ADAMS: In All Seasons, the Wonder of Trees

I want to recommend that you make friends with a tree. Any tree. Pick one in your local park or glen or up on a mountain. Get up close and friendly with it. Or admire the very welcome trees now being planted along our urban roads and streets. Make friends with one of them. And you don’t have to be monogamous. You can love lots of trees. In lots of places.They come in all shapes and sizes. All produce seeds. Some have berries, bright and attractive. Most of them are older than us. In the Irish tradition some trees are sacred. They ward off evil spirits. Or bring good luck. They provide shelter. Some are ancient. They have wisdom. They are holy.

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Of course it’s better if you have a garden, or a bit of ground to plant your own tree. It’s even better if you grow it from seed.

Seeds are there for the picking up anywhere trees are growing. Just plant them. And if you are landless, put them in pots. It’s nice to see them taking root and producing little shoots. Some will be happy for years in a pot as long as you keep upsizing the pot in keeping with the size of your tree. But I appreciate that not all of us can have our own tree on our own patch of earth.  So it’s good if you can but not the end of your relationship with trees if you can’t. 

The main thing is to be aware of them. Even on its own a tree can make the landscape. At this time of the year many deciduous trees are bare. No leaves. Except for the mighty Beech.  But there is a beauty in these skeletal growing things standing proud against the skyline and stretching their limbs heavenwards, secure in the knowledge that soon they will be clothed in green leaves. 

I love the expectancy and promise of Irish winters. Yes it can be dark and downcast and dismal outdoors, but it won’t last long. Be sure of that. There is already a grand stretch in the evenings. And it’s still January.  

Look at our hedges or the tree lined motorways. Now they are stark and naked. But in a month or so they will start to change. Wee buds will emerge. Then before we know it boughs will be in full leaf. Trees are home to our squirrels and other little animals. Soon they will emerge from hibernation. 

Trees are home also for our birds. Our landscapes will once again be green and alive with lush emerald colors and alive with the chitter and chatter and music of birds. 

Enjoy the Winter. It too will pass. Soon it will be Spring. 

I am minded of the optimistic  words of Ho Chi Minh: "Without the cold and desolation of Winter there could not be the warmth and splendour of Spring."

This is the season for planting trees. Any month with an ‘r’ for bare rooted saplings. Or any month for pot grown yokes. Wee whips won’t need stakes. Bigger ones will. Avoid the frost of course. And plant native trees. They will encourage native insects, bugs and other creepy crawlies and these will sustain native birds. And other animals. As well as playing constructive roles in the natural world.

I prefer deciduous trees to conifers. We have too many conifers. Dark, light blocking, unchanging blanket plantations. Deciduous are more interesting. Native species are essential for our natural world. We need more of them. Everywhere. 

Trees will provide homes and food for bees and butterflies, or flutterbys as I and the little people in my life call them. Trees clean the air. A walk among trees is good for us. A solitary tree is a thing of beauty. Be friends with it. A hug is very therapeutic. G’wan hug a tree. Nobody is looking. The tree won’t tell on you. And you will feel better.

Paying respect to Martin Luther King Jr.

Paying respect to Martin Luther King Jr.


Martin Luther King’s birthday is on January 15. Each year since 1986 the USA has celebrated the life and legacy of King with a national public holiday.

In 2001 I had the good fortune to visit Atlanta in Georgia where Martin Luther King was born and where he spent much of his life preaching. Atlanta was at the heart of the Civil Rights struggle and I had the opportunity to sit quietly in Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached his first sermon at the age of 17.

A short distance away is the King Center with its impressive visitors center and Dr. King’s tomb. He was shot and killed in April, 1968. Coretta King is buried next to her husband. Like him she was a dedicated champion of civil rights for over 40 years and after her husband’s death Coretta carried on the campaign for equality and justice right up until her death.

I took the time with Larry Downes, who was then President of Friends of Sinn Féin, and Ted Sullivan from Atlanta, to pay our respects and lay a wreath. 

Dr. King was a visionary leader but he wasn’t naïve. In August 1967, just seven months before his murder, King said: “I must confess, my friends that the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. But difficult and painful as it is we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.”

Sixty years later his efforts and those of millions of others have brought about enormous change in American society but intolerance, racism and inequality still exist. The work is not finished.

Similarly, in the 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement there have been many positive and fundamental changes in the North. Ireland today is in a process of transition. A lot of the old conservative influences have been weakened and progress has been made. But it is equally clear that there is still huge resistance to change. So, our task is to get the job done. To finish the journey. To have faith in the future and in our ability to build a new, shared Ireland.

As Martin Luther King said in 1956: “There is nothing in all of the world greater than freedom.” He was right.


January 21, 1919 was a day of firsts. It was the day the first shots were fired in the Tan War at Soloheadbeg. It was the first day those TDs elected in the December 1918 election met in the Mansion House as the first Dáil Éireann. And it was also the first ever democratically elected parliament in Ireland. Lá stairiúil a bhí ann.

The First Dáil was the moment the Irish people democratically asserted our desire for sovereignty from the British Empire. Just over a century later, of the three texts presented to the Dáil that day, the Democratic Programme is as relevant today as it was then.

Reflecting the language of the Proclamation of 1916 the Democratic Programme declared “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland” and called on the Government of the Republic “to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens …” And to “safeguard the health of the people.”

One hundred years later and none of this has been achieved. In the South, over 3,000 children are homeless. There is a health crisis clearly evident in the appalling scenes in hospital emergency departments and a housing crisis that the FFFGers refuse to tackle.

It’s time to deliver the promise of the Democratic Programme. That means ending partition and building the new Ireland.