A very good friend of mine and of many others died yesterday.
Joan O'Brien was one of the nicest, warmest, loveliest and engaging persons that I have ever had the privilege to befriend whilst I was a student.
Her engaging smile bewitched all those that knew her.
I was lucky enough to be a friend of hers while we were on campus together in what was considered a golden era of UCG and Galway city.
See www.ucgstudents.com .
She was a part of close-knit circle of endearing female students who lit up the lives of so many of us. Their parties were a legend. Whilst I lived in what was then possibly he No. 1 house for disco parties (No 80 Hazel Park), their chalet on Canal Road hosted the most refined, zaniest and wackiest dinner gatherings that Galway possibly has ever known.
A highlight for me & many of my fellow students was to receive an invitation from Joan and the 'girls' to attend dinner in their abode on a Friday night.
Formal dress was expected.
So we would arrive with a bunch of dandelions or daffodils at the door of their tiny damp-lined broken-down chalet dressed in the finest apparel that we could find, usually an eclectic mix of worn-out coloured shirts, mix-matched bow-ties, odd-fitting jackets and rustic floral dresses.Upon crossing the threshold, we would find ourselves entering a magical Arabian Nights world where the aroma of candles and sweet 'n' sour pork would permeate the air, where soft alluring music emanated from an old record-player lying in a corner, where red napkins and broken floral crockery would adorn the table, where smiling females would serve home-brew poteen and cider freshly arrived from the deep vaults of 'Peter Michaels'.On occasions, one of these hardy wenches would, with one powerful strike of a hammer and nail, hit a mysterious silver barrel that would then bring forth a powerful golden river of delicious beer.
Later that night, after much ear-piercing renditions of earthy poetry and rebel songs, these angels would lift up the inebriated menfolk and usher them forth into the darkness of the night before ending up on the floor of the hallowed 'Aula Maxima' in UCG where the male of the species would be expected to dance to the sounds ofHorslips, Boney M, and the Donna Summer as played by illustrious DJs known as the K-Tel Kids & the Big G.
Joan- you and your friends of Maria, Marcella, Rosie & Trish brought so much laughter and goodness into my student days.
Though I have hardly ever seen you since we left UCG, my memories of you and the girls is as fresh and as loving as ever.
I will say a prayer for you tonight
Go gcoinní Dia thú go n-athaontóimid arís
She took little if any responsibility for the dire state of taxi regulation & monitoring in Ireland as portrayed on last night (May 16th 2011) on RTE's Prime Time excellent investigative programme which exposed the endemic corruption & criminality within the Irish government-created taxi service whereby convicted rapists, gangsters & murderers of innocent people are allowed to own taxis thus threatening the lives of innumerable Irish citizens.
Doyle refused to go onto this public broadcasting programme to answer questions that citizens needed to know. This morning she waffled on & on about how good the regulations are rather than hold her hands up, admit things are bad, apologize to the Irish people, state that she wants stronger legislation and more resources to help her in her new crusade to root out criminality.
Sadly she inspired no confidence whatsoever in her answers that she will undertake such a course of action.Her explanations though shows that there are too many agencies involved in the whole process, thus allowing each one to pass the buck and blame others. Ex-minister Bobby Molloy introduced taxi de-regulation a few years ago, but never put in place a proper regulatory structure. Thus he bears a lot of blame for the present dire state of affairs. The dogs in the street knows how bad things are. But our civil servants and politicians for years have turned a blind eye. Once again it is RTE and public broadcasting's exposure of high levels corruption and state inactivity that may embarrass the political establishment to undertake corrective change.
I am writing to the Minister for Transport asking him to ask for Doyle's resignation and t propose new laws to end criminality and ensure a proper public transport service
A public meeting organised by the community environmental group ‘Galway Friends of the Forest’ will take place at 7.30pm on Tuesday May 10th in the Menlo Park Hotel to look at ways to develop Galway as Ireland’s first eco-city, a move that organisers say could significantly impact on tourism.
Galway city is unique within Ireland in still possessing a fascinating kaleidoscope of rural and natural landscapes that somehow survived the urban sprawl developments of recent times.
Within the city’s boundaries there is a wonderful network of boreens, woodlands, seashores, lakes, rivers, castles, wetlands, karst limestone hills, seashores and a patchwork of drystone-wall lined fields. Yet most of the city’s inhabitants are not aware of these ‘green jewels’ and heritage treasures that lie in their midst.
Combined with recent progressive neighbourhood developments such as community gardens, forest parks, and playgrounds in places such as Ballybane, Ballinfoile and Doughiskea, Galway city council-coordinated eco-awareness programems such as An Taisce's schools Green Flag and Glan Suas Gaillimh (clean up Galway), there are now wonderful opportunities for local communities to collectively create an exciting new web-based heritage and eco map for Galway that could be downloaded and used by schools and foreign tourists interested in enjoying an alternative pedestrian, cycling and family friendly city. Furthermore, our natural landscapes have the potential to be further exploited in a sustainable way as major outdoor scientific laboratories for our third-level colleges, outdoor classrooms for local schools and ‘zones of tranquillity’ for city-dwellers.
We should now coordinate, develop and publicise all the different environmental and heritage initiatives that are taking place across the city.
Such a course of action could lead to the establishment of an annual ‘Green Calendar’ of events that could benefit Galwegians of all ages as well as bring a whole new dimension and much-needed sustainable boost to our tourism sector.
American student volunteers, Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden
There is so much happening in this sector thanks to the work being done by educational and local groups. For instance Galway Civic Trust has produced a comprehensive walking tour guide of Galway’s waterways; the people of Castlegar organise annual ‘boreen’ festivals; Atlantaquaria in Salthill regularly hold seashore safaris; Ballinfoile and Ballybane residents host Harvest Festivals in their community gardens; Galway City Partnership and the VEC fund workshops that are re-invigorating old traditional skills such as blacksmithing, willow sculpting and wood-turning; City Council support neighbourhood clean-up drives in public parks and provide a network of children playgrounds; the Community Forum is working with Galway Transport Unit to provide ‘Off the Beaten Track’ guided cycle heritage tours that encompass Ballindooley, Menlo and Ballygarraun some of which are now available as online map resources and which could become a template for the mapping of further pedestrian/cycling local scenic routes within the urban boundaries. Many other groups such as Galway Bat Group, An Taisce, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Birdwatch and Galway Education Centre are also involved also in ‘green’ initiatives.
Public Guided Nature Walk, Terryland Forest Park, with Stephen Walsh
A few months ago, the Friends of Galway Forests hosted a packed meeting where it was agreed to map out many of the natural networks that exist across this city as part of a Green Calendar and mapping exercise.
The event on May 10th will be a follow up to this last meeting.
However there are major challenges to be overcome if eco-local heritage tourism is to become a reality. None more so than the high level of refuse that exists in our green zones.
But for this potential to be exploited fully there is a need for City officials to implement their own environmental polices such as the 2006 ‘Habitats Inventory’ management directive, the 2002 Strategy for the establishment of ‘ecological corridors’ as well as to re-engage with residents and other stakeholders by re-activating previously successful multi-sectoral groups such as the Terryland Forest Park steering committee which has been left in abeyance since 2005 even though its ambitious programme of Sunday ‘Picnics in the Park’, outdoor cultural festivals, community tree plantings and children’s blub planting days were successful. In a time of job embargoes and budgetary restrictions, local government must not ignore the hand of neighbourhood volunteerism or the specialised scientific expertise that exists within NUI Galway and GMIT.
Councillor Neil McNeilis & Kieran Cunnane taking part in community clean-up of woodlands
Government too must do its bit by following the example of other European countries in introducing a refundable charge on all beverage cans in order to eliminate litter from our parks and seashores.
Shades of a 'Merry Old England'
As a committed republican and anti-imperialist, I have to say t
hough that I was genuinely surprised and impressed at how the ordinary English happily celebrated the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Lots of street parties, and fetes on village greens with music, old-fashioned games, champagne and cups of teas with scones. The huge crowds in London were of all ages & were so well-behaved enjoying family picnics and small group get-togethers.
The 'walkers-pace' mass movement of people to the gates of Buckingham Place was surreal, as if they were all guests in a wedding party group of days gone by chatting and laughing as they merrily followed the bride and bridegroom from the church up to the parents' house. The church service in the picturesque medieval abbey was very spiritual; the fulsome singing of hymns such as 'Jerusalem' absolutely magnificent. It was at one level a re-awakening of a sense of community and neighbourliness in England. And boy, do the English do
pageantry like no-one else can. The main parks, boulevards, historical fountains, statutes and buildings seemed to posively sparkle as if they all were given an extra cleaning and polishing. Very impressive- the whole scene was like something out of a fictional pre-WW1 'Merry Old England' novel.
A Happy Couple
The couple too seem genuinely in love, which is really nice and should be celebrated. So I sincerely wish them a long and happy life together. And to be honest, everyone in our house was watching the television coverage of the wedding at some point during the day and commenting positively, admiring Kate's dress, Harry's ruffled look etc. On some occasions one has to chill out and not be so serious, take the whole thing at an enjoyment level and not get too caught up in the politics and the unaccceptable hereditary nature of the British aristocracy.
The Wedding: Irish Dimensions
But of interest to me also was: a) the 'Irish' elements of Kate and William's wedding, especially noticeable in this photo, that shows a large gold shamrock on his uniform, which is that of the Irish Guards, of which he is colonel.
Kate's magnificent wedding dress had a hand-crafted intricately pattern lace design known as 'Carrickmacross lace' after my home town in County Monaghan.
The person that did all the beautiful floral arrangement inside Westminster Abbey was Irishman and royal florist Shane Connolly.
The Wedding: Environmental Aspects
b) the spectacular sight of large trees adorning the interior of Westminster Abbey. The eco-symbolism is obvious. This is so good as trees need friends more than ever due to ever-increasing destruction of the rainforests which is significantly affecting life all across the planet. I feel William's father Charles, who is a great environmental campaigner, had some role to play in this important decision. These Maple and Hornbeam trees will be re-planted in Highgrove Park.
Kate's wedding lace pattern incorporated four plants to represent the four nations of the United Kingdom: the Rose (England), Thistle (Scotland), Shamrock(Ireland) and Daffodil (Wales).
Her bouquet contained five symbolic flora: Lily-of-the-Valley (Happiness), Hyacinth (Constancy), Sweet William (Gallantry), Myrtle (Love) and Ivy (Fidelity).
Actually the use of plants in wedding ceremonies was much more common in earlier times and symbolised humanity's reliance and deep respect for Nature: Laurel Wreaths on the head of the bride and groom, Flowers in the churches, Floral Bouquets, Flower girls and Ivy Garlands that covered walls and doors were for millennia features of weddings and other religious events.
So well done to Kate and William for putting Nature back onto centre stage.
c) the fact that this wedding was really an 'English' and not a 'British' affair. Very few community or street celebratory parties were held in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The 'United Kingdom' now seems like a thing of the past.