Four Years in Maynooth


In recent times I’ve found myself remarking quite frequently on this blog how much the Covid-19 pandemic has played havoc with my perception of the passage of time, and I come to reflect on that again now that today (1st December 2021) marks four years since I started work at Maynooth University. So much has happened in that period it seems very much longer since I first arrived here.

I started off working part-time here in Maynooth and part-time in Cardiff, commuting once a week to and fro across the Irish Sea until July 2018. That was a very tiring experience that brought it home very forcefully that I don’t have anywhere near as much energy as I did when I was younger.

I won’t deny that the past four years have had their frustrations. The teaching and administrative workload, especially since I became Head of Department in 2019, and even more so since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, has been very heavy and has made it difficult to be very active in research. That’s not helped by the lack of opportunities for funding in basic science, thanks to what I believe to be a very short-sighted policy on research funding by the Irish government.

On the other hand, I have great colleagues and the students are very engaged. There are few things in life more rewarding than teaching people who really want to learn.

I hadn’t realized when I arrived in Ireland that it would take the best part of three years to find somewhere permanent to live, but I managed to buy a house in the summer of 2020. I am very happy here despite the continuing restrictions due to the pandemic.

The thing I’m probably most proud of over the past four years is, with the huge help of staff at Maynooth University Library, getting the Open Journal of Astrophysics off the ground and attracting some excellent papers. Hopefully that will continue to grow next year.

I am also proud of having played a part in the successful application for a new SALI Chair which we will be advertising formally in the new year. That is just one of many new developments on the horizon here at Maynooth, which suggest the next few years should be very exciting for physics and astronomy at Maynooth.

So, after a few years of hard and at times dispiriting slog, things are definitely looking up. Meanwhile, in Brexit Britain, events have turned out exactly as I predicted:

The referendum campaign, followed by the callous and contemptuous attitude of the current UK Government towards EU nationals living in Britain, unleashed a sickening level of xenophobia that has made me feel like a stranger in my own country. Not everyone who voted `Leave’ is a bigot, of course, but every bigot voted for Brexit and the bigots are now calling all the shots. There are many on the far right of UK politics who won’t be satisfied until we have ethnic cleansing. Even if Brexit is stopped the genie of intolerance is out of the bottle and I don’t think it well ever be put back. Brexit will also doom the National Health Service and the UK university system, and clear the way for the destruction of workers’ rights and environmental protection. The poor and the sick will suffer, while only the rich swindlers who bought the referendum result will prosper. The country in which I was born, and in which I have lived for the best part of 54 years, is no longer something of which I want to be a part.

In other words I don’t regret for one minute my decision to leave Britain.

P.S. After I finish my term as Head of Department next year I am eligible for a sabbatical, so if anyone fancies playing host to an old cosmologist please let me know!

P.P.S. Solidarity to all my colleagues in UK universities who are, from today, taking part in strike action against pension cuts and deteriorating working conditions.


10 Responses to “Four Years in Maynooth”

  1. Sandra De Weirdt Says:

    “P.S. After I finish my term as Head of Department next year I am eligible for a sabbatical, so if anyone fancies playing host to an old cosmologist please let me know!”

    Always welcome in Flanders / Belgium :-))))

  2. Simon Kemp Says:

    Guadalajara, Mexico, where the daytime max is 25C in the heart of winter!

  3. Wow that place looks like a castle that you would see in a fairy tale

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    At least Boris Johnson isn’t saying that the UK should consider mandatory vaccination, as Ursula von der Leyen is.

    • telescoper Says:

      What’s the problem with “considering” that? Responsible governments should consider all the possibilities. There are many situations in which I think vaccination should be mandatory, eg for health workers. Greece has already introduced compulsory vaccination for the over-60s.
      But of course von der Leyen is not saying that the the UK should consider mandatory anything: she’s addressing an issue in those EU countries in which vaccination uptake is very low.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Her words would be relevant to the UK if it were still in the EU.

        Others are free to believe that when the President of the EU floats an idea, it is not a step toward it.

      • telescoper Says:

        That evil dictatorship in which even raising a topic for discussion makes it happen by force without anyone being able to use a veto! Oh to have such power!

        Meanwhile the UK Government is bringing forward bills to make peaceful demonstrations unlawful and suppress voting rights…

      • telescoper Says:

        P. S. You mean President of the EU Commission. There is no “President of the EU”.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I disapprpove of what the UK government is doing too. But two wrongs don’t make a right. It is common knowledge that you soften up a population by floating an idea.

  5. […] noticed looking at the similar post I wrote on this day last year that academic colleagues in the UK were on strike on that day. They […]

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