Archives for category: events

We have had a few bad storms already this year, but last night was the worst so far. The town of Midleton was badly flooded, sections of the N25 were rendered impassable and parts of Garryvoe beach practically wiped out, with rubble strewn across the car park. Here are a few pictures I took today.

Midleton Main Street flooded.


The Midleton river burst its banks, flooding the area around the distillery.


Things were not much better by Bailick Road.


Garryvoe carpark has been covered in rubble again.



Much of the beach seems to have disappeared.



The carpark is inaccessible from the hotel due to heavy flood waters.


When we were leaving, attempts were being made to reduce the flooding by constructing a new channel to the sea.



2015 Anniversaries

Ten Years Ago (2005): Hurricane Katrina slams into New Orleans, prompting unprecedented chaos and mass evacuation. The Cassini-Huygens probe landed on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Death of Pope John Paul II. Death of Rosa Parks. The A380 “superjumbo” makes its first flight. London awarded the 2012 Olympic games. The following day, a terrorist attack in the London Underground kills 52 people. Further terrorist bombings take place in Iraq, Bali, New Delhi, the Lebanon and Jordan. The Ferns Report into clerical child abuse, is released. The Kitzmiller vs Dover lawsuit deals a huge blow to Intelligent Design proponents in the US.

Twenty Five Years Ago (1990): West Germany and East Germany are reunified into a single state. Nelson Mandela is released from imprisonment in South Africa. The “Pale Blue Dot” photo is taken by Voyager 1. The Hubble Space Telescope is launched. The Republic of Ireland reaches the quarter finals of the Italia ’90 World Cup. Death of Jim Henson. Iraq invades Kuwait, triggering the first Gulf War. Mary Robinson becomes President of Ireland. Margaret Thatcher steps down as UK Prime Minister. The Channel Tunnel connects Britain to mainland Europe.

Fifty Years Ago (1965): Death of Winston Churchill. Assassination of Malcolm X. American combat troops arrive in South Vietnam. Civil Rights activists, lead by Martin Luther King, march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Mariner 4 takes close-up photos of Mars for the first time. Singapore becomes a sovereign country. Death of Stan Laurel. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley arrested for the Moors Murders.

Seventy Five Years Ago (1940): Nazi Germany invades Denmark and Norway, then Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. British forces abandon mainland France through Dunkirk. British cities and towns suffer through the Blitz. Thousands of people are killed by the Soviets in Katyn, Poland. The Soviet Union annexes the Baltic States. Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker make their screen debuts. First ever MacDonald’s restaurant established in California. Leon Trotsky is killed. The Lascaux cave paintings are discovered. John Charles McQuaid is consecrated Archbishop of Dublin.

One Hundred Years Ago (1915): The RMS Lusitania is sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Cork, killing 1,198 passengers and crew. The Second Battle of Ypres is fought. Poison gas deployed on the front for the first time. The Allies engage Turkey in the Gallipoli Campaign. Albert Einstein formulates his General Theory of Relativity. The Stop Sign makes its debut in Detroit. Death of Joseph O’Donovan Rossa, founder of the Fenians.

Two Hundred Years Ago (1815): Napoleon Bonaparte escapes Elba and quickly re-takes France. He is defeated in the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to St. Helena. His exile ends 30 years of hostilities between Britain and France. Mount Tambora erupts in Indonesia: it is the greatest volcanic eruption in modern times. Foundation of the National History Museum in Dublin.

Three Hundred Years Ago (1715): The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, dies of gangrene in Versailles, after a reign of 72 years. A solar eclipse passes over London; the last to do so for 700 years. Beginning of the first major Jacobite rebellion in Scotland.

Four Hundred Years Ago (1615): The Tokugawa Shogunate successfully besieges Osaka Castle in Japan, commencing a period of unopposed rule that would last almost 250 years.

Five Hundred Years Ago (1515): The city of Havana in Cuba is founded by Conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar.

Six Hundred Years Ago (1415): The English defeat the French in the Battle of Agincourt. Pope Gregory XII resigns – the last pope to do so until Pope Benedict XVI in 2013. A brutal precursor to the Protestant Reformation when Bohemian reformer Jan Hus is tried and burned at the stake in Konstanz.

Seven Hundred Years Ago (1315): The Great Famine of 1315 begins, killing up to 25% of the population across Western Europe. The Scottish, under Edward Bruce, invade Ireland. Large parts of Ireland are devastated in the subsequent campaign.

Eight Hundred Years Ago (1215): King John of England agrees to the Magna Carta, establishing common rights and placing subsequent monarchs under the rule of law. Genghis Khan’s Mongols capture and destroy the city of Beijing.

One Thousand Years Ago (1015): King Canute of Denmark invades England. The following year, he became King of England.

One Thousand Six Hundred Years Ago (415): A Christian mob murders Hypatia of Alexandria, a famous mathematician and philosopher.

Two Thousand Years Ago (15 AD): Strabo completed the draft edition of “Geography“: a 17 volume description of the known world at the time.

I spent Saturday at the Tall Ships festival in Waterford city. While I can’t call Waterford my home city for obscure geographical and sporting reasons, it is nevertheless the city of my education and upbringing.

And what a terrific city it is.

The Tall Ships Festival this weekend was easily the best organised event I have ever attended. It would not have been possible without the active involvement of hundreds of dedicated men and women and a project management team that were dedicated to the pursuit of perfection in making the occasion as successful as possible.

It was quite clear, right from the beginning, that the organisation was top class. Some examples:

Most of the city was cleared of traffic, creating an enormous pedestrian zone, the likes of which I have never seen. Park and Ride car-parks were in place with numerous shuttle busses and taxis taking visitors to and from the city.

Litter collectors were out in force, ensuring that the streets remained clean and the bins remained usable despite the huge crowds.

Toilet facilities were clean, numerous, and plentiful.

There was a large fun-fair, a crafts village, a food village and a music venue, allowing visitors to enjoy different aspects of what the city had to offer.

Booklets, signage and literature were very clear and inviting.

The variety, quantity and quality of food and drink outlets obviated any major queues or bottlenecks. This also ensured that prices remained reasonable.

Crowd barriers were sensible and unobtrusive. Indeed, security, while probably quite extensive, was very low-key.

There were numerous fringe events and street performances.

The city looked great. The shops and venues were brightly painted and inviting.

Without doubt, many arrangements were in place far away from the eyes of tourists and visitors, such as ramping up hospital staff and emergency staff should the need have arisen.

Did I mention there were ships there too?

When it comes to an event like the Tall Ships, Waterford has a natural advantage: a port area slap-bang in the centre of the city. It was chosen to be the first city on the race route, and it’s no wonder it has been invited to host the ships again in a few years time. This was a world class undertaking. The people of Waterford should be proud of what they accomplished this weekend. Future festival organisers now have a gold standard which they must aspire to meet.

TAM London

I’m going! Or at least I think I am…

TAM (“The Amazing Meeting”) is the brainchild of James Randi, a magician who has spent his life debunking psychics, UFOlogists, quacks and all sort of random frauds and charlatans. He is one of the main drivers of the modern skeptics movement, and an all round good guy.

I first came across him, wow, years ago, when the world was still in black and white and when a row of houses cost thruppence haypenny. Well, about 1995 to be more exact . Randi is pretty outspoken when it comes to people who make money by pretending that they have real psychic powers. Uri Geller and Sylvia Browne are some of his more high profile targets. He has even put up a prize of 1 million dollars to anyone who can prove a supernatural occurrence (ESP, clairvoyance, dowsing etc, etc) in a controlled scientific test. Needless to say, the prize has never been claimed.

TAM is THE event for skeptics and to date it has only been held in the US. No more. In October it comes to London. Attending it will be Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh, Adam Savage and Phil Plait, the author of the Bad Astronomy blog. It’s fantastic!

Access to the website yesterday was a bit of a joke. First of all, the order told me that the fee was 175 pounds, but shipping and handling would be 999.99 pounds. Oops. Then when that issue was fixed it wouldn’t allow me to enter my order because I live outside the UK. My sister’s address in the UK was promptly used and eventually my order went through. I still haven’t seen a confirmation coming through as yet though. Nevertheless the demand was extreme. The whole event sold out in an hour or so, much to the amazement of the organisers and to the intense disappointment of those who failed to get a ticket in time.

I’m lucky I persevered, I think.

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin, the co-discoverer of one of the greatest scientific explanations in history: why life is so complex, so wondrous and so diverse. Why life can survive against all manner of odds, and why some forms of life die off, never to be heard of again.

Darwin’s theory, properly called the theory of Evolution through Natural Selection, has not remained constant since it’s publication 150 years ago. Advances in our understanding of heredity, of genetics and of sexual selection have acted to improve our understanding of the ways in which living organisms adjust to the vagaries of nature and each other. The theory is being constantly refined and improved, but one thing is absolutely certain: The supporting evidence continues to flow in. For biologists, geologists, biochemists and a whole class of scientists, it acts like a map, allowing them to better understand what is going on, providing great clues as to the underlying reasons for particular phenomena, and governing the course of research worldwide.

To some, the theory may seem harsh, hopeless and random. It is too far an intellectual leap, directly challenging the core of their beliefs. This is a huge pity, because it’s explanatory power reveals so much about our origins and the diversity in nature that we see every day. It is no more a moral codebook than the theory of gravity. It provides us with an understanding of the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. When we strive to make the world a better place for all of us, surely we are enrichened by this knowledge rather than denying it outright?

So today I celebrate Darwin Day, remembering not just Darwin, but also Wallace and all the scientists who came after him. Thank you for all the efforts you have made.




Some time ago, our CEO, a well known and incredibly successful and charismatic man, addressed his employees via a video link to talk about how the company was doing overall. He talked about the future, and the successes of the past. I was struck by a common theme throughout his talk. He declared, on a number of occasions what we were not involved in, what we not prepared to do, what wasn’t of interest to us as a company, what wasn’t yet a mature market.

Not, no, never, can’t, shouldn’t, won’t.

That is strategy:  the realisation that you can’t do everything, that you have limited resources and limited time, and that you are much better off doing some things very well rather than doing everything poorly.  

So, when I was listening to President Obama’s inspirational inauguration speech yesterday I was struck by the level of expectation heaped upon his shoulders, and what he expects his government will be able to achieve in the next 4 plus years. I couldn’t help wonder about the depths of the problems facing him. Iraq. Afghanistan. Al Qaeda. Global Warming. Financial Meltdown. Liquidity. Unemployment. Homelessness. Inadequate healthcare. A crumbling infrastructure. An educational deficit. Peak Oil. The restoration of international law and America’s moral standing in the world.

Where do you start? 

However he does it, he will need to pick his battles wisely, because he and his administration will not be able to do it all. He can’t do everything. Maybe all we can expect, at least in the short term, is that he is judicious in sowing the seeds of change.

My shame is that I don’t get sufficiently outraged by pictures such as this.

Or this.


I am ashamed that my typical reaction is that that it’s all very complicated really, that the other side have their reasons, and that the aggressors were probably forced into it.

I see democratic countries – free countries – countries that could and should be providing leadership by example, lowering themselves to the tactics of their enemies, and I shrug my shoulders. I am ashamed that over time I have become morally neutral about such things.

But I look at the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and even though I know it’s more complicated than this, and even though I appreciate that the other side are far from blameless, and even though I recognise the anger and frustration on the other side, and that there is a strategic logic in play, I can’t help feeling that the bombardment is nevertheless utterly wrong.

When a government bombs mainly innocent civilians, when they show scant regard for the lives of small children and when they don’t give the inhabitants of Gaza the opportunity to flee the fighting, when we see phosphorous devices being used in urban areas, then lets call a spade a spade, we’re witnessing war crimes.

To all those men and women who are prepared to stand up on the side of human rights, I salute you.

It’s now just over 4 years since the tsunami hit South Asia.

These two videos convey to me the horror of the event. They were both taken in Banda Aceh in Indonesia at the very moment the huge wave forced itself upon the city, causing unimaginable devastation and a legacy of suffering that will last a long, long time.


I have the happy fortune to be in California at the moment to witness a piece of history. The excitement all day was palpable. I was consulting my iPhone all evening as the results started to flow through. Then, sooner than expected, it was all over. Obama had crossed the line of 270 electoral votes and quickly had over 300 votes in the bag. All over bar the shouting, as they say in Ireland.

This is a terrific day for so many Americans. I was in a bar at the time and the whole place went silent when Obama stood up to deliver his victory speech. There were tears in peoples’ eyes. The king is dead*, long live the king.

* Well, metaphorically, and even then not until January… All the fun has been taken out of the modern day political leadership changes, don’t you think? No tumbrils, guillotines, or even chopping blocks these days. Such utter killjoys..

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