A year on from the Brussels attacks

A year ago today, Brussels experienced a vicious act of terrorism with bombs at Maelbeek metro station and Brussel’s Zaventem airport.

At the time I was an EU trainee with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), it was a normal day, that became extraordinary. While on lockdown that day, my tweets and photos of events around the city attracted a wide degree of attention. I was a citizen journalist for the day.

This tweet clipped below was from my trainees’ WhatsApp group at the CoR that attracted the attention of so many from all over the world.

I took calls with newspapers and TV stations across the world from my phone inside a building of the European Commission that day, they wanted to know ‘the feeling on the ground’. I had no idea what to say other than describe the situation that we had all found ourselves caught up in. It was a horrible day in many respects.

By the time I arrived home, there was a horrible atmosphere of silent cut with the aggressive sounds of helicopters constantly passing. My housemates were glued to the TV at home and I didn’t know what do with myself.

I wanted to get out and not let the events of the day get to me. So I rang up an old school friend working for the Commission and we got merrily drunk together in the deserted square of Place Jourdan as our own act of defiance to the terrorists. Life goes on.

That night I got home and the comments that I was asked to write for the Sligo newspapers morphed into a wider personal reflection of the day. At 3 am that night, I finished writing it and sent it on to a friend for a proofread. I was told I should publish it in full online after some good feedback and I got in touch with http://www.thejournal.ie for their ‘voices’ column.

This is the article itself.

I couldn’t believe the reaction to it at the time, I’d never been published before to such a scale. It was humbling in a way and ultimately it inspired me to finally publish this site of my own after many said I should give writing ‘more of a go‘.

Though today above all I remember those lost and the value of European solidarity above all that has held firm.

Time moves on, Brussels remembers.

Let’s “make waffles, not war“.


Simple language, Trumped language


grate cheese

Make writing grate again. Very good.

It is said that simple language is the most powerful. That “brevity is the soul of wit” as Shakespeare would say. John McGrathern and Ernest Hemingway were famous for it: Trump is too.

Many have written about this particular subject from lecturers to journalists galore. The ability of his style of language to be parodied and reiterated in many different spheres is  the testament to his power and influence on the world.  We have seen similar movements created with the cryptocurrency Dogecoin such as this linguist, being used off twitter extensively through online memes. Though Trump’s language… for want of a less crude pun… trumps!

Simple language with a limited vocabulary matters. It pays to not read books. Sad!


“When something he is describing is good, for Trump it is “just great”, “tremendous” or more often than not “terrific”. Or if he’s really into something, it’s “really, really, really terrific”. And that’s about it.”

Just as we learn our mother tongue from our parents, our leaders change how we relate to the world, from not only the ‘what’ but the ‘how’. Trump can do this because, despite his ad-libbed rambles on stage, he knows his demographic, he knows what connects.

A brazen positivity that compels you to listen because negativity is all too common in the blame game of politics and catchy words like ‘great’ linger with you all the way to the polling booth. It is a language that can make you hide the overall sludge of the speech itself.

Let us not forget, that for all we might disparage about his cantankerous nature and words… he is representative of a large section of America today. Many Americans have even difficulty locating America itself on a blank map of the world, for instance, George Bush even referred to Europe as “a great country”. Ignorance is ubiquitous and Americans have only themselves to blame for that.  That being said, continental America is the size of Western Europe itself with a great diversity throughout its fifty states. Education levels and the cultural weight they put on things like knowing a bit of international geography is low when many don’t have to leave their own country during their lives due to the convenience and size of the monstrous US of A. So Trump isn’t alone in his understanding of the world, or his use of language.

Many do argue that he is a lot smarter than he lets on, with his masterful ability to dodge critics, divide others and conquer. He’s powerful. One of my favourite Youtuber’s “Nerdwriter” takes on this subject in-depth.

Our words, tenor and tone of our voice; are our identity public. His politics while anathema to most are powerful because he makes it simply, easy to grasp. Complexity is not the place of politics, perceptions rule the vox populi. Do you like this ketchup or that? It’s choice based on your limited understanding of the world and the cost you have to bear in making that choice.

I haven’t even touched on his body language… what apparently makes up about 70% of all interpersonal communication. Though my time is limited and others have mastered it better than I. So here are his hands playing the accordion. I’ll leave you with this: as laughter is all we have.


Counter critique reflection on proposed incentives to increasing voter turnout.


This piece shall explore counter arguments to the previous articles on forcing political engagement through compulsory voting. Those articles and this critique are centered around ensuring that my ideas and conceptions of such policies are not secure. I ‘stole’ and mish mashed ideas together to explore a line of thought I wouldn’t have thought myself capable of.


Attaining that doubt is crucial. It is the essence of the Greek idea of education. The ability to take both sides of an argument equally and only then be able to make an informed judgment.  If I continue down the path of analysis and reconsideration, nothing becomes clearly my own opinion. Even when I might regard a person or an issue I disagree with, I find myself using the Irish phrase, “to be fair”. That is the reason why I find myself too drawn to the ideas of others and less involved in my own. Now that I am finished both pieces, I am worried at how such ideas may have infected my own ideas of liberty and the political process.



How sick a sign it is when our community may openly declare merits to mandatory civic participation? The arguments given were fraught with the tragic reality that the best of intentions often have the worst outcomes. Just as say the Jobsbridge internship scheme from the previous government was recently repealed on account of widespread abuse by companies, something as fundamental to the constitution of the state as unrestricted, take it if you please or not, voting is dangerous.

Continue reading “Counter critique reflection on proposed incentives to increasing voter turnout.”

From candidates with policies to being policies with candidates


A reflection on the choice architecture of increasing voter turnout.  As a follow up to the previous article, this breaks down the specifics of some ideas that could work within Ireland.


Declining voter turnout has been highly detrimental to the Irish democratic process.

This paper argues for: candidate political compass testing, improved civic education standards, a basic voter eligibility test, automatic voter registration on the age of eligibility. A change to Dáil membership to 100 members elected from standardized three seat constituencies in order to improve the policy consistency of elected parties.



Introduction – The problem of decreased voter turnout considered


“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato


This paper argues that voter turnout should be increased by improved quality of voting, political action by a citizens should be more than numbering ballot papers every few years without forethought. Clear choices make easier decisions.


Voters are like consumers. They’re sold products (candidates) based on its appearances and at times, unclear policy agendas. Upon experiencing that product, it may not match with their expectations of it inferred from its appearance or perceived policies. Just as one consumer may buy a brand of beer often based from a consistent taste preference for that beer. Voters choose their leaders for fulfilling consistent policies in governance according to their preferences.

Continue reading “From candidates with policies to being policies with candidates”

Increasing voter turnout in Ireland – A public choice reflection.


People power, peppered.

This article explores ways of getting greater civic engagement, as a healthy democracy, is a broad and active one. What? How? It argues for a mixture of compulsory voting, publishing information on voters, automatic voter registration, improved civic education methods and a ban on ‘push polling’; it does so due to the continual decrease in Irish voting turnouts in recent years (65.2% in 2016)[1]. A multi-faceted approach to this problem such as the one proposed in this paper is needed. It combines a number of methods from other countries that can be appropriate to the Irish socio-political context. It offers some contentious positions that will undoubtedly provoke debate about the nature of rights and duties of political action.


Introduction – The problem of decreased voter turnout considered

In this section, the thesis of this consultation paper is explained along with the reasons for choosing to tackle it and who would be affected by the recommendations of this article.

Continue reading “Increasing voter turnout in Ireland – A public choice reflection.”

The Expanse: worth a watch.

What’s possible? That’s what science fiction is meant to be all about. Not the why, but the what. A believable future. This is. The Expanse is a series based on novels, that depict an interplanetary cold war slowly heating up between rival factions throughout our solar system, 300 years into the future.

It’s slow moving and at times, heavy with its pidgin language that seems designed just for the fans of the books. Though it gives something we don’t see too often these days, a genuine structured narrative
with solid developed characters. The sense of scale it gives with its modern level of special effects that are not ‘hyper-real’ to put you off like the prequels of Star Wars. You can believe this is an eventual outcome of Elon Musk’s mission to colonise Mars and push the envelope of human endeavour. In this world, we largely only get a glimpse of the wider aspects of the solar system’s politics and the extent of societal change that 300 years has caused. Humans are still open to corruption, alcohol flows and a general sense of decay defines this futuristic world. AKA the idea of the used futurewhere dirt and grit define the lives of spacefarers struggling to get their ramshackle craft moving by sheer will and a dash of brains.

We can relate. That’s what makes it great. Unlike the clean, shiney world of a post-scarcity society in Star Trek, we get a sense this is real life for those who live within this vision. Star Wars and Firefly developed the idea of the used future in depth, but the flights of fancy known as warp drive… require a leap of the imagination. This show reminds us that there is a power to largely realistic sci-fi, that draws audiences in more because that leap of the imagination is smaller. Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and the recent Discovery channel’s “Mars” are indicative of that concept at work at present.

Personally, Sci-fi excites me most when it exposes a new concept that illustrates imagination at work. It in itself has lead to a huge array of new inventions big and small being developed, from the current competition to build Star Trek’s medical Tricorder to global satellite communications envisioned by Arthur C. Clarke among others. In this show, we get a few; what mining would be like and the changes to our children’s bodies from low gravity alongside familiar sites of contemporary technology like surveillance drones and pachinko machines. I want more. I want to see how big dreams could be while being grounded in some resemblance of reality.

Drones still looked and flew in the show looked like they do now, while there was little to none transhumanism concepts developed. One might think that the blind could see 300 years from now or that intelligent robots could converse with us. Hell: they even use physical coins. So much for Bitcoins or bioimplants. Augmented reality and personalised advertisements are not even considered.

That’s the tech part of it. In terms of society, I daresay it is quite optimistic. Privacy appears to be still a thing and people are free to make poor lifestyle choices. Thank heavens. Life appears to continue mostly in the same way as now, only with a narrative push to examine our contemporary politics as not international relations, but interplanetary ones. There is so much going on in this show as it is and it is fair to leave a few things pass in order to let the story move forward. Yet I am greedy and I want all in the one vision. As I am used to seeing sci-fi in  a near future (20-50 years from now) or as a fantastic future, I am not accustomed to such seeing centuries depicted in the future so grounded in our contemporary command of the laws of physics. So much so, that it makes me disbelieve…a little… to fathom that 300 years from now we might have no geoengineering on planet Earth as Mars while terraformed at the same time or that races would continue to exist as they do now. Societies are presently mixing and it’ll be rare to pure blood anything. There is much it could also explore to give that extra edge.

That being said, it’s a good show. Structure and a belief in slowly building characters forward in a firm arch is rare. Don’t let it be one of the forgotten shows on your Netflix library, give it a go.

The Expanse


Morocco Trip Spring 2008

The Moroccan Trip

Back in 2008, I was an Erasmus exchange student in Salamanca, Spain. For my Spring, break I went to Morocco. Here’s the first half of that account. 



To Morocco and a feeling of being alive, on edge, footloose.

It was a rushed night. A night of last minute preparations and a spell singing John Lennon songs with my Spanish neighbours before I stayed up all night sending out last minute couch surfing requests and booking a flight back home.

Earlier that day, my radio show at the time ‘la hora de Erasmus’ had gone relatively well though most of the air time was spent with my co-host Julian talking about these strange places in Berlin that I knew positively nothing about it.

I skyped a few people before leaving, I did wish that I was going with an Erasmus friend who backed out at the last minute, but I decided I shouldn’t let others hold me back. An old Irish friend of mine thought that I may die and was worried. From all that negativity… I had this terrible hesitancy about my decision to go. Was I doing the right thing? Would I actually get robbed and left for dead? The imagination flourishes when you don’t want it to.


I went over to my friend Max’s house right before I took a taxi to the bus station. He himself was busy preparing for his road trip across Portugal and the western reaches of Spain. “The place is an absolute tourist paradise man…and they’re some of the most gorgeous people you will ever meet”. In short, spurred by his advice to ‘screw them and their fear! Just go for it!’ I bid my farewell and ran out the door beginning to worry now about the time.

Continue reading “Morocco Trip Spring 2008”

Personal reflections on the US election 2016

My eyes are red, head heavy from wine and a political earthquake. This is the final chapter of 2016. What a year. FFS.

I recount how it went down from my own perspective. I had a long argument with a friend about the election in January. He, a fan of wrestling and a smarter man than I, was firm in his belief that Trump could do it. I disagreed. He argued that there was historical precedent. Nixon was a rough man of cunning and hard against outsiders. While Reagan was a Hollywood celebrity who swept in with a triumphant smile. America loves a winner: but more than that, it loves a narrative. He ran that point home with me, it stuck but didn’t sink in. The feeling of “The Bern” (Bernie Sanders), was a distraction from the race that would define a new era in American politics.

The year continued and Trump got stronger. Republicans fell beneath the sword of his blunt verbal cruelty and malice. Americans wanted a big man, a champion. He became it. Then Brexit happened. Polls called it for ‘Remain’ and the consensus was that people would come to their senses and vote for European unity. They were wrong. I went to bed that night around 1am after seeing Gibraltar back ‘Remain’ by a landslide, Farage was half conceding. I felt calm. I slept. That morning I had a trip to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and as I woke at half five, my phone was a buzz. I scrolled down, it was worse… and worse. Reality. The establishment was punched in the political ribs and wheezing. Half an hour later I found my fellow EU trainees huddled in a circle outside our building around the corner from the European Parliament. Tears. Paranoia reigned supreme. This was a new world. Nothing could be trusted in the same way. It was exciting to see the pot stirred for a moment. Then an English trainee told me how his friends all asked each other that morning “so… now what?” It hit me: lives forever changed, a pain a generation would undergo. 2016 hadn’t even gotten started. Thus, I placed a fiver on a Trump victory.

The race continued. Months past. Debates made great TV and supposedly they made a difference in polls. The first time in decades. It was a game. A wrestling game. From the news alert I received the evening before the final debate stating that Trump was appearing with women who had been assaulted by Bill Clinton, to all the constant talk of ‘The Wall’, it was too hard to believe that it was real. Nuclear codes: beware. Politics as a child for me was a largely boring affair of select statements and hollow photo-calls, Trump made it feel like the Apprentice sometimes. Fun, over the top and full of swagger. As the last few weeks of the campaign lurched on, it felt boring again. Unbelievable that Trump could do it. He had ticked all the wrong boxes. The polls continued to separate and it appeared to be a ‘fait accompli.’

Still, a couple of voices, like my friend in January and Michael Moore ran strong in the back of my mind. Within the final days, the betting odds even began to mirror those of the Brexit campaign. Small but numerous bets on the outside challenger and a few big bets on the favourite. October 23rd became somewhat of his pivot point, as his words suddenly lost their bluster and it became about his promise of a contract with America. While at the same time he threatened legal action against his accusers of sexual assault. He hopped about in his plane and visited vast crowds in stadiums, airport hangers; at times visiting several states in a day.

Then the night finally arrived.

I stayed up late watching the results until 7am unable to believe it. Excited at first with the knife-edge, then sad. Sad that a country had chosen to accept ‘the big man’ as its leader to uphold America hegemony. Sad that suddenly everything safe about a progressive legacy of Obama was up in doubt with political control of the House, Senate and Supreme Court given to the Republicans. It reminded me of the reality that it is wrong to believe in a consistent forward development of human rights and liberalism across the world. History does and has repeated itself.

What Trump means to the American dream?

Donald Trump is the embodiment of the American dream. Some call him anathema to it but it’s true. He loves winning, he loves the idea of winner takes all. Make it big in America, take what you want.

America holds itself as the example for all. An exceptional land of freedom and opportunity. A place that says, you can be who you want, be what you want. Achieve. That’s what the place is supposedly about. Moreover, it is the place that holds itself on moral high ground. That other countries around the world should follow its example. The rule of law, not rule BY law for one. Diversity as a strength and unity under one flag, one leader deriving power from a robust constitution of accountability. Those values matter. The government and politics derived from that, matters, as billions conflate the idea of democracy with economic growth and peace.

Yes, they are related in statistics but while having a strong rule of law doesn’t automatically mean economic wealth, it is a chicken or the egg problem. You need one to get the other. Point being, democracy isn’t a silver bullet to a disenfranchised populace. America holds itself as an example of virtuous democracy that delivers: jobs, hope for your children’s future, religious freedom and a life that fosters ambition. That idea and the exceptionalism of America has changed the world. It is not enough to have a humble life, a safe life with your white picket fenced house; you want more. That is the American dream to me. Trump is the embodiment of aspects of the nasty side of the American dream. The individualism, the ego, oh … and yellow hair.

In this campaign, Trump spoke a lot about America’s role in the world. Other NATO member states not pulling their weight in military spending, the danger America feels it has gotten into by being the world police and a public tired of not winning. He had a point. Ron Paul himself even brought up the same rhetoric.

Where to next?

So what will happen? I’m not an expert, everyone feels like they know something right now. It’s idle speculation for the moment. With Trump, you simply don’t know what will happen categorically. There is the rhetoric of campaigning that may not meet the realities of governance. Yet I feel with confidence, that the wall will somehow be built. It’s a simple ambition that feels like a joke gone too far, but it’s an understandable ambition for blue-collar America eager for simple answers.

In terms of sliver-lining, if he fails to deliver over the next four years he may open up space for liberal America to crawl back. Indeed if you believe that, decades of neoliberalism and a failed experiment of ‘third way‘ politics under Bill Clinton have destroyed the chance at the American dream, then Trump is your man. It is a considerable victory for those marginalised by an economic system that fails to deliver. No doubt. However, the honesty of Trump’s agenda to do that is iffy. He’s a rich man with even richer friends to boot who somehow managed to play his biggest weakness; his wealth, into his greatest strength. Genius. Moreover, the more he bombasted, lied and scrambled about in a pantomime fashion, the more honest wholesome he appeared. That’s how far gone things have become.

Watch this space.

The name… Heber

As the first post of this site, I think it only fitting that I address a subject that has defined my life greatly. My name. This post will describe the origins of my name and the ambitions it has led to with a small discussion on the effect of names around the world.

I’m not a boy named Sue, but a lad called Heber.

My Father is a great lover of Irish Mythology and Gaeilge so upon my birth I was named Éibhear or Heber as it is anglicised. The story I was raised on, to tell the thousands of people I have met commenting the rarity of my name was of its Irish lineage. Éber Finn[1] was a high king of Ireland from who reigned from 1700BC according to the Annals of the Four Masters.[2] He was one of the three sons of Míl Espáine who began the Milesian line within Ireland. He once ruled the southern half of Ireland until he grew discontented. So he waged war against his brother Érimón at the battle of Airgetros and was slain. Continue reading “The name… Heber”