Refuse Gathered from a Galway City Woodland.

Yesterday was a very active and successful day for volunteers associated with both the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden and in the Terryland Forest Park.

Campaigners for example continued their weekly clean up of the Terryland Forest Park. As with many public spaces and green zones across Ireland, anti social elements are destroying our city's woodlands by dumping huge amounts of refuse. In some cases it  comprises heavy duty domestic waste including fridges, televisions, sofas, paints, tyres etc particularly in the bogs. But from first hand experience, the majority of the refuse in the city  seems to consist of the detritus of nighttime drinking sessions including beverage cans, bottles, fast food wrapping, excrement, burnt palettes etc. The damage to biodiversity is huge and must cost the taxpayers millions of euros every year in Galway alone. But the presence of anti social aggressive drinkers can also turn our beautiful heritage areas into no-go zones for other peoples who want to enjoy going for a walk, a jog or a nature study.
Unfortunately, few if any of the culprits are ever apprehended or made repair the damage done. 

Neither  the Garda or the council's Community Wardens regularly patrol the woodlands. This policy must change if we are to end this modern characteristic that brings such shame to our country. 
Burnt Trees and 'bush drinkers' campfires and detritus in Terryland Forest Park
 There needs to be a better joined-up thinking between having stronger and existing litter government legislation implemented; having local authorities ensure wardens patrol the parks and working more closely with local communities and volunteers on an ongoing basis, having the Garda regularly arrest the culprits; having the courts ensure that meaningful fines and community service are served. I have been lobbying the council for months to bring all above parties to the table on this issue and to try and have amongst other things a volunteer Park Rangers corp set up. But no success so far.

On the principle that 'money talks'(!), I spearheaded the campaign a few years ago for the government to follow the example of other European countries and introduce a monetary refund payment scheme for all beverage cans and bottles. It works well overseas and used to exist in Ireland when I was a lad. I and other community activists, supported by Councillor Catherine Connolly, succeeded in getting Galway City Council to do so on a smaller scale in the city (the only Irish local authority to do so). But the then Minister for the Environment John Gormley (the Green Party leader)after months of lobbying ultimately refused our requests to do so nationally.

‘Cyber Girls’ Movement Coming to Galway

Rails Girls Galway, DERI NUI Galway, 2013
For the second year in succession, an important, beneficial and exciting event aimed towards females interested in computing technology and engineering will take place this summer in NUI Galway.

Entitled ‘Rails Girls Galway’, it is part of a worldwide movement that hopes to bridge the gender divide in technology and to facilitate women in learning how to code.
The free weekend workshop will provide women with the tools and the collective learning community to build web applications and software services. It will be held on Friday and Saturday June 20th to June 21st at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics located in the Dangan IDA/NUIG Business Park.
Rails Girls Galway, DERI NUI Galway, 2013
The organisers comprise mainly young female IT researchers involved in local third level colleges, businesses, schools and volunteer digital makers’ clubs. Though primarily targeting the local female population, there will also be participants from across Ireland and from overseas. 
091 Labs PRO, Alanna Kelly, working on a 1982 Dragon 32 at the Computer & Communications Museum NUIG
The weekend event is free, is open to all women of any age from sixteen years upwards, and is suitable for those who wish to learn how to code to those who are experienced programmers. The workshops will use 'Ruby on Rails', a powerful web application framework for the Ruby programming language.
Mercy Secondary girls & teacher with Ina O'Murchú
According to Myriam Leggieri, Insight researcher and one of the chief organisers, “Last year’s event in Galway was an outstanding success with women of all ages from a range of backgrounds learning together. We want to build on the dynamic that was so evident in 2013 and to make ‘Rail Girls’ an annual activity in a city that is and can develop even more as a vibrant hub for digital industries and innovation. Ireland needs a generation of indigenous young coders of both sexes to help lay the foundations of the ‘Knowledge Economy’ and create the products for a sustainable future. But there is in particular a serious shortage of female IT developers in the country and across the world as well as in the professions of science, technology, engineering and maths professions generally. There is no reason why this should be the case except for a lack of exposure to such environments. Events such as 'Rails Girls' directly address this issue and empower girls to take the first step in learning these in-demand skills and acquiring the skills to conquer one of the last great frontiers of science, namely the World Wide Web.”
Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland, Insight, NUI Galway

The first event, launched by Linda Liukas and Karri Saarinen,
was held in Helsinki in 2010. It now is a worldwide phenomena. Karri succinctly summarised the philosophy behind the movement:
“The Internet was built by and for boys. As a girl, one often feels like lacking the vocabulary to access it. With ‘Rails for Girls’, we want to demystify the world of web applications and encourage women to learn about software development and programming. We believe that women need the skills and language to understand that world.”

Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland, Insight, NUI Galway
Further information and application forms are available at There are a limited amount of places available so prompt registration is recommended. Closing date is June 5th. So apply now! 
Mother & daughter, Coderdojo Galway city, Insight, NUI Galway

Memories of the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival

Ireland's first weekend youth musical festival took place during the summer of 1978 in what was then a backwater- Lisdoonvarna in County Clare. Thanks to the foresight of Jim Shannon and Paddy Doherty, it was the Electric Picnic of its time & an Irish equivalent of Woodstock.
The festival was billed as a Folk Festival. But though it started as an upbeat all-Irish Feilé, it expanded its repertoire over the years and hosted some of the finest musical acts on the planet including Jackson Browne, Van Morrison,  Rory Gallagher, Emmylou Harris and Planxty.
Maria O'Malley from UCG & Mayo at Lisdoonvarna, 1978
The  scene that greeted arrivals was a countryside of stone walls, small fields and narrow botharíns. But from this unlikely landscape sprung forth a huge tent city populated by amongst others, students, German hippies (from Clare & south Galway), Irish trad aficionados, Hells Angels, Hare Krishnas, left wing revolutionaries... Of course with so much young people on one site, undercover cops were also present, making the odd arrest for possession of hash etc.

Largely peaceful, the 1983 festival was marred by eight drowning fatalities at nearby Tra Leathan and by the violence that broke out when Hells Angels, inexplicably hired as festival security(!), started to beat up some of the festival goers. Thus ended a magical festival that corresponded too and reflected much of my fun  student days and my political awakening.

For me, my happiest memory was in 1981 when Irish supergrpup Moving Hearts (Christy Moore, Davy Spillane, Declan Sinnott...) played highly politicized songs from their album of the same name. Songs such as 'No Time for Love', 'Hiroshima Nagasak'i and 'Before the Deluge' reflected the conflict in Northern Ireland, the H-Blocks, the early global environmental and the anti-war movements that were a largely youthful response to the real threat of mass annihilation that could have emanated from the 'Nuclear Arms Race' then taking place between the USSR and the USA.

The Web is Facilitating an Upsurge in Female Exploitation & Slavery.

As someone that campaigned for women and gay rights whilst a student activist during the 'dark days' of the late 1970s & early 1980s, and as someone who lived in Iceland for three years, I admire the present efforts of the Icelandic feminist-led government to ban online violent or degrading pornography which is largely based around the enforced exploitation of young people. 

It is worth noting that Iceland has being at the forefront of female emancipation for decades and presently tops the Global Gender Equality list. 

See The Economist article on the proposed new legislation.

The World Wide Web is one of the greatest beneficial inventions of humanity. But sadly it has been used as a weapon to enslave people particularly women worldwide. 

I see in my dealings with vulnerable people, amongst asylum seekers and others.We are living in an era where slavery has being reborn facilitated by technology