Why Athenry should keep counting their apples

Why Athenry should keep counting their apples

I was shocked over the last days to hear that the Apple plans for Athenry were pulled. In late 2016, I wrote this opinion piece for sin.ie, feels appropriate to share it now. 

Why Athenry should keep counting their apples
By Cathy Lee
We have lived in the recession and stagnation, I think it’s safe to say it was a horrible time. To me seeing construction means success, a crane or a group of workers going about their day – developing our landscape into something more. Maybe there’s something in me trained to believe that growing up in the boom times. That’s why it really surprised me to see that some residents of Athenry have been making noise around the permission granted by the Irish Planning Board to let Apple build a huge development centre in Derrydonnell.
They were arguing against a large development by the huge technical company, Apple. Now I would say from an Irish and international perspective, Apple is a trusted company. We are all fine with using the Apple MAC’s or looking into our own beloved iPhones half the day. But of course there was the tax avoidance earlier this year that made news headlines, briefly. Maybe this form of protest is justified in showing democracy in action. Taking this into consideration, maybe indeed it was right for the residents to object and let these big multi-nationals know we can’t just be walked over here in Ireland.
Really though, on a national scale of things, Athenry doesn’t stand out as the capital of a thriving place for business and technological development. As the famous song seems to tell us, the fields of Athenry are a lonely place to be. Is this lonely unprosperous identity what these protesters are trying to uphold or achieve? No of course it’s not. They’re on about rural protection and noise pollution. I’m not trying to disrespect or insult these protesters, I’m all for a good protest but when it comes to feeble delay tactics that aren’t going to change the overall result in the end, it makes you wonder exactly what is the point?
This plan has been put into place since early 2015 and has met approval standards from Galway City Council among others. The pro-rural campaign aims to keep as much of the authenticity of Athenry as possible. We’ve of course seen across the world how sites that have some uniqueness can lose their originality when they become hugely commercialised. Apple wants to build the Athenry facility on a 500-acre site, which it was expected would be operational by 2017 with the creation of about 150 jobs or more. I just don’t see how this could be a bad thing.
Concerns had been raised over the last months regarding the impact on the local environment including noise pollution and wildlife as well as fears over the data centre’s energy use in terms of access to local water and of course protected species such as badgers and bats. I understand the need for this protection and to put value on your own space and land in sort of patriotic way. Sacrifices must be made though for the sake of progress as well. Protecting bats is all well and good but when your children have to travel to far-away places to get work when the same opportunity could be on their doorstep, this is where the difference lies.
The Apple plans are of course large and are being repeated in other European countries such as Denmark (half way through its current building). These structures need access to the natural spacious landscape and the resources that these sites provide. They are seen to be hard to come by as Apple chose this site for its uniqueness. I know how capitalism works, most likely Apple isn’t thinking about the badgers and bats and more the profits but is that something we are all totally against?
Really the need is for set standards for multi-nationals in terms of green codes and protection, not to ban the idea of economic expansion altogether. There has been a mixed response from the larger public on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. One tweet exclaimed in anger asking why is it in places where jobs are so widely needed that this is the exact place where protest against developments take place. A Galway city counsellor Peter Feeney explained that this investment in the West of Ireland is something serious in the effort to counteract trends and really be in the running to make the whole island of Ireland a success story in terms of business and not just Dublin taking the vast majority.
This is the single biggest investment in the West of Ireland ever and in my opinion it cannot be ignored. I understand that once something like this in done, there is no going back but this time around I don’t think protesters have a leg to stand on long term. This work will go ahead and delay tactics are just difficult and unnecessary.

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Is there hope for the Pope?

Is there hope for the Pope?

By Cathy Lee

This piece was originally written for NUI Galway’s Student Independent News/sin.ie. Image is by Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

When it was announced that Ireland was to receive the Pope in late August, once again we were reminded of the reality of the ongoing process of Ireland’s separating of Church and State. For decades, Irish citizens have felt the affects of a constitution being filled with heavy church teachings, values and beliefs given a platform so high that it infringes on the choices of people, regardless of their religious or non-religious background. We live in a changing Ireland, and how this visit is handled by those in power, will do a great deal in defining this position going forward.

To correctly handle the Pope’s visit, we must first and foremost recognise how Ireland has changed since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Almost forty years later, we live in more secular times where Ireland should no longer be defined as “a Catholic country” as it has been on numerous occasions in the past. Today, we are open to others, the various minorities regardless of creed or race in the true honour to the land of a hundred thousand welcomes. I don’t take a position to say that the Pope should not be welcomed or allowed to visit, as that would just be another form of exclusion or intolerance and so, this is not progress. The Pope is a world figure, it would not be in Ireland’s best interest to deny him.
We even saw last month, our Taoiseach rubbing shoulders with US leader Donald Trump for St Patrick’s Day which was met with a mixed reaction. Just because Trump does not represent the position of the majority of Irish people, this does not mean that such visits of a political nature should be boycotted or denied. The same is true of the Pope. Sometimes respect has to be given to those we may not agree with in order to receive respect back, just as long as we don’t act like something we are not. Maybe it is just a case of keeping up appearances but in my view if the Pope’s visit is to be correctly handled, honesty is key. We need not play false roles in pretending that every person in Ireland love’s Catholicism and prays under a candle to the Pope each evening, because this simply isn’t true and does not represent Ireland in 2018.

Although this will not be a formal state visit, but as part of a larger World Meeting of Families, there are talks of civil protesting of the summer events, particularly from those who are survivors of institutional church abuse. I think anyone in this position should be entitled to do that. But of course we are a mixed country, from those who will celebrate the Pope’s visit here and those who may not even be aware of it. What we are all aware of, are the wrongs we have seen from the church in this country’s past and we derive our own position on people and their background that has they where they are from this. But there can be nothing worse than keeping a fire burning instead of trying to find a new more tolerant way forward. Of course not forgetting past atrocities, but progressing in a way that this hurt does not define you as a whole person.

We have marriage equality in this country, we may have the 8th amendment repealed in the upcoming months. The political space is becoming a secular one, and so the Pope should be treated as a guest to this country like any other, with no entitlements or elitism. We saw recently that our previous President Mary McAleese was denied entry to a Vatican meeting for her political views. There is no defending this move from Pope Francis and I don’t think any Irish leader should forget this most recent action when the Pope comes to visit us. It’s true that we have moved on from the days of the Eucharist Congress and 1979 but of course only time will tell how this is going to go down in August. I just hope, that we won’t digress and revert back to an unhappy time of unquestioned Catholicism in forgetting all the progress we have made, both politically and socially.

Caca Dana Review: “All the World’s A Cage” – By Niamh Ryan

Caca Dana Review: “All the World’s A Cage” – By Niamh Ryan

By Cathy Lee

The brilliant “All The World’s A Cage” engages and grips an audience from the beginning. On entering the small secluded dimly lit made-to-do theatre at “The Teachers Club” Dublin 1, the actors we had not yet been introduced to were already present on the background of the stage. This set a relaxed sort of mood into the air as the stage was at ground level, we relaxed into the comfortable couch-like audience seats and all I could experience was the feeling of curiosity the entertainment to come, and I wasn’t to be disappointed by this expectation! I would wholeheartedly describe this play as another success for the fantastic playwright and star Niamh Ryan, who plays “Jill”.

The very limited stage space was essential and fitting for the story. This one room setting exposed the character of the lives that the three young women held together, tightly bound in a not exactly cluttered scenario but one of great importance we are to learn to each of them, particularly “Tina” – played by Marie Hegarty. We discover each of these young women, graduated from college in Galway in their early 20s, as we watch the hilarious lack of interaction unfold between the ladies and the driven TV License inspector. We later discover that maybe indeed that this authoritarian figure isn’t the only one of his kind in their lives. Be it boyfriends, co-workers or closed-minded directors – these young women are really up against it.

The placement of individual striking lines in the play were exceptional for me as they were very captivating and allowed me to further my belief in the talents of Niamh Ryan as a script writer. Most of the comedy was physical at the beginning of the play, from yoga fitness moves of “Jill” to exaggerated facial expressions of “Amy” and the improper placement of some lemons and limes. But as the themes of feminism and power in the play further, lines from Tina and of course Jill, played by Niamh Ryan were hard hitting and to the point.

I found the characters to be strong with each possessing a distinct individuality and their own world view, strongly expressed at differing points in the play. Niamh Ryan as “Jill” and Katie Reid as “Amy” were headstrong and often outrageous bringing in heavily the humour and dominance into the scenes but I feel too that “Tina” played a distinct role in balancing out the possibly deeper strength of characters in the acting of Niamh Ryan and Katie Reid.

The play addressed a form of modern day millennial message or struggle and a strong feminine message which broke down barriers of fear in that of being a woman, the restrictions and draw backs found that we see existing here as the story unfolds. Through strong will and true togetherness in friendship, the girls overcome their challenges and the energy within the play can be felt, through the honesty of humour and the true sense of belief in one another as women and as good friends.

Although the play only held one setting due to the limited stage space available, the actors made this work through their use of physical space to depict time passing and also the excellent use of selective lighting present was visually important. Props were used to a good affect, from the weapons to the couch – which both united and separated the girls at different stages. I think this also added some colour to the play in a different way than the strong comedy did, as sometimes the atmosphere was dreary as the sense of hopelessness became present for the characters at their current and somewhat fixed reality.

Niamh Ryan is clearly a multi-talented young woman, with excellent script writing skills and is a capable actress herself included. Having seen another Caca Dana production “Eternal Youth” before,” All The World’s A Cage” showed me a new side to the writing of Niamh Ryan and I think her talents are very diverse with the potential for a vast future to explore, which audiences of all kinds should enjoy.

I wish the team at Caca Dana Theatre company all the best for their ventures stateside and I look forward to their future productions, wherever they may be. You can check out their website here for further information: https://www.cdtheatreco.com/

21 blog posts series take twenty one

21 blog posts series take twenty one

Twenty-one: “The final, the future”

So as we draw this blog series to a close together, we come to the number that represents the age I am now. I think birthdays remind us that we’re equal, being celebrated for being born and growing older. Nobody can take your birthday away from you, no matter what age you are. So as we draw the curtain on this series, which I hope you enjoyed or got something out of, I’d like to make this post about the future. I see the future as something positive, with the sense of unknown possibilities to come.

Now this wasn’t always the case for me. I spent my secondary school life waiting and dreading the Leaving Certificate and often I thought about the hassle of final year when I began studying in college. It’s because we know we’ve to face challenges in our future and in the present time, we may not feel ready and so that creates a sense of fear. A good few friends of mine are in final year, preparing for exams and ultimately finishing their undergraduate degrees and for some, being finished with college forever.

Should that create a sense of panic? I guess it depends on how you look at it. But in so many ways, the future is inevitable and really being scared about it proves little purpose. Change is unavoidable and it’s really up to us whether or not we change with the times. But honestly, we probably aren’t being very fair to the idea of progress if we don’t at least try along the way. I’m excited for the future to see how much the world will change in my life time and how I’ll react to that change.

It’s amazing to think of what the future might bring about. Whether that be new friends and family members, relationships, break-ups, jobs, joys and challenges – all aspects that make up a life. I think a weight is lifted once you decide to accept life’s positives and negatives simply as they are. Blame the universe or God or whoever you want, even yourself if there’s an element of fault there but that acceptance of life happening without your complete control is often a hard lesson to learn but one we all must face up to.

The future is ever changing and honestly, exciting enough. All these blog posts I’ve done covering pretty varying topics, I hope will stand the test of time and be carried on into the future. Life doesn’t really change overnight a lot of the time and often we’re too wrapped up our own things to notice the future happening. Age for the most part brings wisdom and we must remember that we are setting examples for the generations to come, whether this be close relatives or even work colleagues – we all have a part to play in this.

I don’t think age matters when it comes to having an independent thought or opinion, having an “established voice” in order to be right about something. That’s not always the case and young people should be encouraged to speak out, with importance placed on their confidence and ability to speak their minds without being deemed “cheeky” or ill mannered. We’re all being educated well and I’d like to think we can form a thought or two, and shouldn’t be afraid to voice it when we have it.

So thinking to a future without fear, may you: reflect, appreciate the ability to travel, attend the events that mean something to you, avoid the pitfalls in relationships, value and appreciate individual friends, understand that loss happens and plays a role, appreciate the lessons of history, know the curse of social media, not apologise for your preferences, learn from mentors and appreciate wisdom, manage your money, respect the responsibility nature demands, appreciate sport and athleticism, question in order to understand politics, be kind to your body and yourself, find common ground within family, recognise change in journalism, know and trust the power of your own voice, expect the unexpected, be welcoming to refugees and finally – understand that the future is not something to be afraid of.

(And if you realised that they are all the titles of these blog posts, well done – I now declare you’re a fan).

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series take twenty

21 blog posts series take twenty

Twenty: “Refugees and the art of welcoming”

Earlier in the week we were exposed to heart-breaking images around the world of people, including young children suffering terrible pain within a war struck Syria. These were innocent civilians suffering simply for being in the place they are in. I know we wouldn’t wish this on anyone, to attempt living life in these hazardous and chaotic conditions but when we don’t give the support to refugees who make the journey to emigrate abroad, we don’t leave them with much choice. Formalities and integration of refugees is a time consuming process but when we think of these innocent people dying, there has to be realisation that we must do more.

I just think it creates this falseness when we try to attract tourists to our country, proclaiming loudly and proudly how great a place is and how welcoming it is but when it comes to those who are in need of that welcome, the door often remains shut. I suppose this comes down to finances and available funds but when we look to history again, it can be noted that often at times, sacrifices were made in much more dire circumstances. We are doing humanity and our history a disservice by not allowing refugees in.

I feel that it’s naturally in us as people and even throughout the ages to travel to new parts and really there shouldn’t be barriers to that. We should be encouraged to move about, whether that be for leisure or necessity. I understand that each nation has its own identity and culture to be proud of but the idea of multiculturalism is not a punishment of any sort and shouldn’t tarnish that identity. I think that more often than not we learn from others’ backgrounds and there should be a mutual respect there both for our similarities and differences.

It comes down to the simple things that we want to pass on after we’re gone. How do we expect to teach our children to be inclusive towards others on the playground when the adults are not doing the same on the even bigger playground? This is not just to do with how refugees are treated but simply all minorities. Prejudices are created by us, we are the only ones who keep them alive by practising them out socially in some way or another. So it really comes down to asking if we want to keep this alive or we want to come across better than that in our chapter of history.

Multiculturalism enriches a society in tackling our close-mindedness that can sometimes prevail. If you’re proud of something, like your country and its identity, why wouldn’t you want to share it and show it off for the greatness you feel it has? Donald J Trump’s idea of making “America great again” is supposed to come about while refugees are being rejected and a travel ban is put in place. When you think about that in logical terms, what’s does “great” actually mean here – great for whom? Of course when we look to the history of America, it’s totally based off immigration but who’s listening to common sense in 2017 anyway.

I think that we have a long way to go yet before we are close to creating a fair and equal society, where each and every one are being welcomed to the table is something commonplace. But situations and decisions like Brexit and the obstructive policies of Trump’s Government are certainly steps backwards in this. I think we really need to listen to the stories from refugees to truly understand why they are making these journeys, often seen as nearly suicidal with slim chances of making it. But what do they face if they do make it? We shouldn’t be there to give more hardship to these people. We are all connected with the likes of diaspora and emigration, so why is there a negative dialogue around refugees now? This is nothing new and simply part of a changing world.

All photos are taken from my personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series know nineteen

21 blog posts series know nineteen

Nineteen: “Expecting the unexpected”

Now not to steal a line from the RSA, but not only does driving involve expecting the unexpected, in life we should remind ourselves to try and maintain that same mentality. We don’t know what might happen tomorrow or next month and so on, the unexpected is never too far away. Does that mean that we live in fear and refuse to go outside the door? I’d like to hope not. The unexpected occurrence doesn’t necessarily have to be negative, but for the most part – it can mean something that’ll change your lifestyle or how things were before this vital change of events.

Whatever your opinion is on fate or things happening for a reason, it’s impossible really to have complete control over what is going to happen in our lives. Not to scare the control freaks out there, but this is very true. You don’t know who you might meet, what you might see and what could stay with you in the form of a lasting memory or something having a lasting affect. I think these things often can give us an opportunity to reflect as well, which shouldn’t be knocked as I’ve said before somewhere.. (https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/the-first-of-21-blog-posts/).

What I can say is that life is going to shock you and leave you feeling a little insecure at times. But often, it’s a form of a test, if you want to look at it that way. Can you overcome a challenge, big or small or will you crumble in defeat before it? I think both reactions are respectable and understandable and it’s about having the support around you when these things happen in order to tackle the challenge knowing that you’re not alone. I don’t think that life waits for anyone and it’s up to us to keep up and keep going, constantly.

The unexpected things also teach us not to take things for granted in terms of the way they are simply. This is true of people as well. When someone falls ill unexpectedly, it’s really up to those close by to pick up the pieces and really play their role in the time of need. When someone of any age falls ill mentally, physically or even discovers a disease or disability – this presents a new changing challenge for the person and those around them. It means we all pull our weight a bit more to help and that we get on with it, living in hope that together it can something to overcome.

I think that this brings about something that’s universally understood: that this sort of unfairness that happens to people can happen to anyone. This challenges your sense of humanity and I think that’s when your humanity is challenged, in terms of whether you help or whether you turn your back to the reality someone else is facing, this is the real test of who you are. Our impressions of how people react to these situations also helps us to understand people at their core, individually. We don’t know how we’ll be in that sort of situation until we face it head on. I know it’s not something we desire to be in, but the reality is that we will have to face it in some shape or form.

These challenges change us and shape us and although often difficult, they should be embraced in some way, I suppose even in a process of reflection. I would recommend, holding on to your values as much as possible throughout these times. Whether it’s a loss or a gain you encounter, you must prove to yourself that one incident isn’t going to change who you are and what you value forever. Possibly easier said than done, but over time can be something to accept.

All photos are taken from my personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series ease eighteen

21 blog posts series ease eighteen

Eighteen: “Knowing and trusting the power of your own voice”

I’ve come to learn that having your own individuality, being proud of it and embracing it for what it is, is something of great importance. This comes in to your likes and dislikes as far as your political views and lifestyle choices. I think if we can master how to delve in and out of trends new or old that suit us, that keeps your own individual originality intact. Maybe and hopefully by doing this we can be truly happy and comfortable in our own skin.

What can stand in the way of this is simply: fear. Fear of not fitting in or even fear of those around you disagreeing or putting you down. But I will say that overcoming this fear is something so totally freeing and worthwhile that it’s worth the (possible) hassle you might face. It takes time for people to be comfortable with change but that’s helped by a little reasoning and sometimes even persuasion. If you’ve a view or opinion that can be well backed up in the form of fact and true belief from your own perspective, I think that you can fight it on any battle field.

There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re right on something or having a good idea but not having that belief there from the people around you. The convincing part of this can be a challenge but honestly, it just takes a bit of bravery and commitment in not giving up on yourself and really testing your belief in order to get it off the ground. I agree with the idea that there’s no one size fits all idea in terms of how our world should be, how politics should work, economics and even how religion fits in. But certain things that make sense for the progress of the world all the way from the richest to poorest, should be sought out. This being done by the power of the voice of individuals.

The ideas I have in mind are that of equality and feminism. Call me biased, but I don’t understand why in a democratic society we wouldn’t want to aim towards this goal? How somebody could vote in favour of the “yes equality” campaign and not support feminism, boggles me. Feminism is about equality between genders, aiming for a fairer society in which we all live. Although in its roots, the main writers on feminism were women – I believe currently that feminism has undergone and is being embraced by both men and women. (Maybe it could do with a name change to prevent confusion, but that’s another debate altogether).

What I’ve always believed when it comes to views is that you shouldn’t push them on people in terms of forcing a view onto someone. Make an argument, state your case but at the end be willing to accept that others may not agree but they should respect your idea and give you that chance to voice it. What I particularly dislike are those who take the form of a so called “keyboard warrior” who are all for one view and simply block out opposing views. These people are shutting their eyes to the world as much as those who they claim to against, making them in some of way of it: no better.

So what I would say and encourage everyone to do to counteract that fear of being opposed to is to express yourself. Whether it be through writing, getting involved in political campaigns, taking photographs or even just following things on social media – don’t be afraid to admit that you’re part of something because trust me you are not alone. Communities based on politics or political views are growing and we shouldn’t live in fear of saying who we are affiliated with, because if we truly believe in our views and opinions – they shouldn’t be something hidden.