Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Limerick Bicycle Parade 2010

July 19th saw thousands of Limerick people take to their bikes for the Annual Bike Parade. This was my first year taking part and I can honestly say it was a great experience. The parade started outside King John’s castle at 1pm and finished at the People’s Park.

There were prizes on the day for best dress bike and best dress cyclist. The winner, in my opinion, was the woman who used two pieces of foam to turn her bike into an old fashioned plane, worn old style aviator gear and had a name tag saying “Dick Dastardly” while her baby was mutley.

After a lovely bike ride down O’Connell St and up Mallow St, the cyclists were greated with a great party in the park with bouncing castles, music, face painting, balloon animals, Mountain Bike Trick demos and some street dancers. With the lovely weather we had on the day it was a very enjoyable event for all ages.

My only issue was the lack of garda control on some part of O’Connell St. Near the hunt museum they were blocking off traffic for the cyclists but up by Roches St and Cecil St there was nothing to stop cars pulling out in front of cyclists. For an event like this the traffic should have been controlled.

The best part of the day was over hearing a conversation:
Child: Dad, this is fun. Can we do this next year?
Dad: Sure you can go for a bike ride anytime

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Challenge 2006 (Article for Outsider Magazine)

This is a draft of an article I wrote for Outsider Magazine about my experiences of the Venture Scout Challenge in 2006. Challenge is a 5 day 100km hike I did across Mayo and Roscommon

In August 2005, my friend David and I took part in what could only be described as the experience of a life time. We were “Team Two” out of 8 other teams from Dublin, Cork, Kildare and Limerick on Scouting Ireland’s Challenge Expedition.

Challenge is a 100km hike over five days. Teams of two Venture Scouts have to carry their own gear, cook their meals, compile a logbook and complete 8 projects all while living on a budget of €4 a day. The aim of the projects is to bring participants in contact with as many people as possible. The venue for this year’s expedition was the West of Ireland taking in counties Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and parts of Galway.

We arrived in Castlebar on the Saturday night where we got our Challenge hoodies and neckerchiefs and took part in some interesting games. The next day we were dropped off at the side of the road at Pontoon Bridge, Mayo and our five day trek to base camp had begun.

Day One- 18km
After working out our location with the help of a helpful elderly man we set about reading our projects (from a wide range of topics from women’s sport to immigration) and planning our route. After we completed our planning we headed to Foxford, the location of our first compulsory project. We visited the local Woollen Mills to investigate the importance of the mill to the local community. While in Foxford we were told that the “fastest way to Roscommon is by car”. We then headed towards the village of Bohola. One of the projects we didn’t expect to have much luck with was the one asking us to meet people of different nationalities. Therefore you can imagine our surprise when the people we first asked to use their kettle happened to be French. We stopped for the night outside Bohola with a lovely family who offered to cook us dinner and were very helpful with our projects.

Day Two- 23km
After a quick breakfast we headed to Kiltimagh where we met Christine and Eadoain from Team 3. As we continued along a regional road we stopped at a house to fill our water bottles but the retired family refused to let us leave without us having lunch with them. We then cut onto the N17 and passed by Knock Airport. We finally found a garden to camp (sixth time lucky) at the home of a friendly farming family who gave us loads of information for our projects and were very interested in what we were doing.

Day three- 24km
Our next stop was Charlestown where our task was to talk to people about local author John Healy. One of the employees at the hardware store talked for ages about a different John Healy. Shortly afterwards we were directed to the home of John Healy’s brother Gerry and nephew Steven who gave us loads of information and gave us a copy of John’s book “No One Shouted Stop!”

On the advice of a passing motorist we had to change our route to avoid being run down. This gave us a chance to see rural Ireland’s back roads. That night we somehow managed to convince a woman to let us camp in her husband’s pristine garden (still not sure how we pulled that one off).

Day four- 25km
We eventually got to Ballaghadrerreen (still having trouble pronouncing that one) the next morning where we went to library to find out why the parish plays its football in Mayo but is located in Roscommon (nobody was 100% certain as to why this is but it’s been the cause of great division in recent years) and what significance did the Dillon family have on the town. While researching this project we met Aidan from Team One. Several people stopped us along the way to ask us what we were doing. Their reaction was the same as everyone else we told- “fair play to ya but I wouldn’t do it myself”

As we were walking along the road on our way to Boyle David felt a pain in his leg. The pain progressed as we went on so we decided that as soon as we’d found somewhere to camp we’d call the Expedition Leaders, John and Mandy, and tell them what happened. Finding somewhere to stay was easier said than done. We had expected to stop five kilometres short of Boyle but before we knew it we had reached the town. Eventually we found an elderly couple who let us camp in their garden and after dinner we phoned base camp. The expedition leaders came out to look at David’s leg. With only 10km left to complete the mileage we were determined to finish this. After several minutes of an examination David was cleared to continue provided he called in regularly.

Day five- 18km
After a filling breakfast provided by our generous hosts we set off towards Carrick-on-Shannon where we would be picked up the next morning. Along the way we met the staff coming out of base camp in Lough Key Forest Park. Unfortunately we had to pass by base camp towards our pick up point in Carrick-on-Shannon. We reached the 100km marker at the Carrick-on-Shannon Golf Club. We continued on towards the town making our camp in a garden just outside. After cooking dinner (much to the interest of our host’s dogs) we finished the writing for our projects and logbook.

Base Camp
After breakfast at Supermacs (don’t ask) we found our pick up point. We were quickly joined by Rosie and Aisling of team 4. We spent the next hour chatting about our experiences. We were picked up by Mandy at 11am and driven to base camp.

At base camp we handed up our projects and logs and the €2.60 we had left. We soon were reunited with the other teams and our clean clothes. After a shower (during which I was locked in) and lunch we had our assessments. Instead of being the serious interview we expected it turned out to be a friendly chat. That evening we went to the town of Boyle for the music festival. Despite all the walking 100km the participants thought nothing of dancing in the streets to the sounds of cover band J-90 (even Andrew and I got up briefly).

Next morning we went to the Arigna Coal Mine and went rowing on Lough Key after lunch. That evening we got ready for the presentation. We walked down to the lake where Mandy, the Chief Scout Martin Burbridge and the Programme Commissioner (National Events) Ian Davy lead the presentation. Teams were called in random order and told what awards they had received. The awards were a badge for the mileage, a certificate for the mileage and projects and most importantly the Challenge Woggle for “an excellent standard and for those who pushed themselves to the limit in keeping with the spirit of Challenge”. David and I were the last to be called up (we’ve never been so nervous). Henry, the senior assessor, called out the awards we received: Team two… Badge and Cert… (Long pause) And Woggle! We could barely contain our excitement as we collected our Woggles from the Chief Scout. That evening we went to dinner followed by an amazing campfire- A good finish to a brilliant week.

It was hard to say goodbye to all my new friends the next morning but I’m sure we’ll meet several times in the future. I’m sure all 16 participants would like to thank the staff for this amazing experience, especially our Expedition Leaders Mandy Merriman and John “Mayo” Heffernan. I would recommend Challenge to all Venture Scouts- it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Special Olympics

June 2010 saw the Special Olympics Irish Games come to Limerick. The Special Olympics is a sporting organisation for people who have intellectual disabilities.

The Games opened on Wedneday June 9th with a fantastic Opening Ceremony with performances from the Cranbeerries, Supermodel Twins, the Heathers and more.

For the next four days, 1,900 athletes from 5 region (Munster, Leinster, Ulster, Connaught and Eastern) took part in several events across eight venues. Swimming, basketball, soccer, kayaking and athletics took place in the University of Limerick. Table Tennis, Badminton and the Motor Activities Training Programme (MATP) took place in Mary Imaculete College. Pitch and Putt took place in the Murroe Pitch and Putt club while the Limerick Golf Club hosted the Golf events. The equestrian activities took place in Clonshire and the Booce was held at the Limerick Race Course. The Bowling was split between Funworld on the Ennis Road and Leisure World in Ennis.

In addition to the events, there were several side events throughout the Games. The "Special Olympics Town" was set up in UL and had two sections- a fun area (with games, music and facepainting) and a Healthy Athlete Area where athletes could get check ups for their eyes, teeth, stance, eating and weight. There was also several performances by local entertainers. I got to see a performance of the Sicilian Musical Society from their upcoming show "The Wiz". During a break in the performance, an improteau dance involving hundreds of athletes, volunteers and family members. One member of the Society describe it as "pretty amazing and fun and inspiring for us".

I got the pleasure of attending the Games in UL as a photographer. The one thing that stood out for me was the incredible enthuasism from the volunteers, family members, coaches, judges and, especially, the athletes themselves. Words cannot describe the experience of meeting the athletes. Many of the athletes came up to me when they saw the camera. They loved posing for photographs or even just saying hello and telling someone about what events they took part in. Even watching the events and seeing how even a little encouragement from the crowd or their fellow athletes truely spurred on the athletes to push themselves.

I got to speak to some of the volunteers over the course of a few days and they all describe it as a "life changing experience".

For more information about the great work of the Special Olympics log onto To check out the rest of my photos from the event click here

Sunday, June 6, 2010

World Scout Jamboree 2011- Can't wait

Save the Senate

There's always talk of scrapping the senate. In its current form it has no point. Its just a thank you job for friends of the government or for those unlucky to get elected to the Dail. The recent expenses scandal has further damaged its standing in the eyes of the public.

I think there's is a need for a strong senate that can stand up to the dail not just support it. So here is my proposal for senate reform:

1) The senate is comprise of 60 directly elected senators who have a term of 6 years.

2) Five Senate Consituencies (Same as European elections)

3) Elections for 1/3 of senate seats to held every 2 years. This keeps the senate fresh and allows for changes in public opinion. Means the government of the day doesn't necessarily control the senate.

4) Legislation regarding foreign policy (such as European laws, the Irish Diaspora, North South relations outside of the Peace Process) can only be started in the Senate. This is similar to the way financial legislation can only be started in the dail.

I truely believe a strong senate can benefit Ireland but this is only possible with propper reforms.

The Heathers Live at Dolans

Last night i went to Dolans to see the Heathers.

The warm up act was Limerick based musician Vertigo Smyth. Smyth, who plays the Ukulele (is ukulelist a word???) and guitar, is a quiet a mellow act. While i enjoyed it, i think it may have been a tad too mellow for the younger crowd in the room. I found his lyrics to be quiet humorous and his style quiet unique. Worth checking out.

After Smyth and a slightly long gap, Ellie and Louise of the Heathers took to the stage. The girls seemed very down to earth and looked like they were really enjoying the gig. The atmosphere in the room was electric with the fans singing along and talking to the girls (one girl offered to give the girls lessons in vocal excercises at one stage). The girls played all their songs as well as covers from the Mountain Goats (????) and Halo by Beyonce which got great reaction from their fans.

The Heathers are possibly two of the most talented young people on the irish music scene right now and don't look like packing it in anytime soon. They return to Limerick next Wednesday for the opening ceremony of the special olympics in Thomond Park.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Imperial March Scratching

This is one of my favourite youtube videos at the moment. can't stop watching it

Advice for freshers

sorry for the delay in posting, only getting back to real life after exams now. I was asked today to write a 300word blogpost about my tips for freshers week so i might as well lash it up here

Fresher’s Week can be a confusing experience. From me I came from a school with no more than 300 students and now found myself in a room of 1000 students (and that only made up about a third of first year) so you can imagine how much of a change that was. Add to that buildings that make hogwart’s revolving staircases look like childsplay, lecturers telling you that you have to do 300 hours work per week on their subject alone and the sudden realisation that you don’t live with mammy and daddy anymore, it can all be quiet scary. So here’s my top 6 tips:
1. Many students go four years without making friends outside their course. What a waste of four years. Make as many friends as you possibly can- join everything from class reps or chess club to the skydiving club or paintball team. Join at least one club or society that you never imagined joining. Truly live the college experience.

2. Walk around and familiarise yourself to the campus. Bring your timetable and find all of your rooms. If you can crack the room code system at the start you’re sorted. Get to know the local area as well because there’s just as much fun there

3. Learn how to cook 3 simple meals (not just beans on toast or a pot noodle). You never know when you have to cook for a nice boy or girl

4. Find out what the Students’ Union does for you- you might never need them but if you do they can be a great help (and a great place to get free stuff)

5. Learn to love the word “free”
Your time at university will be the best days of your life- make the most of it and enjoy :)