July 3 – Bees, volunteers and Inishbofin

If today was anything to go by the west is well and truly awake. After a 9.30oam interview on Mid West Radio (I love local radio!) I got on the road to Oughterard, a small town at the entrance to the expanse of Connemara.

Mike and the bees

july031After just 5 minutes hitching on this fine July day I got picked up by Dave, a carpenter whose work has dried up but who has taken to bee keeping. He had lots  to say about the abuse of power at the top of Irish society and the feeling that nothing will change until the power elite are removed. However it was when he got talking about bees and their importance in planetary eco systems and food supplies that he really came alive. He got talking about genetically modified food and believe it’s just a ploy for control of the world food system and had plenty to say about Monsanto, the giant agri-business corporation that controls a huge portion of the world’s food supply.

Youth power in Oughterard

In Oughterard I got chatting to Barry in the local community and youth centre and was really uplifted by his passion for working with young people and his belief that attitude is everything when it comes to finding your groove in today’s mad world. He stressed the importance of avoiding the negative news media and seemed to be particularly unkeen on the Matt Cooper show. Barry’s belief is that the way the world works these days you can change the world at any moment with innovation and initiative. He thinks attitude is a key issue and wants to see leadership based on real values, positivity, and
seeing a better example. He thinks the solution to youth issues is in solving the issues and attitudes of older people.

Volunteer run tourist office / immigration crisis 

As I grabbed a sandwich a young guy called Johnathan called me over and said he heard me speak at an event in Clifden last Friday. He told me he had just graduated from a tourism course and was buzzed to be working in the new volunteer run tourist office which had just opened following the closure of the government funded office 2 years ago. I popped over to the office
and heard how the local pub owner had donated the building, rent free, and how important it was for the local tourist industry.

Mike’s friend was there and I got chatting to her about her status as an illegal immigrant in Ireland despite having moved here from the U.S 12 years ago with her mother and step dad. She described how she is living in fear of b10eing deported, how she’s not allowed work and college would cost her 10k per year as she’s classified as a foreign student.

She loves Ireland but wants her immigration status cleared up and believes the system needs a lot of improvement. She was bursting with passion for community work and talked about how she wants to study culinary arts and to help homeless people in some way down the line. She is getting support from the St Vincent De Paul and has been told her immigration ‘naturalisation’ is on it’s way but for now she continues to live in fear.

Despite this, she is hopeful for the future, more hopeful that the older artist lady I met on the way out who shivered at the prospect of talking about her hope for Ireland. She tore into the isolation she feels as an artist who moved home from abroad and how the arts are controlled by an older generation who won’t give up power. She said if there’s any hope then it’s with the youth.

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Tidy towns community power

On the way out of town I got chatting to local tidy towns volunteers Una O’Halloran and Orla Clancy who were busy painting a forgotten building. Una told me about how emigration has left the town fall behind in appearance and vitality and how volunteerism and the Tidy Town was vital to keeping things moving and attracting business and tourism.

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Roadside waiting

As the rain came drizzling down I found myself on the side of the road for about an hour. It was my first good stint without a lift, watching up on 100 cars pass me by. I got a few funny ‘look at the state of your man’ looks, but mostly people just drove on by because their cars were full or they just didn’t fancy some company which is fair enough.

The hour brought back uncomfortable memories of long stretches on the side of the road hitching in my teens and made me wonder if people were right when the told me hitching is dead and lifts are impossible.Just as my mind started to drift into the fear zone a big jeep stopped to pick me up. A 30 year old Barrister and former civil servant called John picked me up from his way from Dublin to Cleggan where he was going on a diving holiday.

John the Dublin barriester, campaigner, diver and fellow hitcher

He reckons the area around Inishbofin has world class diving that is undervalued, which is great for him and his mates but is an
an untapped tourism and job creation opportunity. As luck would have it John was a mighty talker and going straight to Cleggan. I did a great audio interview with him and he told me about his adventures hitching to Istanbul (making me look tame!), his decision to leave a secure job as a civil
servant and how he is enjoying his new work as a barrister.

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He had considered running as an independent in the last general election but feels, like so many of our generation, that TDs are impotent and that structural and community change needs to come first. He told me about his role in the successful campaign to stop oil drilling off the Dalkey coast and how he believes Pat Rabbitte has abandoned his principals now that he is minister. For John the future lies in community power and in people engaging at a local level and building up power from the ground up, which in turn will make politicians accountable.

Media whoring

We stopped off for some food supplies in Clifden and while there I had a peek at the local newspaper and was surprised to see my big mug in it with an article reviewing my talk there just a few days previous. A kind of strange feeling to be reading about yourself in the Connemara news. It is good to be getting media coverage for community messages and the Irish Times
and TV3 have been in touch about my trip, but I also want to focus on the job so to speak.

Off to Inishbofin island

This evening I got the ferry to the island of Inishbofin and decided to avoid the cramped hostel bunk room and go battle
the wind and pitch my tent. It’s been a long day but a really good one. A few more donations have come in, support is continuing
via email, twitter, facebook and phone, and overall I’m starting to feel that a truly magical trip is unfolding.

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As I sit here in the hostel common room typing I’m eating a slice of ginger cake that the girl in the hostel has just handed me. I can hear a group of primary school teachers discussing the Bilderberg group (check them out if you haven’t) and others plotting a big night in the pub. Apparently the locals don’t start  their partying until midnight which must make it the Barcelona of Ireland. I might chance a pint or two but it’s  up early for me to check out the island, meet some locals, and then off to Mayo. The clock is ticking and I have to keep the show on the road.

The Hitching For Hope continues.

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