Super Mario takes part in a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Connemara!

All along the route of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Moycullen, the Connemara Greenway Alliance group of walkers(including one man and his dog!) cyclists (& a unicyclist - Gabe!) and in buggies were clapped and cheered on by the watching crowds.

This was a manifestation of the huge support that this proposed walking and cycling green infrastructure has amongst the people of Connemara.
The Connemara Greenway is long overdue! In our seven years in existence, the Alliance has seen greenways across Ireland open up. So in the public consultation that happens this week in the University of Galway (Wednesday), Moycullen (Thursday) and Oughterard (Friday), we ask supporters of the Connemara Greenway to attend and make their feelings known.
And by the way, I really enjoyed dressing up as Super Mario for the parade once again! It is always nice to bring a bit of humour to a serious community campaign.
But on a political note, I made sure that Super Mario wore a Palestinian scarf. We must continue to keep pushing for a ceasefire in Gaza at all opportunities.

Remembering Mom & Dad on Mother’s Day.

Last Sunday was my dad’s anniversary, today is Mother’s Day. So it is a good time for me to remember and to say a prayer in thanks and appreciation to both my dearly departed and much missed parents. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.

When my dad Paddy Smith and my mom Bridget Agnew got engaged, they had this photo taken as a memento to a very special time in their lives. Dad was 21 years old, Mom was 19 years old,
Mom was born in Monaghan, my Dad in Offaly. They both met in Dublin at a dance club on Parnell Square not far from Drumcondra where my mom’s family had a grocery shop beside Croke Park. My dad was a bus conductor with Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ).

Throughout their lives, they like so many of their era strived to be good people with good values, taught their children to respect others, to love God, to practice a strong Christian (though not servile) faith and to work hard in order to earn an honest wage but to always realise that money was not everything and there were more important things in life.
Dad exemplified these values. Likewise with Mom who was for much of her early adult life one of a rare breed, a business woman in an overwhelmingly male-dominated retail sector.
But the Ireland they were born into and grew up in was a different country than today. It was poor, patriarchal, socially repressive in many ways, its economy rural centric characterised by small subsistence family farming with our biggest export being our young people. Both my parents endured difficult teenage years and came from families that suffered for awhile as a consequence of years of revolutionary struggle and being on the losing side at the end of the Irish Civil War.
But it was not all doom and gloom in this Irish society. For it possessed a strong local community ethos; crime was almost non-existent; most products could be recycled, repaired and reused; raw materials were sourced locally; children immersed themselves in Nature almost daily; and young people regularly went to sports matches, played music, danced, fell in love and got married; and many families took annual holidays or enjoyed weekend excursions to seaside resorts.

I consider myself so fortunate as a child to have had wonderful family summer holidays enjoying the amusements, beaches and candy floss of the seaside tourist towns of Bundoran, Bangor and Tramore; experiencing exciting working holidays with the 'country' cousins in Carrickmacross and Cloghan amongst the pastures, hayfields and bogs; picnics in the countryside; helping on my dad's garden allotment and working daily behind the counter in the family shop. My parents always allowed me to earn my own pocket money and to spend it on DC, Marvel and Thunderbirds/Stingray comics (I was always a big science fiction fan!), Action Men and Airfix aeroplane models.
Whilst physical (corporeal) punishment was all too commonly practiced by adults against children in families and in schools in those days, I cannot ever remember being slapped or beaten by Mom or Dad for misbehaving even though I was a strong-willed often argumentative child not afraid to express opinions that were contrary to those of my parents.

On Mother’s Day, I pay homage to my mom for being a feisty inspirational woman who overcame the most severe difficulties as a young teenage girl to successfully run a small business and raise a family; to my maternal grandmother Mary Ward who as the only daughter in her family spent much of early adult years feeding, clothing and supporting her 7 brothers many of whom were often ‘on the run’ as IRA volunteers during the War of Independence and the Civil War; and to my maternal great-grandmother Eliza Eccles who spent over 2 years in Armagh Prison for resisting Anglo-Irish landlord oppression during the Land Wars.
I am proud that these women in my family’s lineage kept alive the feminist ideals of a Celtic Pagan and early Christian Ireland where women often held prominent leadership roles exemplified by the fact that our country is the only country in the world (the island of St. Lucia does not count as it was named by invaders not the indigenous peoples!) called after a female.
Beir bua!

A beautiful 19th century Drystone Wall restored

A team of Tuatha volunteers were involved last weekend on restoring a traditional stone wall made from local limestone that served as a rural field boundary when much of the high lands of Terryland Forest Park were primarily pasture.

Research is presently going on to find out its origins. But it is felt that it was constructed as early as the late 19th century if not before.

The Tuatha volunteers are presently actively working with the parks department of Galway City Council in developing and implementing what they feel is an exciting innovative programme of initiatives that will bring a whole new array of features to Terryland Forest Park over the next year which will enhance its importance as an example of the temperate rainforests that once covered Ireland before the colonial period, as a native wildlife sanctuary, an outdoor classroom, a repository of rural heritage, a major force within the city in tackling the Climate Crisis, and in the provision of artistic walking trails and cycling routes.

Next year we want to be fully prepared in helping the people of Galway celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of a park that was born out of a wonderfully proactive collaboration between Galway Corporation (now Galway City Council) and the wider community. When  it came into existence it was Ireland’s largest urban native woodland and was officially known as the ‘Lungs of the City’. Its founders drawn from the local government, community, state, educational, scientific and artistic sectors were in reality visionary pioneering advocates in developing within an urban environment a response to what they recognised as a looming climate and biodiversity crises. It is only now in the last few years that the public are realising the huge significance of what was happening in Galway city in the year 2000.

Early Virtual Reality - the 1-Racer Nascar from 1999.

'Virtual Reality' is defined as an immersive environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using electronic equipment such as a helmet with a built-in screen or gloves fitted with sensors.
One of the earliest and most realistic of Virtual Reality game environments came out in 1999. It was the 1-Racer Nascar from the American company Radica. Featuring a game modelled on a race from the Nascar (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC) franchise it had a head-mounted display with integrated headphones, a handheld controller and a feedback mechanism.
To the modern user, its liquid-crystal display (LCD) technology may feel very primitive. But it worked, it was affordable and it was immersive.
Photo shows Jack Keaney using this pioneering headset.
Jack is a Transition Year (TY) student from Coláiste Iognáid who spent last week on a placement at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics University of Galway which included testing out both state-of-the-art and vintage AI and 3D immersive technologies. Thanks Jack for all your wonderful work!

Well done Helen Caird for a wonderfully inspiring "Nature in Art" exhibition

Everyone involved in the Tuatha volunteers of Terryland Forest Park wishes the very best to our very own Helen Caird, our artist in residence, for her exhibition entitled "Roots, Vessels and Gold" which was launched last Friday in the Oughterard Courthouse and will be open to the public until next Sunday. Well worth a visit!

Photo shows Helen with her lovely partner Ronald van Dijk beside one of the images on exhibit.
Helen's vibrant drawings and paintings adorn our volunteers' HQ- An Nead (Irish = The Nest)- and the highly informative large educational boards that are dotted across Terryland Forest Park.
Her vibrant images have formed the basis for a network of exciting park’s trails, each with their own story, which has ensured that field trips for young people in particular are not only scientific but also artistic.
Thank you Helen Caird for inviting me to be the guest speaker at the launch of the exhibition last Friday. It was the very least that I could do in recognition of the fact that your images have brought a new dimension to Terryland Forest Park and are loved by visitors of all ages.
I have been your number one fan for over 12 years!!

Citizens of the World Unite & Celebrate the Beauty of "Difference".


In an era of increasingly brutal wars in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Americas characterised by mass murder, land grabs, ethnic cleansing, racism, authoritarianism, imperialism, sexual abuse, misogyny and religious intolerance as well as a global man-made Climate and Biodiversity Crises that is putting the very survival of our species at risk, it is more important that ever before to promote tolerance, respect, commonality and diversity amongst all races nations, creeds, sexes and cultures.
Life on planet Earth would be so boring if we all looked the same, had the same faith, wore the same clothes, had only one language, ate the same food, listened and played the same music....
Variety is the Spice of Life.
My many years of travelling all over the world to provide technology education, my work in direct provision centres and refugee camps, my previous career in the hospitality trade involving promoting traditional Irish and World Music, my volunteerism in local community and environmental projects, has impressed on me the critical need for us all to recognise the value and the beauty of cultural differences. We should happily promote Diversity and Respect for All not fear or subjugate it.
So every year for at least 12 years I help coordinate, with my colleagues at my multinational university workplace, a Celebration of Cultures that brings together people, often from countries that are not always the best of political friends, to joyously highlight their ethnic cuisine, landscapes, dress and music.
Have a look at this video from last month's Christmastime Celebration of Multiple Cultures at our workplace of the Data Science Institute in the University of Galway.
It is a small in-house event but nevertheless it is so important to help counteract a rise in hate, sexism and bigotry.

Helen Caird – An Inspirational Artistic Champion of the Natural World

I am deeply honoured that my good friend and wildlife artist extraordinaire Helen Caird has asked me to be the guest speaker at the launch of her wonderfully inspiring exhibition that will take place at 7pm this Friday at the Oughterard Courthouse.
Based on the interconnecting themes of 'Roots, Vessels and Gold', Helen’s new solo show gives true artistic expression to the deep love and inherent respect that she feels towards the rest of Nature.
For ten years, her drawings of birds, insects, fish, trees, mammals, flowers and fungi have enriched the Terryland Forest Park experience for the schools, colleges and the general public visiting this community-driven urban natural heritage sanctuary. Her images have formed the basis for a network of exciting park’s trails, each with their own story, which has ensured that field trips for young people in particular are not only scientific but also artistic. 
The very first time I saw one of her illustrations in 2010 commissioned for the forest park, I was spellbound, totally transfixed. It took my breath away and I have remained in awe of her works ever since. For Helen gives a spiritual essence, an individual personality and deep beauty to each of her wildlife subjects in a way that seems to magically transform these paper drawings and canvas paintings into living pulsating beings right before your eyes.
As a person immersed in science and technology, I can honestly say that no photograph can capture the inner essence of a creature of the wild like a drawing done by the hand of Helen Caird.
Artists have a special creative insight ( a third ‘eye’) that gives an extra benign dimension to our lives.
In a world where biodiversity is suffering like never before in human history, we need champions like Helen to reveal why we all need to be ‘defenders of the wild’.
Helen is a champion of the Galway National Park City initiative and has been proudly proclaimed by her fellow Tuatha volunteers of Terryland Forest Park the artist-in-residence of Ireland’s largest urban native woodland.