Death of Peace activist in Middle East. He was a friend of mine

A few days ago I went to my local Catholic church to attend a mass in memory of a wonderful peace-loving man from the Middle East who was horribly tortured in prison by soldiers before being taken out through a screaming mob of religious fanatics to a hillside where he was publicly executed.
A social revolutionary, he was someone that I admired not just for what he had achieved in his short life but how he overcome prejudices even before he was born. For his mother was a young teenage girl who became pregnant whilst unmarried. In their very conservative traditional society, this would have meant being stoned to death. But her fiancée saved her from such a fate by marrying her even though he knew that the baby was not his.
Born into poverty, the child was forced to flee with his parents from their homeland to escape certain death at the hands of religious extremists.  The refugee family later returned to their village and lived quietly for many years. But later in life, the son became a target for the political and religious establishment when he started to travel around the country as a leading advocate for pacifism, religious tolerance, women’s rights, respect for children, and for a egalitarian classless society in order to end the economic exploitation of the masses by a wealthy clerical and political elite. Women and men flocked to open air rallies to hear him speak. His exploits were legendary: he once through his words saved a woman accused of adultery from being stoned to death by a group of fundamentalists. He befriended criminals, the sick, the poor, social outcasts, peoples of different faiths as well as members of the hated occupying army and their compliant state officials.  He condemned the hypocrisy of the all-powerful religious establishment who felt threatened by his ideology. They constantly harassed him, tried to break up his meetings, planted spies amongst his followers. Ever the pacifist, even when he was physically threatened, he never allowed his followers to use physical force to defend him.  But his enemies finally got him arrested on trumped-up charges of being both a blasphemer and an enemy of the state. He was condemned to a slow agonising death by a jeering crowd whipped up into a frenzy by clerics saying he had insulted their religion.
During his lifetime and since his death, some people have referred to him as a prophet, others say he was the son of God and there are those who think he was mad and delusional. I though over the years have been inspired by the radical progressive teachings of love, respect, liberty, equality and justice that were taught by this poor Jewish man from Galilee. Though I never met him, I would like to think that Jesus was a friend of mine.
May I extend New Year greetings of peace and goodwill to all my friends who are Muslims, Jews, atheists, Pantheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Druze, agnostics, Bahai’s and Christians. The cultural diversity and religious differences that we share strengthens our friendship.   
Áthbhlian faoi mhaise daoibh.

Global War on Women: Japan finally issues official apology & awards compensation to the Sex Slaves of its WW2 military.

In World War Two, it is estimated that circa 200,000 women from Korea, China, Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere were kidnapped and forced to work in brothels as the sex slaves of the Japanese military. The term 'comfort women' that is used to describe them is an insult to the systematic brutality, torture and rape that they suffered over many years in captivity.
Now an agreement has been reached between the South Korean and Japanese government with the latter issuing an official apology for the enslavement of the women and granting one billion yen towards the surviving 46 elderly South Korean female victims. Credit for this long overdue action must be given to the decades long campaign by Korean female activists. 

In this war the Japanese Imperial soldiery felt it was their warrior right to rape the female members of the enemy population at will. The military brothels staffed by sex slaves were only one aspect of the abhorrent treatment meted out to the women of the countries they conquered. The 'Rape of Nanking' in China was aptly named. When the city fell to the Japanese army in December 1937, tens of thousands of females of all ages were gang raped with many horribly mutilated and then murdered.
In Europe during WW2, mass rape on a huge scale was carried out by Soviet armies in Germany during 1945, as a form of 'revenge' for the barbarity of the Nazi occupation in Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia. 

Women: The First Victims of Men's Wars
Throughout history women are always the primary victims of the wars perpetuated by men. Their bodies are treated as trophies to be used and abused by the male victors. Most of the main ancient religious texts justify or accept this fact.

Sex Slaves in 21st Century
Sadly kidnapping and sexual enslavement of women is back with a vengence and openly being perpetuated by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on the Yazidi and Christian populations as part of a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against religious minorities, by Boko Haram in Nigeria and by Christian militias in the Central African Republic. There are countless reports issued by Amnesty and other human rights organisations about large scale sexual violence against women by Libyan people-trafficking gangs in an anarchic state ruled by crazed religious warlords.

Residents' Protest outside City Hall tomorrow (Mon) on new Sports & Community Centre

Many thanks to all those residents and supporters that took part in the packed meeting of local residents called to discuss the Ballinfoile-Castlegar Sports and Community Neighbourhood Centre on November 30th in the Menlo Park and who attended the action committee gathering on Monday last. The attendance at both events was a great morale booster to all campaigners!
Packed residents' meeting in Menlo Park Hotel
The next step in our campaign is to ensure that we have a good turnout on our peaceful protest that will take place at 2.30pm (to 4pm) tomorrow (Monday December 14th) outside City Hall in advance of a crucial meeting of Galway City Council when the management structure of the centre will be voted upon.
It is a now-or-never scenario for us on this key facility. So please if you are available make every effort to attend and encourage others (family, friends and neighbours) to take part. Even if you are not from our area, we would appreciate your support as this issue is about ensuring that every citizen of Ireland has a basic right to community and recreational facilities which is increasingly threatened due to the draconian cutbacks to public services as a result of the last government’s decision to force taxpayers to pay for the gambling debts of a rich well connected elite of bankers and property speculators.
Protestors from Ballinfoile, Tirellan, Sandyvale, Castlelawn district protesting outside City Hall in 1989
We as concerned residents are demanding that councilors ensure that the new state-of-the-arts sports and community complex that we fought for since 1987 to obtain serves the needs of and is controlled by the local community.
After the welcome news last September that the government had agreed to allow Galway City Council to break the local government jobs embargo in order to hire staff for the centre, it was disheartening to hear at last month's council meeting, called to decide the city budget for 2016, that only 50% (€300,000) of the finance needed to operate the centre (& that of Knocknacarra) as a fully fledged public enterprise would come from local authority sources. For this meant, according to Brendan McGrath council CEO, that they would have to bring in an outside contractor to form a public-private partnership to run the centre. For it is our fear that this arrangement could mean that privatization could occur sooner or later to the detriment of the local community as profit would take priority over social needs.
Ballinfoile - Castlegar Sports & Community Neighbourhood Centre
So we want to ensure that councillors on Monday keep by the commitments made by Brendan Mc Grath at the November budget meeting that:
a) peak hours would be retained for local groups/individuals
b) Low rental fees would be charged to local groups/individuals
c) People from the locality must be well represented on the oversight/management board.
Furthermore we request that:
d) local community representation makes up at least 50% of the oversight board
e) the new jobs that will accrue in this facility will be given to local people where possible.
f) consideration is given to social enterprise partnership programmes as an alternative to taking in private contractors.
If these just demands are not meet, it will represent a betrayal of decades of struggle by a local community and raises questions over who our political system serve.

Finally, we are asking all residents and supporters to attend the public meeting that will take place at 8pm on Tuesday December 15th in the Menlo Park Hotel to hear what was decided at Monday’s council meeting and what actions need to be undertaken.

Residents Demand Prioritising Local Control of new Neighbourhood Centre

A packed meeting of residents of the greater Ballinfoile locality and  of Castlegar this week in the Menlo Park hotel heard speaker and speaker stress the importance of ensuring that the new Neighbourhood Sports and Community Centre must serve and be controlled by local people. It was standing room only on Monday in the Menlo Park Hotel as residents finally could see decades of campaigning bear fruit with the much anticipated state-of-the-art centre being readied for opening.
However there was a strong fear expressed that, due to the severe cutbacks in local government funding resulting in Galway City Council not being able to operate the centre on its own and having to consider bringing in a private management company, that profits could be proritised at the expense of community needs.
There was unanimous agreement by the capacity crowd that the council should not take on an outside contractor until the principles of community representativity on an oversight board, peak hours retention and  low rental fees for local groups are formally agreed upon with residents of the area. Furthermore it was also agreed that the local authority should consider social enterprise partnership programmes as an alternative to private contractors. The council will discuss the management and operations of the Ballinfoile Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre at its meeting of December 14th and we want them to ensure that decades of campaigning and levies imposed on houses built since 1978 to fund local recreational facilities are not betrayed by the community now losing control of its new facility.

Climate Change Action: Don't Let This Be a One Day Wonder.

In spite of the winds and downpours, there was a very good turnout at today's Climate Action protest in Galway. It was lovely to see families, teenagers, students, grandparents, community activists, artists, eco-campaigners, teachers, feminists and progressive politicos in today's march through the city centre and subsequent rally in historic Spanish Arch.
The organisers - Transition Galway - did a great job and there were some great speeches.
Wonderful to see veteran campaigners such as Caoimhin Ó Maolallaigh, Kieran Cunnane, Liz Hackett, Seamus Diskin, Betty & Jim Gosling, Johnny Duhan, Coralie Mureau, John Cunningham, Iona & Daibhi O'Croinin are still fighting the good fight for justice.
I was honoured to be asked by Caoimhín Ó Maolallaigh to be one of the speakers at the event.

My message was that...

The planet is being increasingly exploited, desecrated and raped to satisfy the desires and greed of global/national elites who have managed to make so many of us become addicted to fossil fuels and consumerism. Thanks to man-made climate change and its associated deforestation, habitat loss, road construction, urban sprawl and commercial farming, we are witnessing a Mass Extinction not seen for millions of years.
We are been lulled into digging the graves of wildlife and for generations of humans not yet born.
Due to the power of fossil fuels corporations and the 'need' to continue to promote national consumerism, governments are failing to show leadership.

Sometimes we can feel powerless in the face of global scale of climate change. Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, acidic oceans, disappearing islands in the Pacific, threatened extinction of rhinos, tigers and elephants, climate conflicts in Asia/Africa, and deforestation in South America and Central Africa may make us feel that we are trying to hold back a tsunami with a pitchfork. Hence we can be dismissed by cynics as just grains of sand on a beach who tell us that personal greed (me-feinism) combined with the influence/wealth of the fossil fuels corporation and their poltical lackeys are too powerful to overcome.
But the answer is YES we are grains of sand on a beach. But without the grains of sand there is no beach. We need to follow the green dictum of "Think Global, Act Local" and that progressive change in society for eons has come from grassroots people power. And Galway is where we start and it is where local communities have won victories for the common good and the environment against the forces of conservatism over the last decade. Shining examples are the "No to Incineration, Yes to Recyling"; the halting of a four lane highway through Terryland Forest Park; Merlin Woods...

But concerned Galwegians like all those on the march today must stay together and stay active and make the case for Climate Change reversal a cause for everyone. Technology can help us. But the key priority is to reconnect with Nature and rediscover its sense of wonder and importance. In the case of the Terryland Forest Park, we are working with scientists, technologists, teachers and local residents to make this potentially great natural resource into a major Outdoor Classroom and Outdoor Laboratory, a Nature Play and Leisure facility for local schools, collages and the general public.
The almost 100,000 native Irish trees that people planted in this community-council-made forest since 2000 have had enormous benefits to the health of the planet. Science has shown that these 100,000 trees have absorbed 3,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide; offset the climate impact of 800 cars for one year; supply oxgyen for 400,000 people for one day; provide 4.64 billion euros worth of air pollution controls for 50 years and have enriched biodiversity by providing home to so many species of flora and fauna.
So by working together, we the ordinary people of Galway can make a positive difference globally. Yes we can!

ISIS - An Ideology of Hate, Death & Destruction

Followers of the Islamic Caliphate (ISIS) were responsible for the massacre of at least 128 men and women enjoying a night socialising with friends and family in Paris. In the same week these religious Nazis massacred people on a popular shopping street in Beirut, at a funeral in Baghdad and at a mosque in Yemen.
In Syria-Iraq, they are attempting to obliterate millennia-old cultures by brutally exterminating ancient peoples such as the Yazidis and  by blowing up Palmyra and Nineveh.
Their ideology is based on a belief that there is no place on Earth or in heaven for atheists, agnostics, secularists, gays, feminists, democrats, socialists, Christians, Yazidis, Druze, Bahais, Hindus, Buddists, pagans, Jews, Alawites, Shiites and other Muslims that don't follow their warped version of Islam.

ISIS is funded and spiritually inspired by a misogynist religious fundamentalist elite in the Arabian peninsula whose wealth is based on oil. From the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, governments in USA, Britain, France, Israel, Pakistan and Turkey have armed jihadis to overthrow secular or secular tolerant regimes in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonial Israel and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia were supported no matter what their crimes. The illegal Iraq war led by Bush and Blair triggered the rise of jihadism in the Levant and Iraq.
If the people of the Middle East of all faiths and no faiths are to live in peace and with justice, the duplicity towards ISIS and other jihadis as well as the Israeli occupation/colonisation of the West Bank has to end.
But what must not happen is a loss of civil liberties in Europe nor an intolerance towards others. ISIS and other jihadis are trying to fan the flames of a religious war and are using terms such as crusades and infidels as part of this campaign of hate. We must not fall into this trap. Tolerance and respect must be the key words and deeds.

First Steps in Organising a Digital Makers' Fair for Galway

Saturday morning Coderdojo class in NUI Galway
The annual Galway Science & Technology Festival Fair that will take place in NUI Galway this year on Sunday November 22nd is one of the largest one-day celebrations of science in Europe, attracting over 20,000 visitors. 
It is recognised as an important showcase of Galway-based industrial technologies, third level research and junior science projects.
091Labs demoing 3D printing and other electronics
The event represents a wonderful opportunity for those organisations and individuals involved in the local digital makers' movement to come together under a common banner to promote the creativity, variety and scale of this almost parallel universe existing within Galway much of it populated by volunteer enthusiasts. Groups such as the third level student computer societies, 091Labs, gaming groups, Coderdojos from across city and county, the Computer and Communications Museum, ham radio operatives, Google Women Techmakers etc. provide an invaluable buzz, digital learning and creative dimension to the region.  
Open Day at Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland at Insight NUI Galway
A few weeks ago, Coderdojo Galway city and Coderdojo Athenry showed what could be done by their hosting of a successful pop-up hands-ons show in the city centre as part of the promotion for the Galway City of Culture 2020 bid which included 3D printing, Minecraft, and Arduino activities.
Minecraft program of Athenry Castle with Coderdojo Athenry
I am inviting those interested in organising a distinct Digital Makers presence at this year's Galway Science & Technology Festival Fair to attend a meeting at 7pm this Monday (Nov 9th) in the Conference Room of the Insight Centre for Data Anatyics, DERI Building, Dangan Business Park.

Computer Museum, Coderdojo & 091Labs in action at Volvo Ocean Race Village
Please feel free to spread the word and encourage others to come along and take part in this initiative. 
Robotics in action at Codedojo Pop-up store at Galway2020 HQ

Save the Bees: Help in Flowering a Hazel Wood

Planting wildflowers in Terryland Forest Park
Many of Ireland’s native wildflowers face extinction due to pollution, invasive species, urbanization, loss of habitat and intensive commercial farming. The use of pesticides and herbicides in farming in order to increase specific crop yields has meant that wildflowers and pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies are being poisoned. Hence flora and fauna species are declining alarmingly and a countryside that was once populated with flowers representing all the colours of the rainbows, that throbbed to the sounds of a wide of variety bees and birds is sadly becoming a thing of the past.
Help reverse this process and to save Ireland’s indigenous flowers and associated pollinating insects and bats. Under the expert tutelage of Padraic Keirns, Galway Field Studies, Conservation Volunteers Galway, Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park, and NUI Galway are once again teaming up to organise another major re-flowering of the woodlands of Terryland Forest Park

This time it will be in the hazel woods section of the forest park behind Sandyvale Lawn housing estate. The plants involved include sanacle, sorrel, dogrose, tutsan, yellow pimpernel, bugle, fern, elder and stitchworth and well as thousands upon thousands of meadowsweet. So we ask you to please join us at 11.30am on Saturday November 14th to plant approximately 600 wildflowers such as sanicle, bluebell, wild rose and honeysuckle.
Rendezvous: 11:30am at the back of Sandyvale Lawn , at the side entrance to Terryland Forest Park

Ireland, Galway & Taxpayers' Monies diverted away from citizens to pay well-connected Property Speculators & Landowners

Below is a piece that I wrote for distribution to the local media on what is probably Ireland's longest running urban neighbourhood campaign. Thankfully, the Galway City Tribune used key element's of it in the current edition of their newspaper and it was well covered in a number of the news bulletins on Galway Bay FM radio.

"Local activists in the greater Ballinfoile Mór area held a protest on Wednesday morning outside the new Ballinfoile/Castlegar Neighbourhood and Sports Centre to express their dismay and anger at Galway City Council’s refusal to meet with representatives of local community groups to discuss the centre’s proposed management structure  as well as to accommodate a visit to the site. The residents were joined in their protest by councillors Catherine Connolly and Mike Cubbard.

In response to their direct action, senior officials from Galway City Council agreed within hours to meet community representatives on November 5th to discuss the management of the new facility. 

“We are of course pleased that City Hall officials have finally agreed to sit down and talk with us on the issue,  according to spokesperson Brendan Smith. “Activists in the Ballinfoile Mór area have been lobbying and protesting for a multi-purpose community and sports centre since 1986 which represents probably the longest running local residents’ campaign in Ireland during modern times. Since the construction of the first housing estate in the locality in the late 1970s, levies were placed on house sales to pay for recreational facilities for all age groups. But it is a sad reflection on the Irish planning system that such leisure complexes and other vital community infrastructure such as schools, cycleways and parks are not put in place in advance of housing development as is the case in many other European countries.
In Austria for instance the state ensures that land speculators do not make huge profits from rezoning by setting a maximum price valuation on land with the monies thus saved being invested into local communities. Hard earned taxpayers' monies is used to put into the pockets of the new landed gentry class, namely well-(politically) connected property speculators and landowners. Otherwise as has been our experience, generations have been born into and have left our neighbourhood without having ever enjoyed the joys of local indoor sports. Hence we feel that it is only right and just that, after waiting decades for a facility paid in part by residents’ contributions, that we should have a key role to play in the management of this long awaited local authority owned centre which is nearing completion and expected to be open within weeks. Otherwise it is a negation of local democracy. A community resource, whose purpose is to serve first and foremost the recreational and community needs of all ages living in the surrounding neighbourhoods, should have the direct involvement of local inhabitants in its present and future development. When we started the campaign Ireland in the 1980s, Ireland was a radically different country. It was primarily a homogeneous cultural society and we want to ensure that the recreational facilities fulfils the needs of all traditions in our society, both new as well as old. Furthermore while we welcome the agreement of central government to recently sanction the hiring of by Galway City Council of staff for the community centre, we are amazed that no additional funding was allocated leaving the local authority to try and scrap monies from an already over-stretched budget.” 

Galway's very own United Nations: A Window into a Better Future

A number of years ago, I helped initiate an annual multicultural festival, at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics (formerly DERI)  in NUI Galway, that is a wonderful celebration of the richness and diversity of the cuisine, music, dance, dress, traditions and natural beauty of the countries represented by the peoples working in my research institute at NUI Galway.
For 2015, staff and students from 14 countries exhibited stands with samples of indigenous foods, beverages and traditional dress. 
An Irish traditional music seisiún
This year, we introduced a new dimension to the event- music and dance. Thanks to Jim Cotter, Deasún Ó Seanáin, Chan Le Van and others we hosted a lovely Irish trad seisiún; thank to Insight's CEO Oliver Daniels we experienced the sounds of an old Irish ballad; thanks to Housam Ziad and Suad Darra we enjoyed the beautiful community Dabke dance from the Levant region of the Middle East. 

 Insight is a window into a better future, when the peoples of the world can live in harmony with each other, when they respect rather then be antagonistic towards their cultural/ethnic/religious differences and by working together can create technologies that benefits rather than undermines the planet Earth and all its flora and fauna.
 So I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hardworking organising committee that included Anne Helmreich Narumol, Amelie, Soheila and Anh Thule.

Click here to enjoy a wonderful film of the event.

Czech Republic

Syria & Palestine


Ireland (Éire)




Jeremy Corbyn – Part of a Wave of Progressive Change sweeping Europe

Congrats to Jeremy for winning by a landslide the leadership of the Labour Party. Hopefully this will be a return to truthfulness, justice and radicalism fo a party that under Blair and others became pro-big media, pro-spin, pro-banks, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-military invasions, pro-austerity and pro-billionaires. 
Unlike Blair and co, Jeremy will not suck up to media barons such as Murdoch, oil-rich Arab totalitarian regimes and American war-mongering neo-conservatives. All over Europe new popular movements are shaking corrupt political systems that are too often in league with a tax-avoidance elite made rich at the expense of ordinary people’s rights.  As with the Scottish National Party and Syriza, Jeremy is part of this tidal wave demanding change.
It will not be easy to re-establish community grassroots democracy in England. The stakes are high to break the stranglehold of the few. But I firmly believe that ultimately 'people power' will win out.

Pacman's Revenge!

What promises to be Ireland’s biggest ever Retro Gaming event will take place from 7pm until 9.30pm on national Culture Night (Sept 18) in the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland located in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway.   
Attendees will enjoy the thrills of playing the great classic arcade and video games of the 1970s through to the 1990s such as Asteroids, Pacman, Space Invaders, Super Mario, Sonic, Crash Bandicoot and Pong on legendary vintage consoles and computers such as Atari, Amiga, Commodore Amiga, Sega Megadrive and Nintendo. 

Mentors from Insight and local digital maker clubs will introduce visitors to the coding behind their own creative projects and help visitors to create their own games.
So come along to an event that promises to be a wonderful technology experience full of creativity, nostalgia, fun and excitement.

The Boy on the Beach

In a week when parents in Ireland and elsewhere are happily bringing their children back to school after the summer holidays, it is soul-shattering to see the body of three year old Alan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Bodrum in Turkey.
He drowned, along with his five-year-old brother Galib, mother Rehan, and eight other refugees, yet more victims of money-worshipping traffickers many of whom come from the same countries of the people that they are treating as nothing more than commodities.
Galib should have been going to school this morning accompanied by his brother Alan and mom. 
Alan's family left their home in the city of Kobane as they, like millions of other Syrians and Iraqis, were forced to flee a new terrifying evil that has appeared in the Middle East, devouring and brutalising everything in its path. Islamic Caliphate (aks Daesh) and other religious fundamentalist groups such as Al Nusra are committing massacres and ethnic cleansing on a scale rarely seen for centuries.
Like apocalyptic scenes from the movie 'Mad Max', the world has been turned upside down as we daily see on our television screens, villages and towns across Syria and Iraq that only a few years ago were peaceful settlements, now witness the cancerous ISIS  crucify Christian children; gang rape and murder female lawyers and doctors; throw gays to their deaths from high rise buildings; establish slave markets populated by Yazidi girls and young women to be sold off as sex slaves; bomb schools and marketplaces; behead Shi’a soldiers, triumphantly hold aloft the heads of female Kurdish fighters; parade caged Kurdish Peshmerga through streets lined with jeering crowds and burn alive a caged Sunni Jordanian pilot.
This evil did not appear from nowhere. The US invasion of Iraq destroyed not only the state’s infrastructure, but destroyed also a tolerance between religious communities in many parts of the region providing the environment for a brutal fanaticism to flourish. Brainwashed by Imans promoting the intolerant strand of Islam known as Wahhabism that is prevalent in Saudi Arabia; funded and armed by wealthy religious fanatics amongst the Saudi and Gulf Arab elite; supported by the Israeli, American and Turkish regimes due to their common hatred of the secularist Assad state, the policy of ISIS and other similar groups is simple - eliminate the large indigenous Christian, Shia, Alawite, Druze, Bahai and Jewish populations of the Middle East many of which date their ancestry back thousands of years. In the process atheist, secularist and gay people have been butchered all in the name of a supposedly  all-merciful Supreme Being. Ancient pagan temples, Christian churches, Palmyra and Nineveh are being bulldozed and dynamited
in the cradle of civilisation. The rich history and varied cultures of the peoples of the Middle East is disappearing before our eyes.
Millions of refugees have a right to return home. But that never happen whilst Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Gulf States are allowed to dismember Syria for short term political gain. They have let the Genie out of the bottle; the onus is on them to put it back.

Creating a Wildflower Meadow in Galway city: August 29th

Meadows were once a defining feature of rural Ireland, bringing beauty, colour and a rich biodiversity to our countryside.  These hay fields were populated by a diverse range of wildflowers such as clover, buttercup, daisy, ragged robin, poppy, bird’s-foot trefoil and yarrow providing an important home for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.  However urbanisation, the use of chemical fertilisers and intensive monoculture farming in the modern era has eliminated much of these traditional grasslands leading to a collapse in the numbers of native non-woody plants and a corresponding decrease in the insect populations that fed off them as well as the rest of the interlinked organisms of an ecosystem such as birds and mammals.  

Surveys in Britain have shown that the country has lost over 97% of its meadow habitat since World War Two. Though no national statistics exists in Ireland, nevertheless a similar situation probably occurs here.  
Now the two Galway city-based branches of the Conservation Volunteers are coming together under the supervision of Padraic Keirns to develop an urban meadow in Terryland Forest Park. The project will involve first preparing the ground by cutting back the grass, before the sowing of yellow rattle which is known as the ‘meadow maker’ as it reduces grass growth as well as other native Irish wildflower species as devil's-bit scabious, crow garlic, ragged robin, oxeye daisy, primrose and poppy. 
Once the meadow matures next year, volunteers will annually mow the grass using the traditional hand scythes that will be provided by Michael Tiernan and the members of Cumann na bhFear (Ballinfoile Mór Men’s Shed).
Anyone interested in taking part in this important ecological project should assemble at 10am on Saturday August 29th at the Quincentennial Bridge entrance to Terryland Forest Park.
Further information can be obtained from Brendan Smith at

What Did the Irish ever do for India/Pakistan - Part 2

An Irishman's Guide to the History of the World
- India & Pakistan

In part one of What Did the Irish ever do for India/Pakistan, I wrote about the influence of Irish-founded schools on the political leadership of the countries of the Indian subcontinent; the prominent role of Irish women in the struggle for Indian independence; the co-operation between Irish and Indian nationalists and the fact that the Indian National Congress was on two occasions led by Irish people (a man and a woman).
The story continues below.

India’s “De Valera”
Subhas Chandra Bose (1897–1945) was one of the most renowned leaders of the Indian independence movement, president of the Indian Congress Party and Head of State of the Provisional Government of Free India during World War Two. According to Bose’s biography The Indian Struggle, he saw Ireland as the best example in the 20th century of a national struggle for independence and said that “there is so much in common between us that it is only natural that there should be a deep bond of affinity and comradeship between the Irish Nation and ours”.  He supported the Irish armed resistance against British rule during the War of Independence. He agreed too with the Irish republicans’ opposition to the subsequent Treaty with its partition of Ireland into two states and their opposition to dominion status within the British Empire. According to Anton Pelinka in his excellent book ‘Democracy – Indian Style’, Bose recognised that these two issues (partition and dominion status) presented a danger that the Indian Congress Party must avoid at all costs. He closely identified with Eamon De Valera, leader of the anti-Treaty Sinn Féin movement, who later became Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish Free State in 1932.  De Valera was his political role model. He met him three times. Bose visited Ireland in 1936 at the invitation of De Valera who treated him as if he was the official representative of India.  He met him again in 1938 when the Irish leader was in London to negotiate with the British government over partition, British naval ports in southern Ireland and economic issues. It was at that time that a British newspaper labelled Bose as “India’s De Valera”.
When Bose established an Indian Government in exile in 1943 in Japanese occupied Singapore to oust Britain from India, De Valera sent him a congratulatory note. 

First Indian Restaurant & Shampoo Clinic in UK introduced by an Indian from Ireland
In 1810, Sake Dean Mahomed established the first Indian restaurant in British. It opened as the Hindoostanee Coffee House on George’s Street in London. In 1814 he and his wife set up the first commercial shampooing masseur bathhouse in England whose celebrity clientele included British royalty. It is interesting to note that the term shampoo is derived from a Hindi word meaning to soothe/press. Made from herb extracts, shampoo was used since ancient times in India to clean hair.
But whilst Dean Mahomed was born in Patna in India, he came to England from Ireland where he had married and held a position of high social status amongst the landowning colonial elite. He was only ten years of age in 1769 when his father, who worked with the British East India company, died. But he was taken under the guardianship of Godfrey Evan Baker, an Anglo-Irish Protestant officer. Thirteen years later Baker resigned his military commission and left India accompanied by the twenty three year old Dean Mahomed who became a manager on his estate in Cork. In 1786 he eloped with Jane Daly, a 16 year old girl from a local wealthy Protestant family. But he soon became a pillar of the local community and it was whilst he was in Cork that he published The Travels of Dean Mahomet, the first book in English to be written by an Asian.

Fictional Son of an Irish Soldier becomes an Imperial Icon of the Raj

Kim, one of the best loved English novel’s of the 20th century, written by Nobel-prize winner Rudyard Kipling features as its main character the orphaned son of an Irish sergeant in the British Army and his Irish wife who worked as a maid in the house of a British officer.  

His full name is Kimball O'Hara, a beggar boy who lives by his wits on the streets of Lahore.

Indian & Irish Literary Greats - The Connection
In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. This achievement was helped by the fascination that William Butler Yeats, then Ireland’s greatest poet and an internationally recognized star of Western literature, had with Tagore’s manuscript collection of poems entitled Gitangali: Song Offerings, which he first read in 1912 shortly after the Indian writer had arrived in England.  Upon reading it, Yeat’s felt that Tagore was far superior to himself or to any other living writer, that the lyrics “display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my live [sic] long . . . a tradition, where poetry and religion are the same thing.”  He became the Indian writer’s most passionate supporter and wrote the introduction to Gitangali when it was published in March 1913. By November of that year Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize solely on this one anthology. Yeats recognised a strong cultural essence between his spiritual homeland of the rural West of Ireland and that of Tagore’s native Bengal as it was portrayed in his poetry. Both cultures held a strong affinity between nature and religion which appealed to him.
But Yeat’s interest in the religions, mysticism and mythologies of India go back much further, to 1885 when at the age of 21 he had invited Mohini Chatterji, a Bengali Brahman, to Dublin.

An Imperial Gaelic Army in India
“India was the great prize of a Gaelic-speaking army recruited by the East India Company exclusively in Ireland under Irish generals.”
So said Donegal born, former imperial administrator in India and Liberal MP C. J. O’Donnell in 1913.
There is much truth in this statement as it is recognised by historians that the Irish were the largest ethnic group in the British Army during the nineteenth century, probably forming between 40%-45% of the membership. It was likely that it was a similar situation in the army of the East India Company before its duties were taken over by the British state after the Indian Mutiny of the 1850s.
In order to escape endemic poverty and for a love of foreign adventure many Irish Catholic peasantry and urban dwellers enlisted as infantry. The sons of the predominantly Anglo-Irish Protestant landowning elite of Ireland also served in the British military but as cavalry and officers, an aristocratic tradition that goes back to medieval times. Due to religious and racial discrimination, Irish Catholics were very rarely able to gain admittance to the upper echelons of the British military.
There is no doubt then that many Irish served as members of an army of occupation in India, brutally repressing rebellions by the indigenous peoples.  
John Nicholson
It is also the case that the majority of the Anglo-Irish officers during the Raj were proud imperialists who probably viewed both native Indians and the Catholic Irish as racially inferior beings whose destiny was to be ruled by the morally and intelligently superior English.
Amongst the Anglo-Irish who served in the British military and administration in India were Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington (Dublin); Sir John Cradock (Dublin) commander-in-chief of the Madras Army, who in 1806 enforced the removal of turbans, beards, bodypainting and jewelry from Indian soldiers which lead to a major uprising against British rule; Major-General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie (Down), who co-commanded a British invasion of Nepal in 1814; Brigadier-General John Nicholson (Dublin) who during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 employed the terror practice of tying mutineers to the mouths of exploding cannons; Sir Michael Francis O'Dwyer (Tipperary), who as Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab in1919 sanctioned  General Dyer’s actions which became known as the Amritsar Massacre when an estimated 1000 non-violent protestors we killed.

Irish Regiment’s Mutiny praised by Indian Nationalists
The Connaught Rangers (formerly the 88th foot) was one of the most famous regiments of the British Empire. Its regimental headquarters was at Renmore in Galway city.
In 1920 the regiment was stationed in the Punjab. Angered by reports of atrocities being committed by British forces on the civilian population in Ireland, C Company of the 1st Battalion at Wellington Barracks in Jullundur (Jalandhar) on June 28th decided to protest by refusing to obey orders.  The commanding officer was informed that the men would not return to their duties until all British soldiers had left Ireland. 400 soldiers became involved and an Irish republican tricolour flag of green, white and orange, stitched together from cloth purchased in local bazaars, was run up the flag post in place of the Union Jack.  The mutiny was peaceful. Messengers were sent to two other Ranger companies based at Solan and Jutogh. At the former barracks, two mutineers were shot trying to take control of the armoury. 
The mutiny ultimately failed. Fourteen of the mutineers were sentenced to death by firing squad, but the only soldier whose capital sentence was carried out was Private James Joseph Daly from county Westmeath.
One of the leaders of the mutiny Joseph Hawes stated that they as members of an occupying foreign army were doing in India what the British military were doing in Ireland (Professor Tom Bartlett). Indian nationalists at the time viewed the mutiny as a show of solidarity and common cause in the struggle against imperialism. Professor Michael Silvestri mentioned that the “Fateh newspaper of Delhi praised the mutineers’ actions as an adoption of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of civil disobedience and an illustration of ‘how patriotic people can preserve their honour, defy the orders of the Government, and defeat its unjust aims”.  

Last Viceroy of India assassinated by IRA
Lord Louis Mountbatten served as the last British Viceroy of India (1947) and the first Governor General of the independent Dominion of India (1947-'48). 
 After the death of his wife Lady Edwina in 1960, Lord Mountbatten spent his summers staying at this family's estate of  Classiebawn Castle at Mullaghmore in county Sligo in the Irish republic. 
On August 27th 1979 whilst he was out fishing off the coast of Mullaghmore, his boat was blown up by the Provisional IRA. He and three others onboard died from the blast.