Monday, April 20, 2015

At least I've woken up

When the politicians started colluding with the bankers and the developers, I did not speak out.

When they went into a frenzy, an "orgy of greed", I did not speak out.

When they locked themselves in a tent at the Galway Races, flying over our heads in helicopters and laughing at the peasants outside, I did not speak out.

When the bank manager persuaded the family member to buy a property he could not afford, I did not speak out. (Sure, everyone told us it was the "smart time to buy".)

When the economy collapsed, because of those bankers and developers, I did not speak out.

When faceless bondholders were prioritised over ordinary people, I did not speak out.

When my nation lost its sovereignty, and the ECB and IMF came to town, I did not speak out. (I was watching from Nicaragua, where people seemed to have a better idea of what was happening than the people back home.)

When almost an entire generation moved to Canada and Australia, just as most of mine moved to London or America in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I did not speak out.

When the Government imposed a Universal Social Charge, I did not speak out.

When it added a Local Property Tax, I did not speak out.

When my pay was cut, I did not speak out.
Carrying the coffin of Irish Water

When young people were asked to work for €50 a week, I did not speak out. (The cynical among us called it ScamBridge, not JobBridge.)

When I saw old people lying on trolleys in a dangerously overcrowded Emergency Department, I did not speak out.

When it took me six months to get over a procedure which should have taken six weeks - because of the state of my local public hospital - I did not speak out.

Sitting in long queues, day after day, it was clear that fear was a motivating factor. Who wants to complain out loud, when a loved-one is waiting on a list for life-saving treatment?

When a single mum was thrown in prison because she could not afford a TV licence, I did not speak out.

When none of the bankers, developers or politicians who caused the crash seemed to face any punishment, I did not speak out.

When bankers started evicting ordinary, decent people from their homes, I have to admit I did not speak out.

When a bank which is 99.8% State owned asked for a third of the workers at my firm to be let go, I did not speak out.

When the TV news and the newspapers seemed to ignore the despair all around me, I did not speak out.

When the videos circulating on YouTube and Facebook never seemed to appear on the TV, I did not speak out.

When Irish Water was set up and the senior executives decided they were worth €200,000 per year, I did not speak out.

When others pointed out that Irish people already pay for their water, well, I agreed with them but I did not speak out.

When the people at the top of Irish Water decided to award all the plum jobs to their best friends, I did not speak out.

When there were huge question marks about how the contract was awarded to install the water metres, I did not speak out.

When people in Roscommon could not even drink their water, I did not speak out.

When protesters were hauled from their beds in 7am dawn raids, I did not speak out.

When the 'Public Order Act' was invoked against people who objected to a private company installing water metres right outside their homes, I did not speak out.

When people were arrested just for standing on footpaths, I did not speak out. 

But, when the water metres arrived, and I finally decided to go and join a protest march, I became a subversive, labelled as a member of the “Sinister Fringe”. 

When I met 100,000 others who felt like me, I was told it was an attack on democracy. That we were undermining everything people should hold sacred about Irish life.

Some people might say it's too late . . . but I’m suddenly quite glad that, at long last, at least I’ve woken up!

For journalism work, social media strategies, content writing, 'ghost' blogging, or public relations, contact Ciaran at

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Shining lights in the darkness

Rarely have I been so proud of the four main sports teams who represent my city and county as I was this week . . . and none of them had to kick or hit a ball.

This is my second year to volunteer to organise the Darkness Into Light 5km walk for Pieta House in Galway and on Wednesday night I was simply blown away by the humility of the men who represent our county and province with pride.

The Galway city DIL committee was tasked with hosting a launch on behalf of all nine walks in the county this year and none of us could have dreamed of the cooperation we received from people who have busy sporting lives.

Galway and Connacht teams might not always have the greatest successes, but the people who lead them should make us all feel truly proud.
Connacht Rugby manager Pat Lam at the DIL launch

Both the managers of Connacht Rugby and Galway United were keen to get involved as soon as they heard our launch was to raise awareness of suicide prevention, while the hurlers and footballers sent along some of their bright young stars. 

Their speeches were, quite simply, phenomenal and gave more than a modicum of hope that our culture is changing when it comes to us men and how we discuss our problems, lows, and fears.

These people might run out at Croke Park or the Aviva Stadium in front of 80,000 or 50,000 fans, but they are subjected to the same kinds of frustrations, fears, down days, and vulnerabilities which make us all human.

Connacht Rugby manager Pat Lam spoke from the heart about the loss of a friend to suicide. 

He described how his wife had walked the Darkness Into Light 5k in Salthill last year and how the Connacht management team would keep the Galway walk in their minds, even if they will be miles away, preparing for a game in Italy.

Lam, a New Zealander, made it so clear why he has become a hugely popular figure during his relatively short time in Galway. 

He talked about the importance of how the players shake hands with each other whenever they meet up. They know how important it is for each and every one of them to connect and look out for each other.

Galway United manager Tommy Dunne joked that he had not worn a suit in four years. 

But he had an even more moving message about a former team-mate who took his own life while playing professional football in Scandinavia.

He described how sad he felt that he had not spotted the warning signs.

There and then, he decided that the Galway United players would warm-up for their next home game in bright yellow Darkness Into Light t-shirts. For the derby against Sligo Rovers, he wanted to highlight the importance of suicide prevention. He brought some people in the room at the Galway Bay Hotel to tears.

He said a manager’s task can involve “reading” players, evaluating who is in good form or confident ahead of a big game. But he referred to how much more there is to life than just being up for a game.

Next up was Galway hurler David Collins, who was only given about ten minutes’ notice when asked to make a contribution on behalf of the GAA.

Instead of complaining abou the short notice, he said he had no problem speaking about a cause which was close to his heart.

Within minutes, he moved most of us present in the room to tears.

He spoke about the pain of losing a team-mate, Niall Donoghue, in 2013. Niall was a gifted young man who played alongside him in front of 80,000 people in an All-Ireland final and replay just over a year before.

David said most of us have no idea of what it’s like to play in such massive games. Within the members of the panel themselves, players often have no idea what’s going on in each others’ lives.

He said that not a day goes by when the members of the Galway senior hurling panel don't think about their former team-mate.

All three speeches were stunning; all three showed that the stigma attached to talking about suicide and depression is being tackled at the highest level by people involved in sport.

It was so uplifting to see Irish men, sporting heroes, talking honestly about mental health and the support available.

They showed that even people with amazing jobs, top level sports people, know the pain involved when someone they love takes their own life. 

Footballers, hurlers and rugby players are no different from the rest of us . . . they know what it’s like to experience pain or loss in their home, family, community, or even the dressing-room.

Galway hurler David Collins, who made an amazing speech

They left all nine Co Galway committees with a bit more of a spring in their step as they continue the countdown to the Darkness Into Light event in the early hours of Saturday, May 9.

When people in such wonderful positions can speak so eloquently about the pain of loss, there really is hope for us all. On Wednesday night, our sporting heroes did the people of Galway and Connacht a huge favour by shining some light into the darkness.

They told us all to look out for each other, which is the theme of this year's walk.

The guest speakers sure shattered the myth of the "macho" sportsmen, too proud or tough to talk about their problems. 

And they left many of us feeling inspired.