Food for thought at “Celebrating Transition” at Ballybay Wetlands

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L – R: Liam Murtagh, Monaghan Ecological Group Committee Member, Mícheál Callaghan, co – founder, Davie Philip, Cultivate (Guest Speaker). Photo by Amie Hynes Fitzpatrick.

Over fifty people from across County Monaghan, and further afield, gathered, on Friday last, in Ballybay Wetlands Centre for “Celebrating Transition”, a social & networking evening organised by Monaghan Ecological Group. Attendees, who represented a wide range of organisations, discussed and shared ideas, participated in informative break – out sessions and enjoyed a locally sourced buffet. The goal of the evening was to introduce people to the work and ethos of Monaghan Ecological Group, bring together local organisations and individuals working in the area of local sustainability and create a platform from which to build a strong movement for a positive, resilient future for County Monaghan.

The evening opened with an overview of the history of the Ballybay Wetlands Centre and its current work from chairperson of Ballybay Development Association, Brian Norton. Mícheál Callaghan, co – founder of Monaghan Ecological Group, gave a welcome address, in which he gave an overview of the context in which Monaghan Ecological Group was founded, its current work, and ethos. He stated that it was a community based, Transition Initiative, which “works to strengthen the local economy, reduce our impact on the environment, and build community resilience.” It does this through running regular information and networking evening events, media work and practical local projects. He stated that the Group is part of the Transition Town Network, which was founded in 2005 in response to the interconnected social, economic and environmental problems we face today. He stressed that Monaghan Ecological Group is a new community led initiative that is continuously building relationships with local authorities, businesses, organisations and individuals, and that Monaghan Ecological Group “always welcomes new members and ideas.”

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L-R: Mícheál Callaghan, co – founder Monaghan Ecological Group; Mayor Seán Conlon, Monaghan County Council; Davie Philip, Cultivate (Guest Speaker). Photo by Amie Hynes Fitzpatrick.

Davie Philip, manager of the Community Resilience Programme at Cultivate, and co – founder of Sustainable Projects Ireland, gave a presentation on the evening which focused on the theme of resilience. He stated that the times we are living in present challenges on many levels, but that they also represent a “once in a species opportunity” for change and that we should not “let a good crisis go to waste”. His presentation began with a screening of his short film “Surfing the Waves of Change.” The video which states that our current lifestyles are under threat due to shrinking oil supplies and climate change, stresses the importance of resilience at personal, community and global level. He stated that resilience is the ability to withstand and respond to pressure and stress in times of change and upheaval. He spoke of the efforts of the Transition movement to build community resilience, through uniting people, building social capital and enabling communities to do more for themselves at local level. Davie, who is originally from Scotland, spoke of the importance of community support and said that the sense of community togetherness and pride of place and heritage, which is key to resilience, really struck him when he moved to Ireland. He said that groups such as Monaghan Ecological Group, GIY, Tidy Towns and other community organisations are key to harnessing this community spirit to bring about the kind of social change needed for a future with less oil. At the end of Davie’s presentation, his message was simple and clear: “Go for it!”

Following the presentation by Davie, participants had the opportunity to hear more about the ethos and projects of Monaghan Ecological Group in three, concurrent break – out sessions, which lasted for ten minutes. Mícheál Callaghan built upon the theme of resilience from Davie’s speech, and spoke about how the Transition ethos can be implemented in Monaghan. County Mayor, Seán Conlon, who attended this break out, encouraged people who have ideas for projects, to approach the local authorities, as they are very willing to help community initiatives. Ciarán Fitzpatrick, founder of LETS Trada and Monaghan Ecological Group member, gave an over view of how they are working to establish a Local Exchange Trading System in the Clones region. He stated that this system, which allows people to trade by building up LETS credit, without using Euro, would be a real asset in difficult economic times. Margaret Palmer, a local herbalist, gave an overview in the third break out session, of a project she hopes to roll out, which will capitalise on the health, economic and ecological benefits that herbal medicines and remedies can offer.

Monaghan Ecological Group is extremely grateful to everyone who attended the event and helped out in anyway. We would like to acknowledge the support it received from Monaghan County Council’s Community Development Fund 2013 and Wave Change Social Enterprise programme. All food on the night was generously made available by the following local producers and suppliers: Camphill, Ballybay; Mulberry Meadow Farm, Clontibret; Charley Meats, Monaghan; Bumble Beez, Monaghan. We are also very thankful for all the help we received from the staff at Ballybay Wetlands Centre in the run up to the event and on the evening itself.

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L-R: Dearbhla Lenehan, Monaghan Ecological Group co – founder; Margaret Palmer, Committee Member & Local Herbalist; Liam Murtagh, Committee Member. Photo by Amie Hynes Fitzpatrick

If you would like more information or would like to get involved with the work of Monaghan Ecological Group please contact Mícheál on 086 3483896 or e-mail monecogroup@gmail.com. You can keep up to date with its work and events on Facebook (Monaghan Ecological Group) and at www.monecogroup.wordpress.com