Philip McCabe becomes World Beekeeping President

Monaghan born Philip McCabe, who is a well-known beekeeper, is set to take up duty as the President of Apimondia, the world beekeeping federation. Philip has been President of the European Commission for Beekeeping for the past four years. He is also well known in Monaghan in his role as Development Manager of Co Monaghan Citizens Information Service where he has served for the past 15 years.


Speaking on RTE Radio on Sunday last, Philip said that his work as President of the world beekeeping body will focus on redressing the issue of the massive decline in bee numbers worldwide. As honey bees and other types of bees are necessary for the pollination of many food crops it is important for the world food supply that bees are protected.   Philip highlighted the overuse of chemicals and GMOs in agriculture as one of the main causes of the loss of bees. This is going to be a big challenge for Philip and for Apimondia, as many countries are not taking sufficient action to address the problem of the loss of bees. As evidence of this, it has just been reported that the Government in the UK has just lifted its ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture – these chemicals have been found to be a cause of the collapse in bee numbers.

Philip McCabe has also highlighted the importance of bees in the alleviation of poverty in developing countries. ‘Bees for Development’ is an initiative involving people in developing countries being helped to develop beekeeping enterprises. In regard to beekeeping in Ireland, Philip says that there is an increasing interest in keeping bees and this means that bee farmers and experienced beekeepers are busy supplying new colonies of bees to new beekeepers. He also mentioned the potential in Ireland for harvesting pollen from bees, in addition to honey, as there is a good market for pollen products.

This week sees the annual beekeeping summer school taking place in Gormanston, Co Meath. Philip will be busy there, both arranging and delivering lectures and workshops at this well attended event.  Philip, who grew up in Newbliss  is a third generation beekeeper – his father and grandfather  were also beekeepers.  He now lives in Termonfeckin where he looks after his own and the bees at the An Grianán centre –  the ICA headquarters. As Philip moves to his new role as Apimondia President in September,  when he attends its Congress in Daejeon, South Korea,  we all wish him every success in what is a prestigious role but also a challenging one.

For further information on beekeeping including local beekeeping groups and becoming a beekeeper see On alternative / natural approaches to beekeeping see   For information on ‘Bees for Development’ see

The Environmental Pillar demands Coillte stop using Hazardous Pesticides in Irish Forests.

The Environmental Pillar which represents 28 national independent environmental non-governmental organisations is demanding that Coillte stop using the pesticide Cypermethrin in Irish forests. The pesticide Cypermethrin is designed to protect non-native spruce and pine trees from weevil attacks. Coillte has used it to pre-treat plants in the controlled environment of nurseries since early 2007 and to dip young plants. The chemical is also sprayed on the land in an effort to control the impact of the pine weevil. Coillte has used Cypermethrin operationally since 2007 and over that period has applied over 100,000 litres of the chemical.  The company Coillte plans to continue to use this chemical for the next five years.

Cypermethrin is a fast acting neurotoxin in insects.  As it is a pesticide, it kills beneficial insects and animals (like birds, bees and fish) as well as the targeted ones.  The Environment Pillar says that this has a major adverse impact on our biodiversity as using this pesticide in our forests furthers the pressures on pollinators like bees to survive.  The group says that the survival of these pollinators is vital for the continuation of our food production. The US EPA has also classified Cypermethrin as a group C carcinogen, so not only are we harming the environment by using this chemical, we could also be directly harming ourselves.  The Environmental Pillar representatives say that Coillte should change over to a natural forest model in which mainly native tree species are grown. The successful growing of native trees is not dependent on the application of hazardous chemicals like Cypermethrin.

Climate Scientist Criticises Meteorologist for “Misrepresenting” IPCC Climate Reports

A recent article by Irish meteorologist Professor Ray Bates claimed that “increased uncertainty” in recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports on the likely course of future climate change means that Ireland need not take steps to urgently reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, Prof. Bates argued that we should prioritise protection of our own, Irish, economic interests. The supposed scientific basis for Prof. Bates’s argument has now been criticised by Ireland’s leading climatologist, Professor John Sweeney (Professor Emeritus at Maynooth University, former Director of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Unit, and a full IPCC contributing author).

In his critique, Prof. Sweeney states that the article by Prof. Bates contained numerous “scientific inaccuracies” and he goes on to detail how the article appears to engage in clear “cherry picking” and systematic misrepresention of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report “to suit Prof. Bates’s own arguments”. Prof. Sweeney affirms the unambiguous scientific consensus that far from slowing or stopping, the overall warming of the Earth is continuing, and indeed accelerating, and this is unequivocally associated with human activities. He goes on to say that it’s absolutely valid to describe the problem of climate change as a “planetary emergency”. He concludes by highlighting the need to view climate action in a context of global climate justice, and he firmly rejects narrow ‘national interest’ as a message Ireland should wish to send the world on this issue. Prof  Sweeney’s remarks were endorsed by Barry McMullin, Chair of the An Taisce Climate Committee.

Meanwhile President Michael D Higgins this week addressed the European Economic, Social and Environmental Council’s climate change seminar in Paris. The conference focused on the involvement of citizens, with President Higgins saying the role of each citizen will be “decisive in reaching the ambitious agreement mankind needs”.


Climate Bill: Some Success Achieved by Campaigners for a Safe Climate

The Government has decided to introduce some changes to the climate change Bill, which is currently making its way through the Dáil. These amendments are being proposed following extensive debate on the Bill both inside and outside the Oireachtas, as well as following representations from environmental NGOs such as Stop Climate Chaos.

One of these is the inclusion of an explicit statement in the Bill that the Climate Change Advisory Council shall be independent in the performance of its functions. There will also be an amendment to include a specific reference to the principle of climate justice. Climate justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.

Oisín Coughlan of Friends of the Earth gave a guarded welcome to the proposed changes but said that they did not go far enough. He said that there is still an absence of a binding 2050 target, and that the Government still won’t commit to having a national climate action plan before 2017, by which stage we are likely to have exceeded our 2020 targets.


New Biodiversity Strategy for Northern Ireland

The Strategy which is entitled ‘Valuing Nature was published by Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister,  Mark H Durkan. Its overall objective is to halt biodiversity loss up to 2020 by implementing over 50 high level actions. The actions include:

  • restoring 240 hectares of ancient woodland;
  • delivering grassland conservation training to over 500 landowners; and
  • delivering peatland and wetland habitat restoration around the Lough Neagh basin.

The Strategy is downloadable at

Climate Justice Conference: More Activists & Collaboration Needed to Meet the Challenge

“It is not necessary for us to go down this path” –  the words of leading US climate activist, Bill McKibben, founder of when speaking at last week’s climate justice conference in Maynooth. He was referring to our last chance to avoid catastrophic climate change that is already affecting many of the world’s poorest people and which will hit them even harder in the coming decades. Our only hope is to immediately say ‘no’ to fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas and say ‘yes’ to renewables.   Mícheál Callaghan, Liam Murtagh and Chrissie Walker of Transition Monaghan attended the conference along with about 400 other delegates, activists, academics and religious leaders. Mícheál and Liam report on the conference. 


Liam Murtagh & Mícheál Callaghan at the Climate Justice conference in Maynooth

The conference, which was opened by Mary Robinson, was told that the stakes couldn’t be higher for climate action, as emissions continue to rise and the window for meaningful action closes. As well as the scientific imperative, what came across was the moral and spiritual element to tackling the impending climate crisis . Later this year in Paris, world leaders will gather for a particularly important UN Climate Conference in an attempt to reach a legally binding agreement to cut emissions. This is still far from certain, and there are concerns that the agreement will fall far short of what is needed.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC recently stated that emissions will need to be cut by 80% by 2050 and will need to fall to zero shortly after. The UK has a law requiring its emissions be cut in line with climate science, but the Irish Climate Bill currently does not have any emissions targets. Many of the speakers at the Trócaire conference appealed to delegates and to members of the public to demand strong action from our politicians.

One participant at the conference, Phil Kingston of ‘Grandparents For a Safe Earth’ read a ‘letter’ on behalf of future generations – those who do not have a voice at the negotiating table, yet will be most affected by climate change. A particularly poignant line in the poem was ‘until you develop an economy of enough we will not be safe, nor will you.’ It was recognised by Kingston, that the severity of the climate emergency, and the scale of the action required can be frightening and overpowering, such that there is a need to ‘slow down’ and look within ourselves, in an almost meditative manner. (For details about the group see

Father Séan McDonagh, who has written extensively about the links between theology and care for the earth, noted that we also have the challenge of the onset of the sixth extinction phase in the history of the planet, this being the first caused by humans. He stated that biology tells us that we are part of the living world and that we cannot take our image of being a ‘green’ country for granted. He praised the recent papal encyclical, but said that it must be followed up by discussion and action at parish level.

Bill McKibben of who is credited with spearheading the increasingly successful ‘Divestment’ movement, spoke about his work and of the need to change the ‘social license’, so that it is no longer acceptable for governments or companies to invest in new fossil fuel projects. He noted how protests in North America have halted a highly controversial oil pipeline across the continent. Reminding us that last month was the 363rd consecutive month with above average global temperatures, his message was that everyone must do their bit and call for strong action.

The conference ended with a rousing message from Director of Policy at Trócaire, Lorna Gold. She called on everyone to go out and tell the story of climate change and to begin acting in their communities and joining in a number of upcoming national campaigning events. Full recordings and information on the conference can be accessed at A ‘Climate Justice Activists Toolkit’ is  downloadable from


Court Ruling on Climate Issue

The day after the conference, a ruling was handed down in the Netherlands, in the ‘Urgenda case’ which means that the Dutch government must cut their emissions by 25% by 2020. A similar case is underway in Belgium, and this will likely encourage similar action elsewhere.


From Monaghan to Turkey for Insights into Sustainable Living

Jennifer McAree of Transition Monaghan was one those selected by the Tipperary Energy Agency for a green trip to Bursa in Turkey. The trip took place last month. Here Jennifer reports on the background to the project as well as the trip itself, which she describes as a “brilliant experience”.


On a Green Trip to Turkey were: (L-R) Alex Hamilton, Tipperary Energy Agency, Trisha Purcell, Drombane Village Group, Cemal Yagci, Turkish representative and guide, Jennifer Mc Aree, Transition Monaghan and David Phelan, RPS.

This exciting programme gave people involved in sustainable community projects the chance to travel to other countries around Europe to experience first-hand what is being done elsewhere and to share ideas. It was the last of several trips facilitated by the Tipperary Energy Agency and   associations from various nations that came on board for this programme. These were Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Turkey. A group of Belgians driving sustainability in their local region came up with this idea originally. Through receiving funding under the EU’s Grundtvig ‘Lifelong Learning Programme’ they could make it happen.

The strides being made in Belgium and The Netherlands regarding energy are especially impressive. For example in Emmen, Holland, there is growing government support for community-led energy projects, as well as strong buy-in from most local citizens. This has allowed the Dutch group to influence plans for 200m high wind turbines and a solar panel park the size of 32 football fields. It’s hard to imagine this happening in Ireland due to the current energy policies and national grid structure.

Our own Tipperary Energy Agency made us stand tall among the Northern European trailblazers due to its enlightened projects. These include guiding the completion of Ireland’s first community owned wind farm at Templederry, Co. Tipperary and working towards making the Aran Islands energy self-sufficient. (See for details). The Italian representatives also brought some innovative ideas to the table, such as an air pollution monitoring scheme using bees, a ‘green labyrinth’ for encouraging growing local food creatively and the ‘3Little Pigs’ project which teaches people how to build straw bale houses.

Turkey is not the first country that springs to mind concerning green initiatives, but there are great projects being led by particular parties. It also has some beautiful protected natural sites like Uludag Mountain National Park and Cumalikizik Village, a 700 year old preserved Ottoman settlement (and UNESCO heritage site), both of which we visited. We travelled to Saitabat Women’s Solidarity Centre, where a presentation was given by the founding lady. It is a stunning building in the heart of the mountains where local women are employed to prepare locally sourced foods. We were served a delicious meal prepared on site which included honey, breads, cheeses and olives. This successful rural development model has been adopted throughout Turkey and beyond.

At the Bursa Energy Efficiency Association we learned how they have been educating citizens about energy sustainability through targeted programmes like ‘Energy Lady’ and ‘Energy Kids’. There were also examples of prototype pilot projects like a passive ‘Green Restaurant’ and impressive designs for solar farms. Beforehand we toured the Bursa Energy Museum, housed in a huge old textiles factory, but were disappointed that a planned trip to Marmarabirlik Olive Agricultural Sales Co-Op has been cancelled, where they will soon produce energy from olive waste. A nice touch was a stop off to see an inspirational man with cerebral palsy who has developed an idea for a solar powered wheelchair which he can use. His creation will eventually be manufactured in large numbers, for which he will gain some financial profit.

Notably, many of the green projects we saw that were rural based had some unwelcome surprises. The Mountain Park was surprisingly littered and the Ottoman Village held heavy traffic and commercial stalls, despite its fragility. The cities have some beguiling sites, but are huge and sprawling (especially Istanbul) with unbelievable traffic. Turkey is still developing in many ways. We may look up to the Dutch and Belgians of this world in sustainability terms, but on meeting the Italians, Turks and Romanians, they give the impression of admiration for the Irish because of agencies like the Tipperary Energy Agency. Overall, the trip was fantastic and a once in a lifetime opportunity. The culture is rich, the food delicious and most people we encountered were lovely. It was great to meet and discuss ideas with such diverse and knowledgeable people from both here and abroad.



Campaigners show Government have their ‘Heads in the Sand’ on Climate Change

Over 150 people gathered on Sandymount Strand, Dublin on Saturday last to bury their heads in the sand, signifying what the organisers say is the government’s attitude towards climate change. Stop Climate Chaos, the coalition behind the event, says that with just months to go until major global climate talks, the lack of government action on climate change is of serious concern.