Eyes on Boora Opening: September 22nd 2017 15.30, Lough Boora Discovery Park Visitor Centre, Boora, County Offaly.Read More
On a wintry weekend in January, I returned to my favourite city to check out PhotoWerk Berlin and take part in a workshop with Boris Eldagsen.
Berlin is nothing short of splendid in the snow, here are some of the images I created while I was there.
Irish rugby fans have spent the last 24 hours celebrating their team's first win over the All Blacks in 111 years.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen heaped praise on the Irish side after the game, saying the players deserved the 40-29 win.
And now Ireland will be hoping to replicate the result and the occasion in Dublin in a fortnight.
Aisling O' Rourke on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report:
It’s a sad fact that in recent months we’ve been inundated with reports of terrorist incidents across Europe and further afield. Many of these attacks have occurred in seemingly incident places, a beach promenade, a McDonald's restaurant and on public transport. Closer to home we’ve even had articles, in some media outlets, suggesting women are no longer safe to walk the streets of the capital, because of a fear of harassment.
For any child of the 80’s and 90’s most of us remember being schooled in the Stay Safe programme, most of us remember the heavily emphasised section on crossing the road. But I think it’s fair to say most of us will have forgotten the other useful pieces of practical advice on how to stay safe. Let’s be frank, none of us studied that text book all that closely.
In the aftermath of the Munich attack last month one victim’s husband told reporters that his wife had phoned him from inside the restaurant to let him know what was going on. He claims to have told her to confront the attacker. His advice seemed bizarre, but who knows what any of us would do, if faced with a similar situation?
So what can or should we be doing to make us safer on the streets. It’s not about fear mongering or making people paranoid, when they walk around every corner, it’s about practical measures we can take, to give us more control in any situation.
Sergeant Brian Whelan of the Garda Press Office says there are a number of simple things we can do to protect ourselves. Key amongst those is to be aware of your surroundings. In other words be mindful when out and about, don’t walk directly into dangerous situations. For instance you wouldn’t walk directly into oncoming traffic, so if you see a fight up ahead, or even just someone who immediately makes you feel uncomfortable, cross the street, alter your route.
Security and Defence Analyst Declan Power says it’s important to develop situational awareness. He says it’s equally important when both out and about, and if you’re unlucky enough to be caught up in a serious incident, terrorist or otherwise. Power says it’s important to sharpen our senses and to trust your gut. He says we tend to turn off our gut reaction to dangers, because we’ve been privileged enough to always have been safe. We tend he says, to believe that we’re just being paranoid, and to ignore mechanisms built into our bodies to let us know something’s not quite right about the situation we’re in. He says if your gut tells you something’s wrong, trust in it and step back from the situation.
Sgt. Whelan says one common thread in many minor incidents is that the victim is on the phone. He says being on a mobile, taking a call on scrolling social media makes us more vulnerable to theft or attack. Being glued to the phone, also prevents us from being aware of our surroundings. His advice is to put the phone away, take notice of who and what’s going on around you.
If the worst does happen and you are confronted Power says we should never be afraid or embarrassed to shout for help, if nothing else it will distract the attacker.
But what if we come across a more serious scenario, a shop is being robbed or worse still a terrorist incident. Gardaí and Power both advise to find a place of safety, get down and become acutely aware of what is happening around you.
Power says firstly you need to find out if it is a simple robbery or something more serious. “Do an estimate of the situation, if you’re going to run, take a moment to ensure you’re running away from danger and not into it.” He says if we “keep our minds in gear” we’re less likely to panic.
In the case of a terrorist incident Sgt. Whelan says it’s not a time for heroics. He says stay down, find a place to hide, and then take the first opportunity to get you and your loved ones to safety. Power says if you do hear shots, get down, take cover. In the case of a robbery he says we should stay calm and hand over the money, and get away as quickly as we can.
Both men advise against confronting the robber or attacker. Power says even a trained professional will think twice about taking on an attacker, because you really have very little control over the situation.
Sgt. Whelan says; “Overall our streets are very safe and people have a right to walk down any street feel comfortable and not fearful of an unpleasant encounter, however people must be aware of their surroundings and cognisant of personal safety.”
Overall our streets are very safe and people have a right to walk down any street feel comfortable and not fearful of an unpleasant encounter, however people must be aware of their surroundings and cognisant of personal safety. I would also advise you to have a look at the Garda website
In a country scarred by the MERS virus, talk in South Korea is not about the success of their athletes at the competition but instead what measures they can take to prevent a virus that will devastate infant’s lives.
With its birth rate declining over recent years, the protection of family and its continuation, is vitally important in South Korea. According to a report by the Macquarie Securities Group, the proportion of people aged 40 years old and younger plummeted to 48.1% in 2015 compared to 69.4% in 1995. It’s predicted that by 2045, if the situation doesn’t change, South Korea will have the oldest population in the world. Hence South Korea has become the first country to ‘Zika proof’ their uniforms ahead of the Olympic games this August.
At this point you most likely will have heard of Zika. It’s a mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to birth defects amongst babies and it’s believed t can be transmitted sexually. According to the World Health Organisation for most people the symptoms of Zika are rather mild, with patients suffering a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain. Most sufferers get over the illness in less than seven days.
However for pregnant women it’s an entirely different matter. Most notably Zika can cause microcephaly amongst newborns. This is a condition where the infant’s brain doesn’t develop normally and as a result the child is born with an abnormally small head.
It’s for this reason that the Olympic Committee of South Korea is taking extraordinary measures to protect its athletes, who will travel to Brazil this summer, a country with a significantly high proportion of Zika cases (Over 91,000 cases to date).
As of the 15th of June last, 60 countries have reported cases of Zika.Twelve of these babies have been born with birth defects linked to Zika. However the World Health Organization says there's a "very low risk" of the Zika virus spreading further across the world as a result of the Rio Olympics and Paralympics.
The agency's emergency committee says that's largely because the Games will be held in the Brazilian winter. Even so the unique thing about the particular mosquito that spreads the virus, is that it is active during daytime hours. So while it won’t be as active, it will be out and about, while the athletes are competing.
As a result South Korea has found a way to alter the fabric in their team uniforms in order to give the athletes the best protection against mosquito bites. For starters the outfits that they’ll wear in the Olympic Village and at ceremonies have long sleeves and pants. The fabric itself is also infused with mosquito repellent.
The idea isn’t a new one, it’s just that in recent years efforts to create so called ‘Smart Clothing’ have focused primarily on, making fabric breathable, watches and fitness trackers. A Seattle based company sells clothing along a similar vein, although instead of repelling mosquitos the Solumbra hats and hoodies repel UV rays emitted by the sun.
Over ten years ago Taiwan announced its clothing manufacturers were focusing on ‘functional fabric technology’. The South China Morning Post, says Anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, negative ion and far-infrared are all examples of functional textiles developed in the island nation with health in mind. It’s embedded with a low-toxic of insect repellent, so that it doesn’t irritate the wearer’s skin.
In addition to all of this South Korean athletes will also be issued with mosquito repellent spray. And their Olympic committee has paid a visit to Rio De Janeiro specifically, to ensure the measures being put in place in advance of the games are adequate.
However despite their best efforts the authorities have been unable to alter the uniforms the athletes will wear while they’re actually competing. It’s said to be down to a lack of time to develop them since the Zika outbreak and of course the inability to test whether or not they’ll affect athletes’ performance.
South Korea has yet to reveal exactly how it’s embedded the mosquito repellent into the uniforms, or offered to share the knowledge with other equally concerned competing nations. In fact it seems to be the only country going to these lengths to prevent their teams picking up Zika while in Brazil this summer.
Team Ireland’s been advised to return home immediately after competing this August and not to hang around for the festivities. While athletes and visitors alike are being advised against having unprotected sex for up to six months after their return for any region that has registered cases of Zika.
It should be noted anyone returning from a Zika infected region and who develops symptoms of Zika, must contact their medical practitioner and have the case registered with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Computer games often bear the brunt of negative media coverage, particularly when it comes to violent shoot ‘em ups. Now concerns are being raised about their addictive nature, and the impact they can have in particular on people who live with autism.
It's reported that some companies are hiring in staff from gambling companies to encourage gamers to spend more time playing.
It's estimated globally that every year up to six children out of every 1,000 will be diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder.
Professor Tony Attwood is a clinical psychologist who specialises in ASD, he spoke at the recent Sensational Kids conference in Dublin. He says computer games pose particular problems for people on the spectrum: "In autism, the biggest challenge is social communication. But what concerns me is that the current gaming industry is actually recruiting people in the gambling industry to make the games addictive."
"And if you've got someone who’s not keen on socialising, or not very good at it, then the temptation to be in those games is almost irresistible."
It comes down to a unique characteristic of ASD and ADHD (also known as Attention Deficit Disorder) and that’s - Areas of Interest. Children with these conditions are known to develop deep and committed interests in particular topics. So much so, that when a child is being assessed by medics, parents are often asked if their youngster obsesses over dinosaurs for example.
It’s something that support groups try to help those on the spectrum and their families to understand. Adam Harris, younger brother of Fine Gael TD Simon, has Aspergers Syndrome. He founded AsIam.ie an organisation “working to build an Ireland where every person with Autism can live and succeed as they are”.
For Adam his area of interest as a youngster was history: “As an 11 year old it was a challenge as not many 11 year olds are interested in history”. But Adam says “it did help me do very well in my leaving cert.” For a growing number of others though it’s gaming.
Campaigners in the sector are quick to point out the positives computer games can provide. Stephen Howell is Engagement Manager for Microsoft Ireland. Stephen has two children with ASD and ADHD Samuel (8) and Jack (12). An avid gamer he says he’s seen first hand the benefits gaming provides for his boys: “It’s opened up social avenues for them that would have otherwise been closed off.”
Stephen says for his boys it’s allowed them develop a bond with each other and their two sisters Charis and Molly, that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. “Samuel will obsess to a deep level about every little detail of a game, he looks up to his big brother and he’ll ask him questions about a particular game to find out more.” That might sound very simple, but in the Howell household, it’s significant. “Jack will respond and engage with Samuel because of their mutual interest in gaming, questions outside of it will generally get a point blank no from Jack, but he can’t help chatting about games.”
While Adam says games provide more of a structure for people with autism to engage with others:
“A lot of people with autism find it difficult to just, hang out, because there’s no structure, there’s a lot of grey area. Where as a special interest in games gives some with the condition a means to socialise.” Adam says this structure can help remove the social anxiety, which often causes huge problems for those with ASD.
However these areas of interest, computer games included, can cause problems in their own right. Adam says it can sometimes become a barrier, “people can find it difficult to understand” why the person can only talk about this one topic. In some cases people with ASD and ADHD find it difficult to focus on anything else, in extreme cases personal hygiene and diet can suffer as a direct result.
Both Stephen and Adam agree, parents have a significant role to play in ensuring, that if computer games are something your child with autism is particularly interested in, the games they play are suitable.
Stephen says at this point in time you can’t medically be addicted to gaming, but there are still some things to keep an eye out for. He says parents should treat games as they would movies or tv shows:
“Make sure they’re suitable for your child’s mental age, look at the age rating on the box.” He says you don’t have to understand the ins and outs of gaming to know whether or not your youngster is able for it, “You wouldn’t allow a five year old play a shoot em up game for example.” In his house Stephen and his wife Aileen (also a gamer) have set up parental controls on their children’s devices, so they get daily logs of their activity and copies of any dialogue between them and other gamers online.
Adam says video games unlike some areas of special interest provide a “common interest” so he says they can be particularly helpful in allowing person with autism to socialise. And his says it can open up career opportunities, especially here in Ireland in the tech sector.
However Adam says he’d like to see large gaming companies engage more with those working in the Autism area. “We know that computer games can be addictive, so we should be working to ensure it doesn’t become dangerous.” He says corporations have an “ethical obligation to show appropriate care to their clients” and that any evidence that suggests it’s becoming a significant problem should be addressed.
Collaboration appears to be key here in order to prevent gaming becoming a serious issue for the autism community, but also to allow those on the spectrum exploit the positives games provide.
Anyone with concerns about your child’s use of gaming or computers is advised to contact your manufacturers helpdesk and follow their family or parental control protocols. Further support can be found on www.asiam.ie and www.sensationalkids.ie.
May marks Green Ribbon month, the national campaign that encourages us to talk to each other about our mental health and to challenge the stigma the still remains around depression and a whole host of psychological issues.
So as the month draws to a close we decided to have a look at a couple of apps that might come in useful if you’re feeling a little bit stressed or need some time to think things through. However if you are in distress please seek the support of a medical practitioner. Details of the HSE’s information website and the Samaritan’s free phone number are available below.
You’ve probably heard about Headspace, it was made famous by Harry Potter actress Emma Watson in 2013 and it’s since gone on to gain over five million followers.
Basically Headspace is a guided meditation app. To start with it offers a ten day programme of ten minute sessions, for free. After that you can subscribe and if you like, focus on particular areas you’d like to improve on. It aims to promote a more mindful way of living, in bite size chunks, for people too busy to take time out. It will also give you free bonus gifts if you complete seven straight days of meditation and sends you reminder emails if you haven’t made use of the service in a while.
It’s a good app and well designed, and even if you haven’t tried it out yet you’ve probably heard about it given how successful it’s been, anyone I’ve spoken to says it’s popular for good reason.
There’s nothing more Irish than sitting down to solve the World’s problems over a cup of tea. Well 7 Cups aims to take the tradition one step further.
It works by connecting users to a registered listener for a chat. The service has provided training for all of its listeners. It says those who join have experience of feeling in distress or in need of support and want to give something back. It aims to provide a support network to those who might not be ready to discuss their problems with family and friends. The course is designed by Pyschologist Glen Moriarty. However please note this does not replace direct treatment by a trained medical practitioner.
And then there’s the Calm App. Calm reminds me of those “soothing sounds” cds and tapes that were popular in the 90’s. Yes they were a bit kitsch, but you have to admit you did get a better night’s sleep after using them. This app like Headspace is another guided meditation programme. It aims to bring you “clarity and peace of mind”. The idea is to help you fit in moments of quiet relaxation into your daily routine. It starts off with a simple breathing exercise and then moves onto areas that you’d like to focus on. As I said this one is very similar to Headspace, so I think it’s down to personal preference. I quite like this app, it’s very simple to use and doesn’t immediately require you to create an account, which in my opinion can be off-putting.
These are just some of the apps aimed at the growing number of people who want to take better care of their mental health. There are dozens more out there so it’s about finding which one suits you. Calm and Headspace are my favourites, I particularly like how they but work with short segments of time, for some reason it makes it less daunting.
If you’d like more information about the Green Ribbon campaign go to www.greenribbon.ie. For support services available offline check out www.yourmentalhealth.ie or call the Samaritans for free on 116 123.
When we think about diabetes, usually the first thing that springs to mind is food. Whether or not your diabetic friend will be able to eat the meal you’ve invited them over for. Or should you get special sweets for your child’s birthday party, so their friend with diabetes doesn’t feel left out? Often we forget about technology and how useful it’s become in making diabetics’ lives easier.
Most of us tend to be glued to our tablets and smartphones, but have you ever considered that for a Type 1 diabetic these gadgets can give us greater control over our lives? The gadgets now mean being able to keep a discreet eye on our blood sugars and in time we’ll be able to use them to communicate with our medical teams.
In the wealthier regions of the globe, modern technology is giving diabetics a new lease on life and it’s hoped a longer life span.
Earlier this month the World Health Organisation focused on diabetes in their World Health day campaign on April 7th. To mark the organisation’s birthday, they target a specific condition or disease each year, in the hopes of bringing global attention to it.
This year’s campaign brought home the stark reality that 422 million adults, or one in every 11, were recorded as living with diabetes in 2014. Of those, WHO says approximately 1.5 million die each year as a result of the treatable disease and in the case of Type 2 one that can often be prevented.
As someone who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 27 years, I’ve witnessed first hand the dramatic developments in treating the disease by using modern technology. I was diagnosed in 1989, a time when it meant eating a regulated amount of food at set intervals every day, accompanied by a set number of injections and the same amount of insulin each time. It meant living under a military style regime or becoming seriously ill.
Fast forward to 2016 and computers provide a way of life not thought possible in 1989. We’ve heard about Smart Homes well now we’re living in an age of Smart Diabetes. Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors are becoming more and more common. In some regions, newly diagnosed children with Type 1 diabetes are given the automatic option of bypassing daily injections and instead begin treatment with a pump. For me it’s also meant a significant improvement in my quality of life. Now while I keep a close eye on Apple’s iPhone upgrades, I eagerly wait for the HSE to approve the latest pump, in my case usually a purple one.
The device, similar to a doctor’s beeper, provides a continuous flow of insulin, which the patient controls. While the technology behind the devices is complex, use of them is relatively simple. A patient will change the cannula connected to the pump on average every three days. Each time they have a meal they check their blood sugars, input this data and the amount of carbohydrate taken. The on board ‘wizard’ then takes over and works out how much additional insulin is required to cover the meal.
Patients must wear the pump for a minimum of 23 hours a day and the continuous glucose monitor, which checks your blood sugars every couple of minutes, depending on the brand can last for six days at a time. As a result I’ve gotten used to being called a Borg, the Star Trek creations that ‘assimilate’ humans and others using advanced technology. (Admittedly when I was called this for the first time, it was off-putting, but I’ve found it a useful comparison over the years.)
Insulin pumps now even have the ability to stop the flow of insulin when it detects that a patient’s blood sugars have fallen below a safe level, and will begin pumping again, once it’s deemed safe. Medtronic, one of global leaders in medical devices recently released a new pump in the United States that works with a smartphone app, meaning patients can take control and make adjustments, without their nosy neighbour noticing. It’s hoped that the app will be available in Ireland by 2017.
While the technological advances in the treatment of both forms of diabetes, but Type 1 in particular, has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade, the disease is still a deadly one for much of the globe. It’s unfortunate but Dr Cherian Varghese - manager of the WHO’s Noncommunicable Diseases unit - says accurate statistics on the prevalence of Type 1 are difficult to come by. This, he says, is because recording systems are simply not in place and because in much of the developing world people die of the disease, before they’re diagnosed as having it.
Speaking to Newstalk, Dr Varghese says something like tech recycling campaigns, that take unwanted laptops and phones, reboot them, and donate them to needy school children, is needed in the diabetes arena. He says the cost of treating diabetes needs to be brought down urgently and a campaign of this type would help.
Dr Varghese says developments in the technology used to treat Type 1 diabetes will always be welcomed, but access to it remains a major problem, one he says doesn’t look like abating in the near future.
Within the next decade it’s hope we’ll have a closed loop pump system that would require little to no input from the patient. For now this Borg will keep a close eye on the progress, and hope that in the meantime we might soon have a turquoise option.
Christmas Day on the Newstalk News Desk as featured in the Irish Idependent
A Bower For Sisters has debuted at Continuum at the University of the Arts' London College of communication. The show featured ten images from the series and an installation including artefacts from the boarding school and the hand made artist book. The show is open until 5pm on Thursday May 21st.
Here are some images from the install and the exhibition itself.
A Bower For Sisters is to go on display in London at the London College of Communication as part of the Continuum Show.
This is the second time my photographic work has been chosen for an exhibition.
While a select number of images have been exhibited at the 2014 World Press Photo show in Ireland under their Young Journalist Spotlight, this is the first time that the work will be on show as a whole.
Ten images from the project along with the handmade book and some other elements are included in this, glimpse into the life of a 130 year old boarding school.
The exhibition opens on Thursday May 14th 2015 at 6pm.
Full details of all the work on display are available here.
In October 2014 I was honoured to have my work exhibited for the first time at World Press Photo Dublin, under the banner of Young Journalist Spotlight. Organisers wanted World Press Photo to have an impact on its visit to Dublin and so organisers chose three Journalists to feature alongside the exhibition.
A Bower for Sisters and My T1 Life both featured as part of this month long exhibit in CHQ Dublin
As part of being featured in the exhibit we also took part in a work shop with world renowned Photographer Robin Hammond, himself a World Press Photo winner. It was an amazing experience, and the part that will stay with me for a long time to come, was hearing the words of our former President Mary Robinson as she officially opened the exhibit. I was honoured to have the opportunity to meet with her and once again inspired by her words.
Some media outlets also highlighted the occasion, including The Clare Champion, The Offaly Independant, The Tullamore Tribune, Clare FM and TheJournal.ie.
The latest edition of Midlands Arts and Culture Magazine has been published and I'm delighted my work A Bower For Sisters has been chosen for inclusion.Read More
Born and raised in the Midlands of Ireland Aisling O' Rourke seeks to give an intimate insight into worlds ordinarily hidden from public view. Aisling enjoys devoting extended periods of time to her documentary projects. She works in both visuals and audio and intends to focus more on combining these skills into the future.
Having travelled extensively Aisling is now based in Dublin, Ireland. She intends to self publish a Bower For Sisters in 2015.
An experienced Broadcast Journalist Aisling holds a 2.1 Honours MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the University of Arts London's London College of Communication and a 2.1 BA in Journalism from Dublin City University.