NUI Galway have worked together to coordinate the delivery of computer programming courses to thousands of pupils and students in over sixty primary and post-primary schools across counties Mayo, Westmeath and Galway.
Local young people’s clubs such as ‘091 Labs’ and the Coderdojos are providing informal after-school digital makers’ environments. 

Ciaran Cannon TD for east Galway and former Minister of State at the Dept of Education has taken a very pro-active ‘hand-ons’ approach in promoting digital creativity in schools and amongst communities. Government educational reform has ensured that five decades after the tentative introduction of computing into Irish schools, coding will soon become part of the national post-primary curriculum at junior cycle level.  We are therefore witnessing the birth of the first generation of Irish children that can code, people who are truly ‘digital creators’ rather than just passive ‘digital users’.
Bernard Kirk(director of Galway Education Centre; Dáire Smith (Coláiste Iognáid); Brendan Smith (Insight & Coderdojo) & Ciaran Cannon TD)
There is a vibrant digital buzz about Galway that is found no where else in Ireland which also finds expression not just through youth-based coding clubs, high tech manufacturing sector; business associations such as ITAG; presence of world renowned IT research third level institutes but also through perpetual trophies such as ‘John Cunningham Memorial Coderdojo Awards’; the annual ‘Rails Girls’ conference which highlights the role of women in technology; and the popularity of the NUIG-based ‘Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland which give due recognition to the strong historical connections of Galway with the origins of the global village and its five decades long associations with leading edge computing.”
Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland, Insight NUI Galway