Tales from the Garden: Viking Night Raiders

"From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord deliver us" was the sorrowful prayer of Celtic monks at night times in centuries past. The traumatised denizens of our garden would if they could utter the same despairing plea today.

For nearly two months, our garden has been sporadically raided by Vikings who under the cover of darkness enter its hallow grounds to steal and to kill innocent residents.

Totally cannibalistic, they gorge on the snails, slugs, worms and caterpillars that live there. Wearing the most sophisticated body armour, these vicious raiders are more than a match for any local garden resident who dares to attack them.

Feared by mini-beasts but beloved by most humans, the savage creature is none other than the hedgehog.

This mammal first arrived to our sacred Emerald Isle on board Viking ships, brought here by Scandinavian warriors as a food source. Though an invasive species, nevertheless they have like many human invaders to our shores, become more Irish than the Irish themselves, adapting well to our climate, fitting nicely into most (though not all) local ecosystems and are an integral part of the countryside.

Unfortunately their numbers, based on anecdotal evidence, have declined dramatically in recent years due to intensive farming, use of pesticides, habitat loss and traffic. Until last year the only hedgehogs I have seen for many years were dead ones lying on roads, the victims of car traffic.

But this adorable mammal has benefited hugely, as with so much flora and fauna, from the development of Terryland Forest Park since 2000. Its woodlands, meadows, hedgerows, wetlands and connectivity to the Corrib waterways have provided a lifeline and sa anctuary for biodiversity to thrive. The hedgehogs that arrive in my garden at night come from the nearby Suan-Sandyvale sector of Terryland. As Dr. Colin Lawton has said, “Build (the forest) and they (the wildlife) will come.”

Dr Elaine O’Riordan of NUI Galway is presently coordinating a survey of Irish hedgehogs in association with Biodiversity Ireland to find out about the distribution and population status of hedgehogs across the island of Ireland. If you see this mammal (dead or alive) please register it at https://bit.ly/38TMo2q

Belarus 2020: A Female-led Revolution that the world desperately needs.


The protests against the dictator Alexander Lukashenko represent the most female-driven political revolution that I have ever witnessed.

Women are at the forefront of the rebellion against a patriarchal chauvinistic ruler whose misogyny can best be summarised in his comment that "Our society has not matured enough to vote for a woman opposition presidential candidate".
He gravely underestimated the power of women.
For it was a female (Svetlana Tikhanovskaya) that was the opposition candidate in the recent presidential election and her key campaign advisors were women. The response to police brutality and a rigged election was not stone throwing and smashed windows but flower-waving women dressed in white (symbol of hope) marching through the streets who, by their courage and leadership, became the rallying call for the rest of the Belarus nation to follow in what has been so far the most peaceful rebellion of the modern era.

A female-led revolution is what humanity needs now more than ever. When the Earth lies on the edge of the abyss due to the man-made Climate Crisis, the male leadership of Britain, China, India, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, USA, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are squandering the world's financial resources on a new machismo ("my missiles are bigger than your missiles") arms race instead of using these monies to tackle poverty, social inequality, pollution and biodiversity loss by dramatically increasing investments in health, education, renewable energies, reforestation and green sustainability technologies.
It is not surprising that the policies and comments of so many of these political leaders, as well as those of other countries including Brazil, Philippines and Somalia, are characterised by a lack of empathy and often open hostility towards women, religious/ethnic minorities and the environment. Bolsanaro, Erdogan, Trump, Putin, Mohammed bin Salman and Ayatollah Khomeini represent an arrogant macho culture that has nothing to offer the world but hate, division, aggression and greed.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries that have coped best with the COVID-19 pandemic are led by women - Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Taiwan.
It is also worth reminding ourselves that it was the caring nurturing skills of (super)ordinary doctors, carers, first responders, hospital back-up personnel, social workers, teachers and gardeners as well as benign musicians, cleaners, grocers and community volunteers amongst others that got us through the pandemic not the violence of a military, nor the get-rich quick profiteering of property speculators or the brash in-your-face lifestyles of self-centred opinionated celebrities.

For most of the history of humanity, women were society's leaders and worshipped as the 'givers of life'.
But with the capability to smelt metal and create weapons of war from the Bronze Age onwards, it was the male warrior as the 'taker of life' that came to dominate religion and governance.
A patriarchal culture has been but a brief intermission in the over 200,000 years of hominid existence. It is time for it to finally end and to liberate women from all forms of servitude and rediscover a sense of connection and respect with the rest of Nature (Mother Earth) before it is too late.
All power to the brave women of Belarus for showing us all the way forward. Let the men of the police, army and government departments of their country have the awareness and common sense to now stand beside their daughters, sisters, wives, partners, girlfriends, mothers and grandmothers in the common struggle to end oppression.

Beirut- another tragedy for this Phoenix-like city to overcome

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Beirut and Lebanon after the catastrophic chemical explosions in the city's port that killed and injured so many and destroyed whole neighbourhoods and the homes of over 200,000.
I have a special affinity with Beirut where I have worked on a number of occasions. I have found it to be the most diverse modern cosmopolitan city in the Middle East. It has been positioned at the crossroads of the world for thousands of years, serving as home to ancient Christian and Muslim communities and has for over 100 years provided sanctuary to Armenian, Palestinian and Syrian refugees escaping from oppression and death
I have seen the two sides of this very special city. For I have worked in its overcrowded Palestinian refugee camps where I witnessed goodness overcoming adversity, whilst I've often walked along Beirut's wide beautiful seafront promenade and enjoyed its cafe culture with male and female work colleagues.
Though the city has long suffered from wars, invasions, ethnic/religious violence and corruption, nevertheless it has always Phoenix-like rose up from the ashes to begin anew.
Over the last few years I have admired how young female and male Lebanese campaigners from both Christian and Muslim traditions have together taken to its city streets in their tens of thousands demanding an end to corruption, mismanagement and nepotism.
Due to these endemic problems, the destruction yesterday means the country is facing a huge humanitarian crisis. We need to send support immediately. Hopefully we can find out soon the NGOs that we can send funds too. Probably the Lebanese Red Cross and Lebanese Red Crescent would be recommended.