Destruction of a multi-cultural & multi-religious Middle East by ISIS

Kurdish female fighters defending Kobane against ISIS
The killing machine known as Islamic State continues its campaign of terror against the peoples of the world, this time targeting Kurdish and Turkish youth gathering together in Suruc to plan out the rebuilding of Kobane, a Syrian town that had been destroyed by the same religious fundamentalist movement a few months previously. 

IS practice a violent form of religion that uses ethnic cleansing, rape, slavery, crucification and beheadings to brutally carve out and supposedly reestablish a mono-religious theocracy that is a fantasy and never existed in history. The Middle East was always a mix of religions, ethnicity and ideologies in spite of the mad ravings of these sadistic misogynist psychopaths.

Sunni, Shia, Christian, Jew, Yazidi, Druze, and atheist must once again live side by side in the Levant and Iraq.
But this will never happen if governments of the region continue to condone rather than confront this cancer. Typical of this attitude is the Turkish government failure to hold a day of mourning for the victims of this massacre which occurred on its own soil (it did so for the recent dead of the anti-democratic sectarian Saudi king!). In fact they have helped the rise of ISIS as it shelled and slaughtered Syrian Kurds in full view of the Turkish army positioned on its border with Syria.

N6 Road Route is the death knell for Developing a Sustainable Transport Infrastructure for Galway city

A few months ago I wrote an article, that with later additions by other visionary community activists, became the first public announcement from a new NGO formed to help reverse an outdated car-centric philosophy that wants to build a new roadway that will only exacerbate the transport problems of Galway city and which goes against the trust of modern progressive urban planning.
The article appeared in the Galway City Tribune newspaper.
Hopefully once the campaign season starts in September, I can get active on this issue as due to a heavy work schedule in Ireland, Germany and South Africa, as well as family committments, I have had to take a step back.
Dear Editor,
A number of well known community and environmental activists in Galway city are coming together to form a new alliance to promote a ‘Future Cities’ concept based on a green ethos, smart technologies, a sustainable transport hierarchy and is neighbourhood centric which they say is the “antithesis of  the outdated policies of  the proposed N6 routes and the original bypass route”.

The group comprises veteran local community, environmental, cycling, educational and resident activists. According to Brendan Smith one of the members of ‘Future Cities’, “Across the developed world, cities are constructing new transport infrastructures prioritising public transport, cycling and walking. Copenhagen, Seattle, London, Melbourne, New York, Seville and Berlin are humanising their urban environments by introducing woodlands, gardens, recreational parks and a city-wide 24/7 cycling, walking and public bus or train systems.  Old inner city areas that were once soulless concrete jungles of offices denuded of the sounds of families and residents  are springing back to life as living vibrant communities. Whereas for Galway city, transport officialdom is proposing to build motorways that will decimate third level colleges, neighbourhoods, sports fields, key wildlife habitats, farmlands and in the process only exacerbate the transport problems leading to further urban sprawl and a city where the car takes priority over more environmentally people-based modes.
The Galway City Transport Project has nothing to do with solving our urban transport crisis but rather is based on promoting an uneconomical motorway connecting Connemara to east Galway that current data clearly shows represents only 10% of the present city traffic flow. As we were conned in the past by the official by-line that roundabouts facilitate pedestrian flow, so we are being sold yet another untruth with the proposal that a further car-based motorway will be the answer to our present chaos.

If Galway city is to have a sustainable future, the authorities should immediately bin a policy based on a discredited private car based transportation model that represents a failed 20th century system. Instead we should use the €750 millions that we are told is available to construct a hierarchical transport model based on prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users as was stated in the Galway City Development Strategy 2002-2012 but unfortunately never implemented.
Prioritizing private cars and motorways ignores the reality of the inevitable fossil fuel crisis as these energy sources dry up, ignores our international obligations to lower greenhouse gas emissions, poisons our air with toxins, covers much needed parks and woodlands with tarmac and concrete, and dramatically increases the noise levels that collectively impact negatively on the health of neighbourhoods and of the individual citizen.
Within our third level colleges and local industry we have the engineering and science expertise to use for instance smart technologies to help create a Living City that would attract inward investment, improve people’s quality of life, expand green zones and provide us with a template for other urban centres to emulate.

3 Athenry Castles Trail Revisited: A Magical Mystery Tour through east Galway

Michael Keaney with the cycling group in front of Castle Ellen
The recent Three AthenryCastles looped heritage cycle tour as part of Galway Bike Week 2015 was truly a magical mystery tour across the bogs and botharíns of east Galway. Some of the participating cyclists knew the route and individual castles and villages that we were going to be travelling too. But this time each of us at each stopoff encountered something different, something exciting and at times even exotic. 
The Emerald Isle Express at Ceannt Station, Galway
From our arrival at Galway’s Ceannt Station where we gazed in awe at the classical Emerald Isle Express steam engine and luxurious rail carriages with its international clientele that was straight out of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express; to the food fair market with its mix of food, beverageg and crafts stalls that preceded by a guided tour of the hugely impressive medieval castle with its battlements, keep and towers in historic Athenry; then on the road pass small fields, bogs and the village of Newcastle before we came to view the carnivorous Venus Flytrap plants  and frogs of Monivea Bog; then down into the underground vaults of the aristocratic ffrench family castellated mausoleum with Russian, Maltese and Anglo-Irish coat-of-arms that lays deep in a forest to look at the lead coffins still decked with a wreath of flowers that was placed there in 1938. 
Coffin of Kathleen ffrench, ffrench Mausoleum
Then it was a journey through the woods to look at owl boxes positioned high in the trees by Norman Clune and his friends from the Monivea Wildlife group. In the McGann hostelry of the nearby colonial plantation village, we were served up a fine country spread of sandwiches and teas. 
MacGann's pub in quaint village of Monivea
After being thoroughly refreshed and energised, we cycled on through a picturesque landscape of traditional stone walls and fields populated with sheep and cattle to the Georgian splendour of Castle Ellen to be greeted by the ebullient Gaelic lord of the manor himself Michael Keaney. Every time we visit his historic demesne we encounter some new treasure. This time Michael brought us into a 19th century garden ‘folly’, comprising a maze of arches and pathways. 
Alexandre Herman in Arch's Bar, Athenry
Our final stop was the new Arch Bar in Athenry which has been transformed into a fine trendy crafts beer and dining establishment. 
Cycling group in front of Athenry Castle
We look forward with anticipation to our next journey on this trail!
Athenry Food Market
Botharín in Tiaquin

Venus Flytrap, Monivea Bog

ffrench's Mausoleum, Monivea

Sculpture of Robert Percy ffrench, ffrench's Mausoleum
German Stain Glass windoww, ffrench's Mausoleum
Victorian era Folly (paths and arches), Castle Ellen
Details of our previous Three Athenry Castles Heritage Cycle Tour in August 2014 are here

My views on Greece: EU Actions Undermine Democracy and National Sovereignty

1.     It was corrupt Greek politicians of the two main parties (New Democracy and Pasok) and their oligarch friends that destroyed Greece. Once the country joined the Euro, international banks loaned Greek governments huge amounts of monies which was used to fuel their political hold on power, secure building contracts for their developer friends as well as to personally enrich themselves. A country whose people were traditionally thrifty changed overnight as they experienced the world of credit.
2.     The politicians falsified the national budgetary figures to secure Greek’s entry to the Euro in 2001.
3.     Political misuse of state monies to enrich politicians and their cronies, governmental failure to put in place a proper tax collection system and their misuse of the first Euro bailout loan to pay off international debtor loans rather than invest in the country has meant that the Greek people are permanently in debt for generations to come unless a comprehensive write down is put in place. 
4.  The wealthy Greeks more than any other social class have paid little in taxes.
5.     No prominent member of this corrupt elite has ended up in jail.
6.     It is now the ordinary Greek people that are paying for the elite’s extravagant lifestyles, yachts and grandiose building programmes.
7.     For last seven years, Greeks have been forced to live through a policy of austerity to experience draconian cuts in hospitals, education and other public services
8.      Unemployment is at 60% for the under 25 year olds with little unemployment assistance available.
9.     For those that have jobs, wages are low.
10. Hunger and scavenging for food is a fact of life for increasing numbers of Greeks.
11. With such an austerity programme forced on the nation by their creditors, the ability for people to contribute towards paying off the national debt is almost zero. Throughout history visionary politicians such as Roosevelt in the US and Atlee in GB and economists such as Chopra and his employers the IMF have recognised this economic fact. Austerity in such cases leads to more austerity and more indebtedness.
12. Further cuts are unimaginable for ordinary Greeks.  Extra VAT will only impact negatively on the tourism trade for instance.
13. Selling off national resources to pay for the mad expenditure of a small rich elite is immoral and is undemocratic. National resources should be in the ownership of a sovereign state and its citizens.
14. The international bankers who are assisting Greece going into debt and the venture capitalists who are waiting on the sidelines to purchase the country’s public assets at knockdown prices conspired with others to bankrupt and humiliate the country.
15. Alexis Tsipras is the first Greek prime minister in modern times that has been honest with the electorate and kept by his party’s election promises. Hence Syriza’s huge win in the referendum on the bailout.
16. In spite of the European establishment manipulation of the media  (to give the impression even up until the day of the vote that the YES campaigners were in the lead) and the dark messages from the financial and political big-guns that a NO vote would mean exit from the EU, nearly two thirds of Greeks supported Syriza.
17. What Syriza want is to secure a significant write down in the debt amount, a sustainable repayment structure and therefore a chance for the economy to recover so unemployment can be lowered, wages rises, businesses to grow. In other words, to give hope and a future for the Greek people.  
18. The Federal Republic of Germany secured a write-off of over 50% of debt at an international conference held in London during 1953. With anger towards Germany still strong after the Nazi destruction of much of the continent from World War Two, many countries were not happy to offer such a generous debt relief. But the Americans persuaded its European allies, including Greece, to relinquish debt repayments and reparations in order to build a stable and prosperous Western Europe.
19. The EU leaders and the banks have ignored the democratic wishes of the Greek people, have set out to blackmail and humiliate them for their vote in the referendum and have organised a very EU coup by forcing the resignation of the country’s popular finance minister Yanis Varoufakis,  by splitting the Syriza party and by increasing the severity of the bailout conditions.
20. The EU leaders may feel that they have won a battle against Syriza. But in fact by their actions, they have undermined democracy, destroyed the sovereignty of a nation and privatised public assets to benefit a small international elite.
21. I for one will be putting my money where my words are and will be holidaying in Greece later this month.

Note: In Ireland the ordinary taxpayers ended up paying for the extravaganza of our wealthy incompetent corrupt politicians. We were never given a say in this decision by the last government. I abhor the fact that my taxes and that of my children are used to pay off  the loans/purchases of the corrupt Denis O’Brien and co that has allowed him and others to purchases NAMA companies at knockdown prices. Syriza is trying to stop this injustice happening in Greece.