Syriza, Denis O'Brien & Irish Political Cronyism



A win for Syriza is a win for ordinary European citizens.
For far too long mainstream parties across Europe such as Pasok have handed over the sovereignty of their countries and the futures of their citizens to corporate interests and to a rich elite. They represent the interests of the millionaires at the expense of the millions. Today 1% of the world population almost own the same as the remaining 99%. This is no coincidence. Look at how in Ireland the billionaire Denis O'Brien, who was exposed by the Moriarty Tribunal as paying huge sums of monies to a government minister to secure a national mobile telephone license that helped lay the foundations of his financial empire, has not been prosecuted by the state. Furthermore the current government continues to grant him favours. It is one of his companies that got the contract for the water meters and who is allowed to build up a virtual monopoly of the 'independent' media in Ireland while operating as a tax exile. The clear message is that crime pays in Ireland and elsewhere when you have friends in high office.


Focus on Mary Harney
Let us look at just one example of how incompetent politicians can legally take our hard-earned taxes to finance a life-time of luxury.
Mary Harney retired with a package worth more than €300,000 and is entitled to an annual pension of over €120,000. She receives an annual ministerial pension of over €70,000 and a TDs pension of €50,600. She also received a pension lump sum of €160,000, a termination lump sum of about €17,000 and monthly termination payments from the Oireachtas during her first 12 months of retirement worth another €66,900, Mary then married one of the heads of FAS who found it very difficult to explain where the €1 billion (yes billion) a year they were receiving in a time of nearly full employment went. Her Husband left FAS an opened up a training agency himself. I wonder who he gets the work off? It's one big club baby, and you ain't in it, (but we will allow you to pay for it). Note: Thanks to the 'You can stock your water meters up your a...' Facebook page for this piece on Mary Harney)

When Vietnam Came to Galway



In 2014, a comet from the east briefly appeared over Galway brightening up the lives of many of its people.  This celestial body was known by the name of Hung Ngo.

Harvest Day, Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden
Hung came to work in my institute at NUI Galway last May. He was a conscientious member of staff at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and was widely respected by his peers for his web technology expertise.
But whilst in Galway, Hung decided to burst forth from his university workplace and immersed himself in the wider community life of the city.
Planting Primrose Wildflowers, Terryland Forest Park
He enthusiastically became involved in a number of grassroots environmental projects. 
His love of Nature became legendary. 
Transplanting & Saving Orchids from a road development near Ardrahan
On most weekends he would turn up at organic gardening and forestry events across Galway to help build tree sculptures, clear pathways, move rocks, plant wildflowers, grow vegetables…No task was too hard, no job too dirty for this man!
Along the Mayo Greenway
Hung it seemed also fell in love with Irish heritage and enjoyed participating in cycling and touring events that I regularly organised in order to introduce Irish and non-Irish residents of the city to the beautiful landscapes, pretty little rural villages and mysterious ancient castles, mansions and churches that still cover much of our countryside.
Athlone Castle
On his last day in Ireland (Saturday Nov 30), I gave Hung a taster of some of the diverse tapestry of activities that one can experience every day in our cosmopolitan city. 
 
On Lough Ree


Coderdojo class, Saturday mornings, Insight, NUI Galway
In the early morning he attended my Coderdojo classes where I teach computer coding to parents and their children.
In Killeen's traditional Irish pub, Shannonbridge
In the late morning, we went to a Food Preserve workshop where we learnt from organic food expert Kay Synott on how to make chutneys, pickles and sauces out of the vegetables and fruit grown in the local Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden. 
Food Preserve course
In the afternoon we took part in a mass public protest against Water Charges
Anti-water charges march, Galway city
That night we had a few pints of Guinness in Ti Coillí a very renowned Irish music pub.
Tí Coillí
So inspired was Hung by what he saw at our computer coding class, that he has now decided to establish the first ever computer volunteer mentoring club or Coderdojo in Vietnam.
Vietnam
I am glad for him that he is back home with his wife and children. I hope too that he will also utilise his deep interest in the environment to help his fellow citizens protect the remaining rainforests of Vietnam with their unique and precious wildlife which have been so decimated by logging, farming and built development over the last few decades.  Sadly the last wild (Javan) rhino in Vietnam died in 2010.  The country is also one of the world’s largest markets for rhino horn, a situation that has led to an alarming increase in poaching in Africa since 2007.
Vietcong
I have always had a deep affinity for Vietnam and its people. My first involvement in radical politics came when I was a teenager in secondary school in county Monaghan during the mid-1970s. It was inspired by the Vietnamese war of liberation against the American military and by the anti-war movement of the United States. 
Anti-Vietnam War protest, USA
I was in awe of how this little country could  overcome centuries of occupation, colonisation and brutality to defeat the world’s superpowers (China, France and the USA) that laid claim to its lands. Its history has many parallels with Ireland.
So thank you Hung for rekindling my interest in Vietnam and thank you too for all the hard work you have undertaken in helping to protect the environment in Galway city for the benefit of both humans and wildlife.
Harvesting Apples in Ballinfoile community garden
Particularly in the last decade, Galway city has greatly benefited from the talents of many people who were not born in Ireland. Hung Ngo (Vietnam) and Sarah Knight (Canada) are two good friends and fellow work colleagues who are prime examples of this trend.
Hitching a ride, Monivea village

Building a stone Celtic Cross pathway, community garden

Cottage café, Mayo Greenway
Hung in a community orchard with friends from USA, Iran, Vietnam, England, Malawi & Ireland


Supping with the locals, Ballinfoile



Je Suis Charlie

The murder of journalists in Paris by followers of the Islamic Caliphate is an attack on free speech, freedom of expression and a free media. The right to criticise any political, religious or cultural figure, movement or ideology should not be undermined by the murderous actions of misogynist religious reactionaries. 
Respect for people's religious or atheistic beliefs is so important. Respect for people's cultural, religious or political beliefs that are not anti-female or racist is so important. 
 
ISIS mass execution

But we should not suddenly become afraid to write, paint, draw and speak out on issues from jihad, the right of apostasy, Israeli colonisation of West Bank, Saudi Arabia's sectarian ideology to Guantanamo. We should not impose self-censorship.

Otherwise these anti-people fascist bigots would have won.

The Irish laws on blasphemy are protecting religious intolerance and undermining freedom of expression.  Time for a referendum to be held on the subject.

Denis O'Brien - The 'Voldemort' of modern Ireland.


On December 10th I along with tens of thousands of ordinary Irish people took part in the 'No to Water Charges' protest in Dublin. It was a joy to be part of a mass demonstration of people of all ages that was more than just about the imposition of another stealth tax. Rather it represented the last straw for citizens throughout Ireland who they have finally said "Enough is Enough”.

The last two governments have implemented a string of austerity cuts to pay for the gambling debts of greedy anti-patriotic bankers and property speculators. Yet those who have bankrupt the country are allowed to get off scot free for committing the biggest crime in the history of the Irish state whilst hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women have as a result lost their jobs, their homes or have emigrated. The fabric of many families were torn apart. For some individuals it was too much to bear and they took their lives.
But the people protesting have not forgotten or forgiven those who are responsible for their pain.
It was very noticeable that coverage by the mainstream print and television media of the huge protest deliberately avoided any mention of the anger directed by demonstrators towards tax exile Denis O'Brien, the man whom the tax-payer funded (€200millions) Moriarty Tribunal found had undermined the Irish body politic. Yet it is he who owns the company that won the contract to install meters for Irish Water!
It is obvious then that because of his omnipotent power (in Newstalk, Today FM. Irish Independent, Topaz...) and his payments to politicians and political parties, the media, Fianna Fáil and the government are too afraid to condemn him. Like Voldemort in Harry Potter, he is the man Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The Irresponsible Few
However one noticeably dark element of the protest was the actions of a very tiny number of idiots who later on blocked O’Connell Street Bridge for hours thus inconveniencing many people working in the city and stopping thousands of protestors from leaving Dublin to get home to Galway, Waterford, Sligo and elsewhere. I myself went over to talk to them, pointed out that I too was a protestor and wished like many others to get on buses that could not move because of their actions.. A few of them gave me a tirade of abuse and threatened to physically assault me. It was obvious that all they were looking for was a confrontation with the police, which would have only damaged the No to Water Charges campaign and undermined all the positivity of the protest.

Dr. Sarah Knight: A Wonderful Advocate for Science Outreach in Galway


'Saving the Planet', Planting trees with her son Cian, Terryland Forest Park, 2013
A damper was put on my Christmas a few days ago when my good friend and long time university colleague Dr. Sarah Knight finished up as Outreach Officer at the Ryan Institute of NUI Galway. I will miss her so much.
Sarah with Lindsay Cody, 'Open Your Mind' research talk on 'Violence Against Women', NUI Galway, 2009
For Sarah was an inspiration and a positive role model for so many of us involved in bringing science and technology into schools. By her departure, our university has lost one of its greatest assets.

Sarah in Clontuskert National School, 2011
Sarah’s focus was in promoting marine, environmental and energy science with an emphasis on the research being undertaken in these areas by the Ryan Institute. Sarah took what are exciting fields of science and amazingly made them even more exciting much to the enjoyment and benefit of pupils in schools across Galway city and county. 
 
Science Festival, Leisureland, Nov. 2009
With her happy persona, radiant smile, infectious laughter and deep scientific knowledge she was always a big hit with children.
The range of hands-on projects that she coordinated had a common denominator -the WOW factor! One of my favourites and probably one of her finest creations was a large 3D tabletop model of Galway Bay that wonderfully demonstrated how sea currents moved along the Galway coastline. 

 A smiling face in the crowd, 'Open Your Mind'  research talk, NUI Galway
Sarah was a permanent fixture at a myriad of science festivals over so many years including Baboro, the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival, school tours of NUI Galway’s research centres, and the annual Ocean Day at the National Aquarium of Ireland aka Atlantaquaria.  Not surprisingly she was selected as a university representative on the board of the Galway Science Forum (formerly known as the Galway Science & Technology Festival). 
Sarah with her fellow Outreach Officers, NUI Galway, January 2009
Within NUI Galway, she was part of the organising committee of the pioneering Open Your Mind research competition and later took on the role as chief coordinator of the Thesis-in-3 challenge aka Threesis where speakers had to present three slides in three minutes in front of three judges. 
Thressis Poster - designed by Sarah Knight
The latter is now a permanent fixture in the university calendar.   
Science Advocates  at NUI Galway
Sea Science Exploration Zone
But her greatest legacy amongst many legacies that she has given to Galway science is the establishment of an interactive Sea Science Exploration Zone at the Galway City Museum that she and museum official James Reynolds spent many months planning, designing and securing funding for. 

With James Reynolds at the Submarine exhibit, Sea Science Exploration Zone, Oct 2014
One of my most abiding memories of Sarah and what typified her 'gung-ho' and hands-on approach was seeing her a few months ago decked out in rough clothing, sleeves rolled up, working away like a beaver with hammer and nails as she putted the finishing touches to the Sea Science exhibition just days before it was opened to the public.
Community Clean-Up, Terryland Forest Park, 2008
Yet Sarah’s interest in science extended beyond her official duties. She was also an active community environmentalist, participating in many seashore, park and forest cleanups, in tree plantings in Terryland Forest Park, and getting involved in the successful 2008 community campaign to stop  a road being built through Terryland Forest Park which garnered over 10,000 signatures. 

 
Sarah at the 'Friends of Terryland Forest Park' Campaign stall, Shop Street, 2008

Sarah at a Clean-Up of Merlin Woods, 2009
 
Galway Bay Clean-Up, Salthill, 2009

Galway Bay Clean-Up, Salthill, 2010
Planting trees with Jim Lenaghan, Daire Smith, James & Patrick, Terryland Forest Park, 2011
 You will never be forgotten Dr. Sarah Knight!

Middle East becoming a Human Slaughterhouse.

Assyrian Christians demonstrating in Beirut
 The persecution of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon is wiping out indigenous cultures that have existed for thousands of years. 
Followers of Islamic Caliphate (aka ISIS) are endeavouring to make the Middle East, once the cosmopolitan heart of the world, a mono-religious and monocultural region. They see no reason for the existence of secularism, atheism, socialism, feminism, Alawites, Yazidis, Christians, Jews, Druzes and Shi'ites. Their message is one of misogyny, hate and a glorification of death to the 'unbeliever'. They have introduced stoning to death, beheadings, crucifixion, female slavery and the covering of women in public as normal societal traits.
 

Iraqi Christians in Mosul before the arrival of ISIS
Credit must go to the Kurds for holding back this tsunami of evil. Sadly ISIS is growing in influence and power by the refusal of Turkey over and above pure tokenism to aid the Syrian Kurds in their life or death struggle against the Islamist; by Saudi Arabia's promotion of the puritanical strain of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism; by the United States destruction of Iraq and support for expansionist Israel; by Europe and the West's decade-long adherence to support the enemies of the Assad regime at any price.
But today it is not only in the Middle East that Christians are being attacked. They are now the most persecuted and discriminated against worldwide.
Check out Irish Times article from December 2014
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/christians-most-persecuted-and-discriminated-against-worldwide-1.2046934



An Urban Forest's Weird & Wonderful Arthropods at Galway Science Fair

4th year science students Paul Brett and Lauren Browne showed visitors to the Terryland Forest Park stand at the Galway Science & Technology Festival Fair, samples of the dozens of species of arthropods that they discovered in the Terryland Forest Park. 

Paul's research provides ample proof that the man-made woodlands of this urban natural heritage area is a vibrant treasure chest of invertebrate animals that include spiders, beetles and millipedes whilst Lauren uncovered nymphs, water beetles and crustaceans in the Terryland River. 

Both students are working under the supervision of Dr. Michel Dugon aka 'The Bug Doctor'. 
The completed report of their findings should be available for viewing to Terryland volunteers and supporters early in 2015. 

We thank all three university personnel for their invaluable research that will contribute so much in helping to make Terryland Forest Park a major Outdoor Classroom and Outdoor Laboratory for the schools and colleges of Galway.

University institute Celebrates a Family Multi-Cultural Christmas in Galway



A wonderful sharing of gifts, foods and festive traditions took place yesterday in Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway as staff, students and their families celebrated Christmas together.
Bangladesh stand
With festive songs of good cheer, thematic digital imagery, balloons, streamers and other decorations  providing a Christmas atmosphere,  the location was populated by an array of exhibit stands overflowing with a mouth-watering selection of baked and cooked recipes of puddings, pies, buns, cakes, salads, meats and jams from the myriad of countries that make up the peoples of the institute.

The hall was dominated by a Christmas tree where a gregarious female Thai Santa and her giant Irish male elf handed out sacks of wrapped presents as part of the wonderful Chris Kindle swapping of gifts tradition.
Santa and the Chris Kindle team
The event was enjoyed by all participants that paid homage to the family of nations that is a such powerful characteristic of our institute.
Ireland
Germany
 
Vietnam & Nepal
 


Pakistan

Syria
Poland
 
Italy
Iran
China

Thailand

Santa handing out gifts to children
 
Tunisia
 
Spot the Irish in the crowd!

Insight is one of the leading global institutes involved in data analytics research. We live in a data rich world, where almost everything we do results in a data record being created and stored somewhere.  The centre’s vision is to create a healthier, safer, more productive world by empowering a data-driven society to enable better decisions by individuals, communities, business and governments. 

Its reputation has attracted young researchers from all over the world thus creating a dynamic technology innovative cosmopolitan hub in Ireland.