Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher: Wild and Beautiful.

 

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If you had Theia’s —the Titan goddess of sight — eyesight on a good clear day, you could stand at the edge of the Cliffs and see Newfoundland. For you are truly standing at the very edge of Europe. The Cliffs of Moher mark the boundary of a continent; the next landmass is the New World. The Americas lie 3,161 kilometres west with nothing in-between save for the North Atlantic Ocean.

Formation:

Formed 319 millions of years ago during what geologists’ term the Carboniferous period, the Cliffs were initially inland mountains. The landmass then stretched further out to sea. The Aran Islands were part of the mainland and dinosaurs were yet to roam the earth. Rising sea levels eroded the land; oceans were formed and the Cliffs of Moher became Europe’s threshold.

A Gift From the Gods:

The Titan goddess Theia is also fabled as being the goddess who endowed gold and silver their brilliance and being the mother of Helios the Sun. To sit relaxed at the cliffs of Moher watching the golden sunset in the west silhouette the Aran Islands 14 kilometres North West is surely to enjoy a gift from the gods.

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The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s premier natural tourist attraction. With 1.5 million visitors every year enjoying the gentle cliff-side stroll meandering toward O’Brien’s tower — built to allow Victorian tourists to sip tea and enjoy the views extending to Loop head and Kerry to the South and Galway Bay and even Connemara to the North West. The cliffs at O’Brien’s Tower fall vertically to the Atlantic Ocean 214 meters below.

The cliffs are home to 30,000 pairs of nesting birds including: Fulmars, Kittiwake, puffins, guillemot and razorbills. The area was designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) for Birds under the EU Birds Directive and lucky observers may view endangered bird species like choughs and peregrine falcons.

Feral goats, Irish hares, badgers and foxes play shyly among the unique Burren flora.

Looking out over the wild and majestic Atlantic Ocean, dolphins and basking shark swim by while grey seals rest on the rocks and sea stacks that dot the cliff base.

The original Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience project was the recipient of a €10million grant under the Failte Ireland Tourism Capital Grants Scheme which was part of European Regional Development Fund grant aid under the National Development Plan that ran to 2006.*

This expenditure saw the building of a premier self-guided visitor centre — the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience; a sensitively designed and built, eco-friendly interpretative centre housed in an adjacent hill. This unique building contains audio visual displays, information points, restaurants and shops that add to the total visitor experience.

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A visit to this most western boundary of Europe allows not only an appreciation of the past but also an appreciation of nature its sights and its sounds, the wild and the beautiful.

 

* source Katherine Webster Director – Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience

Images courtesy of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience

http://www.cliffsofmoher.ie/

Disclosure: The author Ger Leddin was once employed by Clare County Council which has a significant interest in the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Love one but hang another?

galgos copyThis opinion piece contains some graphic and horrifying pictures of cruelty perpetrated on dogs. Sorry but it does happen and it’s time to wake up to it.  

I have a dog and he is my best friend. Where I go he goes, when I eat he eats, when I sleep he sleeps. He loves me and I him.

People tell me he’s “only” a dog; doesn’t speak, doesn’t understand, is only interested in his basic drives of: prey, food, sex and warmth.

Nonsense, Odin my two-year old German Shepherd is typical of all the dogs I have been lucky enough to call friends down through the years. Blitz, Freya, Husky, all now sadly gone, all different breeds, all different temperaments but all similar in the love, loyalty, and the unbridled faithfulness they shared with me and I with them.

Was I just lucky enough to have dogs that loved me and let me love them, were they the only dogs in the world ever to have shared feelings with me? I don’t think so.

Ask any person who has been lucky enough to share their lives with a dog and they will all tell you the same thing. That it’s one of the greatest bonds known to man.

This is why I was so upset and horrified when I was told recently of a practice — allowed to continue and encouraged even, by a European Member State — just down the road from where I live (Olhao, Portugal)  less than forty minutes drive, in neighbouring Spain. The “sport” of using galgos (greyhounds in English) as hunting dogs is cruel enough but the treatment of these animals by galgueros their Spanish owners/trainers is horrific.

This misguided sense of machismo allows for the torture and death of more than 50,000 harmless dogs each and every year.

Traditionally in Spain dogs are only used for one season then cruelly put down.

Being “put-down” in Spain is not as what the term euphemistically means in Ireland, Britain or most other civilised countries. In Spain disposing of retired dogs or those which embarrass their “Macho” owners by under performing in hunting are killed in retribution for the “shame” they bring to the galgueros. Not for these the euthanasia of a vets syringe but a cruel and atrocious torture and slow death.

Customary in parts of Spain “not to waste a bullet”

It is customary in parts of Spain “not to waste a bullet” on these animals, instead they are routinely subjected to the sadistic rituals of being dragged behind cars, burning with acid, burying alive or what is called in this sub-human culture, the piano-dance.

The Piano-Dance involves hanging the dog by its neck, the animal’s feet just touching the ground and forcing the dog to perform a macabre and fruitless effort as it struggles vainly to maintain breathing. Tens of thousands of dogs are butchered in this fashion in the fields and woods of Spain every year.

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The Legal situation:

The Spanish Animal Welfare Act (32/2007) concerns itself with animal welfare and provides for penalties against those found guilty of animal cruelty. However, the Act is framed for the protection of animals kept for economic purposes and explicitly excludes animals kept for hunting or pets.

Regionally all of the seventeen autonomous regions of Spain have adopted legislation concerning animal welfare but again these regional laws also fail miserably when it comes to the protection of galgos which are in this instances considered “animales de renta” (animals of use to people), and excluded from the protections afforded to companion animals thus the galgos are not protected by either Spanish national or regional laws.

The Irish connection:

In November 1999 The Guardian reported that “nearly all the greyhounds exported into Spain come from Ireland.” Public Affairs Editor Anthony Barnett, wrote that,

“Often the dogs travel in horrific conditions, being kept on trucks for several days with little water or food. Many suffer from dehydration before they get to Spain where they are then caged in tiny kennels with poor lighting and no bedding. Many are injured but are kept racing till they can hardly run.”

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Cop-out:

The Irish Greyhound Racing Board is a commercial semi-state body part fund through grants from the Irish Government. They claim that the export of greyhounds into Spain has been banned since 1991, however Barnett reports that an Observer Investigation uncovered that an IGB employee had been working hand in glove with Spanish buyers and acting as an agent in Ireland responsible for buying greyhounds intended for export to Spain. The Board have commented that this man was acting in a private capacity.

On October the 27th 2014 the French Gendarmes Maritimes and Port Surveillance platoon at the Cherbourg Ferry Port discovered the bodies 11 greyhounds which had tragically died due to suffocation in transit on an Irish Ferries vessel The Oscar Wilde.

An Irish Ferries spokesperson said they were unaware the dogs were being transported in the vehicle.

In November 2016 I travelled from Ireland to Cherbourg along with my German Shepherd Odin, using a different ferry company. On our windscreen I was required to display a “Dog on board” card issued by the ferry company. Odin spent the twenty one hour crossing in the relative comfort of the on-board kennels and I had free access to visit, feed and walk him on deck.

I did however notice that the van stowed immediately in front of my jeep contained a number of greyhounds bound for the continent. I wrongly assumed that these dogs would be housed in similar kennels. Not the case; they spent the crossing caged in a cramped and unventilated Hiace.

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On the 19th of May 2016 the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, told the Dáil (Irish Parliament) that 44 Irish dogs had been exported to Spain during 2015 — similar figures are expected for 2016 — and that he endorses the view of the Irish Greyhound Board that all owners involved in the export of greyhounds to only export to destinations that provide the expected levels of care and management as defined in the IGBs Code of Practice for the welfare of greyhounds.

The cruel and horrendous practices carried out by the galgueros of Spain can in no way be considered as complying with any reasonable standard of care and proper management.

Picking up the pieces:

The issue was raised recently by Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy who said animal rescues all over the Ireland “who are surviving on paltry grants and fund raising are the ones picking up the pieces from the greyhound industry.”

Figures from 2006 and reported by the Journal.ie showed 4,481 litters were registered. With an average of six pups per litter, would make a total of more than 31,367 dogs. Only 23,700 of these were registered to race.

This leaves more than 7,500 greyhound puppies ‘missing’, along with the 8,000 dogs a year that are retired from the industry.

Figures show that these dogs do not end up in rescues or re-homed, “many end up shot or beaten over the head, then thrown into a pit or quarry.” Murphy a former MEP said.

The Irish Government grand aid the Greyhound Board to the tune of sixteen million euros per year. This money — from the Irish taxpayer — goes to an organisation which is failing in it’s duty of care to the animals it is charged with protecting, perhaps it is time for politicians to rethink grant allocations.

What you can do?

Please share this piece with your local public representatives and the relevant political party spokespersons some of whose email addresses follow. It just takes a cut copy and paste.

michael.creed@oir.ie  Michael Creed Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine,

eamon.ocuiv@oireachtas.ie  Mr. Éamon Ó Cuív Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Agriculture

paul.murphy@oireachtas.ie  Parliamentarian

martinkennysf@gmail.com  Sine Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture

willie.penrose@oireachtas.ie  Labour Party Spokesperson on Agriculture.

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Home thoughts from abroad on homelessness

homeless manOlhão, the Algarve 8:00 in the morning and the temperature is already at about 20°c. This man (photographed) obviously spent the night sleeping rough on the streets of Olhão. While the temperature here last night was around 14° you could say he is “luckier” than those forced to sleep rough on Irish streets where it was about 8° and raining.

Hypothermia can and does kill. You have only to remember the unfortunates we read about far too often in Irish papers whose bodies are found in derelict buildings, parks and even on the streets outside Leinster House. Hypothermia is often likely to be a contributing factor in the death of these people.

I was living on the Algarve the morning another body of a homeless person was discovered in Ireland. I had just arrived here. I was trying to get used to the glorious weather, the beaches, inexpensive food and wine, making new friends and enjoying a comfortable new stage to my life. While I was doing this, people were shivering on the streets of Ireland narrowly avoiding death each night.

There are far too many living on the streets of Ireland. Figures collected by Focus Ireland show that last Christmas there was 142 people sleeping rough. Some of these people do so by choice, giving up on society and for what ever reason they take to the streets. Many others are forced to live on the streets without option due to the haphazard response of an inept government pandering to the selfish needs of wolfish financial institutions and allowing this blight on our society to continue.

People are sleeping rough, sleeping in cars or what is facetiously referred to as couch-surfing. Again Focus Ireland estimates that 7148 Irish people and families are homeless. They live in hostels and emergency accommodation. The figure has increased by 40% since last year, a statistic which shows all too well the ineptness of the Government’s range of policies designed to “tackle” homelessness.

We are heading into spring. Most minds will be diverted away from the issues surrounding homelessness and rough sleeping but as night follows day, winter will come around again and more people will die cold and alone on Irish streets.

It can take only thirty minutes to die from hypothermia. Your body starts to shiver uncontrollably trying to maintain some body heat from the muscular shaking. You will become dizzy and disorientated.

The onsets of the affects of hypothermia are cumulative. Your body will divert blood flow from the extremities to the vital organs in an attempt to protect them. This will make the extremities even colder. Your heart will pound as its rate increases, your breathing will accelerate, and you shiver uncontrollably.

Because of the increased blood flow to the vital organs you will need to urinate, soon you will lose control of your bladder. You will be so cold that you won’t be able to move. Lying there in a ball you will be confused and disorientated as your brain shuts down. Your feet and hands turn blue; your heart rate will suddenly alternate from rapid to extremely slow as you start to hallucinate, lose your memory and suddenly and paradoxically you will become very hot as your organs shut down as you die.

It’s easy when you’re living abroad to pontificate on the rights and wrongs of Irish society but perhaps being removed from the every- day life of home allows one the opportunity to focus sharply. As a society we can not allow people living on the streets to die. It is our duty to protect the vulnerable. If new hostels need to be built, build them. If more NAMA buildings need to be occupied, even if only to make a statement, do so. If an inept government needs to fall, let it. But do it now don’t wait until next winter comes around. By then it will be too late for some.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An open letter to Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary.

sean-spicer-cartoon-luckovichAn open note to Sean Spicer, Press Secretary to Donald Trump.

Sean please excuse my expletives but what the fuck are you and your dick-head boss at?

I notice from reading your bio some interesting details, for example: when you were a student in 1993 you wrote an angry piece for the College Voice, so angry and venomous in fact that the paper by-lined you Sean Spincher. This college nick-name stuck and is credited in part with explaining your contentious relationship with the media. I also note that actor and satirist Trevor Noah has likened you to “an air freshener in a bathroom which just makes things worse.”

Sean you claim Irish roots, please don’t further embarrass your Irishness by condoning not confronting your master’s madness.
This latest stunt of banishing respected long-standing media Such as: CNN, the BBC, The New York Times, The LA Times and others from Whitehouse is madness even during the darkest days of Charles Haughey’s strangle hold on Irish politics would P.J. Mara (Irish Government Press Secretary 1987-1992) have attempted such an affront and Mara could have taught any hack a trick or two in his day. Even Alistair Campbell in the run up to the Iraq invasion managed to keep cordial relationships with the press corps.

While it is accepted that a government press spokesperson will spin the truth, nowhere in any democracy would the exclusion of large sections of the established press be excluded even as you put it they report “alternative facts.” That is their job their function, their reason for being.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy speaking to the American Newspaper Publishers Association in New York April the 27th 1961 put it best when he said:

“No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.”

On a final note could you ask your boss to recall the oath he took On January the 22nd this year, to serve and protect the American constitution that includes the first amendment to the same constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press?

“Ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press.
” First amendment to the American Constitution.

May I also draw your attention to the following quote:

“We have a respect for the press when it comes to the government, that that is something you can’t ban an entity from. I think that is what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.”

Now let’s see who said that? Oh yeah, you did a few weeks ago. Jaysus doesn’t time just fly in politics.

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Gay Taoiseach may meet homophobic President.

img_0202No matter what you say about Enda Kenny, you have to admit he’s been around a long time. A TD since 1975 and leader of Fine Gael since 2002. Many people write him off as a gormless twit — I’ve been guilty of harbouring and voicing that opinion myself on a few occasions – but you don’t last 42 years dancing with the wolves of Leinster House without learning a few survival skills.
But let’s face it Kenny’s time is running out, the knives are being sharpened and it looks like the mutton is being prepared for the slaughter. How long will it take to rid us of this incompetent incumbent? Well, it’s difficult to put an exact time frame on a new Taoiseach taking office, Firstly Enda will need to resign, an election will then be called, under FG rules this election must take place within twenty days – longer if agreed by the executive – so in practical terms we are highly unlikely to see a new Taoiseach before the first of April. This time span would see Kenny take the annual trip to Washington and present his bowl of shamrock to America’s Tulip.

 Gay Taoiseach?

Paddy Power bookmakers are giving 4/6 odds on favourite Leo Varadkar becoming the next leader of FG and next Taoiseach. Interestingly Míchael Martin is at 2/5 to be Taoiseach after the next election so poor Leo may barely get his seat warm before it’s back to the opposition benches for him.
But let’s say he pulls it off with a little help from his friends, cosies up with Howlin again and the rattle tattle band and retains the job, how will he cope with our friends across the Atlantic?

Trump:
Almost from the day of his (Trump’s) inauguration there have been calls for the implementation of the 25th amendment to the American constitution allowing for the removal of the President, There has also been talk of impeachment which could also lead to Mike Pence replacing Trump sooner rather than latter.
In a “what-if situation” the 17th of March 2018 could conceivably see Varadkar travelling to Washington to meet and greet President Pence.
How would this sit with Taoiseach Leo?
Varadkar bravely came out and declared himself as a gay man on national radio in January 2015, showing a keen perception and duty of transparency in connection with the marriage referendum being debated at that time.
Pence on the other hand has been actively involved with the diminishing of LGBT rights through out his political career. As Governor of Indiana he introduced and signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which permits discrimination against LGBTs so as not to “violate” sincerely  held religious views. As a Congressman Pence consistently voted against every pro-gay measure introduced to Congress.

I wonder what Taoiseach in waiting Leo will make of that.

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Clare retains Blue Flags.


Clare retains excellent Blue Flag status.

An Taisce today (Thursday, 26 May 2016) awarded the prestigious International Blue Flag to nine Clare beaches, including Whitestrand Miltown Malbay, Ballycuggernan, Whitestrand Doonbeg, Mountshannon, Cappa, Fanore, Spanish Point, Kilkee and Lahinch.

Anne Haugh, Director of Services, Clare County Council, commented, “Clare County Council recognises the importance of our beaches as a place of recreation and enjoyment for locals and visitors alike. The Council invests considerable monies on an annual basis in maintaining and improving facilities at our beaches and I look forward to the continuation of the good working relationship with communities and the wider public to ensure the high environmental standards that have been achieved are maintained.” She said.
The Blue Flag is operated in Ireland by An Taisce-The National Trust for Ireland on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). The Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised eco-labels. Beaches and marinas that achieve this accolade must comply with a specific set of criteria relating to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety and beach management. At beaches the bathing water must comply with the excellent standard in accordance with the 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive. The Blue Flag programme is funded in Ireland by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government.
The Blue Flag is awarded to over 4000 beaches and marinas in 49 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.

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Port Out Starboard Home. P.O.S.H

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P.O.S.H. is a four part radio documentary to be broadcast on Near Fm every Friday starting Friday the 3rd of June, on Dublin’s Dockland the area and the people.

Posh is grant aided by the BAI Sound and vision Scheme and produced by Ger Leddin.

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Time to reform TD’s

  
Just thinking; how long has it been since the dissolution of the last Dáil? Three months at least.We haven’t had a truly functioning government for yonks. Ok the politicians of all shades, sizes and colours are now back in Dublin clocking up the expenses but let’s be honest what have they actually done over the past few months? Answer, not a lot.
The heavy hitters like Kenny, Martin and Adams have been diligently ‘meeting and scheming’ along with the independents out to feather their own particular nests. But let’s be honest here, what has your typical back bencher being doing? Answer, not a hell of a lot. There have been no committee sittings no parliamentary debates worth talking about no Dáil Committees of Inquiry, in essence there has been sweet feck-all happening.
Is there a lesson in this for us the proletariat? Yes there is and in fairness it’s simple, we do not need the amount of TDs we have sitting in Dublin. We could manage quite well on perhaps two TDs from each constituency, we need far less ministers and we don’t need the spurious positions of junior ministers. We have a highly qualified and experienced cohort of Civil Servants let’s use them. A few years ago—and Fine Gael still remind us of how great they were to attempt it— we had the Senate reform referendum but perhaps this was a well placed conjuring trick to divert our attention away from the real issue. That is, way too many useless backbenchers sitting and scratching in Dublin, drawing salary and expenses and doing the work of glorified County Councillors.
We are going to have another General Election within months, perhaps we could and should run a concurrent referendum on Dáil reform the same day?

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WhatMatters Wednesday the 6th of April

On Wednesday the 6th of April at 3:30 join me Ger Leddin when I talk to councillor and therapist Derry O’Malley on issues surrounding mental health, depression and general well being.

WhatMatters can be heard on Near Fm 99.9 in the Dublin area and on http://www.nearfm.ie and on the TuneIn app

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Juvenile Crime: what next?

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What is it we do not understand about crime? It used to be the case that “if you do the crime be prepared to do the time.”
That adage simply doesn’t apply to juvenile crime in Limerick. At least not to the gang of juvenile thugs I witnessed raiding a shop on Easter Monday.
I had pulled into a filling station shop on the edges of one of the city’s larger housing estates to get a coffee at about 2:00pm Easter Monday. As I prepared the coffee I witnessed four or five pre-teens burst in to the shop and begin to raid the shelves of soft drinks and chocolate. Within in seconds they were gone. But seconds later and joined by more of the same age they once more burst through the doors to commit even more larceny.
In total there were about ten children aged between seven and twelve ripping and clearing the shelves of whatever they could. Concentrating on six-packs of soft drink cans and boxes of chocolate these thugs took their time and literally emptied shelves as they carried out their raid.
After they had left I was struck by the casual attitude of the two staff who as the saying goes “hardly batted an eyelid.” “This happens every day or sometimes twice a day” I was told. “It’s not worth calling the guards, the kids are underage; too young to punish.”
While I must say I was shocked at the behaviour of the thugs I was more frightened by the attitude, albeit brought about by despair and resignation, of the staff.
Does anyone not realise that if these kids are allowed to get away with these actions on a continuous basis the chance of them ever becoming responsible citizens are extremely slim.
Whats next for the thugs? Chocolate becomes dope and money needs to be robbed to feed a more grown up habit. Next step is a baseball bat or Iron bar and threats until the till and takings are handed over.
Does our legal, education or policing authorities not realise that this thuggery is cancerous and will eat not only at the fabric of society but also devour any chance for these hooligans to grow into citizens?
Section 53 of the Criminal Justice Act 2001 empowers and places an onus on the Gardai to deal with children under 12 whom they believe to have committed an offence. Perhaps it’s time  for the Guards to adopt a more proactive approach to this problem and nip criminal behaviour in the bud.
Every child pushes boundaries, it’s part of growing up, part of learning. But as a society to accept the behaviour I witnessed as the norm is wrong. It will cost millions in lost lives, jail sentences, social welfare payments further down the road, now is the time to parent.

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