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.
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!
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
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.
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.