The Crypto Valley Of Zug, Why Switzerland Is The Place To Be For Bitcoin, Ethereum And Blockchain Initiatives

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Coming to a city near you…

At first glance it might seem an unusual choice for the hottest tech location in Europe, if not EMEA, but Zug, named for its fishing rights is both a town and canton in Switzerland and home to a little under 30,000 residents. It is an affluent area, a low tax region and a base for several multinational companies. In 2001, it first sparked to international recognition when a disgruntled gunman shot 15 people, including himself, in the Zug Cantonal Parliament in what became known as the Zug Massacre.

This year, Zug was very much back in the news for quite different reasons. In January 2017 a not for profit organisation was formed: the Crypto Valley Association (CVA) headquartered in Zug and formed for the express purpose of attracting and supporting blockchain companies and organisations to Switzerland. Prior to the formal establishment of CVA, the Crypto Valley in Zug had been the brain child of Johann Grevers who based his cryptofinance startup Monetas in Zug in 2013. He outlined all sorts of positive reasons why Switzerland was attractive for blockchain companies and soon attracted broad support from numerous individuals, startups, corporates, service providers, industry associations, educational institutions, governments and regulators.

Grever’s own particular career has been recently mired by his own success. Tezos, which aimed to build a new digital commonwealth, used Grever’s ICO foundation company through which to raise money. They were successful, very successful with $232 million raised (and now worth twice that with inflation), but Grevers and the founders of Tezos are locked in a bitter infight. Sometimes the price of success is too high.

Zug itself carried on as a leading light for crypto companies. Ethereum incorporated in Zug in 2014 and the first bitcoin ATMs were installed. In 2015, Shapeshift located in Zug and in the same year the Swiss Federal council issued a report that bitcoins were regarded as a virtual currency and no further regulations were required.

The following year the Zug tax authority issued guidelines for the accounting and tax treatment of bitcoin and the city of Zug became the first government in the world to officially accept bitcoin payments.

Oliver Bussman, as President of the CVA, is overseeing a membership which is growing at an exponential rate. Since its foundation in January membership has grown to in excess of 500 members and that figure is growing at 30 new members per month. Membership fees are denominated in Swiss Francs (CHF) costing 100 CHF for an individual member and CHF 300 for a corporate.

In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Bussmann explained that unlike other ecosystems, such as Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs can expect to find every possible resource necessary for a successful token launch within a 30-mile radius of Crypto Valley.

“We have advisors helping with value proposition and token economy, seasoned legal experts, tax experts, accounting experts, people specialized in global marketing and global communications PR, secure ICO launch platforms, independent audit firms, smart contract audits, KYC, AML utilities and a community of investors looking to support the product.”

Switzerland has a lot of historic features which lends itself to the decentralised view of the world. Its own political system is based on a citizen-controlled ethos and boasts century’s old culture of individual rights. Coupled with Swiss neutrality, business-friendly environment and privacy-friendly financial and legal infrastructures, it is very successfully marketing itself as a hub for crypto friendly companies.

Last month, the CVA announced its first strategic partner in KPMG Switzerland. KPMG will be an active member and chair two working groups; one on Tax, Accounting and Structuring and the other on Cyber Security. But it is not just corporations that want in; a local hotel and restaurant, the Swiss Chalet Merlischachen, is now accepting bitcoin and ethereum as payment for its food and hospitality. It claims to be the first hospitality company in Zug to accept alt currency.

Zug and the Crypto Valley would seem a powerful advocate for all things blockchain. Their example is catching. Just a week ago, Ireland stepped up to the plate and announced its own crypto centre. Called Crypto Coast and headed up by blockchain veteran Reuben Godfrey, the Irish hub is seeking to do the same as Crypto Valley. However, where Switzerland and Zug may offer traditional financial expertise, Ireland’s Crypto Coast has based its foundation on a wealth of blockchain professionals and positive government support.

In conclusion, it’s not really a question of the Crypto Valley being in competition with the Crypto Coast and more a question of how soon the rest of the world will follow suit

Dashing Over Bitcoin, Why Dash Gained 40% In Value, Fernando Gutierrez Explains

Original post on CryptoCoin.News

Last week the cancellation of the Hard Fork in Bitcoin had the markets jumping and in particular the altcoins gained a lot of ground (60% in some cases) before things levelled off. Dash was one of the alt coins to be so positively affected and while it jumped all over the place it settled back to a comfortable gain of a net 40% to lie at the $430 mark. Given its gain in value since the start of the month this might be argued to be a function of more than just the cancellation of the SegWit2x or at least the head of legal at Dash, Fernando Gutierrez would argue as such.

Based in Spain, Gutierrez has been involved with Dash for three years. The first non-developer to be appointed to the board, Gutierrez is genuinely cryto-curious, a specialisation from general curiosity before.

‘My wife is relieved,’ laughs Gutierrez. ‘Previously my curiosity led me to online learning constantly. I was doing all-nighters taking online courses on everything from sociology to physics. Now I am just concentrating on cryptocurrency.’

Gutierrez is self-deprecating as he is also a fully-qualified lawyer, economist and owner of a number of successful business across gaming, video and health service – a true renaissance man.

Gutierrez argues that while the hard fork naturally impacting the markets, the surge in price for Dash was inexorable. ‘The same weekend we begun trading on Asian exchanges which pushed our price,’ he says on the phone from Spain. ‘And coupled with the release of new software, Version 12.2, we had a lot of good things to talk about, not least the fact that the very schism that divided Bitcoin was being addressed by our upgrades; notably the extension of the size of our Block to 2Mg. It was a natural flight to our coin.’

The argument of Dash being a safe haven must be tempered by its somewhat unruly past and in particular it’s first launch day where 2 million coins were mined creating a dubious instamine. The founder claims that the community did not wish to see a relaunch and mining has continued at a more sedate pace where on average 3k coins are mined daily. Despite this start, Dash has set up to tackle the payments industry and operates a number of separate technologies which separates and arguably improves on the core Bitcoin structure.

Most notable is the two tier structure. Miners mine new blocks and are paid a percentage (originally at 80% and now to 45%), while Masternodes are used for payments  – Private Send, InstantSend and governance of the eco system. To become a Masternode requires the holding of 1000 Dash coins, an expensive business at today’s prices, and anyone cashing in and going below that volume automatically loses their vote. Skin in the game is the rationale behind that. 10% of fees go back into Dash to pay for full time developers. This is key according to Gutierrez.

‘We can afford to pay developers and that is another reason to favour Dash over Bitcoin and other coins,’ he says.

Gutierrez feels that the cancellation of 2x signals strongly that Bitcoin is abandoning the payment model. ‘Slowed transactions and higher fees can only mean one thing – Bitcoin is going full-on for the storied value model,’ he argues. ‘They are not properly addressing the horrible user experience. The Lighting Network is being touted as a solution but that is not in place as yet.  In the short term, Bitcoin cannot compete in its current form as a payments carrier.’

The crisis of the size of the Bitcoin blockchain has ironically already been addressed by Dash – it has already increased its blocksize to that of 2Mgs and promised faster, cheaper transactions as a result.

Gutierrez is pretty confident about the future of Dash. V 12.2 has brought a lot of new features to the market – ‘We don’t do fake news,’ he says, ‘we only announce when we have features locked down,’ – and Evolution is planned for mid 2018.

‘We are very excited about Evolution,’ he says. ‘We have a number of key features that are going to make Dash very engaging – DAPI and DashDrive in particular. DAPI or Distributed APIs mean we can connect randomly to any cluster of servers. This will increase speed and security. While DashDrive means we can simplify the process of payments, work outside the blockchain and swap in usernames for long private keys. Having a username on the DashDrive means we can also offer password recovery.

‘And we are launching a HD Wallet on DashDrive making it easier again,’ says Gutierrez. ‘We know that the average Dash or alt coin holder is not a deep techie. They don’t want to be bothered by security and keys and keeping everything up to date. They want to use their digital wallet in much the same way as their physical one. We are building that on user experience to simplify, speed up and lower the costs of using Dash.’

All up Gutierrez’s argument that Dash’s appreciation of value is less to do with the cancellation of the hard fork and more to do with their concerted development seems to hold water. ‘We can’t ignore Bitcoin, when it rallies, alt coins surge in its slipstream,’ he says. ‘But we are doing things for ourselves. We are building value for ourselves as well and we’re not just piggy-backing on a trend.’

RIP – Simon Fitzmaurice – filmmaker, writer, dad

 

 

Yesterday writer and film director Simon Fitzmaurice died. He had motor neuron disease and despite all the odds he went on to father twins, write a a book and direct his original screen play – My Name is Emily.

I did not know him, but I had a part in his film. A naked part – where I and 99 other people ran screaming into the Irish sea on a damp Tuesday afternoon at the end of summer in 2014.

I went to the premier of the film the following year in Galway and my naked posterior was still there for all to view.

He was an amazing man – married to an equally amazing woman, Ruth.

RIP Simon and prayers for his young family.

Humans of Dublin

“I exited bankruptcy in July 2016 and was questioned on RTE news about what would now change. ‘Nothing’ I said and it was true at the time. If anything I was in a harder place than when the banks repossessed my home and my business collapsed six years ago. I was heart-broken and good for nothing. I wrote an article about homelessness in the Irish Times and the next day a friend offered me a cottage to rent. One year later it feels like home. My tiny cottage sits snugly in the hills overlooking the pretty village of Shillelagh. I have work in PR and as a freelance journalist. I pay my bills. I even go out to dinner on occasion. I have never been happier. My children live nearby and they are amazing young women. I get up each morning with gratitude in my heart. I have put the survival mode behind me and I am shining now. Every human being deserves to shine and this time is mine.”

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Young Farmer spends his Communion Money on a Belted Galloway

This article first ran in Farm Ireland on May 1, 2017

Ewan Hannay is ten years of age. A bright talkative child he meets your eyes confidently and answers questions in a direct manner. Last April his parents held a party for his First Communion and he collected rather a lot of money in presents. When asked just how much, he answers ‘loads’ while his mother Linda tells me it was almost €900.

Most children faced with such loot might consider buying the latest X Box or games console. Indeed Ewan tells me his friend Cormac used his money to buy a Samsung tablet. However, Ewan had different plans. His tells me his father is Scottish and that he is named after Ewan McGregor but Ewan had his eye on another Scottish celebrity – this time a Belted Galloway

Ewan lives next to his uncle’s farm in Moneyteigue, near Aughrim in county Wicklow. Ever since he could talk he has said he wants to be a farmer – as well as a construction worker, a driver of a lorry and a horse rider. Basically all the careers followed by his uncle Tom. As soon as Ewan could walk he has joined his Grandfather TJ and Tom every Saturday to help out on the farm. His jobs, when asked he says, are to feed the sheep, calves and lambs. He is also responsible for putting clean straw into the pens.

Ewan is the middle child of Richie and Linda Hannay. He has an older sister Evie, 12, and a younger Esme, 3. He is autistic but carries his condition in a bright outward inquisitive fashion. Since arriving he has quizzed me on other interview subjects and seems disappointed I have not really interviewed anyone famous.  He proceeds to question me about the animals resident in my home, what musical instruments I might have and if I could show him pictures of everything. Within a short while I am no longer sure who is the journalist in our conversation.

Originally Ewan had thought of buying hens with his communion money but Linda pooh-poohed the plan as ‘they will only encourage rats,’ says Ewan. He then looked at Jacob sheep as a possibility before turning to the Scottish breed. ‘Dad had me hounded to buy a Scottish animal,’ chuckles Ewan.

Finding a Belted Galloway is not straightforward as numbers are low and owners reluctant to sell the colourful animals. Pedigree belted Galloways are black rough haired animals with a distinctive white belt. A hill grazing animal their numbers are growing with almost a thousand across the island north and south. They are docile animals with high meat yields. They enjoy easy calving and many dairy farmers will use a Belted Galloway bull for their heifers which has produced mixed offspring. However, while the pedigree herds only have the white belt, mixed cattle may have white socks or tails and are not to be confused.

Originally Tom scoured Done Deal for a suitable animal, placing an alert to ensure whenever one came up for sale they would be the first to know. However, a chance encounter with a neighbour introduced them to Ronan Delaney, journalist with the Farmers Journal and secretary of the Belted Galloway Breeders association. A phone call ascertained that he had a number of heifers for sale and arrangement made for a road-trip to Dunshaughlin in County Meath in November of last year.

Ewan recounts the journey for me. He did not sleep a wink the night before. They travelled in the two seater Land Cruiser so his grandfather had to stay home. Along the way Tom tried to distract Ewan by suggesting a detour to Tayto Park or even to go on the beer but ten year old Ewan was not to be swayed. They reached Ronan’s farm and were invited to go and look at heifers in the field. A bull was there too but Ronan assured Ewan that he was safe too.

‘I had a choice of two heifers and I chose Abigail,’ he tells me. After the selection was made they went indoors to enjoy a cup of tea and do the paperwork.

Ronan was very happy to sell the heifer to Ewan. He explains: ‘I am building my own herd, I have twelve currently, but when I heard Ewan’s story I was delighted to sell him a heifer. Ewan is deadly. He asks a thousand questions a minute. He absolutely loves his heifer and when we got into the house for the cup of tea he had another thousand questions to ask my mother.’

Ronan gave Ewan luck money and he spent that on sweets on the way home. He could not wait to show Abigail to his grandfather.

Ewan then arranged for Abigail to go in calf with a handsome Scottish bull called Park Perseus. The calf is due at the end of the year. ‘She looks a little fat already,’ says Ewan. He let her out onto grass this weekend and now she won’t come to the gate when he calls. ‘I am not sure what to call the calf as yet,’ he says. ‘If it is a girl maybe Oreo because they look the Oreo biscuits. I love Oreos.’

 

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Wear your Pants at all times!

First published in the Irish Independent on March 31

Earlier this month I attended a theatrical performance in the Courthouse Art Centre in Tinahely in County Wicklow. There were two short monologues, both performed by Cora Fenton, co founder of Call Back Theatre. The second piece was called Bonfire Night. It was narrated by a middle aged woman with a history of disappointments and left to care for her elderly father. It was bonfire night and she was heading out. Oh, and she had a gun. The monologue riffed backwards and forwards through her life but always seemed to come back to the gun.

It was very much Chekhov’s gun and we all knew it was going to be used. However, when the moment came it was totally unexpected and the audience reacted with a collective intake of breath.

The Courthouse is a tiny centre and sadly, due to clash with another drama festival in Wicklow, there were only ten people in the entire audience. So as to show solidarity with the actor I insisted to my friend and fellow writer that we sit in the front row. We were two feet from the actor.

That level of intimacy is very powerful. It is hard to know where the actor finished and I began. I noticed she directed a lot of her dialogue to my male friend. And every so often she would make eye contact with me – but it was still as though we were separated by Perspex with her on stage and me on my front row chair.

Last week we were all given a glimpse into theatrical nature of reality on BBC World News when Korean expert Robert E Kelly was live broadcasting a segment. Just as he began his report first one child opened the door behind him to gatecrash his broadcast, swiftly followed by another, amusingly twirling around in a baby walker like a lost car from a carnival waltzer. The two children were then quickly followed by a woman who scooped both up, but from a crouching position apparently to avoid the camera, but in fact making the spectacle look even weirder. Kelly glanced back once but continued talking, putting out his hand to push his toddler out of view.

The internet, that other arbitrator of what is real, went a bit mad. Who was the woman?  A nanny or wife? It turned out to be his wife. A number of copycat memes appeared next, the funniest being that of a woman in Kelly’s place but when interrupted by her children she manages to bounce them on her lap, check the Sunday roast, find odd socks and even detonate a bomb without missing a beat. The interest ended up with Kelly giving a press conference with his family. He acknowledged sadly that this video will probably be the opening line in his obituary and yes, he was wearing pants (the most asked question after if the woman was his wife or nanny).

This is not new of course, except in the way the internet pounces on its soft prey. Back in 1977 Angela Rippon, one of the first female BBC newscasters, caused a sensation when she joined Morecambe and Wise in a show. The scene began harmlessly enough, with Angela reading the news, before she pushed aside the desk, flashing her dancer legs and embarking on a routine that gave her enough credit to present Strictly Come Dancing.

Even the American Eagle from The Muppets knows news is an illusion. He gave a serious news broadcast in which he bemoaned that animals, and even birds, were shockingly naked under their fur and feathers. The scene closes with the Eagle realising it applied to him also and he slinks out of camera clutching his wings on the bits that might be exposed.

We all know the broadcasting is a form of entertainment, even when news is the diet, but we suspend belief when it is presenting in a formal setting. Kelly is a dad and husband working abroad and using Skype to present his reports. We don’t want to know he has a young family and we all hope he is wearing pants.

Maybe that is why Trump’s tweets are so disconcerting. It is not just the juxtaposition of serious policy with pure Hollywood entertainment, it is the timing. Trump often posts some of his more outrageous claims and taunts at silly o’clock in the morning. It is hard to see him at a desk making those tweets. It is much more likely he is standing in the kitchen, perhaps at the open fridge, perhaps in his non-existent dressing gown. But if Spicer is right then at 5am he may only be wearing a teeshirt or just his underwear. Or perhaps nothing at all. We don’t like to get our information from naked people, especially not the President of the United States of America. Put some clothes on for goodness sake, Sir.

The lines blur all the time but should we cross them? Prior to attending the theatre on March 10th I prepared a dish of what mostly consisted of garlic. To my ruination the fact was forcibly making itself clear during the performance. During the delivery of Bonfire Night and leading, had I but known it, to the black humorous denouement of the play, I reached forward and picked up my handbag. I slowly and quietly opened the zip and searched blindly for some chewing gum. Successfully I found my prize, extracted a pellet and stopped fouling the air with my garlic. I was still two foot from my actor and my gaze never left her face.

Afterwards in the pub the actor stopped to speak with us. She looked at me and remarked that I was in the front row. I confirmed that I was. Then she looked at me harshly.

She had been convinced, by my lifting my bag onto my lap, that I was about to leave the theatre. Operating as we were on a ten man audience my supposed departure would have been tragic. Even as she acted her role in front of me, inside she was screaming at me not leave, to wait for the killer line.

When reality punctures the mask of self-projection, the best we can ask for is to be wearing pants. I just hope the President is. Or at least he has read Tweet Naked by Scott Levy https://www.amazon.com/Tweet-Naked-Bare-All-Strategy-Boosting/dp/1599185156/

 

 

 

 

 

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I call it ‘couchsurfing’, but really I’m homeless

In the Irish Times Weekend Magazine August 6, 2016 

Facing homelessness for the second time, Jillian Godsil explores how this social issue has become a middle-class problem

 

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I’m trying to think of a word to sum up how I feel. I think there must be one out there but I can’t put my finger on it. I know what it feels like, a funny ache that lives mostly in the pit of my belly but sometimes it crawls up to lodge in the back of my throat.

I am homeless, for the second time in my adult life, and – though each person’s situation is unique and many are worse than mine – I am part of the great sickening statistic that haunts this land.

The first time I became homeless, the banks repossessed my fine home and sold it for a pittance. There were so many wrongs I hardly know where to start.

But I was stoic then. Gracious almost. Leavetaking suited me, liberated me or so I told myself. I embraced the continental way of living. Let us rent instead. I threw the words out carelessly as if they cost me nothing. I was a new woman to whom possessions were as naught. It is easy to be flippant about possessions when none are left.

I swaggered around as if being divested of things was easy. But this was a façade, and I was dreadfully hurt by the absence of things – notably my security. And more notably still, my children’s security.

Here you may want to stop me, to rail against me and deliver a lecture. Like a pregnant woman who gathers advice thick and fast from well-meaning, if censorious, others, a woman re-entering the state of homelessness tends to get lectured.

The first time I lost my home it happened in a flurry of newspaper clippings. I was among the first to have a home repossessed by the banks. Not the first but a public first (I was in the already in the public eye after I had tried to sell the house on YouTube). As the eviction unfolded, I felt the weight of injustice push down on me from all sides, and I welcomed the media spotlight upon my situation.

Now I am facing into the maelstrom of homelessness again. I am not alone. There are hundreds of families being evicted every month and moving into emergency accommodation. Tens of thousands more sit on the social housing list. For every vocal Erica Fleming, who told her story of homelessness and single motherhood through RTÉ and other media, there are hundreds of silent witnesses.

This time I am lacking any of the securities I felt before. There’s no sense of karma. I smile in all the right places, laugh as loud as the next person and perform daily tasks with astonishing ease. There, look, I am dressed and functioning. Offering words and busily attending to matters.

Last August we were told we must leave. Plenty of time to find a little cottage and a few acres you’d think. But then perhaps you have not been listening to the news or reading the papers.

The freight train of our own personal eviction notice has paid no attention to months, weeks and days in its relentless pursuit of its deadline. It has slammed through all time, steel wheels slicing through our emotive pleas for clemency.

God’s grace descended on us at the final hour but it separated us too. I managed to find my children, now young adults, lodgings in a pretty cottage with just three rooms. There they have sequestered themselves with their belongings and dog and cat. They are creating a new home and I am proud of their independence while all the time there is a tearing in my belly at our forced, untimely separation.

I am residing in a friend’s house. I call it “couch surfing” to sound modern. I am surrounded on all sides by boxes and rails and the sad paraphernalia of a rented life; nothing more sturdy than a chair or lamp. This is temporary: even friendship has an expiry date when accompanied by suitcases.

I wake up this morning, my first morning in my current lodging and look around at my life. To cheer myself up, I am calling it an adventure. This morning I have a new, if temporary, view outside my bedroom window. I am surrounded by fields in turn populated by horses, cows and sheep. It is very peaceful and pastoral.

I’m sure homeless people all over Ireland are trying to convince themselves or their chlidren that their situation is not as awful as it feels. But I do it anyway.

A field for … Toby

Toby is a beautiful chestnut Bavarian warmblood gelding.  He came into our lives four years ago. His previous owner thought he had kissing spine, a terminal condition, and he was going to the factory. My daughter Georgina fell in love with him and refused to let him go. We paid the factory (ie meat) money for him and brought him home.

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It turns out Toby does not have kissing spine. We had chiropractors and vets examine him. However, what he does have is – well lots of things, most of them mental. He box walked, weaved, has herd separation anxiety and lots of other things hard to fathom. Georgina, who as you can guess is animal and horse mad, is also a T Touch student. Her friend and top T Touch healer Sarah Fisher was in Ireland and she came and worked with Toby. Georgina used the same techniques and soon Toby calmed down, relaxed and began to enjoy himself.

Of course, there is only one thing better than a rescue horse, and that is two rescue horses. So along came Deano. Deano is a top class racehorse. His sire is Flemensfirth, an American stallion and sire of many racing heroes. However, poor Deano was not very fast, at all. Paddy Last – truth be told and he was on the way to the great field in the sky when we offered him a home. He was ridden by my youngest daughter and while willing and sweet his show jumping is a bit hit and miss.

Time passed. My girls were busy doing their thing and the two boys had a great time in our rented fields. Best buddies, a true bromance, Toby and Deano are happy lads. They enjoy the freedom of the paddocks and wander in and out of the stables if the rain is too hard or the sun too bright.

A happy ending you’d think. Except while we rescued the horses, we were sadly not doing so well with the humans.

My home was repossessed by the banks in 2011. Prior to that we moved into our beautiful rented cottage in County Wicklow. The boys were joined by our rescue dog and cat. We were all set to live happily ever after – or at least until I managed to exit bankruptcy and get a job.

Read Here for the Human Story

Then disaster fell. Our lease was terminated. It officially ends on June 20, 2016. Right now, we are overhanging our lease. We are still paying the rent but we have to find another place for us and our horses.

That’s where you come in. We are trying to buy a field nearby. A field that will be ours. A field that we cannot be evicted from. A field that the banks cannot seize. We have found a beautiful spot. But we need help securing the cost.

We have been told over and over that horses are not as important as human beings. We know that but having rescued our beautiful horses we would not see them abandoned or worse. Possessions are not important but security is. We want the security of having a field to keep Toby and Deano safe.

We have found the field. It is beautiful. And we need help securing it.

A field. The Field. Our field – with your help.

Go on buy a cup of tea for Toby – Go on Go on Go on!  Just €3 will make a big difference to us.

Desperately seeking …Me!

First published in the Irish Independent on May 18, 2016

We are a nation of lost souls. We have swapped the security blanket of religion for the cold harsh light of truth. We wander like bewildered two-year-olds lost in a grocery store. What began like a moment of freedom has swiftly translated into a terrifying ordeal. We have three choices: stay out in the cold, embrace it even; return to our mother’s arms and the refuge that lies within. Or we can seek new truths, new comforts.

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The latter choice, the era of self-enlightenment is truly upon us. It is the new drug of the thinking classes, the opiate we choose in the search for fulfilment. We had become a nation of fast food snackers and now we need substance.

The route to enlightenment has many paths. Last year, I attended a Jordan Belfort seminar – he of the Wolf of Wall Street fame. The seminar was aimed at making money but he caught the mood of the audience at an early stage.

Jordan scanned the crowd and sympathetically called us out. We were there to learn how to make money but he ringed our wings by calling on our pain. No one with a successful business attends a motivational sales seminar by Jordan Belfort, pictured below. Instead, injured souls seeking assurance gather to hear the magic patter. If the lottery is a poor man’s tax, then motivational sales seminars are an aspiring (or is that failing?) entrepreneur’s levy.

Jordan’s heart-spring moment was when he explained why some people were ducks and some were eagles. No one wants to be a duck, not even the ducks. Belfort told some funny stories about the duck mentality and in a move splendidly focused for the Irish audience, spoke movingly and compassionately about how a lot of the eagles in the audience had taken a beating in the recession.

How we had been flattened and lacked certainty. How we had begun thinking like ducks but that was okay because it didn’t mean we were ducks. The very fact that we were here today meant we were so, not ducks, oh no, but eagles about to get a new lease of life. And everyone clapped and everyone believed they had a chance to win the lottery.

Last month, I attended the Landmark Forum, a pathway to personal development and sometimes dismissively termed a cult, a case which it energetically rebuts. It may have some of the appearances of a sect; it focuses on obedience, it demands commitment and it extracts promises from its participants. It practises secrecy in some parts and full-on proselytising in others. It does not advertise its wares, but uses the Forum members to bring in new members.

Personal development is a different kettle of fish to financial development. For one, the end goal is a lot more significant and for another, it is possible without the intervention of external and random forces. It is possible. And this is the foundation of the Forum – the possible.

The course unfolds under three non-stop days of intense training. Then there is the sharing – the even more intense bonds formed through people sharing at the deepest level of their lives. It felt like being in the trenches; there was nothing too base to be shared and nothing too insignificant to be celebrated.

It may sound as though this is a transitional, gradual process but in fact it happens very fast. At 10.30 on day one, I shed my first tear. However, I had already laughed – big guffaws of laughter – at least an hour before. It had become a family event very quickly, only we moved from the trauma to the resolution at the speed of light.

Does that sound a little mad? It is a little mad.

Taking part in the Forum was a rollercoaster of a ride. Aside from the tears, the laughter and the sharing, there was plenty of anger. It is not easy to tear people apart without breaking a few long-held beliefs and opinions. But when the silence surged softly backward when the plunging hooves were gone, we looked at each other and we were all good. We were our word. We were made man, re-made man.

Just recently, I attended the funeral of my father’s best friend.

They are both now in the Summerlands, as they say in these parts, hotly discussing the politics of the day no doubt, going to the bookies or sharing a laugh. To my surprise, I found a resurgence of traditional comfort; maybe my seeking had re-opened a door backwards as well as forwards.

His son, a fine musician and lecturer in music, invited a Trinity choir to sing in the stalls. Being a Protestant service, we had many fine hymns. Being a Protestant service, the congregation all sang the hymns lustily, myself more so than anyone.

It has been some time since I was in a church and longer still with the benefit of a powerful choir at my right elbow. I reached back into the childhood of my beliefs and the comforts of hymns settled around me like a blanket.

Lame ducks, shared emotions, the endless possibility of humans, and hymns – all are beautiful and empowering and good – but the greatest of these are hymns.

Homes for the Dead – 1916 – Holden Stodart

Art houses invoke the forgotten civilian victims of the Easter Rising
Public contribute installations to remember each of the 262 civilians killed in the Rising

First published in the Irish Times April 10,2016 

And also in a wonderful short video by Ronan McGreevy at the exhibition. Watch it here or below.

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A unique free exhibition celebrating 1916 is open in the National Botanical Gardens from this week until April 24th. The exhibition, called the 1916Sackville Street project, was developed to celebrate the largely forgotten and ignored civilian deaths in 1916.

Until this year, little was known about the civilian dead – indeed few people realised that the number of civilian dead exceeded that of the total military casualties on both sides. In all, 262 innocent men, women and children were slaughtered on the streets of the capital during the first week of fighting.

The 1916Sackville Street Art Project invited students, individuals and organisations to build art homes for the dead – to provide a final resting place. Indeed since many of the civilian dead were amongst the very poorest of the city some bodies were never claimed and to this day they lie in unmarked graves.

Former High School Dublin student Jillian Godsil was invited to assist in the project and with Laois public relations consultant Dave Delaney they voluntarily provided the PR and marketing expertise. This weekend project has featured on RTE news and Nationwide as well as the national press.

However, as both Jillian and Dave worked on spreading the word and finding people to build homes they became increasing interested in the personal stories of the project. Dave decided to focus on a young man called Paul Reynolds and during this research discovered that he had been twenty years of age and a journalist.

‘What really upset me was the fact that his body lay unclaimed in the hospital morgue until August when a Rev Reynolds claimed and buried him,’ says Dave. A journalist and artist himself, Dave built a house covered in newspaper. His house is now part of the exhibition in the Botanic Gardens – a permanent memorial to the young journalist.

Jillian too became more involved. As the names were claimed she saw one persistent name not taken. It was an unusual name – Holden Stodart.

Holden

‘I looked at the name and tried to imagine the man. I too have a strange name and I was drawn to him,’ says Jillian. ‘I decided to claim Holden and make a house, indeed a home for him. Imagine my surprise then when it turned out Holden had attended my old school in Dublin, the High School. I felt an immediate connection.’

Further investigation turned up that Holden had been a St John Ambulance volunteer. Holden was in his 30s, and was married with a small child. As the Rising began, rumours of the fighting spread across the capital. In response more than 600 men and women of St John Ambulance turned up to volunteer for service. Holden was a senior officer in St John Ambulance service and he was responding to the terrible battle in Mount Street on Wednesday when he was shot dead trying to rescue the injured. He was the only St John Ambulance member to lose his life in the violence.

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Padraig Allen, St John Ambulance volunteer and archivist, dressed in the same uniform as Holden Stodart would have worn with Jillian Godsil

‘I found it very sad that his sacrifice in saving the injured has largely been overlooked in the last 100 years,’ says Jillian. ‘I approached my old school, where I was a President of the Alumni, and a super bunch of young people in Transition Year agreed to make the actual house. It was finally modelled on the old school building in Harcourt Street and now lives in the exhibition as well.’

In total there are 262 art houses on display in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. Entrance to the exhibition is free and in time a book of the houses will be available for sale. The exhibition runs until April 24, 2016.

 

 

1916 Sackville Project: Holden Stodart – the Team behind the Project

Research

We decided to base our project on Holden Stodart, who was born in 1883 and was a post pupil of The High School at no. 40 Harcourt Street. He worked as a clerk at Guinness before he volunteered with the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Holden became St. John Ambulance’s superintendent and was put in charge of Baggot Street Hospital to look after the wounded after the Easter week. Holden Stodart was shot near Northumberland road where he went with a stretcher party and other members of the brigade treated the soldier. Holden was killed instantly. Holden Stodart lost his life on April 26th 1916, aged 33.

We decided to base the house on no. 40 Harcourt Street as this was where Holden Stodart went to school. It also became a temporary hospital, used by St. Johns Ambulance to care for wounded soldiers during the 1916 rising.

The Manufacture of the Project

The class were split into four groups with four pupils and each group were given a different task.

Group 1

First we spray painted the walls a red brick colour. We then cut out the windows using a Scroll saw after marking them out on a piece of paper. We then got a scalpel and carved lines to imitate the brick patterns. For the top of the gable wall, we cut and sanded it so that the roof would fit on top. We then cut the window sills from plywood, painted them white and glued them in. We also added a handle and a letter box to the door.

Group 2

We decided to base the ground floor on the High School to represent the start of Holden’s life. We made desks to represent the school classroom. We were going to put carpet on the floor but then decided against it because we thought the school might not have carpet and only have floor boards during this time. We put posters and other pictures around the room to make it look like a school classroom.

Group 3

We decided to base the first floor on St. Johns Ambulance to represent the next stage in Holden’s life. To decorate our floor we made stretchers and some miniature figures out of plywood and stuck them down with superglue. We also made a miniature ambulance and stuck that down. For the walls of our floor we got some pictures related to St. Johns Ambulance off the internet and stuck them on the walls.

Group 4

We decided to base the second floor on the 1916 Rising where Holden Stodart lost his life on April 26th 1926 aged 33. We cut out different figures and guns from plywood and painted them appropriate colours. We stuck a picture of Holden on the back wall as a memory of his life. The mirror on the top represents the fact that it could have been anybody, including you, that lost a life during the Rising.

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The students, led by Leslie Middleton, are William Anderson,
Sittha Bailey, Ben Chaloner, Alexander Chambers, Andrew Cloughley, Gerard Colman, Luke Diggins, Daniel Fagan, Oscar Higgins, Adam Lalor, Nikolai Leake, Alex Lin, Jude Lysaght, Sarah Morley, Jason Mullen, Loris Nikolov, Peter O’Leary, Alex O’Regan and Adam O’Rourke