By Rebecca Flanagan, Green Schools
Anticipation and excitement grew as the weeks closed in around the June Erasmus+ LTT cultural exchange in Dublin. 21 students and 12 volunteers were soon to arrive in Dublin for a week of events and activities as part of the ‘Sustainable Mobility, Sustainable Community’ Erasmus+ project. As well as praying for ‘good weather’, the Green-Schools Travel team tirelessly reviewed the schedule of events to ensure the group would experience a valuable and enjoyable time in Ireland’s capital city. The timetable soon filled up as we secured opportunities to meet with politicians, attend Velo City events and explore some of Dublin’s beautiful green belt areas by bike.
Monday evening saw the arrival of the Lithuanian and Danish groups. After a short flight delay, the group finally arrived in Alexandra College where they would reside for the week between dorms as well as with families of some St. Tiernan’s students. Parents and St. Tiernan’s students catered a welcoming event for the weary guests whilst the Green-Schools
Travel team equipped the group with welcome packs and the week’s itinerary.
Tuesday was a bright and early start, which was sure to set the pace for the week! The group was invited to the Velo City plenary session were students and volunteers had an opportunity to attend inspiring introductory talks and panel discussions from the international cycling conference. Following the event, the group took a scenic walk through
Dublin Canal Dockland area in the direction of Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament building) where they were soon to meet Deputy Green Party Leader Cllr. Catherine Martin. Students and coordinators had an opportunity to learn about much of the work undertaken by the Green
Party and Cllr. Martin answered questions they had in relation to cycling infrastructure and tackling climate change.
In keeping with the theme of the Velo City conference, as well as our own project theme, we created our own project talks which saw key guest speakers who are actively working towards sustainable mobility. On Tuesday we hosted ‘Trinity Talks’, where students benefited from learning about An Taisce’s Education unit programmes GLOBE, Climate
Ambassador and Green-Campus, as well as guest speakers from the National Transport Authority, the Luas (Dublin’s light rail system) and a talk on sustainable travel and tourism. The Spanish students arrived in Dublin simultaneously and after some free time to explore Dublin City the group united for an Erasmus welcoming dinner event.
The following morning was packed with initiatives such as a sustainable city mapping workshop and tree planting in the grounds of St. Tiernan’s School. The students erected an Erasmus+ plaque, kindly crafted by GMIT Letterfrack, which marked the planting of the 50 oak trees, which would act to offset the group’s aviation emissions. National broadcaster, RTÉ, filmed the event and interviewed students on the work executed by the Erasmus+ project. The group later visited Dublin’s EPIC museum where they learnt about Ireland’s history of mass emigration and the movements and stories of Irish people around the world.
After the tour, the group geared up for the much anticipated Velo City Bike Parade. We cycled from the city centre, along the beautiful Dublin Bay UNESCO Biosphere towards St. Anne’s Park. There we had an opportunity to view a sustainable city transport model installation, which was created by a local Green-Schools junior school together with artist Rhona Byrne. The sunny evening was spent playing volleyball and soaking up the festival atmosphere before a wiry return cycle into Dublin City, which was less leisurely than the outward journey, to say the least!
Thursday was filled with more outdoor activities in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Throughout the day the group enjoyed guided nature cycles, a forest workshop, as well as visiting the stately Farmleigh House. The 2nd series of the project talks were hosted in TU Grangegorman Campus, which saw speakers from the Velo City conference deliver talks on cycling, as well as a talk on the sustainable mobility model of Grangegorman Campus and presentations from within our own Erasmus+ group. Before the evening
was finished we voted for the winners of the Erasmus+ logo competition.
Friday started early at Dún Laoghaire in South Dublin, the group meet with newly elected An Cathaoirleach, (Town Mayor) Councillor Shay Brennan before taking a tour of Dublin’s Maritime Museum. The rest of the day would be spent north of the city in Howth. The group made an exciting and rather choppy journey across Dublin Bay by boat, where they would learn about the development of the Dublin Docklands and of the species which exist in the UNESCO Biosphere coastal area.
Not everyone had the stomach for the lunch spread on arriving in Howth, but as the tummies settled, we hit the beach for a #2minutebeachclean with Howth Seascouts and An Taisce’s Clean Coasts. We later took a journey through time, clambering in and out of antique vehicles at the National Transport Museum, where NTM volunteer Jim enlightened our group of the many transport vehicles which once rode through Dublin streets and suburbs. The rest of the day was spent exploring Howth and learning about its historic past with tales of Pirate Queens and mythical folklore whilst trekking along its rugged coastal cliff walk.
We settled down for the evening and enjoyed a traditional meal in a 16th-century historic pub before the craic ensued! As part of the event, the group tried their hand at Irish Jigging and a few tunes during a traditional Irish show. We bid farewell and passed the Erasmus+ flag over to the Danish partner group to host the next LTT exchange.
After a jam-packed week of events, the group was more than delighted to have downtime on Saturday to explore the city at their own pace.
Many partnerships were secured, and friendships strengthened, but most importantly we each learnt from each other how communities can be united through sustainable initiatives and that active mobility should be enjoyed by all for a sustainable future.