Thursday, 7 March 2013

Rhino Horns Stolen For Use In Chinese Medicine

When one thinks of a museum being robbed, the image of the famous ‘Mona Lisa’ being stuffed in a black bag comes to mind by people in dark clothing and covered faces. A high tech and thought out movement that could contain a number of gadgets and weaponry that would not be out of place in a Bond movie. But now for the past year, the museums of Europe have been ravaged by a different sort of robbery. It was one that started many years ago in the plains of Africa and has since, apparently, moved on to the marbled walls and hallways of some of the finest museums in the world. Rhino Horn.

During the past 12 months, museums across Germany and Paris have found themselves targeted as an organised criminal gang use sledge hammers and even at one point, gas, to remove the horns from the mounted heads of the long dead animals.

The gang, believed to be operating out of Dublin, are then selling the stolen, hacked off horns to markets in China and Vietnam for hundreds of thousands of euro for their continued use in traditional Chinese medicine.

The Natural History Museum located on Upper Merrion Street, a short five minute walk from Pearse Street train station is a popular location for tourists, school trips and a simple day out for many. Though not targeted yet as have other museums in England, the staff in the museum had to make the difficult decision to remove 
the rhino horns from one of their most magnificent displays.

Markus Cashen, who works at the museum, says they had been aware of the robberies around the world, 

“There was a museum in England and they tear gassed the place. They didn’t realise the horns were made of fibre glass.”

The museum was quick to fit CCTV cameras around the rhino display and removed the separate rhino horns from the walls so any visitors looking forward to seeing authentic rhino horn will be disappointed that they have had to be hidden from sight.

It is not surprising that the museum took the measure of removing the artefacts as the buildings in France, Germany and Britain have been targeted with gas and even sledge hammers.

Nigel Monaghan, the keeper of the Natural History Museum in Dublin says, “We took the decision to remove the horns to reduce the risk of anybody wishing to target them. Our concern was the endangerment of our visitors and staff.”

The danger was there as Mark Cashen recalls the people who had been noticed paying a little bit too much attention to their rhino.

“More and more strange looking people were loitering with intent in the museum around the rhino horns. We put up the CCTV cameras but people could be seen congregating around the rhino very often and in a suspicious manner so the Gardai looked through our CCTV footage and said, ‘you have to take the horns down.’ “

But why have these rhino horns suddenly been targeted? It is a known fact that rhino horn has been used as a product in Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years, a belief that has caused the wild rhino population to drop to near extinction. Rhino horn can be shaved into a fine powder in countries such as China and Vietnam and when dissolved in boiling water, the ingredient is used to treat ailments such as fever, rheumatism and other disorders. It was even at some point believed to be an aphrodisiac, though this has since been denied.

The recent spate of robberies however, has been born from another theory that rhino horn can now cure cancer, putting the item in rich demand in China, Japan and Vietnam.  However, rhino horn is purely made up of keratin, a substance that can be found to make up our own nails and hair and does not contain any healing properties.

The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine made a statement confirming the ideas of medicinal purposes in rhino horn was rubbish. The president of the organisation, Lixin Huang said, “That there is no traditional use, nor any evidence for the effectiveness of, rhino horn as a cure for cancer.”

The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine in the UK was also quick to issue a statement last September when the thefts began. It strongly condemned the illegal trade in endangered species and has a strict policy prohibiting the use of any type of endangered species by any of its members.

Many wildlife and environmental organisations were thrilled to see the statement made and not only that but the RCHM marked the World Rhino Day on its website which falls every September.

Though it is illegal to sell endangered species for the use in medicine, much of the buying and selling is done in Asian black markets where it is difficult to pinpoint the exact culprit of the crime.

It can be hard to change a long tradition, especially one that’s millions of years old such as traditional Chinese medicine. Not only is this medicine used in Asia but has become increasingly popular across Western countries as alternative medicine. However, this kind of medicine and its effectiveness has not been researched as thoroughly as modern medicine.

A majority of ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine are plants and were not considered endangered. But with the increase in human population and the demand in this medicine growing along with the decline in animal species, more and more animals are starting to rapidly decline in number to a terrifying result of possible extinction. Rhino horns are most commonly known but Saiga antelope horns are also being used and endangering the species. Tigers, leopards, green sea turtles and sea lions are all on the ingredient list as well as some plants such as American ginseng root which are threatened and protected species.

Efforts have been made by countries to prohibit the trade in endangered animals and protected plants. A wildlife treaty, CITES, was signed by more than 160 countries and it prohibits international trade of many animal and plants species.

Despite this, it is obvious trade is still occurring even with old rhino horn stolen from a museum. At the start of the 20th century, there was almost only 200 rhinos left in Africa but due to work put in by reserves and conservationists, this number has reached almost 18,000 in the white rhino species. Whilst much improved from a couple of hundred, the rhinos are still in a vulnerable position.

The Black Rhino is the most endangered breed of the hefty animal and its numbers have been in a scary decline. They number 4,200 throughout Africa today but are still in danger from poachers for their valuable assets.

The threat of poaching has put conservationists in a difficult position. Because of the value of a horn and the price paid for them, whether it is for medicinal use or for jewellery design, the rhinos are often shot dead for even a stub of a horn, leaving the people that have cared for the animals and their survival, heartbroken.

Rhino calves are often left orphans when their mothers are shot, horn hacked off and left for dead by poachers. This leaves reserves to build an orphanage where rhino calves can live in safety but what about when they older and grown their own horns? How can the reserves choose to protect them when it has proved so impossible in the past?

In efforts to protect the rhinos from poachers, rangers have started using rather unorthodox methods to save them. Recently, poison was injected into an old bull rhino’s horn by veterinarians in an effort to dissuade poachers from taking them for medicinal purposes. Though it was declared the poison would not harm the rhino, the tranquiliser used on Spencer the rhino, triggered a suspected heart defect and he never woke up. 

Though not directly responsible, in a way, poachers had claimed another life.
Other reserves have also been removing the horns themselves. Tracking their rhinos, they tranquilize the animal and move in quickly to perform a quick and almost painless procedure. They quickly saw off the horn, leaving only a small stub. They can also tag and place a tracking device on the rhino for monitoring and tracking.

Though it may seem unnatural, the rangers are protecting the rhinos from further harm from poachers and have said that the male rhinos inflict less damage on each other during wild fights as neither has their horns originally used to gore each other in conquest over a female.
Though the poison treatment did not work on Spencer, rangers and conservationists refuse to stop trying to protect their beloved animals.

Lorinda Hern’s family owns the Rhino and Lion reserve in South Africa and is prepared to fight for the rhino’s lives. In a recent interview with GlobalPost, she describes the need to do something.

“We effectively lost three rhinos in one incident,” she said. “We felt a desperate need to do something urgently.”

The distress in all reserves is obvious as it becomes harder to protect the rhinos with the growing demand in rhino horn. With steady breeding programmes in zoos around the world, the breed will never truly go extinct but rhinos in the wild may sadly become a thing of the past unless something major is done to stop the poaching. Even people refusing to buy items of Chinese medicine associated with rhino horn would help.
Mark Cashen remarks sadly as he looks at the hornless rhino in the Natural History Museum, “Even after his death, he’s still under threat.”

Chinese Medicine is useful in terms of natural, fast growing herbs and acupuncture but when it comes to using keratin in horn to cure cancer...well, you might as well chew your fingernails for the good it will do you.

Side Panel

For alternative medicine that is not putting some of the world’s most beautiful animals in danger, acupuncture is effective for many kinds of treatments.

Acupuncture is when non hypodermic, steel needles are swiftly inserted into acupuncture points on the body. There is minimum pain and the sensation is believed to mean that the treatment has begun and ‘energy’ is dispersed throughout the acupuncture point. The needle can be left for only a few minutes or up to half an hour. The traditional acupuncture is along the lines of what the Chinese call ‘qi’ and how it moves. When qi moves throughout the body, helped by the needles in the point, a person can remain healthy. When there is too little or too much of qi, sickness can occur within a body. Acupuncture influences the flow of qi throughout the body and its effect on blood and fluids.

‘Cupping’ is another popular Chinese method. It is essentially cups being placed upon bare skin. The skin inside the cup swells up as air is withdrawn and into the space inside the glass. It is left on the skin for some time and then removed and the skin falls back into its normal place.

There are many different ways of cupping, some the air is heated, others tools are used to withdraw the air. 
It can also be used over acupuncture needles or moved across the skin. It has been used for thousands of years for all kinds of ages. It can be used for diseases, or to cure boils or even encourage bleeding.

Colds and fevers can also benefit in the early stages from cupping as well as bad circulation and emotional stress. It helps the body clear out toxins, move around lymph and repair damages tissue.

Not all of Chinese medicine has a bad name, and referring to methods such as cupping and acupuncture which have registered effect rather than unproved believes such as powdered rhino horn can help show the world what really works...and what really doesn’t.

Life After Sudden Adult Death Syndrome

It was a normal day in the world of GAA, Erin’s Isle of Finglas against O Dwyer’s of Balbriggan. The game was close and the regular spectators were sprinkled around the edges of the lined pitch on the grounds of Erin’s Isle. For a moment, no-body but the goalkeeper noticed when an Isle’s player, Francis Leonard, clutched at his ankle and then his chest before toppling over onto the grass.

Francis Leonard was 29 years old, a recent graduate and homeowner when he died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, 18th November 2006.  But this is not a story about the life of Francis Leonard, a person called before anyone was ready. This is a story of life after Francis and how his father, Greg Leonard, managed to continue on after the devastating loss of his youngest ‘baby’.

Greg is now a key member in offering consolation to those family and friends affected by Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, a sometimes genetic syndrome that simply cause the heart to stop beating. Greg was contacted by the founder of the organisation C.R.Y shortly after Francis passed.

“About a week after Francis died, he died November 18th, we got a letter from Marie and she explained to us who she was and what she did with C.R.Y,” says Greg.

Marie Green and her husband found the organisation C.R.Y (Cardiac Risk in the Young) when their own son died of the syndrome in 1996. Since then C.R.Y has been used to raise awareness about the syndrome that is being explained for more and more unexpected deaths (2 per week) and raising funds to help the charity reach out to those in need.

C.R.Y helped Greg and his own family and it gave them the relief to know ‘they were not alone.’ For Greg being able to find out more about what had claimed his sons’ life was soothing in itself and immediately immersed himself in learning more and dealing with his own grief.

‘”Marie,” Greg says, fondness and gratitude evident in his voice, “is the best person you could ever meet when bereaved.”

And now, people may be echoing the same words about Greg, who now works hard to raise the awareness of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome and fundraise. He also reaches out to those who have been recently bereaved as Marie once reached out to him and though he does not counsel them, he lets people know they do not need to be alone, that there are people who understand and are willing to talk.

On 26 of January 2007, Greg and his wife Elsa pulled in beside the road on a return trip from Liffey Valley Shopping Centre and talked about their loss and their survival on the Joe Duffy Liveline Radio show.

“I told the kids,” smiled Greg, “and they said ‘Da, I hope you didn’t sing the Happy Song. And of course I had.”

‘The Happy Song’, Greg explains, was a song Fran used to sing whenever he was sad or feeling a little stressed. It echoes the loving, caring nature that was Fran which is obvious he inherited from his father as he begins to sing the rendition. It is easy to see the strength in the father’s character and how he knows when he sings the song, he feels his son with him.

The Leonards also appeared on TV3 and RTE to raise awareness and encourage young athletes and those participating regularly in contact sports to get screened. The Leonard family happened to be the first family to become screened after Fran’s death.

“The screening hadn’t even opened; they were working out of Tallaght Hospital at nighttime after hours. We were there at half four and didn’t get out till half nine.”

Since the Leonards were screened, a special clinic has been opened up in Tallaght Hospital and Greg has actively participated in encouraging people to go.

“We got great support from everybody, especially the GAA, the county board,” says Greg. “On my request the County Board put a form on the back of the match programmes. They put it for nothing.”

The small easy to fill out form appeared on the programme of one of the biggest Dublin matches of the year, seeing Croke Park fill 70,000 seats. How many people noticed the form, filled it out and perhaps got shocking news that saved their lives, who can tell? But for Greg, knowing that someone out there was most likely saved from the same faith as Francis through his own actions it is a good feeling to live with.

Greg appears both sad and happy when he mentions a fact that has probably comforted and tortured him on several occasions over the last five years.

“I was the last person to see Francis alive in the family,” he states matter of factly. “It was a Thursday night and he’d missed training. We [Elsa and Greg] were going to London the next day for my brother’s surprise birthday party, his 70th birthday. We were flying back on the Sunday and everyone was going to be here. We were going to get an Indian Takeaway. I’d made out my list; Francis had other ideas to amend the order.”

Again the strength of Greg’s character shines through as Francis is remember and lives on through conversation. His death is not hidden but merely a statement. Sadness is hidden behind the Leonard’s obvious pride and devotion to their son. Love and tenderness is shown in the precious Indian Takeaway menu that lies on the table, Francis’s post-it with his menu preferences still stuck on. It is something that will never be shared with strangers; it’s a small token of remembrance and comfort for the Leonard family.

Greg is known in GAA circles around Dublin, something that has greatly helped with funding and raising awareness for C.R.Y. The GAA always there to help, matches are held every year between Isle’s and O’Dwyers in memory of the tragic unfinished game of November 18th.

Francis Lawlor, former Juvenile Chairman of Erin’s Isle G.A.A, greatly admires Greg for not only his work but for his faith and his devotion that has never been extinguished.

“The only thing I could say about Greg,” says Fran “is that he’s a real hero. Not in what he’s done for C.R.Y but for how he’s turned something that’s tragic into something that’s good and something to be happy about.”

The same can be said for Elsa Leonard, who when asked previously where Fran is replied cheerily, “Oh, my Fran’s in heaven!”

Religion is a strong factor in the family and it certainly helped when dealing with Fran’s death. Masses have been set up by Elsa and Greg for families grieving a sudden death whether it is from a car accident to suicide.  And on the day of Fran’s funeral, a letter was read out composed by his family. It was thought to be the words of Francis, speaking to his friends and family as they grieved for him.

“I’m sorry for giving you all a fright last Saturday but when I was called, I had no choice...thank you for trying to rescue me.”

The letter again speaks of the nature of Greg and his family. At a time when they were grieving, they all found a way to bring comfort to each other and everyone who knew their son, brother and partner in something as small, as giving Francis a voice when he could no longer be heard by everyone.

Greg goes out of his way to help families like his on a regular basis. He tries to encourage all families, especially those with young members to be screened for the Brugada Syndrome, a genetic syndrome Francis and those of his family had. It’s a syndrome that causes the electrical charges in your brain that control the beat of your heart stops, resulting in your heart failing to beat. The victim has 12 seconds until they die a timeframe that more often than not proves fatal. Greg has raised awareness of this particular syndrome through C.R.Y, to allow those with the gene to take care in their life and avoid activities that could trigger it and therefore save their lives. Fundraisers have been set up, some concerts led by Mary Black, the Irish singer.

Through the light-heartedness of Greg’s personality and the easy way Francis is mentioned in conversation, a listener can almost forget the devastating and tragic loss the older man has suffered. But then when asked how he feels about his activities in C.R.Y and helping others, Greg allows a moment of sadness and shadow cross his face as his eyes drift to the pictures of all his sons on the wall.

“It’s therapy for me,” he replies distantly, “that’s all I can really say; it’s just gives me something to do. I can still feel the last hug he gave me.”

Even with all the busy, hard word, the loss will never be truly be forgotten but Greg’s work will continue on in the hopes of worldwide awareness and screening so less families have to go through the trauma of losing one so young, so suddenly.

The time to be happy is now
And the place to be happy
Is here
And the way to be happy is
To make others happy
And to have a little heaven
Down here.
{In memory of Francis Leonard}

Restaurant Review:Milanos on East Essex Street

When it comes to places to eat, Dublin City never fails to conjure a magnificent feast with its wide selection of restaurants, whether they are chains or small family run businesses. And when it comes to selecting a fine place to eat, Milano’s, situated in East Essex Street, does not disappoint.

Providing a warm and friendly shelter to the cold and rainy weather outside, Milano’s is the perfect excuse to shrug off that winter jacket and forget about the elements on the other side of the door. Immediately you are welcomed by staff in the trademark blue t-shirts and invited to choose your seat if there are a selection available. I immediately swerved to the tables between the window and the counter-top where I could see the pizzas being made by expert hands.

Milano’s had quick service. Our waitress seemed to know exactly when to arrive at the table for the order and a portion of deliciously made garlic bread awakened my appetite for the main course to come.

My ‘Pollo al Alstra’ pizza arrived not too long after the garlic bread disappeared and proved to be as tasty as it looked. A combination of the traditional tomato and cheese topping, along with chicken, red onion and peppers on a classic base was appetising and surprisingly filling. However, a pizza cutter would have proved more useful than a knife and maybe 
should have been offered to make the eating process that little bit easier.

For an icy Tuesday evening, Milano’s was a surprisingly popular choice for all those Christmas shoppers and it wasn’t long before halfway through the meal, I looked up to find the restaurant full of either hungry or fulfilled customers.
It took longer than it had at first for our waitress to realise the meal was finished but perhaps this can be overlooked as the restaurant was filling up fast and there was still a queue of people forming by the door. Evidently, Milano’s is a place where a return trip is always necessary.

And then I was happy to have arrived at my favourite course and one that no matter how much I have eaten, I will always have room for- dessert! Having already studied the menu at the start of the evening, my dessert choice was already formed in my head and the ‘Snowball Dough ball’ platter was ordered. Our waitress pleasantly surprised myself and my dinner companion to ‘a gift’. A coupon with a flap to open like a present- each rewarding the receiver with a free starter on the next trip to Milano’s. It appears Milano’s has started the gift giving early this year.

The highlight of the evening was definitely the ‘Snowball Dough Ball’ platter. A small heap of dough balls dusted with sweet smelling cinnamon and a vanilla dipping cream in the middle. I could see newcomers on the next table eyeing the platter with envy and excitement, and we tucked in, not bothering to exclaim our delight at how ‘Christmas’ tasting the platter was. For indeed, if Christmas could be transformed into a dessert, the ‘Snowball Dough balls’ would most definitely be it.

For the most part, a bad word could not be said about my trip to Milano’s. It proved warm and festive with excellent food and staff and I would urge everybody to give it a visit before Christmas, and experience the same festive delights as I.

'Scaredy Cats Looking After Your Pets on Halloween

Halloween is an exciting occasion for all and has become a bigger and bolder event in Ireland in recent years. The days of fearing ‘All Hallows Eve’ when the ghosts of the past came out to play are dead and buried. But for a small majority of Ireland’s population the upcoming festivity is not a time to celebrate but rather shut their door to the suddenly loud, raucous world and to crave for peace and quiet. These are the pet owners, the people who, year after year, watch a beloved member of their family tear around the house in terror, cry out in fright and become inconsolable, even to those they are most loyal. For many, Halloween is indeed a nightmarish occasion but for all the wrong reasons.
Several homeowners will nod their heads in agreement to the fact that as soon as the first ‘banger’ goes up into the sky, normally up to two weeks before 31st October, the family dog will begin to bark, may start to run around the house and in more tragic cases, escape from the back garden and go missing at the most dangerous time of year for pets. A cat will tend to climb the nearest tree and can remain safely in the branches until it feels secure to come down but a dog can run around in a mindless frenzy for hours, and could hurt itself or worse, others in its fright.

Mark Coulter, MVD, resident vet of Hillcrest Veterinary Surgery in Clonsilla says “I have pet owners who come to me asking for remedies to help their pet deal with Halloween but most often they come in the day before Halloween and that’s just too late for any kind of solution. Pet owners should be coming in at the start of the month, and then I can administer effective treatments that will be taken into effect by Halloween.”

Mark tends to steer clear of the use of sedatives for pets, in particular dogs, in contrast to several years ago when sedatives were most often used, “It tends to aggravate the problem as the pet is still able to hear the noise of the fireworks going off but is unable to get away from that noise.” It is only in severe cases that a sedative will still be used.

Ciaran Cochrane, a dog owner, knows very well how sedatives can work to calm a frenzied dog at Halloween.  “Ben went wild as soon as Halloween came around. He was not himself and the sedatives the vet gave us stopped working after two years and the problem became progressively worse.”

Ben, the dog in question, was bought as a family pet and was much loved. But from the time he was a puppy, Halloween sparked something inside of him that appeared incurable.

“He would begin to pant and would never sit still,” says Ciaran. “As he got older he started to destroy the garden as soon as bangers began to go off, he would bite the fence and end up hurting himself. He would run off and come back several hours later with blood and cuts all over his face. When we brought him inside he would begin to chew and scrape at the doors and chairs. It was as if he were trying to dig himself away from the sounds. It was horrible.’

Ciaran never resorted to any of the behavioural approaches vets now use to tackle the problem of pet behaviour around the time of Halloween. Natural extracts are used several weeks prior to Halloween, ‘Calm Aid’, being one in particular that Mark Coulter uses.

“It gives a sedative effect without being one and used over a matter of weeks gradually makes the dog become calm and relaxed.”

A new hit with pet owners battling behavioural problems arising in homes, is the ‘DAP’ or the Dog appeasing pheromone which can be used for cats, dogs or any large household pet .Plugged into a wall, safely and easily, pheromones are sent out and around the household that reach the dog or pet in question, relaxing them in a natural, normal way.

Though Ben is now passed away and there is no new dog or pet in Ciarans home, he welcomes the new knowledge of these behavioural tools in particular the ‘Scary Sounds CD’ which is a CD played over a couple of months in a home, playing loud noises that would be scary for a pet to hear and allows them to understand the noises are in fact, not scary at all. Mark assures me that it has been a success in research carried out across England where he previously worked and he hopes it will become more popular in Ireland over the coming years.

Dogs Trust, a well known homeless dog shelter, in England and Ireland has a number of useful tips on their website when it comes to looking after your animals this Halloween.

“Provide a quiet and cosy familiar place in the house for your pet to retreat to so he is less likely to be exposed to children in costume. Provide him with chew toys, his favourite blanket or a comfort item.”

“Think twice about taking your pet on a trick or treat outing, as the extra excitement around the event or added attention from strangers he may not recognise may make cause distress.  Also other dogs may not be too welcoming of another dog on their territory.”

Mark adds to these tips with one he considers most important, “if you are near a road, make sure your pet, dogs in particular, do not have access to it. One of the most common occurrences every year is frightened dogs escaping, running out onto roads and getting hit by a car.”

So as the fireworks light up the sky and ‘Fido’ begins to whimper remember that at the end of the day, a dog or cat does not understand the noise means no danger. In today’s world there are many alternative and behavioural solutions to these problems rather than strong sedatives and in using these methods, your dog may benefit in other behavioural scenarios as well. Vets are always around to help with an issue and look towards the tips they give you to give ‘Spike’ a care free October as any pet deserves

The Truth About Organic Food

When one hears the term ‘organic’, several different words pop to mind. Some of these would be ‘healthier,’ ‘fresher’ or maybe even ‘environmentally friendly’. Once the decision to turn to organic has been made and the trip to the shops has been completed, another word springs into your head, ‘expensive’.

It is not a big secret between regular shoppers and food lovers that generally, the food that has proven to be better for spirit, body and mind is several euros more expensive than the less healthy alternative. But what is organic food? And is it really as healthy as the package says?

According to the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA), organic food is food that has been grown in a farming eco-system that is committed to working alongside nature rather than against it with the use of pesticides or unnatural growth hormones such as GM (genetically modified) crops.

All organic farming avoids the use of all kinds of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and not only that, maintains the adequate habitats for all plants, animals and other kinds of wildlife in Ireland.

By buying organically, a consumer has knowledge that the food they have chosen to eat has been grown or brought up in a healthy and free-range environment. It has also been produced with no foreign chemicals pumped inside its fruit to make it juicer, fatter or more attractive to the buyer. The food you are choosing to eat is 100 per cent natural.

Some studies have even been able to prove that organic food contains more nutrients than non-organic and all the better for our bodies. There are also several ingredients in organic food that could be reduced in non-organic that have better cancer fighting properties such as ascorbic acid and B vitamins. So by choosing to spend that little bit more in the shops, you could be helping your body stave off one of the deadliest disease known today.

If you are pregnant or the parent/ guardian of young children, organic may also be the best way to go when it comes to loading your shopping trolley as children and unborn foetuses are more vulnerable to pesticide exposure found in non-organic produce. This is because of their relatively young and less developed immune system and pesticide exposure could result in behavioural disorders and other development delays as the child grows older.

Because organic farms do not use chemicals or pesticides, their soil and waterways are clear, clean and fresh. This works wonders for the Irish wildlife around the area and the eco-system works the way it should without the intrusion of foreign bodies.

So perhaps the difference in price may slow you down in making up your mind to make the leap from non organic to organic but when the results and benefits are weighed up against the possible outcomes of eating non-organic, not only is it good for the environment to turn to the healthier way of life but it could even make your own life longer as well.

'Still In Love With You' Phil Lynott Exhibition

Walking through the streets of Dublin on any given day from the start of March to the early summer months of 2011, a certain face can be seen peering from the walls and buildings of the city. His afro hair was his trademark, his skin is dark against the white of the paper posters and his body is clad in the unmistakable classic rock garb. And any Irish person should be shamefaced to admit if they did not recognise, the man, the legend...Phil Lynott.

Originally born in Birmingham, England to an Irish mother in 1949, Phil Lynnott moved to Dublin permanently at the age of four with his grandmother where he would stay for the rest of his childhood.

In 1969, Thin Lizzy was formed between Phil, Brian Downey, Eric Bell and Eric Whixton. Thin Lizzy are better known for their cover of Irish hit, ‘Whiskey in the Jar,’ and their own hit song, ‘The Boys are Back in Town.’
Phil married in 1980, leading to the birth of two children, one inspiring the song ‘Sarah.’ He went solo in 1980 also but his solo career was short-lived, not circulating the same success as Thin Lizzy did. In 1983, the successful rock group disbanded, leaving Phillip time to write several poetry books that were published in 1974 and ’77.
Unfortunately, the rock icon spent his last years alive in turmoil of drug and alcohol addiction. He finally collapsed at his home on Christmas Day in 1985 and when he was driven to a drug clinic, diagnosed with septicaemia. He died on 4th January 1686 at 36 years of age.

Despite his tragic death at such a young age, and the breakup of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynotts legacy has lived on through the years. In 1997, his two poetry books came together in a single edition and then in 2005, a life sized statue of the legend himself was unveiled on Harry Street, Dublin where it still stands today, regularly visited by tourists and fans alike.

The ‘Phil Lynott exhibition’ was opened in Dublin in March 2011. After six weeks of searching, the location was finally decided upon by the team- the top floor of St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, where a large collection of his work both solo and with Thin Lizzy is displayed for all to see. The exhibition follows the path of Phil’s life in memorabilia, gradually going from light to darkness to indicate the struggles he coped with before his premature death in 1986. It is both haunting and beautiful.

Immediately as you enter the exhibition room, you are blasted with a beautiful lit up ‘Thin Lizzy’ model. From the stereos within the black clothed walls, the voice of Phil Lynott as ‘The Phil Lynott Band’ and ‘Thin Lizzy’ float out to act as background music to the tour of Phil’s life. It is almost haunting as it feels his spirit is within the room along with the childhood photographs, the letters and postcards to his mother and friends and even the old bicycle he used to ride when he was boy which is hanging from the ceiling.

The exhibition is laid out in a well lit area at first, and widely spaced, well able to accommodate any school tours or large tourist groups. The walls of one aisle are covered with the various ‘Hot Press’ covers Phil appeared upon, only just touching upon his emphasis on the Irish music scene as a firm favourite with the prestigious music magazine.

Phil’s life can be seen in the ‘Family Tree’, depicting his time with Thin Lizzy and his other bands and projects before, within and after the years in the famous rock group. Posters tell about the years of Thin Lizzy’s success to their final concert and then to the sad night in 1986 that announced the death of the rock legend.

As the exhibition moves to the darker areas of the room, records, guitars and clothing are all available to be seen. It is a rare and rather moving trip for long term fans of the rock legend and one that they may not experience again.

Despite his tragic and premature end, the success of the exhibition which has been extended to run till May, proves that the fame and glory of Ireland’s ‘rocker’ has not yet lay down in the grave with him. His legend lives on as his fans and Ireland prove that we are still in love with him.

Interview Assignment: Marie Finnegan Dec 2010

Sitting down in her favourite armchair, knitting needles and a ball of wool stationed at the table by her feet, Marie Finnegan (75) is quite comfortable with her Thursday evening’s plan. Upstairs, her husband can be heard doing a bit of DIY work. The elderly couple live alone, all their children have fled the nest, and had children of their own but they are settled and happy.

Marie never strayed too far from home, being born in a small cottage on Brunswick Street. Their home was cottage no.2, and maybe a little remarkably, Marie’s home now is also a No.2. She was born in August 1934 and is the third eldest of six children, five that are still living. They were a rather close family from the start, ranging from George (Georgie), Alice, Marie, Patrick, Phildelus (Dalo) and Colette. Her youngest brother and sister were born in August of 1945, but tragically, they didn’t stay on this earth very long, which may not have been uncommon for small children at that time. Augustan Brown died first of TB, when he was a mere baby, and even more sadly, Marie’s mother Jane Brown (previously Dunne) also died, leaving her husband Patrick (Paddy) Brown, a widower with seven children to look after. Little Rita Brown only lived less than thirteen months before death also claimed her in the form of meningitis.

“It must have been a sad year for my father. I was only six or seven at the time, but he had to bury his father that year, as well as my mother and the twins.”

The death of Jane and Augustan of TB would not have been rare at this time in Ireland, and theirs were certainly not the only lives claimed by the horrible disease that seemed to ravage though the country of Ireland. It is a memory that remains clear in Marie’s mind however, despite being young.

“I remember the little white coffin that held Augustan on the back of the taxi, it used to be called.”

The Brown family were certainly very close when Marie was growing up and they remained so all their lives, and maybe the deaths of their loved ones brought them even closer. Their mother had been brought up a Catholic in a large family of six and very surprisingly, Paddy Brown was a Protestant, with a smaller family of three. Despite the prejudice religious beliefs at the time, Paddy and Jane married. It is something special, that though their families disowned them of sorts, they stayed together.
Jane’s sister Esther was the one relative that stayed in touch after Jane’s death and Marie remembers her fondly.

“She married a Cunningham in Clonsilla, she was so beautiful and small.”

Marie was born in the wartime, when the Second World War was tearing apart most of Europe. She recalls the ration books, and gas masks. Everything used to be rationed- from clothes to food. She also remembers very vividly the bombing of Sandymount.

“We could see the flames from it from where we were!”

Marie left school at the age of 14, and immediately began to work in a sewing factory in Cecelia House off Dame Street. She cycled into work every day, because back then, “everyone cycled.” She would cycle home for lunch and then cycle back into Dame Street for another few hours of work. The bikes would be lined up outside the factory and they would never be stolen, very unlike if teh same thing was done today.
She remembers the factory clearly as it was also used by the College of Surgeons for dissecting bodies.
“It was really creepy!”

And of course, every night was the time for dancing! Every evening there would be a dance held somewhere and the lists went on and on- The Crystal Ballroom, Four Peas and the Kings Way on Friday evenings. If you had a date you would dance.
Marie also remembers fondly the Theatre Royal  where you went for a variety show and a singsong, all for one shilling and six pence which would add up to about five and a half cent now!

Marie was only 20 when her father passed away from lung cancer, and she was left to rear her younger brother and sister- Dalo and Colette. Patrick and Alice were also still at home and Georgie married six weeks after Paddy Brown’s death. He had still wanted it to go on despite knowing he would die before it would happen. The cancer would claim him. He had been a smoker which had resulted in the lung cancer but he had never once touched alcohol in his life.
“He never touched alcohol because his father before him drank,” says Marie

Though all the Brown siblings were extremely close, one stands out in the affection Marie speaks of him; Patrick Brown. He was certainly an extraordinary man who believed in changing his lifestyle every five years.
“He tried everything from cooking to writing!”
At one point he moved from a very posh and well furnished home in North Hampstead to a small country village in Wales where he bought an old railway station of all things, and turned it into craft units. He was even a close personal friend of Laura Ashley herself.
Patrick was also a member of the environmental organisation of Greenpeace, and protested on the Greenpeace boats against the nuclear power factory Sellafield of the coast of England. This, Marie feels, was a close connection with his death at the age of 60 from stomach cancer. Never having smoked or drank in his long, eventful life, many of his family believe he must have inhaled some nuclear air when he was protesting. He died in the Caribbean country of Grenada, yet another not so ordinary place- it must have been another lifestyle change.

His death was rather sudden, Marie feels, and his illness tragic when he, of all her brothers and sisters, had led the healthiest life. But he was certainly loved and he had not wasted one minute.

“Dalo did all the drinking and smoking to make up for the rest of the family. He used to say you couldn’t sit at our table if you weren’t good –looking.”

Like many of her generation, Marie married young. She met Michael Finnegan at a dance in the St Mochtas School House in Clonsilla. He fell ‘flat on his face.’ Marie remembers how the girls and boys had to stay on either side of the room.
“The priests used to walk between us with their sticks, and they would never let us slow dance together.”

Marie wasn’t a complete angel of course; she was already courting another unfortunate lad when Michael caught her eye. In fact she was courting two others! But obviously Michael had something the others didn’t, and so...he managed to woo her.
“Ships in the night! Never settle with the wrong person!”
She married at the age of 24, and by 26 had become a mother to Lesley. Audrey followed two years later, and then Marie and Michael completed their family with Colette. Their perfect little family grew up in Cabra, and they lived their almost 23 years before moving into a slightly bigger home in Castleknock, where they have since stayed.
Marie did not stay at home like most mothers, and though she looked after her girls, she also worked in St Claire’s Home for the Elderly, on Glasnevin Road for 27 years as a seamstress. She was always handing with the sewing machine, an ability that still comes in handy to this day. It’s rarely a day that Marie is seen without her trademark knitting needles, making something for one of her beloved grandchildren.

She retired at the age of 66, and is now a ‘full time granny.’ And she is most certainly the best one. It’s clear she has lived her life to the full and has three children, and six grandchildren to show for it. There is no doubt that Marie is loved and will forever have her family around her.