Syriza, Denis O'Brien & Irish Political Cronyism

A win for Syriza is a win for ordinary European citizens.
For far too long mainstream parties across Europe such as Pasok have handed over the sovereignty of their countries and the futures of their citizens to corporate interests and to a rich elite. They represent the interests of the millionaires at the expense of the millions. Today 1% of the world population almost own the same as the remaining 99%. This is no coincidence. Look at how in Ireland the billionaire Denis O'Brien, who was exposed by the Moriarty Tribunal as paying huge sums of monies to a government minister to secure a national mobile telephone license that helped lay the foundations of his financial empire, has not been prosecuted by the state. Furthermore the current government continues to grant him favours. It is one of his companies that got the contract for the water meters and who is allowed to build up a virtual monopoly of the 'independent' media in Ireland while operating as a tax exile. The clear message is that crime pays in Ireland and elsewhere when you have friends in high office.

Focus on Mary Harney
Let us look at just one example of how incompetent politicians can legally take our hard-earned taxes to finance a life-time of luxury.
Mary Harney retired with a package worth more than €300,000 and is entitled to an annual pension of over €120,000. She receives an annual ministerial pension of over €70,000 and a TDs pension of €50,600. She also received a pension lump sum of €160,000, a termination lump sum of about €17,000 and monthly termination payments from the Oireachtas during her first 12 months of retirement worth another €66,900, Mary then married one of the heads of FAS who found it very difficult to explain where the €1 billion (yes billion) a year they were receiving in a time of nearly full employment went. Her Husband left FAS an opened up a training agency himself. I wonder who he gets the work off? It's one big club baby, and you ain't in it, (but we will allow you to pay for it). Note: Thanks to the 'You can stock your water meters up your a...' Facebook page for this piece on Mary Harney)

When Vietnam Came to Galway

In 2014, a comet from the east briefly appeared over Galway brightening up the lives of many of its people.  This celestial body was known by the name of Hung Ngo.

Harvest Day, Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden
Hung came to work in my institute at NUI Galway last May. He was a conscientious member of staff at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and was widely respected by his peers for his web technology expertise.
But whilst in Galway, Hung decided to burst forth from his university workplace and immersed himself in the wider community life of the city.
Planting Primrose Wildflowers, Terryland Forest Park
He enthusiastically became involved in a number of grassroots environmental projects. 
His love of Nature became legendary. 
Transplanting & Saving Orchids from a road development near Ardrahan
On most weekends he would turn up at organic gardening and forestry events across Galway to help build tree sculptures, clear pathways, move rocks, plant wildflowers, grow vegetables…No task was too hard, no job too dirty for this man!
Along the Mayo Greenway
Hung it seemed also fell in love with Irish heritage and enjoyed participating in cycling and touring events that I regularly organised in order to introduce Irish and non-Irish residents of the city to the beautiful landscapes, pretty little rural villages and mysterious ancient castles, mansions and churches that still cover much of our countryside.
Athlone Castle
On his last day in Ireland (Saturday Nov 30), I gave Hung a taster of some of the diverse tapestry of activities that one can experience every day in our cosmopolitan city. 
On Lough Ree

Coderdojo class, Saturday mornings, Insight, NUI Galway
In the early morning he attended my Coderdojo classes where I teach computer coding to parents and their children.
In Killeen's traditional Irish pub, Shannonbridge
In the late morning, we went to a Food Preserve workshop where we learnt from organic food expert Kay Synott on how to make chutneys, pickles and sauces out of the vegetables and fruit grown in the local Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden. 
Food Preserve course
In the afternoon we took part in a mass public protest against Water Charges
Anti-water charges march, Galway city
That night we had a few pints of Guinness in Ti Coillí a very renowned Irish music pub.
Tí Coillí
So inspired was Hung by what he saw at our computer coding class, that he has now decided to establish the first ever computer volunteer mentoring club or Coderdojo in Vietnam.
I am glad for him that he is back home with his wife and children. I hope too that he will also utilise his deep interest in the environment to help his fellow citizens protect the remaining rainforests of Vietnam with their unique and precious wildlife which have been so decimated by logging, farming and built development over the last few decades.  Sadly the last wild (Javan) rhino in Vietnam died in 2010.  The country is also one of the world’s largest markets for rhino horn, a situation that has led to an alarming increase in poaching in Africa since 2007.
I have always had a deep affinity for Vietnam and its people. My first involvement in radical politics came when I was a teenager in secondary school in county Monaghan during the mid-1970s. It was inspired by the Vietnamese war of liberation against the American military and by the anti-war movement of the United States. 
Anti-Vietnam War protest, USA
I was in awe of how this little country could  overcome centuries of occupation, colonisation and brutality to defeat the world’s superpowers (China, France and the USA) that laid claim to its lands. Its history has many parallels with Ireland.
So thank you Hung for rekindling my interest in Vietnam and thank you too for all the hard work you have undertaken in helping to protect the environment in Galway city for the benefit of both humans and wildlife.
Harvesting Apples in Ballinfoile community garden
Particularly in the last decade, Galway city has greatly benefited from the talents of many people who were not born in Ireland. Hung Ngo (Vietnam) and Sarah Knight (Canada) are two good friends and fellow work colleagues who are prime examples of this trend.
Hitching a ride, Monivea village

Building a stone Celtic Cross pathway, community garden

Cottage café, Mayo Greenway
Hung in a community orchard with friends from USA, Iran, Vietnam, England, Malawi & Ireland

Supping with the locals, Ballinfoile

Je Suis Charlie

The murder of journalists in Paris by followers of the Islamic Caliphate is an attack on free speech, freedom of expression and a free media. The right to criticise any political, religious or cultural figure, movement or ideology should not be undermined by the murderous actions of misogynist religious reactionaries. 
Respect for people's religious or atheistic beliefs is so important. Respect for people's cultural, religious or political beliefs that are not anti-female or racist is so important. 
ISIS mass execution

But we should not suddenly become afraid to write, paint, draw and speak out on issues from jihad, the right of apostasy, Israeli colonisation of West Bank, Saudi Arabia's sectarian ideology to Guantanamo. We should not impose self-censorship.

Otherwise these anti-people fascist bigots would have won.

The Irish laws on blasphemy are protecting religious intolerance and undermining freedom of expression.  Time for a referendum to be held on the subject.