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

The Conservative Party is a party of England & not of Britain.

The Scottish referendum has exposed how hated the Tories are outside the south of England. The party has only one MP out of 59 Scottish seats in Westminster; 8 out of 40 Welsh seats and is non-existent as a political presence in Northern Ireland. In the north of England, they have only 43 seats out of 158.

The Tories are a just a regional party, a group of Little Englanders. Hence it is hilarious watching David Cameroon visiting Scotland trying to convince Scots to accept Tory toff control over their country. 

Freedom for Scotland & an end to undemocratic Unionism

The Three Athenry Castles' Heritage Cycle Trail: Part 2

Hitching a Ride in Monivea
The Generous Heart of Rural Ireland Still Beats On
In spite of ongoing high emigration, the closure of village post offices, Garda Stations, court-houses, livestock marts and parish schools as well as the almost virtual disappearance of mixed farming and the once omnipotent family farm brought about by decades of disastrous government economic policies which have been totally bias in favour of supermarket chains and the big rancher, the recent experiences of those who participated in our Three Athenry Castles Looped Heritage Cycle Trail Tour (organised by Cumann na bhFear) showed that the generous Meitheal (Irish term for working together) spirit of rural Ireland still lives on though somewhat weaker than what it once was. Local communities and visionary individuals across Ireland still battle against the odds to  keep alive a flickering of the traditions, skills, stories, beliefs, biodiversity and neighbourliness generosity that have defined our island peoples for millennia.
Athenry Railway Station: Bikes & Riders
For the first stage of our journey we travelled by early morning train from Galway city (Ceannt) Station to Athenry. The special discount return rate of €15 for passenger and bike was very reasonable. Iarnroid Éireann staff were courteous and could not have done more in accommodating bikes and riders into the railway carriages.
Athenry Castle
Once in Athenry, we visited a number of the 13th century Norman sites such as the Dominican Abbey that makes this town one of the most important medieval locations in Ireland. We were then taken on a guided tour by Fiona Cannon of the impressive castle that has very well preserved and is an excellent example of medieval architecture and fortifications.

Then it was up on our bikes to travel at a leisurely pace through the fields and bogs of Bingarra and Newcastle.  We stopped off at Monivea Bog to look at the myriad of mosses, trees, shrubs and flowers that thrive in this unique raised bog that is defined as a Special Area of Conservation(SAC) under European Union habitat directives. Bogs consist of partially decayed vegetation known as Peat. When dried it is referred to as Turf, which has served as the fuel for Irish homes since time immemorial. The smell of burning turf reignites happy memories of childhood to many visiting Irish emigrants. 
Monivea Bog
But bogs such as that of Monivea act as carbon sinks storing vast amounts of greenhouse gases and as important flood plains soaking up huge amounts of water. Their wetland sponginess is what gives them their name as the word Bog comes from the Irish word for soft. 
Hence the confrontation that has developed between the government and some local bog owners who continue to cut turf in contravention of the ban. It must be pointed out though that the state has offered in return financial compenstation and alternative bog sites deemed less important for wildlife. We are one family that own land in the Monivea Bog that want to have it preservd for posterity, to do our bit to combat climate change and to provide a sanctuary for threatened wildlife.
Ffrench's Mausoleum
We continued our journey to the ancestral demesne of the Anglo-Irish Ffrench family now owned by Coillte where we cycled through the enchanted woodlands to reach a strange looking building that has the appearance of a miniature fairytale medieval castle. But it is in fact a mausoleum completed in 1900 to receive the body of Robert Ffrench, the last male landlord of Monivea and a member of the British diplomatic service. Robert had married Sophia de Kindiakoff whose aristocractic family owned large estates along the Volga river. Their only child Kathleen spent considerable sums of her Russian wealth to hire a renowned designer and international experts to built a structure made from Wicklow granite, Italian marble and German stained glass windows. Its architectural grandeur in many ways symbolized the imperial power of both Britain and Tsarist Russia. Yet within a few years of its completion, Ireland had fought for and won its independence from an empire that would soon be in terminal decline whilst Kathleen, as with many of the Russian nobility, was imprisoned by the Bolsheviks with all her estates confiscated by the new communist regime.

Next stop was the picturesque colonial village of Monivea (Irish = Muine Mheá, meaning Meadow of the mead). Its geometric design was typical of the plantation towns of the 18th century; the large green areas were formerly used for the drying of flax by the local weavers who were brought from east Ulster by the Ffrenchs to establish a local linen industry. The church that dominates one side of the street was built to serve the religious needs of the newly arrived settlers. Sadly it now lies in ruins and even sadder its former Protestant congregation are now almost totally extant from the locality.
Vintage Tractor
We arrived in the village on its busiest day of the year. Monivea Fair takes place on the last Sunday of August. 
Steam Power
Its origins go back to the great end-of-harvest fairs of times past when rural communities enjoy some fun and frolics after a busy year of ploughing, lambing, digging, sowing, cutting, collecting and threshing.  Once the hard work was done and the crops were in, the farmers and their families could sing, dance, play games, eat, drink and be merry on the village green. 
Food & Toy Stalls, Monivea Fair Day
On our visit, we found the fair full of cake and toy stalls, food vendors, a myriad of prize-winning geese, hens and sheep and exotic pigs on show: fairground attractions; vintage tractors and classic cars; potato picking races; martial arts displays and bouncing castles. 
Some of the cyclists took part in a competition to guess the weight of the sheep that they lifted! 
After all the fun of the fair, re-invigorated with food and drink, we remounted our bikes to continue our journey onto our next destination. 
Castle Ellen
By the time we reached Castle Ellen, the rain was coming down fast and furious. But for most of us this was part of the rural cycling experience. 

Still it was nice to arrive at the Georgian mansion to be greeted at the entrance and to be ushered inside by the owner Michael Keaney (Micheál Ó Cionnaith), his son Diarmuid, manager Annette Flanagan, a walking talking human tree flanked by two knights in shining armour, before being serenaded by a trio of musical troubadours, followed soon after by hot beverages, cakes and sandwiches.
Michael McDonnell working at the Blacksmith forge
We then took a stroll through the old Victorian farmyard and its outbuildings many of which are in different stages of renovation. 
Woodturning, Castle Ellen
As the grounds of Castle Ellen were open to the public as part of National Heritage Week we were joined by hundreds of other visitors who were treated to demonstrations of wood turning and blacksmithing (the latter by my fellow Cumann na bhFear members), an art exhibition, multiple collections of historical artifacts. The evening ended for us with a wonderful musical session by Jerome and friends in the main dining room.  
Art Expo, Castle Ellen
Michael Keaney is a man of vision who hopes that his country estate becomes a hostel for walkers, cyclists and those that want to experience an alternative but authentic countryside. I sincerely hope that this comes to pass and I will do my bit to make it so by organizing regular cycle tours to this beautiful but almost unknown jewel in the Irish landscape.   
None of our group wanted to leave this magical place which was the highlight of an excursion that had so much to offer. But time was moving on. So we once again mounted our bikes to take the road to Athenry.
The weather at this stage had turned nasty. After repairing a flat tyre, we made it back to the quaint little 19th century railway station to catch a night train back to Galway City.
Guard Dog, Athenry Railway Station
See my previous article on the inaugural Three Athenry Castles tour

Night of the Robots: Computer Museum, Culture Night Galway

As part of national Culture Night on September 19th, a selection of vintage and modern robots will be on show from 7pm-8.30pm at the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland  located in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway.
According to Brendan Smith, curator of the museum, “Robots, which can be defined as programmable electro-mechanical machines capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically and oftentimes autonomously, have been part of popular science fiction since the early 1920s when the term ‘Robots’ was first coined by writer Karel Čapek  from the Czech word for ‘serf’. 
 These devices have been used since the 1970s to perform repetitive and heavy duty tasks in manufacturing industry particularly in vehicle assembly. We will have on display a large robotic arm controlled by a Galway-made DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) computer that was used in the British aeronautics industry during this period. 

Volunteers such as Alanna Kelly, John Lonican and Darren Tighe will also demonstrate at the museum the workings of low-cost easily assembled robots that can be programmed and operated by children from small computers.  We are honoured to have present Diarmuid Keaney who as a young boy in 1985 made his own and probably Galway’s first computer controlled robot. He will show us the original Commodore Vic 20 home computer and BASIC language programme that he used to operate the device.
There will also be an exhibition of rare science fiction comics and literature on the themes of robots dating from the 1920s onwards.  
But pride of place will go to a delightful machine called HERO 1, a R2-D2 lookalike from Star Wars, which took part in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade of Galway city in 1984! Manufactured by the American Heathkit company, it was the world’s first mass-produced affordable robot capable of interacting with the environment.  Its built-in programmable sensors allowed it to detect light, sound, motion, and obstructions. It had a computerized voice, could sing, could move and pick up objects. Frank McCurry and Tom Frawley then staff members of the local Regional Technical College (RTC) now known as GMIT, entered HERO into the March 17th parade. It had been used in the Galway college as a device to teach students about robotics and represented what many thought at the time would be the dawn of the new Age of the Robot.”

Thanks to current advances in sensor technologies, a new generation of robots could physically look like humans, display intelligence in their responses and gestures to their surrounding environment and take on the role of companions to people.  This is already happening. ASIMO from the Japanese corporation Honda is able to recognise and respond to individual sounds, faces and moving objects; to interact with people and to give a handshake or courtesy to a person that he is facing towards.

Killer Robots

However there are genuine concerns over the technology of automation that allows an electronic device to work by itself with little or no direct human control particularly in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems known as killer robots. Though not yet in existence fears expressed by many at such possibilities has led to the United Nations recently discussing the issue of banning outright research into such weaponry.
I for one am in favour of a complete ban of development of such weaponry.

Operation 'Bláthanna' Continues: Please Join Us on Saturday for Planting of 'Primrose' Flowers in Terryland Forest Park

The campaign to populate the Terryland Forest Park with tens of thousands of native wildflowers continues this Saturday when the Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park (CVTFP) branch, under the supervision of flora enthusiast Padraig Kerrins, will replant hundreds of native Primrose flowers in a designated section of Ireland's largest community-driven urban forest.

In May/June, volunteers planted over 500 Oxe Eye Daisies, St. Patrick's Cabbages, Comfreys, Sanicles and other native flora in the grasslands, woods and verges of the Terryland Forest Park.

Over two weekends in July, thousands of Bluebells and Wild Garlic seeds were collected by volunteers from mature forests across Galway and dispersed across the woods of Terryland.
The plants that will be worked on this Saturday were given to volunteers last May to nurture in their home gardens.

The aim of 'Operation Bláthanna'(Irish = Flowers) is to plant the wildflowers that will dramatically increase the biodiversity of this great natural resource.

Rendezvous: 11.30am next Saturday (Sept 6) at the carpark in front of Galway Bay FM radio station on Sandy Road.
Bring along small spades if you have them.

The Community That Eats Together Stays Together

What a joy it was to work last Saturday in  the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden. 
We decided to give this year's Harvest Festival a 'Slow Food' theme and provide an array of dishes made from the vegetables, fruits and herbs grown in our garden whilst encouraging people to eat and to chat together.
Picking Plums in the garden

Much work was done in advance by volunteers picking, collecting, cooking and baking the harvest produce.
Cepta picking berries from a hedgerow for tarts
Myriam & Sohiela harvesting Sloe Berries
It was a great success as hundreds of people turned up! 
Blackberry & Apple Tart
The tarts, cakes, salads, jams and soups made in advance were particularly popular as where the baked potatoes made onsite in our outdoor oven. Michael Tiernan, Michael McDonnell and Jack O'Connor from Cumann na bhFear (Men's Shed) installed a traditional open fire hearth complete with vintage black metal kettles and pots as they brought people back into time to an Ireland of 100 years ago as they served up mouth-watering bacon and cabbage, bread and tea (loose tea leaves). 
Times Past: Boiling Cabbage & Spuds on a traditional open fire

Baking Potatoes in the Garden Oven
Deasún Ó Seanain and Frances Brady gave us some lovely traditional Irish music seisiún, and Helen Caird had a sample of her lovely art work on display. 
Mayor Donal Lyons with Anh & Hung from Vietnam
Mayor Donal Lyons made a lovely supportive speech and we were visited by other politicians including councillors Anna Marley, Mairéad Farrell and Terry Flaherty (below).
Councillor Terry O'Flaherty has been a regular visitor to the garden over the years
Community Food Gatherings
Locally grown organic food using old and new recipes to make mouth watering dishes, salads, soups, desserts, tarts, jams, cakes and breads that were presented in a communal neighbourhood gathering is a gel that bring a community together. 

Wildlife Food: Small Tortoise Butterfly enjoys an Oxide Daisy FLower in the Garden
The event also allowed attendees to learn and to appreciate the importance of the importance of biodiversity and of how we need to nurture wildlife especially in an urbanised environment. 
Last Saturday's event will be the first of many. 

So thanks to the great team of garden volunteers (below) that made it all happen

A group of visitors from Sandyvale Lawn

Visitors from the Insight Research Centre at NUI Galway

Happy Hay Girls!  Johanna & Bernie from Crestwood