Transatlantic cable - Birth of the Global Village

 
We are thrilled that Dr. Cornelia Connolly of the School of Education at NUI Galway recently donated a piece of the renowned 19th century transatlantic cable to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland.

In 1866 a cable was laid down from Valentia island in Kerry to Newfoundland providing the first permanent electrical communications link between the continents of the Americas and Europe.
Thus began the Age of Global Communications with the west of Ireland becoming key hub in this network. Its importance was reinforced in 1907 when Guglielmo Marconi established the first regular radio communications service across the Altantic between Clifden in county Galway and Glace Bay in Canada. 
 
Check out Cornelia's article on the Transatlantic Cable that was published in RTE's Brainstorm:
 
Unfortunately due to COVID restrictions, it looks likely that the museum will not reopen to the public until early 2022.

Please Help! Your Submission today (July 30) can help make the Connemara Greenway become a reality!

We in the Connemara Greenway Alliance are requesting people that want to see and to enjoy what could be one of Europe's most pictureseque walking and cycling routes to make submissions before 4.30pm today (Friday July 30) to the Draft Galway County Development Plan 2022-28 in order to have it included as a priority piece of infrastructure that will help revitalise the towns and villages along the route between Galway city and Clifden.

The submission will take approximately 7 mins to complete. Please go to https://consult.galway.ie/
The Connemara Greenway Alliance, of which I am a member, has prepared a ready-made cut and paste submission which one can use and is available at:
We sincerely thank all of those that have already made submissions. This is the Alliance’s final big push to get the Connemara Greenway from Galway city to Clifden included in the Development Plan and have it completed as soon as possible.
 
As well as the health, social and commuter benefits for the people of Connemara, the green tourism potential of this Greenway will bring huge economic benefits especially in the hospitality and services sectors. Dr. Pat Collins of NUI Galway undertook an economic research analysis of the potential impact of the Greenway and estimated that it would bring in €17million+ per annum to the region.
There will also be additional advantages to the city. With the construction of the planned walking/cycling bridge on top of the old railway limestone stacks in the River Corrib at Woodquay (as you know, City Hall has already secured funding from government under the Urban Regeneration Scheme), its terminus would help secure the Dyke Road as a unique blue and green hub combining a blueway along the Corrib stretching to the heart of Mayo; a forest way through the 120+ acre Terryland Forest Park; a boreen walking network to Menlo, Castlegar and Carrowbrowne; and a Greenway to Headford.
Sadly, in spite of the investment flowing in from central government, its development is extremely slow. 
Only c15km of the 76km route has been completed. This section is at the western side with no progress whatsoever being made between the city and Oughterard.
A few weeks ago, the Limerick Greenway opened to great fanfare with Greenways already operational in Waterford, Tipperary, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Monaghan, Louth...
So as an integral part of the walking/cycling, ecological corridor and Outdoor Classroom infrastructure for Galway city and country, your submission can help make the Connemara Greenway become a reality sooner rather than later!

A ‘Green Highway’ in Galway City - Build It & They Will Come!

 

The survey of the Terryland River and its surrounding area, presently been undertaken by full-time summer intern Tara Speares and her supervisor Dr. Colin Lawton of NUI Galway, is further reinforcing the scientific evidence from over many decades that the community-driven council-managed Terryland Forest Park is having a significant positive impact on the numbers and species of biodiversity in Galway city and shows the critical importance of an ‘ecological corridor’ or 'green highways' (one of the objectives of its founders) in restoring wildlife in urban environments. Terryland connects the Corrib Waterways into the farm lands of east Galway. The park is Galway’s largest and oldest (2000) ‘rewilding’ initiative but hopefully not its last. With the continued huge growth in human populations and cities worldwide, it is crucial that we make significant spaces in urbanised areas to serve as wildlife sanctuaries as well as ensuring their protection from human footfall. Otherwise we destroy the very thing that we are trying to nurture and preserve. Parts of Terryland Forest Park as with parts of the other borough parks (Merlin Woods and Barna Woods/Rusheen Bay) across Galway admirably fulfill this function.

Photo shows Dr. Colin Lawton and intern Tara Speares with wood mice temporarily captured in ‘traps’ whose data was recorded before being released back into the wild. I enjoyed watching the freed little mammals disappear into the undergrowth of the woods and riverbanks.
Colin has a long and distinguished role in assessing the impact of Terryland on the city’s biodiversity as he has been undertaking different types of mammal surveys on its lands since 2004. His efforts provide important scientific data to policy makers, scientists, and environmentalists. Thank you Colin- we really admire and appreciate your great efforts!

The Kids Know What is Best for Our City! Let's Listen & Learn from them!

 

The benefits of a partnership and inclusive approach towards developing a future Galway city that is sustainable and integrates nature into its infrastructure was shown yesterday when children from 13 city primary schools took part in Glór na Óganach ('The Voice of Youth') organised by the Galway National Park City (GNPC) initiative supported by the Galway Education Centre. It was an online event chaired wonderfully by Fionnghuala Geraghty, a teacher of Scoil Chaitríona Senior, where pre-teen students gave their opinions by way of talks, pre-event surveys and classroom discussions about what they want in a post-COVID Galway. This event was unprecedented and amply shows the important need and role of a multi-sectoral movement such as the Galway National Park City initiative.

We often talk about what children want but very seldom give them the opportunity to voice their own opinions on how they wish society to develop.
But their answers and comments yesterday were breathtakingly fresh, honest and full of common-sense. They displayed an awareness of the benefits of looking after nature in the city and having increased areas for biodiversity, in planting more trees and having more wildlife; in the need for information noticeboards in areas of nature; in the need to lessen screen time and to play outdoors in clean, safe green spaces and in playgrounds with flowers, more hands-on play equipment and having both walls and trees that they could climb; in the attractions of having lots of classes outside; in having safe walking and cycling routes to school and in/around the school, in banning once-off plastics and in increasing the possibilities of enjoying the local waterways.
Interestingly the overwhelming majority of these boys and girls felt that it was the woods, the seashore and the wildlife that they most liked about Galway city.
They were also fully aware of the dangers of biodiversity loss and of climate change.
So it was heartening to know that our youngest generation have strong feelings of what is most beautiful about our city, are expressing deep concerns about what is wrong with it and know what needs to be done to make it better for both people and wildlife.
So the challenge is for the adults to listen and to learn from the children in order to ensure that we hand them over a ‘liveable’ planet.
We will publish a summary of proceedings over the next few weeks.
Glór na Óganach was the first gathering of pre-teens on the subject of a future city. But not the last. There will be a follow-up in November as part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival and a third will take place in Spring/Summer 2022. A similar thematic gathering of teenagers from second level schools will hopefully be hosted in the festival also. Yesterday’s was the first such event and we will all learn from the experience, improving on it and looking at the possibility of hosting a children’s forum tríd Gaelige and a forum for infants, 1st and 2nd classes.
Finally I extend a big 'Bualadh Bos' (round of applause) to Fionnghuala Geraghty for her awesome work in preparing the teacher/student surveys and in chairing the event, to the Galway Education Centre for its support and of course to the teachers from the 13 schools who made it all possible in the final week of the school year when they are exceptionally busy. We really enjoyed working with ye all. Go raibh míle maith agaibh!

I am deeply worried about the future of my beloved city of Galway

In response to the COVID pandemic-which is just another of the painful but connected symptoms of unstable destructive weather, global warming, rising sea-levels, flooding, desertification, marine acidification, loss of soil fertility and biodiversity collapse that is harming our personal, collective and planetary health- progressive political leadership in cities across the world are working in partnership with scientists, engineers, health professionals, neighbourhoood groups and others to put community, sustainability, public transport, walking/cycling, parks, woods and wildlife sanctuaries centre stage in a radical rethink, redesign and rebuild of their urban infrastructure.

However the recently published report from the council’s Chief Executive, in response to submissions made by so many enthusiastic members of the general public last March on what should be included in a plan that will shape the city development until 2029, scares me.
The top official in City Hall considers that the ‘Galway City National Park City’ initiative (www.galwaynationalparkcity) which he admitted was supported by numerous submissions-and which wants to make Galway a city where places, people and nature are better connected-was “premature to incorporate into plan policy at this stage”.
I am deeply worried that our city could now find itself on the wrong side of history with outdated policies as we witness other cities across all continents rise to the challenge of building a better urban future and who are coming together to follow the inspiring lead of London which adopted this designation in 2019.
I am earnestly hoping that the majority of our councillors will display the vision, the courage and the political leadership that is so needed at this critical time in the history of humanity as we try to navigate through uncharted waters in stormy unpredictable dangerous weather. But as Duncan Stewart stated recently the National Park City initiative could make Galway the “Lighthouse of the World.”
Please read my article on this issue from a recent edition of the Galway Advertiser

Happy 30th Birthday to my son Shane!

 

I am so proud of my eldest son Shane. He has brought 30 years of happiness to Cepta and myself.
Good-natured, hardworking, dependable, generous, loyal, focused, an organiser par excellence, and sporty. Like his younger brother Dáire (photo), he has been a life long Man United supporter and wore his treasured Champions League 1999 Final jersey on his birthday. Due to COVID restrictions, we had to limit the amount of people who could attend his birthday celebrations in our home garden. But it was so wonderful to witness that so many of his friends that he had during his primary and secondary schooldays are still his close friends today and were there for his special occasion.
Our home garden was also the location for his first birthday in 1992 when his mom Cepta not surprisingly held him in her arms. And darling Cepta still has her arm on his shoulder 29 years later.
1991- The Year of Shane
The world has changed so much since the year that Shane was born. In 1991, I was setting up Galway's first 7 day live music venue and a nightclub, helping to provide a platform and opportunity for young bands of all musical styles to perform as well as a venue for national and international acts from all over the world (Galway's first World Music pub); was on the organising committees of the 'Release the Birmingham 6'/'Maguire 7' campaigns, the 'Spirit of 1916' 75 years Celebrations, the Tirellan-Crestwood-Castlelawn-Brookdale-Sandyvale residents, and the first combined Galway City Residents Associations' campaign committee; and ran for election to the Galway City Council (corporation)- It was only the only occasion I went for political office, campaigning as an independent 'Community Action' activist. With all these distractions in that year and beyond, I have to state that I was not the best of fathers. Far from it. Thankfully though for Shane and Dáire, they were both blessed in having a strong, dependable, caring and loving mother who gave them so much time whilst still working full time as a manager of the busy UCG students’ union travel office. My darling wife Cepta has also been my pillar of strength through both the tough times and happy times of our long life together.

The Howl of the Wolf is heard once again in the woods of Galway

Over the last few weeks, a number of schools have taken part in guided tours of Terryland Forest Park. As part of the Galway National Park City initiative promoting the ‘Outdoor Classroom’ ethos, and to celebrate the park’s 21 years, we are developing a series of natural heritage sculpture trails for the benefit of visitors of all ages that will be fully in place by July with drawings by ‘artist in residence’, the highly talented Helen Caird, and stone carvings by the equally gifted Ray Flaherty.

One of these exciting and educational tracks is called ‘Extinction’ dedicated to the apex fauna of Ireland that were driven to extinction in previous centuries for many of the same reasons that are occurring today in Amazonia, Indonesia and Africa- namely deforestation, habitat loss, large scale farming, industrial activity and hunting. 
 
The wolf is one of the animals carved into large stones along the trail. 
 
The Grey Wolf species lived in Ireland for almost 28,000 years.
The animal had a somewhat uneasy relationship with the Gael. Whilst they were sometimes hunted to protect livestock, nevertheless in Celtic mythology the wolf was admired for its bravery and was associated with legendary warriors, kings and early Christian saints. There are very few references in Gaelic sources of wolves attacking people. As one of its Irish names (Mac Tíre = son of the land) alludes too, it was accepted as an intrinsic part of the natural landscape with the howling of a wolf pack not feared but rather viewed as uplifting music. British colonists however saw the wolf as a danger to their way of life. The large scale destruction of the Irish forests from the 17th century, to make way for pasture lands for sheep and cattle, led to its extinction. Wolves were systematically persecuted, public hunts were organised and large rewards (bounties) offered for their killing. The last known record of a wolf in Galway (Castlegar) was from the 1740s- it disappeared altogether from Ireland in the 1780s.

Final session to School Parents for 2020/21 & the early days of Social Media,


 
Just finished an Internet Safety workshop to the parents of Scoil Shéamais Naofa Bearna. Thanks to príomhoide Máire Báicéir for the opportunity.

It is my final session for parents for 2020/21. 
 
The early days of Social Media (2004-2009).
When I started Cyberbullying Awareness activities for parents, youth and teachers in 2005 I was one of the first to do so.
Online social media was in its infancy with Orkut, Myspace and Bebo probably being the big three in this domain. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat had yet to be invented.
'Blogging' (blogspot) was very popular, allowing ordinary non-techies to create their own website for the first time.
There was an innocent then about our use of the web. We passionately believed in the power of online SOCIAL media as a force for good and for sharing stories and images between old friends from the real world and new found friends from the world of the World Wide Web.
I use to give a range of workshops on setting up websites, via a blog, and a personal social media account, via Orkut etc, to ethic minorities (e.g. Brazilians in Gort and the residents of the Eglinton asylum seekers accommodation centre), businesses, community groups, schools, politicians (including a young city councillor by the name of Niall O Brolchain!). For the vast majority of participants from across all sectors, it was their first time to have an online presence.
 
The Nastiness was there.
But sadly even then the nastiness and cyber bullying had started. Online harassment campaigns, stalking and misogyny were all there with the sexual abuse of young teenage females being to the fore.
It does not have to be like this!
I remember well the government promising in those early days to clamp down on online nastiness and bring the culprits to task with the promise of new legislation and the establishment of a digital safety office. In spite of many requests and many promises, I am still waiting for this to happen.

Friday May 28th: The 'Outdoor Classroom' in a clean green & blue Dyke Road-Terryland Forest.

 

On Friday I took a group of primary school children on a guided walk from the Woodquay 'Plots', along the banks of the River Corrib to Terryland Castle and on into the woods and meadows of Terryland Forest Park. The teachers and pupils interacted with this beautiful natural environment using their senses, making boats from reeds to float in the waters of the Corrib, studying the diverse range of flowers and trees and enjoying the new educational heritage sculpture trails.

Thankfully there was no major occurrence of litter either along the river banks or in the woods. It was very clean. But a weekend of partying near Terryland Castle has subsequently done so much harm.
In 2019, Galway City Council abolished the Cash-for-Cans scheme that was introduced in 2011 at the instigation of community lobbying supported by councillor Catherine Connolly (now TD). I have to compliment the then City Hall officials for their support in implementing this pioneering scheme, the only local authority in Ireland to do so but a scheme that did and still does exist in many other European countries. Sadly the government that year refused our demands to bring in a similar nationwide initiative that would also include glass bottles. However the present government has promised to roll out in 2022 a new deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and cans. This is welcome news. But it needs though to be extended to include glass bottles and metal cans and it should be introduced NOW! Every day that we don't act the natural environment suffers.
Likewise the present council needs to be more proactive and show leadership on this. We have to wait until 2022 for full time wardens for all three main parks to be introduced- thanks to Councillor Imelda Byrne for tabling a great motion supported by all councillors and for working closely with me on this. I can understand at one level (budget) why it will not take place until then. But, in the interim, why can the council not put in place, as promised, bins at the entrances to major green areas and to work with the community to set up and support units of park volunteer wardens? Ryan Crowell and myself showed a few weeks ago (see a previous posting from last month) that having a presence on the ground and talking to those socialising outdoors can make a huge positive difference.
Furthermore there has to be a much harder line taken against those littering with a need for more prosecutions. However for that to be effective, on-the-ground wardens are required.
There is also the ridiculous situation that, due to GDPR, we are told the names of those that are actually prosecuted cannot be published in the media. Local government and national goveernmment need to take a test case to Europe on this- laws are suppose to help society and the public, not to protect the anti-people protagonists.

Ballymurphy Massacre & the British State’s Dirty War in Northern Ireland.

After 50 years, the truth finally come out yesterday in a British court that the British Army shot dead nine innocent people over three days in west Belfast during August 1971. All the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre were members of the nationalist community. 
 
At the same time as these murders were being carried out hundreds of homes were being raided across Northern Ireland by the British military with hundreds of people arrested and imprisoned without trail in internment camps. Many were immediately humiliated and tortured by their captors. Very few of these prisoners were associated with the IRA (the supposed reason for their arrest); many were members of the civil rights movement and left-wing organisations. 
 
7,000 people mainly nationalists at this time were forced from their homes in the North due to burnings and attacks by mobs. Thousands fled over the border with refugee camps being set up in the South. In spite of the fact that British Loyalist paramilitaries were targeting Catholics and carrying out indiscriminate bombings in the period, not one member of these Unionist sectarian gangs was arrested and interned. The Unionist government in Northern Ireland made sure of that.
Over the full period of internment that continued until 1975, of the estimated 1,981 people interned; 1,874 were nationalist, while 107 were loyalist.
 
During the course of the killings in Ballymurphy that included a priest holding a white flag attending to a wounded person, the British Army press officer on the ground was telling the media that those shot were IRA gunmen. That officer, belonging to the First Parachute Regiment, was Mike Jackson who was head of the British Army (Chief of the General Staff) during the illegal invasion of Iraq by British-American forces in 2003. A few months later (January 1972) he was in Derry when the same regiment shot 26 civilians (13 died immediately) during a peaceful Civil Rights march.
 
Boy on the Border
As a young boy living a few kilometres inside the border in Carrickmacross county Monaghan at the time, I witnessed the families fleeing for safety, victims of vicious pogroms in Belfast and elsewhere. I use to listen to the BBC/UTV television channels and the British mainstream media telling the world that the British military in the North were a peacekeeping force protecting the ordinary people of the North from the terrorism of Irish republicans. As a member of a Catholic family living in Ulster (Monaghan), I would hear Ian Paisley being quoted at Loyalist rallies stating “(Catholics) breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin" and that “Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners”. I knew then what was being said and written were pure lies. I realised even as a young teenager that the British media were very much part of the propaganda war effort. Censorship applied. Fake news was continuously being spread. An example was the front page of a News of the World newspaper in 1977 showing a (false) image of a Soviet (Russian) submarine off the coast of Donegal (supposedly delivering weapons to the IRA).
 
As a student activist in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was painfully aware of the dirty tricks and terror campaign being organised by the British state. Bombings and bank robberies took place in the Republic and in the North carried out by British military, their spy network, their special forces such as the SAS, their allies in the Loyalist military and agent provocateurs (e.g. Littlejohn brothers) which were blamed on the IRA. Other covert operations involving collusion between British clandestine security forces in Northern Ireland and loyalist paramilitaries led to killings on both sides of the border. According to witnesses including some former members of the British forces and of loyalist gangs, this included the Miami Showband massacre (July 1975) and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 (33 deaths). During the 1980s and 1990s I was involved in the campaigns to release the imprisoned Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven and Guildford Four, innocent mainly Irish people living in the UK framed by the British police for the murderous IRA bombing campaign in Britain.
 
British Heroes of Justice and Truth
But there were the courageous few in Britain who were not afraid to speak out and demand justice and truth even though they were subsequently ridiculed, lied about, harangued and even framed for crimes that they never committed by the British media and British state. These heroic people included ex-British soldiers such as Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd (who also exposed the British Intelligence cover-up of abuse of children in the Kincora Boys Home Belfast by Unionist paramilitaries) and those unnamed squaddies who gave evidence of the psychopathic behaviour of some of their fellow soldiers involved in the shooting of unarmed civilians; British politicians such as Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Jeremy Corbyn and Clare Short; British investigative journalists such as Chris Mullin; lawyers such as Michael Mansfield and Gareth Pierce; artists such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Vanessa Redgrave; and British police officers such as Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker who exposed the shoot-to-kill actions of the security forces under which suspected IRA members were deliberately killed without any attempt to arrest them.
 
Why A Reign of Terror in Northern Ireland?
So the question has to be asked, why was such a brutal system imposed by the British establishment? The answer was partly due to the desire to protect a right wing corrupt sectarian elite in Northern Ireland because they were loyal to a British state that still had 'big power' imperial aspirations. But it was also because of the situation happening globally during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. It was a time when all across the world (United States, Vietnam, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Algeria, South Africa, Palestine, Iran, Czechoslovakia, Poland…) peoples and the youth in particular were rising up against racism, discrimination, tyranny, occupation and colonialism. In the case of this island, there was a fear amongst the powerful elite in Britain that a ‘Catholic’ Ireland could go the way of a ‘Catholic’ Cuba and become a bastion of communism that could spread to neighbouring countries.

A Blameless COVID Youth Generation is Suffering

 


Thanks so much to the Galway City Tribune for publishing my article below 

Exasperated with the high volumes of rubbish strewn on the green spaces along the Dyke Road particularly at weekends, I and my good friend Ryan Crowell on Saturday evening put on yellow vests and walked out amongst the 50 or so young people that were socialising in groups along the riverbank as they enjoyed the fine sunny weather chatting and drinking. We went from group to group telling them that, whilst they should be informed that they were breaking a number of rules (drinking alcohol in public parks, gathering together in groups wearing no masks or practising social distance), we were neither council staff nor members of An Garda Síochána but only concerned civic-minded individuals seeking their cooperation in keeping the green spaces and waterways free from litter which we pointed out damaged biodiversity, the environment and undermined the benefits of a city park to the general public. We then gave each group large black bags which we requested that they use for their leftover cans/bottles/papers should they decide not to bring this material home.  

The response from the youth was very positive and some of them actually helped us collect the scattered litter and put the bags into my car for removal back to my home garden whey they would remain until after the weekend when parks staff returned to work.

Early next morning Ryan and myself visited the same site. I am happy to state that the young people had honoured their promises from the day before; the bags were filled with debris with only a comparatively small amount of cans and bottles lying in the grass or along the riverbank. Over a short period of time (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) on what was a relatively small piece of land, we removed fourteen bags of refuse,  the contents of which would otherwise have contaminated the land and the river with some of it ending up polluting the Atlantic Ocean.

Ryan and myself will continue to return on further weekends to undertake these same necessary volunteering duties.

 

Need for Park Wardens in Galway city is so obvious

The incident reinforced my long held belief that the presence of a full-time seven days per week warden unit, whose members are willing to engage on friendly terms with parks’ visitors,  is an essentiality that city council must implement. Community activists have been requesting this for some time. To support this development we consistently have offered our services free of charge in the capacity of volunteer park rangers to complement the full time staff on specific tasks when required and with health and safety training provided by City Hall.  Sadly we have not yet been successful in our endeavours. But thankfully councillor Imelda Byrne has put forward a motion on park wardens that will be voted on next Monday at a meeting of councillors. At present the city has one warden available on a regular half week basis in Galway. She is a fantastic committed worker but she has to take care of multiple city parks. In a time of lockdowns when green spaces and natural areas in cities have shown their crucial role in protecting human and planetary health as well as being a necessity in a sustainable post-COVID world, this can no longer be accepted, with public parks needing to be cleaned on a daily basis early every morning which is the case with many other cities. Galway City Council needs to rethink its stance, to be imaginative, creative and to ensure that it takes full advantage of the government’s offering of twenty two walking/cycling staff positions with some of these employees being assigned to plan out, design and maintain walking as well as cycling paths in our public green spaces. Such staff should also I feel have their terms of reference expanded to include warden duties.


Damage of being confined indoors & online

But the incident also clearly made me realise that we as adults are responsible for stealing the most precious years from our young people. The first year at third level college is normally when students form friendships that can last a lifetime, as well as taking up interests in social, sport, learning subjects and other activities that will shape their futures. Sadly so many of this generation will miss out on these experiences.

In spite of the hard work and good intentions of teachers and lecturers, many second level as well as third level students have lost out on a qualitative education with online learning not being able to fully compensate for the discipline and focus brought on by the controlled environment of a classroom, a lecture hall or a dedicated shared study facility. Our young people are suffering with their mental and indeed oftentimes physical health being greatly undermined during the lockdowns. Too much time spent in front of a laptop or phone screen disrupts sleep patterns and levels of concentration; can lead to stress, exhaustion and burn-out; exposes one to damaging views of sexual and other types of violence where too often young women in particular are victims and whose abuse is portrayed as ‘normal behaviour’; can distort one’s views of the world with one-sided bias ‘fake news’ arguments; and leaves users open to high levels of bullying and intimidation as well as a disconnect from the real world and opportunities to develop meaningful flesh and blood relationships. Web addiction especially online gaming is too often a consequence of 24/7 connected smart devices. I say this as someone who has for forty years (and still do) proudly promoted the benefits of computing technologies.

The best remedy for online addiction and over-reliance on hand-held devices is to practice periods of ‘digital detox’ and spend regular periods immersed in natural environments, being active on the sporting field or enjoying a leisurely time on green spaces with friends or people of a similar age. But the COVID restrictions are denying them the circumstances to do so in the Great Outdoors which is in fact  the safest place for young people to be as it is responsible for only .01% of transmission cases in Ireland.

A Lost Youth

Youth are forced to spend much of their days indoors, sometimes in poorly ventilated small spaces. All because older people and previous generations have, for short term material gain, brought humanity to the edge of the abyss due to a consumer culture and a linear economy characterised by  Climate Chaos, land/water/air pollution, plant-killing herbicides, insect-killing pesticides and pandemics. Yet even with the global society being brought to its knees in 2020/2021, adults are still making the same mistakes. Expenditure is increasing on military technology; once-off plastic production is spiralling (e.g. huge volumes of PPE masks and liquid bottles being shipped long distances from China) polluting our rivers and oceans in the process; and young people in Hong Kong, Myanmar, India, Iran, Israel, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, Spain, Russia, Belarus, Brazil, the USA and elsewhere are being detained for speaking out against state injustices and abuse of power.

So we as adults have to heed the message of youth as spoken by teenagers such as Greta Thunberg and redouble our efforts to undo the mistakes of the past and present in order to give hope and make a world a better place for generations to come.

 

Le meas,

Brendan Smith

Galway City Council unanimously support motion to set up Parks Warden unit!

Last Monday was a good day for local democracy.

All councillors supported a motion from Councillor Imelda Byrne to establish a parks warden unit for Galway City's three main public parks (Barna, Merlin & Terryland Forest) and playgrounds.
I would like to give a big vote of thanks and a 'Bualadh Bos' to Imelda and all councillors for their action today, which will greatly benefit the quality of life of the people of the city and of its biodiversity.
It has been a long battle getting to this point but well worth it!
4 to 5 new posts will be set up costing approximately €250,000 per annum with a start date probably not until the next budget year (2022). But that is fine- we always realised that funding would have to be allocated in the annual budget that will be first discussed in July and signed off in November.
However today's vote was a milestone in the history of modern Galway. City Hall has accepted the principle that park wardens are part of the public services that have to be provided; it will bring us into line with Dublin and other cities across Europe. The upkeep and safety of our parks are now to be recognised as priorities in the running and operations of Galway.
Of course we have to ensure that 'Peter is not robbed to pay Paul'. The budget for Parks has to be increased to cater for the extra demands not required.
But that is a battle for another day. Let us today savour in this victory before moving on to tomorrow to the next stage of campaigning.
A Good Day for the council, for campaigners, for wildlife and for the people of the city!

A Tree for Michael D- Thank you Mr. President!

 

A Tree for Michael D- Thank you Mr. President!
 
Today Lucy Kelly and Rachel Huane planted a Rowan Tree in Terryland Forest Park in honour of President Michael D. Higgins' 80th Birthday.
NUI Galway students Lucy and Rachel are members of the Volunteer group of the Galway National Park City working under the auspices of the wonderful champion Lorrraine Tansey of the university's CKI Alive. 
The Irish president is Patron of this great initiative which is about integrating the natural world into the fabric of Galway city. The volunteers decided at their last meeting that it would appropriate that a native tree would be planted in a park that Michael D. Higgins supported when he was Ireland's first Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage. 
In early 1996 local community activists in the Ballinfoile-Terryland area started a campaign to save the land either side of the Terryland River from built development and secure it as a multi-habitat public park for both the leisure needs of the people of Galway and to protect biodiversity. As Minister he publicly backed campaigners and sent experts from his government department to examine the area's wildlife population.
So it is only appropriate that, thanks to the Galway National Park City supporters, Michael D. today secured permanent roots in the soils of the Galway park that he helped become a reality.
 
The Rowan/Mountain Ash (Caorthann in Irish) was chosen as it is associated in Celtic mythology with Female Magic and Life. Our president has been a life long feminist.
 
Thanks to Aengus McMahon for the brilliant photo!

Parks Warden unit needed to protect the Beautiful Woods, Meadows, Parks & Waterways of Galway city

 

'Where Green meets Blue'- Top section of the photo shows the Dyke Road with Terryland Forest Park on one side and the River Corrib on the other. The other images show different aspects of the forest park and the banks of the river.

Galway city is so lucky to have such wonderful natural beauty so close to the city centre. Of course it did not happen by chance. For it took many campaigns and many battles over many decades by community activists to keep it from being lost to built development. But it also happened due to the foresight of many visionary council officials and councillors and their positive engagement with community activists from the mid 1990s onwards. A partnership that will led now to a long cherished demand of campaigners- a direct path link from the riverbank to the main area of the Terryland Forest Park. More to follow on this on a later posting. However after a delay of many months (from January), we are hoping that later today a motion from councillor Imelda Byrne on setting up a full-time parks warden unit is finally debated and voted through at a council meeting by councillors. Thank you Imelda for showing leadership and in taking this critical issue onboard. We do indeed have one fantastic dedicated hard working warden in Galway, namely Cora O'Kelly who does so much good. But she cannot do all of the city parks on her own whilst having other duties to perform (looking after life buoys). 

Natural Spaces are our Salvation  

The need for a full time seven days a week permanent on-the-ground parks personnel unit in all our major parks is now needed more than ever before. COVID has taught us the benefits to our wellbeing in walking through natural areas and in the vital role that these places play in reversing biodiversity loss, in acting as 'carbon sinks' and in improving air quality. 

 

A Pleasant Encounter with Young Drinkers 

Recently my good friend Ryan Crowell and myself spent a wonderful Saturday and Sunday in Terryland Forest Park and along the banks of the River Corrib chatting to people and informing them of the area's natural features and on its history; in picking up rubbish and in planting trees. What I particularly enjoyed the most was an engagement on Saturday evening at c4pm with scores of young people (late teens-early 20s) who were drinking and chatting in groups along the river bank. Whilst we informed them not to drink alcohol in public parks and to be aware of COVID restrictions such as social distancing, we told them that we there only as concerned citizens. In that capacity we ask them in a friendly manner to think of the damage that litter does to wildlife and in undermining other people's enjoyment of a public park. We asked them to take their litter home and, if they could not do so, to use the black bags that we distributed to all of the groups of young people. The youth were so positive in their response to us! Some of them helped us fill up seven full large bags with cans, bottles etc and remove them to my car. I have to point out at this stage that none of the young people were in any way intoxicated. Next morning (Sunday) Ryan and myself returned just after 9am as I wanted to find out if our words had any positive long lasting impact. What greeted us was indeed a lovely sight- multiple bags of rubbish piled together with green spaces and a riverbank almost totally devoid of litter! It was such a morale booster! In total, 15 large bags were collected and removed. There is no doubt in my mind where it not for our actions, much of this rubbish from one small area of the city would have ended up polluting the Atlantic Ocean.

What this incident demonstrated to me was the importance of having a permanent presence in Terryland Forest Park and other parks of friendly council (& volunteer) rangers actively engaging with visitors, keeping the parks clean, planting trees,improving biodiversity features, repairing fences... Is their money in the City Hall budget to set up such a unit? I feel that the council have to be imaginative in this regard, to think outside the box and to use for instance some of the dozens of fully funded staff positions being offered by government for developing a walking and cycling infrastructure for Galway City. After all, the parks and riverbanks will play a vital role in such a development as they already provide areas for people to walk and cycle amongst Nature.

Easter 2021- Supporting the Climate Action 'Plantathon' of 2019

 

On the last day of March 2021 three lads, representing Galway City Council and the volunteers of Galway (top photos), planted 360 trees on the same site along the Dyke Road in Terryland Forest Park where hundreds of Galwegians of all ages happily came together early on a Sunday morning in November 2019 to plant 2000 trees (bottom photo) as part of that year's highly successful Climate Action-themed Galway Science and Technology Festival.

Due to COVID restrictions we could not advertise or promote the event in any way and had to sadly limit the attendance to three people. It was very much 'under the radar'.
Kevin Nally and Mark Ryan of Galway City Parks and myself replaced any of the 2019 trees that were severely damaged or had died whilst also expanding the area of planting.
It gives me great joy though to report that most of the trees, planted by the public that fine crisp winter morning of three years ago, are doing really well!
Behind these trees lie thousands of others resulting from the peoples' 'Plantathons' of 2012 and 2010 on the Dyke Road sector of Terryland Forest Park. As you can see from the photos, these trees stand tall and proud and are doing a great job in supporting wildlife, in filtering out toxic fumes and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere whilst providing us all with oxygen!
I have to use this opportunity to extend my respect and gratitude to Kevin and Mark who are part of a new generation of parks staff in City Hall that under the great tutelage of Stephen Walsh are devoted to helping protect and enhance the public parks for the benefit of the people and biodiversity of Galway city and beyond. Maith daoibh!
Now with the planned construction of a bridge onto of the old railway stacks that will become the start of the Connemara Greenway and hopefully a boreen network leading onto Coolough, Menlo Castlegar and Carrowbrowne, this area has the potential to become a blue-way (River Corrib) and a green-way (Terryland Forest Park) of huge significance that would be the envy of any other city in Europe.
So I am asking all Galway City councillors to help make this happen by transforming the Dyke Road into a walking/cycling corridor and the old Waterworks into a River/Forestry Interpretative Centre complete with café, gallery, crafts/rural skills learning centre and natural heritage museum.

City Hall replies over 'Right of Way' to Menlo Castle

Fair play to the Galway City Tribune for getting the reply first from Galway City Council with regard to right of access to the public lands of the old Menlo Castle demesne.

A spokesperson for City Hall was quoted as saying in the newspaper, "There is a right of way to the Castle over lands owned by Galway City Council but there may be local issues with parking by an increased number of visitors as a result of COVID <5km exercisers".
This is great news for walkers and cyclists who are increasingly enjoying the natural beauty and landscapes of the lovely village and hinterland of Menlo. We are blessed that such a rural area exists within the boundaries of Galway city.
However it is important that the concerns of local residents are addressed and sorted out. There should be no cars or bikes blocking entries to people's houses or lands.
There is now an urgent need for Galway City Council to take advantage of the government offering 22 new staff positions whose remit will to develop a proper walking and cycling infrastructure for Galway. An important part of this process is to map out the lands that are public or commonage especially along the boreens and traditional country lanes that are traditional 'green-ways'.
Hopefully I can, once COVID restrictions allow within the next few months, restart my "Slí na gCaisleán/Seven Galway Castles Heritage Cycle Guided Tours"! Though Menlo Castle for safety purposes may be cordoned off nevertheless we hope to enjoy its surroundings lawns and the views over the River Corrib to Dangan.

Easter 2021 - Out of the Ashes out of Vandalised Trees, Arose the Phoenix Saplings.

My good friend Ryan Crowell and myself today in Terryland Forest Park planted 7 trees in honour of the 7 signatories of the 'Proclamation of the Irish Republic' that was read out on Easter Sunday 1916 by Pádraig Pádraig in front of the GPO, marking the beginning of the Rising by the men and women of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army against the might of the British Empire. We planted the saplings amongst the ashes of the fires fueled by the wood from trees cut down by vandals in the People's Park in December/January last, trees which had been planted by volunteers of all ages on March 12th 2000. 

What we did admittedly was a small symbolic gesture but one hopefully that will compensate somewhat for the damage caused by the destructive selfish anti-social mavericks of a few months ago and which will provide sanctuary to wildlife and act as a 'carbon sink' for many decades to come. This was my final planting of 2021. I will though keep a careful eye on these 7 trees as they mature and grow into the future, referring to them always as the 'Phoenix Trees'. 

The 'Proclamation of the Irish Republic' is a manifesto that Irish people should be extremely proud of. It is in my opinion one of the most egalitarian revolutionary documents of the early 20th century, declaring the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, to religious and civil liberty, to equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, both male and female, and in cherishing all the children of the nation equally. It provided hope and a clarion call for freedom to oppressed peoples everywhere in a time when the world was controlled by empires I was proud too that Ryan Crowell joined me today in this tribute as he is of the family of Seán Mac Diarmada, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation. The other signatories were Thomas J. Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Pádraig Pearse, Éamonn Ceann, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.

It is Red Letter Day for our Green Spaces! Councillors -Please Support the Motion to Set up a City Parks’ Wardens Unit

Photo shows the Beauty & Ugliness of Terryland Forest Park on a Sunday in March 2021:
  • A woods that was planted by the people of Galway in March 2000 which is now teeming with wildlife
  • The lovely Terryland River which is home to fish, birds and other aquatic creatures
  • Alcohol cans, bottles & other detritus strewn across a forest floor and pathway beside a park bench (p.s. I later removed this litter)
A motion from Councillor Imelda Byrne, which has been on the city council agenda since last January, to establish a permanent on-the-grounds seven days a week wardens/rangers unit for our city parks will hopefully be finally discussed at today’s meeting of city councillors.
It is important that all city councillors support this motion for the sake of our parks, our people and our biodiversity.
It is long overdue that such a unit was established.
The city’s parks were a godsend during COVID for so many of our citizens. As per the ambition of the Galway National Park City initiative that is supported by such a broad strata of society, green and blue spaces need to be integrated into the fabric of cities.
But we need the resources and investment to ensure that they are safe and of high maintenance for the benefit of the public and for enhancing urban biodiversity. Sadly this is not the case at present with litter, anti-social drinking, vandalism and broken furniture too often symptomatic of our green spaces. The limitations placed on volunteer activity organising regular group litter pick-ups etc since March 2020 has only made a bad situation worse.
In so many other cities such as Dublin and across Europe, there are full-time wardens in public parks to ensure overnight litter is removed early every morning, that repairs and graffiti removal are quickly carried out etc. By their very presence, wardens also act as a deterrent to anti social elements that use and damage our precious green spaces.
There is only one warden in Galway city's public parks who took up her duties early last year. She is top class and does an awesome job in Terryland Forest Park and elsewhere. Yet she is only there for circa half a week as she has other duties to take responsibility for. Furthermore, neither she or anybody else is on duty at weekends when so much damage is done. The other parks personnel are also brilliant hardworking people that love their work and do so much good. But there are very few in number and have to cover all of the city’s parks and green spaces.
At the very least Galway’s three main parks need full time on-the-ground staff (park wardens/rangers) 7 days a week as otherwise broken fences, broken seating, graffiti, rubbish can be left on location for long periods. With this present situation exacerbated by the presence of drinkers etc, people can understandably be turned off visiting the parks at the very time when medical science is telling us of their importance to human and planetary health.
Furthermore, the wardens' terms of reference must include not just litter picking, providing information to visitors but also repairing fencing, planting trees, paths upkeep etc.
A few weeks ago the government offered Galway City Council twenty two new staff positions for the development of walking and cycling. Should City Hall not take some of these personnel and assign them to the parks in order to design, development and maintenance of natural walking trails and walking/cycling path routes? 
 
Why No Permanent Bins at Park Entrances?
Last September, as a community (GCCN) representative on the Special Policy Committee of Galway City Council dealing with Climate Change, Environment, Recreational and Amenity I proposed a motion, based on my experiences of the parks in other parts of Ireland such as Dundalk, that large permanent applicable park bins, supported by information signage and that are regularly emptied, be placed at the entrance to all three main parks as an alternative to the plastic bags that are presently pinned to benches-which though they do indeed help in keeping parks clean- sadly are ugly, flimsy and tend to tear easily. This was supported by all community reps and indeed all other members. Officials told us at the follow up meeting in early December that these bins would be in place by Christmas. Sadly this has not happened and members have not being given an explanation why this is the case, even though we asked. 
 
Anti-social elements above prosecution?
It is disgraceful and an insult to the citizens of Galway that at least up until a few weeks ago some individuals who did so much damage to Terryland Forest Park in December-January by ripping up and burning fences, gates and trees, destroying paths, lighting fires and covering large swathes with rubbish subsequently walked through this very same park with impunity. 
I have asked An Garda Síochána and Galway City Council, who were so helpful during the period of destruction(especially Sgt. Browne, parks staff & cllr Niall McNelis), to issue a barring order preventing them from entering this taxpayer funded facility. I am told that this is not practically possible under present legislation.
I and others cannot and should not accept such a situation and have requested that an action group be set up consisting of community reps, Garda, city parks personnel and other appropriate agencies to look at coordinating the protection our parks. After all the law should be there to protect the common good and public facilities from those that seek to destroy it.

The Non-Irish Origins of St. Patrick's Day & 'All Things Irish'!

St. Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s national holiday and understandably St. Patrick himself is looked on as the personification of all that is Irish.
It is probably the only holiday specifically associated with one nation that is celebrated with gusto in countries across the globe, with prominent streets and buildings on so many continents being decked out in Emerald Isle Green.
Yet St. Patrick himself and so many of the traditions associated with the Festival have their origins far beyond our green shamrock shores.

So for instance:
1. St. Patrick- British & Roman!
St. Patrick himself was actually Romano-British, the son of a Roman official that was taken as a slave by Irish sea raiders probably from near Carlisle (at Hadrian’s Wall) in northern Britain in the early 5th century. Even his adopted name is not Gaelic, coming from the Latin term ‘Patricius' (noble).
Yet, as we say in Ireland, the invader/foreigner oftentimes becomes 'more Irish than the Irish themselves' (except for a few Northern Unionists!). Though sent as a prisoner to Ireland & forced to work as a slave looking after sheep in the mountains, Patrick decided to voluntarily return to Ireland as a Christian missionary years after his escape from captivity.

2. Guinness- Invented by Londoners & with some later support from the British Army!
'Guinness' was copied by Arthur Guinness from an 18th century London drink made out of roasted barley. The beer was known as ‘porter’ because it was originally popular with the porters (carriers) in Covent Garden. Arthur Guinness switched from producing the more common ale at his Dublin brewery. However Guinness was initially not well received with Dubliners because of the owner’s support for the British colonial regime and his opposition to the republican United Irishman during the rebellions of the late 1790s.
Guinness’ international reputation had also a lot to do with the British Army! In WW1, the high-energy consumption ‘porter’ breweries in mainland Britain were closed down by the government to concentrate the national energy resources on the armament production factories. However Guinness and the porter breweries in Ireland were allowed to stay open thus giving them a virtual trade monopoly in the then British Empire that stretched across five continents.


3. Irish Pub- Viking roots!
The 'Irish pub' was actually created by Viking invaders in the 9th century in their new slave-trading settlements of Dublin, Cork, Limerick etc. Common to all these Viking cities was the presence of a 'tavern' where Vikings, after grueling days or months spent fighting, raiding, pillaging or trading could come to enjoy the delights of beer, music and food served by gorgeous-looking Celtic wenches.
Over a thousand years later (in 1996), I returned the favour to our Viking brethren by managing the first Irish pub in Iceland- ‘The Dubliner’ in Reykjavik! (pubs were only legalized in that country in 1989)

4. 'St. Patrick's Day Festival Parade’ -an American invention!
It originated in the mid-18th century American cities of Boston (1737) and New York (1762) where it was actually created by Irish soldiers serving in the British Army who marched on March 17th in honour of the patron saint of Ireland. The latter parade is usually recognised as the first true parade. By the 19th century, it had become an opportunity for the Irish emigrants in the USA not only to promote their heritage, but most importantly to present a powerful expression of Irish nationalism and the struggle against British colonial rule in Ireland.

New York's Parade for Indian & Irish Independence  
Interestingly, the New York Parade of 1920 took on a more cosmopolitan anti-imperial flavour as it became a huge demonstration for Indian as well as Irish independence with Indian republicans carrying large banners emblazoned with messages such as '315,000,000 of India with Ireland to the Last'and 'President De Valera's Message to India: Our cause is a common cause.'


5. Irish Whiskey -the essence of the Middle East!
The process of creating whiskey(from the Gaelic 'uisce beatha' = 'water of life') - 'distillation' was learnt from Coptic or Arab alchemists by studious Celtic monks. The former used it for medicinal purposes. However, we Irish soon saw its greater significance in the hospitality and entertainment sectors!

6. Sexy Irish Traditional Dancing- another American invention!
Traditional Irish step dancing only gained an international appeal in the 1990s thanks primarily to the efforts of an American, Michael Flatley.
This Irish-American from Chicago created the choreography for the 'Riverdanceshow and, with fellow lead dancer Jean Butler, led the show to amazing success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. Irish step dancing has never looked back since and Riverdance has generated a myriad of successful offshoots. Not only that, but the dour unsmiling
Irish dancers of previous eras were transformed into vivacious high-kicking Irish cailíní and buachaillí in figure-hugging attire. Furthermore, modern Irish dance now unashamedly embraces elements from other cultures (Russia, Arabian) increasing its international appeal even further.
Michael Flatley portrayed all that was good and important about Irish-Americans. When Irish traditions were dying out in the Emerald Isle, it was they that for centuries nurtured and kept alive the flame of Celtic culture.

7. There is no such thing as Irish 'Craic'!
The term 'Craic' is looked on today as an Irish word denoting a quintessentially Irish form of fun (drink, music, amusing & friendly conversation).
In fact there was no such word in the Gaelic Language until the 1970s. It is actually an old English(!) word spelt 'crack' that meant in  Elizabethan times 'to boast', 'to banter' or 'to tell a joke' as in the term 'to crack a joke'.

8. 'Irish Coffee'- invented for the benefit of American tourists suffering from the Irish weather!
On one cold evening in 1942 at a small windswept airport terminal on the west coast of Ireland, the local chef felt pity for the tired and freezing passengers who had just embarked from a seaplane that had to turn back from its trans Atlantic journey due to atrocious weather conditions.
Being Americans, he knew that they would enjoy a cup of hot coffee (not then much consumed by Irish people) topped with fresh cream. But because of the freezing conditions, he decided to spice it up with a shot of Irish whiskey. Legend has it that one of the passengers, remarking on the unusual taste of this drink asked, "Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian coffee?", to which the chef Joe Sheridan replied, 'No, that's Irish coffee'. And so, history was made!

9. Irish Songs-written by English, Americans, Scots & Australians!
Many of those great 'traditional Irish' ballad songs that are sung with such gusto every night by broken-hearted inebriated Galwegians or Dubliners in some Irish pub across the world were in fact written by English, Scotch, Australian or American!
(Click on song title below to hear the song)

For instance Dirty Old Town (that many mistakenly believe refers to Dublin) was written by the (Scottish-) English socialist folk singer Ewan MacColl; From Clare to Here by English singer songwriter Ralph McTell; Willie McBride/Green Fields of France by Scottish Australian Eric Bogle; Danny Boy by English lawyer Fred Weatherly; My Wild Irish Rose and When Irish Eyes are Smiling by New York Broadway star Chauncey Olcott; and the late great Johnny Cash wrote Forty Shades of Green

British Army made an Irish theme song the most popular music of World War One
Written in 1912 by Englishman Harry Williams and Jack Judge, the son of Irish emigrants, the song It's a Long Way to Tipperary was heard
by English news reporter George Curnock being sung by the Connaught Rangers regiment of the British Army as they marched through Boulogne in August 1914. He wrote about it in the Daily Mail and very soon it was being picked up by other British regiments and became the most popular marching song of the war.

10. Irish Traditional Music- reinvented by British Punks
It was a London-based Punk group of mixed English & Irish background that shook Irish music to its foundations and re-invented it for a modern Western youth audience. The anti-establishment Pogues, led by their brilliant lead singer and lyricist Shane MacGowan, that revitalised Irish music and brought vibrancy, youthfulness, relevancy and radical politics back into a staid Irish music scene.
Formed in 1982, the inventors of Celtic Punk fused traditional Irish folk with contemporary English punk and rock.
The name 'Pogues' comes from Pogue Mahone, the anglicisation of the Irish 'póg mo thóin,' meaning "kiss my ass".
As with Riverdance, their music was oftentimes condemned by the native Irish purists who preferred to keep Celtic culture in a sealed box untainted by outside forces.
Silly people! Like all cultures, Irish traditions are ever-changing, are constantly borrowing and being re-shaped by external influences.


11. The Irish Potato- Brought to Ireland from North America by English colonists
More than any other food item, the potato is associated with Ireland. Today it is a central element of Irish cuisine with a myriad of traditional recipes associated with this root crop, ranging from Boxty (Irish Potato Griddle Cakes), potato soup, Dublin Coddle to Colcannon. Particularly from the early 1800s, it became the staple diet of the Irish people. Because of its high nutritional value and its ability to be grown abundantly on poor soils, the majority of the impoverished native peasantry planted this vegetable  on the miserable patches of lands left to them by their new lords and masters, the British ruling elite, who had conquered and colonised Ireland  during the wars of the 16th-18th centuries,  transforming the countryside in the process into grazing and tillage lands to provide livestock and grain for the British market. Over dependency on the potato in the 19th century sadly had dire consequences when potato blights led to mass starvation, death and emigration particularly in the Great Famine (an Gorta Mór = the Big Hunger) of the 1840s.

However the potato was introduced into Ireland only in the late 16th century from North America, probably by English soldier and adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh on his estates in county Waterford that had been awarded to him from lands seized from Irish rebels. Raleigh is mostly remembered today for popularising another crop from the the New World, namely tobacco. However his legacy in Ireland is somewhat different and will be forever associated with colonising Irish lands with English settlers and American spuds.

12. Claddagh Ring- African Origins of the Irish Symbol of Love
The Claddagh ring (Fáinne Chladaigh in Irish) is internationally renowned as a traditional Irish token of friendship, love, or marriage. It is called after the fishing village of Claddagh ('Cladach' = stony beach in Irish), now a suburb of Galway city on the west coast of Ireland.
Each element of this distinctive metal ring has symbolic meaning: the hands represents friendship, the crown loyalty, and the heart love. If the ring is placed on the right hand with the heart turned outwards, it means that the wearer is "unattached". When the heart is turned inwards, it is a sign that  he or she is married or in a permanent relationship.
Many famous people have worn it including the British Queen Victoria, Hollywood actor Gabriel Byrne, film producer Walt Disney and US President Bill Clinton.
It has appeared in popular television programmes including Friends, and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the character Angel (who was an Irishman in a previous life) presents Buffy with a Claddagh ring on her birthday saying “My people – before I was changed – they exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown loyalty…and the heart….well you know…..wear it with the heart pointing towards you it means you belong to somebody."
All wore the ring in the belief that it is a authentic Love Symbol from ancient Ireland.
Yet its origins probably lie in North Africa, in the white slave trade practiced by the fierce Moorish pirates in what was then known as the Barbary (Barbarian) Coast.
According to legend Richard Joyce, from British occupied Ireland, was captured by Muslim pirates on a ship traveling to the slave plantations of British West Indies. Sold like many hundreds of thousands of captured Europeans in a slave market in Morocco or Algeria, he was bought by a kindly  goldsmith from Algiers who taught him the skills of his trade during his 14 years of captivity.
Under a peace treaty during the reign of King William III, Richard was released along with all other British prisoners. In spite of being offered riches and a daughter in marriage by his former master. Richard returned to Galway. Equipped with his new metalwork skills and designs, he became a successful goldsmith. It is said that he presented the first Claddagh ring to a lover that had remained faithful to him during his long years in captivity.

13. Easter 1916 - Ireland's greatest rebellion against British Imperial Rule- Led by a Scotsman, an Englishman, an American and the English-born wife of A Polish Count
The Easter 1916 Rising is probably the most celebrated rebellion against British colonial rule in Ireland. Though it ended in failure, it was the catalyst for the larger scale guerrilla warfare campaign of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that commenced in January 1919 and became known as the War of Independence which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State and the end of British rule in 26 counties of the 32 counties of Ireland.
Yet interestingly, many of the rebel leaders were foreign-born, evidenced of the extent and influence of the Irish Diaspora. The chief planner of the rebellion, Tomas Clarke was born in the Isle of Wright, England; James Connolly the internationally renowned socialist and overall commander, was born in Edinburgh ScotlandÉamon DeValera, commandant of the Boland Mills unit, was born in New York to a Cuban father; Constance Georgine Markievicz (neé Gore Booth) second in command of the St. Stephen's Green rebel forces was born in London and married a Polish aristocrat Count Casimir Markievicz from what is now Ukraine. The father of Pádraig Pearse, the Commander in Chief of the overall rebellion and the person most associated with the Rising was from Birmingham.

14. Ireland's Picturesque Landscapes of Green Fields & Stone Walls - A Product of British Conquest & Colonisation

A rural landscape comprising a mosaic of little green fields and a network of drystone walls is the image that many foreigners have of Ireland and its ancient Celtic past and rural traditions. In fact the fields and walls were largely created by British colonists and merchants from the early seventeenth century onwards when, after the defeat of Gaelic clans, the huge forests that covered much of the country were cut down to provide fuel for the English ironworks, timber to build ships for the imperial navy, tillage and pasture lands for the production of crops and livestock for export to the English homelands.


A traditional Irish (honest!) Toast
In honour of the day itself, may I send you all an old and heartfelt Irish blessing:
"May your glass be ever full,
May the roof over your head be always strong,
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you're dead!"