Galway’s United Nations: 34 Languages spoken at my university workplace!

In celebration of international Mother Language Day we installed, in the foyer of our workplace (the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Data Science Institute, NUI Galway), a World Map in which our colleagues decorated with scripts written in the alphabets of their own language.

February 21st is a global day of commemoration designed to increase awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity. It is officially recognised by the Galway’s United Nations: 31 Languages spoken at my university workplace as an opportunity "to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world."
It was first initiated by Bangladesh. So it is appropriate then that it was my good friend and colleague Safina Showkat Ara from that country who suggested that we also mark this very important occasion at our research institute. I was only to happy to oblige.

And what a wonderful exercise it turned out to be. For in populating the map we happily discovered that there are at least 34 languages spoken at our research institute- Arabic, Armenian, Bangla, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Kannada, Kashmiri, Kurdish, Magahi, Mandarin, Marathi, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Urdu, Russian, Sanskrit, Slovene, Spanish, Swahili, Tamil, Vietnamese and Yoruba. Wow!
We hope that this new initiative will become a new tradition that will continue to be observed for years and years to come.

It is also worth noting that my other good friend and colleague Sina Ahmadi correctly pointed out that millions and millions of people across the world are today deprived of learning in their mother language in their own countries. Denial of a people’s right to express their cultural identity has been used throughout history by brutal repressive regimes often to overcome resistance to foreign rule. For hundreds of years the British imperial forces in Ireland tried to destroy our right to independence by a combination of war, ethnic cleansing, introduction of foreign settlements, economic exploitation and a denial of cultural expression by the native Celts. 
It was Pádraig Pearse, the great Irish revolutionary and leader of the 1916 uprising against British rule, who summed up so well the need to resist the latter policy of ‘cultural assimilation’, “A country without a language is a country without a soul.”
Today cultural assimilation is the policy of many countries towards indigenous peoples living in forests, wetlands and mountains, none more  so than in Brazil where President Bolsonaro
aggressively pursues a campaign of taking Amazonian lands from the Amerindians for commercial exploitation by ranchers, palm oil growers, miners and loggers leading in the process to the loss of the Earth’s lungs. 

In a time of growing globalisation it is important that we promote harmony, the sisterhood /brotherhood of humanity, and peace between cultures, race and sexes based on respect and equality. Fundamental to this view is that we should also treasure diversity in all its form. For the world would be so much poorer if we lose our traditions, heritage and language. Variety is after all the spice of life! 

Furthermore, as you can see from the large poster in the front of the photograph, our institute is where people from all over the world come together to work on research into tackling Climate Chaos in so many sectors (peatlands, air, water, waste, manufacturing, cities...). We stand united for the common good.

Nóta: Tá muintir na Rúise agus na hÍsiltíre inár n-ionad oibre a labhraíonn Gaeilge!

General Election- the Tweedledee & Tweedledum of Irish Politics has finally been broken

It is great to see so many progressive parties and independents doing so well in this election. In particular the rise in the Sinn Féin vote has finally broken the mould of Irish politics that has been in place for almost 100 years with its capture of nearly 32% of the youth vote (double the combined total of FF, FG and Labour). The tweedledee and tweedledum of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has meant that a Thatcherite social and economic conservative philosophy has dominated for far too long. The power of a well-connected elite that includes Denis O’Brien, bankers, landlords, beef barons and property speculators has meant that the land, former state companies, media, services and resources of Ireland have time and time again been sold off to a few well-connected men leaving the country having one of the greatest disparities of wealth in the western world.
Mary Lou McDonald’s performance on last week’s three way leaders' debate was fantastic and showed the Irish people what we were missing when it came to true differences of policy. She raised issues such as the political influence on Irish politics of monied vested interests that none of the main parties would ever have questioned.
In a time of Climate Chaos, biodiversity loss, environmental catastrophe, social deprivation, growing inequality and privatisation of national resources, there is now a golden opportunity to take positive action to create a better future for both humanity and the rest of Nature. A strong united front of left, green and other progressive parties/independents as well as progressive elements within FG and FF can reshape government policies. For I truly admire some politicians in both of these latter parties that have done some great things for the nation including Eamon O’Cuiv in FF and Ciaran Cannon in FG. It will not be easy forming such a grand forward-thinking coalition that includes FG or FF but there may be no choice. The future of the planet and the hopes for a more egalitarian state are at stake.
As a life-long environmentalist, socialist, republican and feminist, I hope that such a realignment can come to fruition even if it means going as a united green/red front into government, but only around key fundamental lines that have to be honoured at all costs. Sadly the history of Irish politics has been one where small progressive parties have gone into government, been gobbled up by the bigger parties and sold out on their principles for the sake of a power that was not real. This time the combined seats of the green/left parties/independents can control the shape and direction of any coalition with either FG or FF to ensure a truly radical programme of government.
In the process though Sinn Féin itself will have to review its attitude towards Irish farming and promote a move away from dairy/beef livestock monoculture towards a more historical and sustainable mix with a strong emphasis on organic tillage, horticulture, native forestry and regeneration/reflooding of the bogs that will revitalise rural Ireland. Furthermore the new government has to take long overdue action against Denis O’Brien, Michael Lowry and other powerful individuals over the findings of the Morarity Tribunal in 2011 which highlighted the influence of the ‘old boys’ network that has undermined Irish parliamentary democracy but which has been collected dust on a shelf ever since.
Finally what is happening now reminds me so much of when I was co-leader of the campaign against Ronald Reagan’s conferring of a honourary law degree (when he was breaking international law in Nicaragua) by UCG (now NUI Galway) in 1984. There was initially strong opposition even anathema by the wide progressive coalition partners against the left wing (there were indeed very right wing elements) of (Provisional) Sinn Féin becoming part of the campaign. I and a few others had to fight hard to ensure their involvement in Galway city’s mainstream protest politics for the first time since the 1930s. But it succeeded and the rest as they say is history.

Sat: Combining a Forest Clean-up with Trees for Planting!

Thanks to the generousity of the Galway Science and Technology Festival and of Aerogen, free native Irish trees will be made available to participants in the Terryland Forest Park clean-up on General Election Day. So on February 8th, you can vote, take part in a community clean-up of a wildlife park sanctuary and plant a tree!

It was the Festival committee, Galway company Aerogen, as well as Coillte and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) that provided the thousands of trees that were planted in primary schools, secondary schools, hedgerows, neighbourhoods, towns and villages across Galway city and county as well as in Terryland Forest Park last November as part of the Science and Technology Festival.

So we welcome this gift of Nature that will allow Galwegians to not only clean up Ireland's largest ever urban community woodland project but to plant trees in their gardens or localities that will provide homes to our precious wildlife, give us the oxygen that we need to live, filter out dangerous car emissions from the air but also absorb the carbon dioxide that is the main cause of Global Warming.

Rendezvous: 12pm, Terryland Forest Park entrance adjacent to Currys. Check out
Wear suitable attire.
This event is organised by the fantastic Garry Kendellen and the team from Galway Atlantaquaria Clean Coast who will provide bags and gloves to the attendees.

First the People’s Tree Planting, now the People’s Clean up of Terryland Forest Park

 We are asking the people of Galway to take part in a litter pick on General Election Day (Sat Feb 8th) to help protect our precious land and aquatic mammals, birds and insects that live in our woodlands, rivers and in the seawaters of Galway Bay.
It is so appropriate that this event is  being organised by our good friends in the Galway Atlantaquaria (Ireland’s National Aquarium) Clean Coast group. For what is dumped in a park or woodland not only kills its indigenous wildlife, but also destroys fragile ecosystems that live in the deepest parts of the Atlantic Ocean.
Take plastic for instance. Approximately 8.8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean much of it by way of rivers and by being wind-blown, leading to the deaths of at least 100,000 sea mammals annually. Over 90% of the plastic ever made has not been recycled with 50% produced annually being single use and discarded.  Sadly this type of plastic production is still continuing. A representative of Coca Cola, the world’s most polluting plastic brand that produces the equivalent of 200,000 bottles a minute, said last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the corporation has no plans to stop using single-use plastic bottles.

So let us the residents of Galway city keep highlighting the need to end the madness of once-off plastic, to increase the protection our precious urban biodiversity zones and keep the pressure on Galway City Council to have more on-the-ground park staff.
Community campaigning last year succeeded in having full time staff appointed to our woodlands. But when our green spaces worldwide and locally are being called upon to provide more trees, to serve as ‘carbon sinks’ and as safe zones for threatened flora and fauna, City Hall needs to do so much more if we are to emulate for instance the labour resources of Dublin’s Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park.
In November, the people of Galway answered the call to plant thousands of native Irish trees in Terryland Forest Park. Now let us come together to collect the thousands of plastic bottles, beer bottles, beverage cans and other debris that cause so much damage in Terryland and along every seashore, park and woodland in the city and to demand greater restrictions on their manufacture and dumping.

Finally, participants are reminded to make sure to wear suitable clothing and shoes, all should ensure their own personal safety, wellbeing and not take risks.