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.

The final year files: October

The final year files: October

Hi again!

Hope you’re feeling spooky on the day that’s in it. Welcome back to the bitter place of Hell that comes in the form of final year at university, brutal I know. Now October was a scary time as the college as monsters decided to come to life as assignments. These fiends were worth a high proportion of the grade and were coming all at once, a little thrilling I must admit. The dreaded and much spoken about week 6 came and went and didn’t take too many victims on its rampage (but it was close, let me tell you). So overall, it’s been a fairly scary time, so much so that Halloween itself was welcomed.

Now I know I started things off positively last month and I don’t want to totally lose that, but I will be brutally honest and say, from the front lines – we’re finding it difficult here. I thought for a short while that it was just me, when my not-so-amazing first grade of final year came back with a bang. But I soon found out that I was not alone in this pit of despair (there’s actually a few pals down in this pit, we’re holding things up pretty well).

So although it’s been stressful, it didn’t result in total failure and even encouraged some unity- that’s a plus yeah?

To change it up, I’ll bring you right back to the end of September, when my fellow students and I arose from the final year pits and attended the March 4 Choice gathering rally in Dublin city centre. An amazing experience, difficult to some up honestly as it was really such a huge thing. It ranged from chants to bants from young people (younger than I) and those a little more mature (much older than I). But it was clear that we were all united collectively for the one cause, something that on the day was tiring yet very rewarding. I’m so happy that we gave up a day to march for those whose days have been destroyed and changed utterly due to our restricting, inhumane and cruel eighth amendment.

On another more positive note, I got to attend the Irish Blog Awards at the start of the month due to this blog being placed in the final of the Personal Politics and Current Affairs Section. This was pretty incredible to be surrounded by the community – another huge one I’ll admit – of those doing something similar to me right now writing like this actively. I was honoured to see the title of this blog to pop up on screen, and although it wasn’t crowned a winner – I’m delighted for the blogs who did triumph. It really encouraged me again to keep this going further, coming back next year stronger.

So I’d like to say that we’ve now really settled into the way of final year with lectures, housemates, friends mostly known well and familiar, assignments, tests and presentations – it’s clear that we are doing things on an individual basis. We’ve faced the wrath of assignments and maybe learned a little bit more about our own capabilities. Things really came into focus when I attended a jobs fair in the college. Seeing the adult world creep closer from all sides, in an all-consuming manner probably should have panicked me. My friends graduating (although delayed slightly by the gal herself Ophelia) should have also but fair enough, it did have affect and made me think of the future ahead.

The future is dividing us as students right now. It appears to me that some have their ideas decided upon, settled and excited to run with. They have their eyes and mind focusing forwards only, not exactly seeing what’s going on either side of them. For me personally, that hasn’t happened yet and honestly, I don’t really want it to. Call me crazy here but I’d rather smell the final year flowers than think of the big company I’ll sign my soul over to or masters course I’ll choose from a hat just to have a plan together.

I know the unknown is a scary place but for me, tackling the monsters of final year right now – the unknown doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

 

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

Irish Blog Awards 2017 finalist!

Irish Blog Awards 2017 finalist!

So I couldn’t believe my luck this week, when I received a lovely email to let me know that I had made it as a finalist in the Irish Blog Awards this year in the politics and current affairs personal blog category.  It was amazing to see this blog listed alongside seven other pretty impressive blogs with their takes on topical issues, holding stances set on history to homelessness.

Last year being shortlisted within this section of the national awards gave me a huge buzz to keep on blogging and this next step has for sure encouraged me even further. So, looking to the future – I hope to play out my role and really feel that this place among my blogging peers is deserved!

This weekend will see the first installment of “The Final Year Files” and following this, I’ll be getting pretty political on the ground in the coming days as well as attending the blog awards themselves (eek!) – so keep your eyes right here.

As always, thanks so much for keeping up with this blog and engaging with the posts. Very excited to keep it going and growing!

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.

21 blog posts series seventeen

21 blog posts series seventeen

Seventeen: “The changing face of journalism”

Journalism first and foremost, should be informative and engaging – fact based certainly, but in no way boring. You should as a reader, want to get to the end of the sentence, end of the paragraph and indeed – end of the piece. Now I know we are all human, we have our favourites whether that be newspaper providers and the type of writing included in that or the glossy magazine or indeed website. I think journalism has done well for the most part in spreading itself across different mediums but everything changed simply because it had to, when social media came into the playing field.

Newspapers on social media, did we ever think we’d see the day when the Irish Times or the Guardian would be updating their current Facebook status? Well it’s here and we just have to get on it. The good thing about social media is that it’s interactive and various views can come into play in the comments section (if you’ve the time to read it all). The bad part of this can be the lack of filter there and it’s hard to tell what is worth reading as that is no longer defined.

Instead, we must use independent thought to decide what is worth spending our time on as it’s not all set out in front of us in a newspaper style. The question of funding here is up for constant debate as although advertising is still a relatively good foundation for a paper, actually paying for the quality of journalism with limited resources puts extra pressure on editors to make sure they’re surrounded by fellow quality journalists and not just “content creators” to make money off simplified masked content.

Now, I know that there’s a place for entertainment and opinion based pieces in media as there is a demand there to be met and people who are very skilled at creating this. But I think branding this kind of media as “fake news” is something completely outrageously wrong. These styles of media are new and growing and although they’re not what we might call traditional, they’ve earned their place for the moment.

I feel that journalists work for the people as the messengers and if the people want these light news pieces, somebody has to be there to provide it. Although they want this kind of content, they also need the factual news based journalism as well that should not be forgotten about. To be well rounded, you must take samples and engage with various types of news and journalistic styles. Sure, find what suits you, but don’t completely ignore everything else that’s going on around you.

I will say as well, just like you hold your elected politicians to account, hold your journalists and newspapers to account also. We speak about the place of people power and this can be true of journalism as well. I will admit that journalists can make mistakes, often quickly corrected by themselves, their editor or even a fellow colleague but I would advise that the public be on alert too. This will allow you to play out your full potential as an engaged citizen with the free press.

Quality can be sometimes hard to find when social media is ruling the roost. But I think journalism can be found that’s clear, concise, non-biased and fact based if you’re willing to give it the time. Look to the sources of the news provider or even follow the journalist to get another impression for yourself. I can tell you that journalists have the audience in mind when they are writing and we want to know what your impression is of the work we are doing. So please, don’t hold back and hold us to account.

I think that we can all agree that we need journalism in a democratic world and we need it to be done in the right way for everyone to benefit from. So let’s not start digging our own grave, not just yet anyway.

All images are from my personal instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series find fifteen

21 blog posts series find fifteen

Fifteen: “Being kind to your body and in turn, yourself”

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Body Image Movement’s Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary film “Embrace”. I would highly recommend seeing this as a woman, as it brings about the feeling of acceptance of yourself and appreciation of other women. The piece expressed simply joys within celebrating our differences in a completely positive way by hearing personal stories while exposing the harsh realities of plastic surgery, dieting and the role of mass media. The documentary covered continents and we met some very different people along the way, but the one topic of embedded negativity towards body image prevailed. Some exposures were made of the darkness within the modelling world and the film also looked to aging and how this is seen as something to be tackled instead of embraced.

A magazine editor and a fashion photographer were also met with, who exposed the harsh truths of the unbelievable power of photo-shop as well as the often cruel world of designers as well as the misleading terms used in fashion, such as “plus sized” describing a UK size 12 woman, who fit in with average sized weight and height guidelines set. It’s a crazy different world that we’re exposed to and shown as normal every single day. The picture perfect model was often described as an “alien” due to the fact that with the work of photo-shop, this woman actually did not exist in terms of looking how she does in the magazine.

Every issue that came up from the women who told their stories, (who are incredible in their own right, I might add simply as modern women) – was rooted in beauty standards we see as normal and set in our world. Depression, self-harm and even a near suicide arose as difficulties faced when these women felt they didn’t fit the mould for what a woman should look like and in turn, be – with such a high value placed on appearance in our social norms. We are sold an idea through the mass media of how we should look like, what’s in trend this season and what new fad diet can “change your life” in order to make things better.

Taryn showed how indeed, even when you’ve reached the “perfect body”, (the bikini body example we are all too familiar with) that there’s absolutely no guarantee that this will result in happiness. It all comes back to positive versus negative thinking around our bodies and which outweighs the other. These fad diets promote negative thinking towards body image and can develop into obsession that is in no way healthy. I think in the way that these diet plans work and hook a person, we are taught the idea that the body you have is something bad that needs correcting or to be fixed and worked on. But that simply isn’t the case.

Naturally, your body goes through changes throughout your life. The documentary also went about looking into our war we have with aging and this embedded fear that the beauty companies are cashing in on. It made me realise that whatever stage you’re at in life, your body is going to be with you regardless, so really – you don’t want to put yourself against it. Bring it back to asking simply, why would you want to do that?

As a woman, you can undergo pregnancy and your weight can and will fluctuate, how does it make logical sense to hate your body for doing what it does and should do naturally? For creating your family and providing your baby with the nourishment he/she needs and craves. Now, going on a health kick for yourself from time to time is something good in order to feel refreshed and energised, resulting in proven health benefits but really the idea of punishment – this has no place in your workout routine.

It’s okay to treat yourself and it’s okay to work hard on you, it’s not okay to feel bad about either of these. We need to change our mentality around weight and weight loss. The celebrity diets and the scandalous headlines about losses or gains cannot continue to influence us. It lacks dignity and respect for the minds and souls of women as individuals. So I suggest approaching the magazines with caution, be aware on social media for negative body imaging or messages and allow this natural and positive change into your life. Your body will stick with you no matter what, as a friend rather than a foe.

If you wish to find out more about the Body Image Movement, check out the website here: https://bodyimagemovement.com/.

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