Friends of the Irish Environment is taking the Irish Government to court. This legal action is the first case in Ireland in which citizens are seeking to hold their government accountable for its role in knowingly contributing to dangerous levels of climate change.
Read all about it: www.climatecaseireland.ie
“The proposed changes are the most significant roll back of the legal protections for our wildlife ever in the State. The government is reducing the protections for our birds and nature at a time when we should be ensuring greater protection for vulnerable wildlife, particularly as Ireland prides itself as a ‘green’ island with wild tourism and green agriculture. The evidence shows that many bird and pollinator populations are already under threat in Ireland. And there will be no positive outcome for wildlife in the changes in the Heritage Bill, but rather the dilution of the protections currently afforded them with proposed regulation intended to minimise the damage.”
“We have taken a serious look at our County”, says Chief Executive of Wexford County Council Tom Enright, “and we have developed a range of strategic responses aimed at making Wexford a highly competitive location for business start-ups and longer term growth”.
These “strategic responses” include a list of planned capital investments across the county designed to make Wexford a more attractive county in which to work, live and play. The CEO is to be commended on taking the bull by the horns in terms of taking steps to jump-start the local economy rather than waiting for national agencies to take a lead. The hope is that those agencies, including the IDA, will build on the momentum which the proposed projects will generate with big gains in net inward investment, especially foreign direct investment. Our hope is that Wexford will attract new business, expand the tourism sector and carry through on the proposed big infrastructural improvements. At the same time we will do our utmost to ensure that sustainable development is high on the agenda at all times and that the environment is not compromised for the sake of development.
So Barry Cowan wants builders to get a tax cut to encourage them to build more houses. Sinn Féin has described the idea as “breathtakingly stupid”. In fairness to the man, maybe he is not stupid but simply self-serving. Then again his party has always had a very intimate relationship with the construction industry, one which has not always been for the greater good. Expect lots more silly and reckless outbursts from our politicians as the election draws ever closer. www.thejournal.ie/barry-cowen-housing-vat-3580152-Sep2017
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughton has been getting it in the neck this week for his hopelessly lacklustre and unambitious draft National Mitigation Plan, a requirement of new climate change laws enacted two years ago. “It is clear that there are no easy options to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions on the scale required in the coming decades”, said Naughton as if to excuse the toothless effort of a plan, one to which the Green Party and environmental NGOs have given a big thumbs-down. The Minister even blamed the Greens for his failure to come up with a clear and workable plan saying that the targets they set when in government were unrealistic. At a time when governments all over the planet are being asked to raise the bar when it comes to tackling climate change and the challenges it presents, Minister Naughton feels he is serving the state by bucking this trend. Maybe it is unfair to single him out as, when it comes to long-term sustainable steps to tackle climate change and environmental degradation, the record of this government has been abysmal.
Green Party Convention 2017 takes place in Waterford at the Tower Hotel from 24-26 March. We hope to give what ever support we can to our friends in the Deise County to help make sure the event is a success.
There’s a good article in The Irish Times today on the decline of rural areas, not just in Ireland, but all over Europe. The populations of our towns and villages, especially in the west, are shrinking. The worker-hungry Industrial Revolution saw the first great migration of people from rural areas to the cities. The same motives are robbing rural communities everywhere of their brightest and best. One begins to marvel at how Kerry can still field such strong football teams when you see that it is one of the counties worst affected by emigration. I think Dr Brendan O’Keeffe of the Dept of Geography, University of Limerick hits on an important point when he calls for “a lessening of the bureaucratic burden and more community-led development”. One things for sure: this is a major sociological issue which requires serious cooperation between all stakeholders: EU, Government, local government, and community.
“How much do I love thee environment?” asks An Taoiseach Enda Kenny. “Let me count the ways” … NOT! That is why he has just done away with the Minister for Environment portfolio. Instead, we now have in Denis Naughton, a Minister for Communication, Climate Change and Natural Resources. Incidently, this is the same man who is on record as saying that we should row back on climate change law as it would mean Ireland would have to reduce cattle numbers. Fair play to Uplift.ie for putting in place a letter-writing campaign to An Taoiseach to help him see the error of his ways: https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/the-taoiseach-must-reverse-his-decision-to-abolish-the-department-of-the-environment.
The Green Party has welcomed the Government u-turn on introducing mandatory minimum pay-by-weight charges for the collection of household recyclables. It says that the Government must now do more to promote recycling over landfill or incineration as part of its efforts to bring about better waste management.
“I’m glad that the new Government has recognised the futility of introducing these charges”, says Wexford Green Party Chairwoman Ann Walsh. “Given a choice most people will behave responsible and do what’s best for the environment. Why then should they be penalised for disposing of waste responsibly?”
She goes on to say that “We need to encourage an appreciation of the importance of recycling and of looking after our environment rather than implementing yet another charge when so many people are struggling to get by.”
This is a view echoed by party leader Eamonn Ryan in welcoming the Government decision not to bring in the charges. “It was a short sighted move. The public outcry against the charges shows the level of support for meaningful recycling initiatives. It’s now up to the waste management companies to ensure that recycling stays free to the public.”
The Greens have generally not been happy with the reversals by the last Government in environmental and waste management policy. They say, for example, that incineration should have no place in Ireland’s waste management plans. This is in keeping with the EU waste management hierarchy whereby recycling is prioritised over landfill and incineration.
When it comes to managing the country’s waste, Ann Walsh’s message to Minister Simon Coveney is to get back to basics. “Go to any school in the country and even the youngest children will tell you that the best way to stop waste going to landfill is Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. The Government must let the three Rs guide its thinking on how we deal with household waste.”
Ms Walsh said that she would like to see more done at a local level to encourage greater levels of recycling and composting. She mentioned a composting pilot project undertaken in recent years by Wexford County Council. “When tested the compost was found to be better than commercially available peat moss.” She also spoke of a recent Get Involved project, the aim of which was to get more households composting. “With a little guidance and hand-holding lots more households could be making their own highly nutritious compost.”
New Green Party TD Catherine Martin made her maiden speech in the Dáil today. And what a speech. She focused on something that has been exercising the national media for the past 47 days and she said what most of the country has been thinking: “How can the current strangulation of representative democracy, a choking of the workings of Dáil Éireann be in the national interest? This reckless approach cares little for tackling the unprecedented crisis of homelessness, the escalating rental crisis, hospital waiting lists and climate justice.” She let the two biggest parties in the Dáil have it for their failure to act responsibly and do what’s best for the country rather than playing silly games. “Government formation should not be hijacked by self-serving party political concerns. The people are sovereign, they have spoken and especially in the context of the current fragility of the Irish economic recovery.” Certainly the actions of the two big parties must give the Greens reason to be nervous about throwing in their lot with either. Neither Catherine Martin or her fellow Green TD, party leader John Gormley, has yet given any indication that they are prepared to be part of any minority government. Like most of the independents they first want to see the two main parties arriving at some sort of consensus.
Good article by Cara Augustenborg in today’s Indo. The current outgoing Dáil was much the poorer for not having a green voice. The so called establishment parties (on the right, less right and centre!) have barely a word to say on climate change and how we should prepare to deal with it. The government has chosen to take the well-trodden path of economic success above all (even if some economists have questioned whether our recent economic gains have been achieved despite and not because of government policy). The motley and multi-hued independent TDs appear to suffer from the same blissful ignorance on the subject of climate change. Some of the latter may have done some good highlighting abuses of power and dodgy goings-on but that’s about as far as it goes. It really is time to have a strong voice in the Dáil trumpeting the need for all those ignored alternatives: sustainable development, the need for resilience in our policies and our planning, re-introducing the concept of inter-connectedness back into our communities.
With #GE16 almost upon us we hope that whoever ends up with their hands on the tiller of the good ship Ireland can deliver on all the pre-election promises made. On the environmental front we want to see a focus on four key areas:
• truly sustainable jobs
• end environmental destruction
• support protection of the environment
• make Ireland future-proof.
Given the resounding silence from all quarters of the political spectrum I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
“Same as it ever was” sang David Byrne of Talking Heads. He might well have been talking about the performance of our political leaders in the first of the pre-election Leaders’ Debates on RTE 1. The amount of populist rhetoric and selective amnesia along with over-promising, trumpet-blowing, self-praising drivel we witnessed suggests that, if we are looking to our political leaders for a mature and reasoned approach to future-proofing this country so as to better prepare us to navigate the troubled waters ahead, we are looking in the wrong place. And, as this article points out, the subject of climate change did not even arise.
In the Green Party, positions such as these are agreed by a 66% vote of our members. In the past, the Green Party has had no position on repeal or otherwise of the 8th amendment.
At our most recent convention (2016), it was resolved that the party would take a position. We are advocating the repeal of the 8th amendment and to legislate that the question of whether to terminate a pregnancy be left to those closest to decide in certain cases. Those are in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, endangerment to the health/life of the mother, and of rape.
This change in position came about following events of the past few years. As a consequence of these events, many pro-life members of the party no longer believe that the 8th amendment is beneficial to either mothers, families or the unborn.
Many in the party still do assert that the only way to protect the unborn is by maintaining the 8th amendment. As a party, we respect different views and assert the right of everyone to be heard. The party has a policy of allowing elected members to abstain from voting where they disagree with party position on matters of conscience. We have a policy of allowing candidates for election to state their own views while stressing the party position.
Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, speaks at the Ashdown Park Hotel, Gorey this Friday, Feb 5, at 7.30pm. Eamon is coming to Wexford with a message: it is time for the Greens to make their voice heard again in the Dáil. It may be a small voice but it is an essential one.
In a speech entitled “Think Ahead, Act Now” the Green Party leader will outline his vision for a sustainable economy, how the action we take now will determine what sort of future our children have to look forward to.
Wexford Green Party candidate Ann Walsh will outline her stance on
· The digital economy
This meeting is open to anyone interested in hearing how having a Green Party presence in the Dáil is needed now more than ever.
Further info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wexford Green Party’s candidate in the General Election, Ann Walsh, pulled a big crowd to her launch party last Friday. I think it is fair to say that this is the very first Green Party event ever at The Golden Anchor in Castletown, the county’s most northerly village.
Independent Wicklow Councillor, and good friend of Ann, Miriam Murphy along with former TD and Minister for Food Trevor Sargent were on hand to speak. Miriam is a seasoned campaigner and a much respected politician. Ann is fortunate to have her on side to help prepare for the road ahead. Ditto as regards Trevor who is never shy about sharing his huge knowledge, experience and common sense.
Ann herself is nothing if not passionate. In launching her campaign and laying out her manifesto she proved to be knowledgable, eloquent, persuasive and witty. That’s a winning combination in my book! She especially knows her away around the healthcare system and could write the book on disability and special needs services. She is also very strong on the need to nurture, support and grow the much forgotten and neglected network that makes up rural Ireland. Once elected she will kickstart her mission to remedy this in her own Castletown!
Ann is already very busy on the canvas trail. She has a small but committed team. If you have any bit of green in you and you want to give her a few hours of your time, anywhere in the county, give her a shout. Email email@example.com. Tel 086 0222672.
The 2016 Green Party Election Convention takes place January 16th in the Hilton Hotel, Dublin 2. We are looking forward to meeting up with fellow members and friends of the Greens and to hearing from our candidates from around the island. The day promises to be full of interesting and interactive debates.
Eamon Ryan and the Green Party could bring a fresh perspective to political landscape says Alison O’Connor writing today in the Irish Examiner.
Referring to Ryan she says “Listening to him it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that Irish politics is a better place with the Greens in it. There are lots of people out there who are realising how little we seem to have learnt from our spectacular fall from economic grace; how the political research shows that while apparently none of us want to go “back there” collectively as a society, we would rather like to do so for ourselves individually to regain all that we personally lost.”
She finishes with “While the Greens say they’ve given up on being our guilty conscience they could well serve a purpose in reminding us that it is not all simply about money.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself!
Ann Walsh officially launches her election campaign on Friday 8th Jan at 7.15pm at the Golden Anchor in Castletown. Trevor Sargent will attend and speak. Ann herself will outline her reasons for running and detail why she believes the Green voice must be heard now more than ever. Everyone is welcome to attend. Lecturing and preaching will be kept to a minimum! Light refreshments served.
There is more than sufficient evidence to show that our politicians, national and local, cannot be trusted to deliver proper implementation of planning policy. The Celtic Tiger years particularly brought this to the fore. Consider this: tax breaks (to encourage you to build for speculative rather than local needs); putting major, often controversial, infrastructural projects above the normal planning process; poor, and in cases reckless, zoning; a total, and again often reckless, lack of will to stick to the National Spatial Strategy; ditto, at a county level, to Development Plans; interference with the planning process at a local level. Much of the terrible flooding happening all over the country this Winter is attributable to bad planning along with an ongoing lack of sustainable management of the natural environment.
I wonder could we farm the job of running the country’s planning department out to the Germans? Actually maybe ask them to come in and run the whole show!
The Irish Times reports that, according to a survey carried out by www.whichcandidate.ie, housing and health are the issues at the top of the list of most candidates in the upcoming General Election. Other items getting prominent mention were education, water charges, jobs and abortion.
We like this ‘Proclamation’ in which the community is central to the process of making the transition to “a clean, secure energy future”: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B91skN4BggMWTzFxd1MxeFFob1k/view
The Green Party has announced that Ann Walsh will be the party’s candidate for Co Wexford in the 2016 General Election.
Ann, originally from New Ross but now living in Castletown, says she is very much looking forward to the challenge.
“The Green Party has always represented integrity and I feel that now, more than ever, we need to have a presence in the Dáil. I’ve always believed politics should be about working together for the greater good, focusing on collaboration rather than conflict. In this time of great economic, social and environmental flux we need to look at what we do well, acknowledge what doesn’t work and needs to change, and move forward from there.”
Ann has extensive knowledge and experience, both personally and professionally, in the areas of mental health and disability in particular.
Wexford County Council is presently working on the Wexford Local Economic and Community Plan (LECP) 2016-2021. September 22 is the deadline for public submissions.
A draft Socio-Economic Statement identifying the following six high level goals has been prepared:
1 Foster the culture of educational attainment and lifelong learning in County Wexford and provide opportunities to develop educational and workforce skills, to improve work readiness and access to employment.
2 Support and promote the development of socially inclusive sustainable communities in County Wexford.
3 Position and market County Wexford as a great place to live, work, visit and do business.
4 Develop an outstanding business environment for starting, growing and attracting business to County Wexford.
5 Continue to protect and enhance our infrastructure and promote resource efficiency in order to create the right conditions for long term sustainable economic growth.
6 Protect and sensitively utilise our natural, built and cultural heritage assets and capitalise on their economic potential.
Have a look at the draft statement and goals to get a better idea where the Council is coming from on this. Then get your suggestions in before the deadline expires.
We are delighted to report that, following representations made to Wexford County Council, Redmond Park is to have funds allocated to its upgrading. We understand that top of the list is the playground, followed by plans to bring back the much-missed pond. The Love Redmond Park group is also pushing the Council to include the overgrown stretch of ground at the bottom of Parklands in its upgrading plans. The LRP group is on a bit of a high right now having just organised another successful end-of-Summer Picnic in the Park.
There is a well written opinion piece, “Fennelly highlights ruthlessness of the Taoiseach when the chips are down”, in The Wexford People this week (link below). I presume it is in all the other local and regional newspapers in the INM group also. The thrust of the article is that, whenever it looks like rough waters ahead for the government or, more specifically An Taoiseach, every effort will be made to smooth those same waters, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. So the Garda Commissioner’s head is delivered on a plate, a Minister for Justice resigns, a senior Justice Dept figure exits the stage … and the man at the top continues serenely on his way. The last line talks of “how messy and Taoiseach-centred the running of the country is when the chips are down”. The fact that rural crime is at an all-time high or that morale in An Garda Suíochána is at an all-time low really does not matter.
The launch of Future-Proof Wexford took place this week (Sept 8) at Wexford Library. Guest speaker was Davie Philip of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage and the organisation Cultivate. The aim of this initiative is to get Wexford to get serious about facing up to the challenges that lie ahead, not least of which is climate change and the challenges it presents.
Go have a look at https://futureproofwexford.wordpress.com.
Also see https://www.facebook.com/groups/futureproofwexford.
Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, says that he now regrets the government’s decision to abolish town councils. Could this be the start of the pre-election charm offensive?
A recent meeting of Wexford Municipal District Council discussed the proposed new ‘People’s Park’ at Carcur, Wexford. The meeting was told by the Director of Services with responsibility for Wexford that the Council might have to either downsize the proposed park or do away with it altogether. The reason given was that a long-awaited letter from the EPA had stipulated that major, and expensive, remedial work would be required before work on the park itself could commence. Apparently the Council has failed to make any allowance for this expenditure in its budget.
A meeting of Wexford Borough Council was told by the then Town Manager back in 2012 that (and I am quoting from a local newspaper): “the ideal situation would be to commence the building of the park in 2013, with a view to opening the new facility in 2015”. It is now 2015 and we are in a situation where this facility may not happen at all.
The Council cannot have been totally unaware that a large part of the cost of developing this site would go on remediation. The area in question was, after all, used as a general waste landfill for decades. One might say that there is an onus on the Council to make every effort to bring this initiative to a successful conclusion.
We say that this park should go ahead as planned. The town has few meaningful green spaces. If this park was established the town would finally have a safe and attractive substantially-sized off-road space for walkers, fitness enthusiasts and families with children. (No doubt some may say that the town’s dogs will have a new place to crap!)
The Green Party did suggest in its submissions at the preparatory stages of the current Development Plan that the Council might consider including the waterfront area (the old Roadstone site) in an enlarged park. We again suggest that this might be considered. The area in question adjoins an SPA, may be prone to flooding – making it unsuitable for bricks and mortar development – and, in general, presents a particularly sensitive and scenic landscape. All of these factors make this a perfect area for inclusion in a People’s Park. If the cost of getting the main proposed site right is likely to lead to a long delay in getting a new park established we suggest that it may be expedient to start at this site and work backwards.
Speaking today at the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis economist Dr Peter Bacon said the government contributed to the run-away property price rises. The government had asked Dr Bacon for recommendations on how to deal with the rapidly over-heating property market they then reversed a number of his key recommendations including cutting stamp duty for investors.
The line I love best in his contribution today was when he spoke of been called to a meeting with the Minister for Finance in Nov/Dec 2008 to give his thoughts and advice on the crisis then unravelling he says ““The meeting happened. The meeting ended. I walked away scratching my head.” Isn’t that just beautiful? That line just about sums up the whole crazy affair.
One welcome development in general household food purchasing and consumption is how much more questioning we are of food provenance. Most of us also make some effort to eat a healthier diet (more fruit and veg, less red meat, less fats, more fibre). And most of us prefer to buy locally grown/produced rather than imported foods. When it comes to organic v non-organic most discerning shoppers would go for the former as long as the price difference is not a deterrent (and definitely the former if you grow it yourself). A few years back one of our members asked a local green-grocer if he would consider stocking organic foods. He responded in the negative saying that he felt it would be too risky and that more than likely he would be left with too much spoiled organics at week’s end. When asked if he stocked much locally produced food he was happy to say that if it could be grown locally he stocked it. Top marks then for making the trip from field to store as short as possible (meaning very fresh produce and small carbon footprint) and buying directly from local producers. “And sure,” he was asked, “that food would be close enough to organic wouldn’t it?” “It would,” he says. “That veg there wouldn’t get sprayed more than half a dozen times.” Our crest-fallen colleague picked up his bits and pieces and went on is way, the oft-repeated “We are what we eat” mantra repeating over and over in his head. The subject of pesticides in food was discussed at the Environment Ireland conference held in September 2014. At that gathering An Taisce proposed that Ireland introduce … “… a pesticides levy similar to that in place in Denmark and Norway. The tax would be based on a harm matrix and would encourage reduced chemical use, greater crop rotation and alternative weed control strategies.”
An Taisce went on to say that …
“… the detection of weedspray residues in humans was troubling … and steps were needed to lower the amount being applied to crops. In a study last year by Friends of the Earth, 44% of people tested positive for glyphosate residue. Ireland was not one of the 18 European countries analysed but the detection rate in the UK, Germany and Poland was 70% while Switzerland and Austria were much lower at 17% and 20% respectively. Earlier this year glyphosate residue was found in a high proportion of breastmilk samples given by mothers in the US, while in Europe, leading Danish bakeries have stopped taking wheat sprayed with products such as Roundup before it is harvested.”
If “we are what we eat”, many of us who think we are way ahead of the posse in eating our greens and our brightly coloured fruits, without questioning the provenance of that food, might need to think again.
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White decided to end the old year on a low by pushing the nuclear power option back onto the agenda. We could say “Fair enough so: let’s look at nuclear power, let’s compare it with the alternatives and let’s go for the solution which offers the country a clean, safe, reliable, renewable and cost-effective form of energy”. But you know what? One cannot help feeling that if the government cannot go about the task of putting in place a system to provide the public with a clean, safe, reliable and cost-effective supply of potable water without pushing the country to the edge of open rebellion can they be trusted to get stuck into the nuclear power issue.
Green Party Energy Spokesperson Ossian Smith says: “The last few years have been disastrous for our energy development. Instead of promoting a cost-effective and homegrown renewable energy industry, the Government have been chasing pipe dreams and hesitating on pivotal decisions. Any debate on energy policy needs to recognise that genuine community gain must be at the heart of developing our resources. We need to debate more than just how we generate power, looking also at ownership of assets and distribution networks, and how profits are returned to communities.
The latest anti-water charges march happens in Dublin today. We will not be there. Notwithstanding the government’s ham-fisted efforts in bringing in water charges we believe that we should pay – and not a general, but a specific, tax – for the provision of potable water and the disposal of our waste water. That said we respect the right of others to protest so as to make their own feelings known.
Here’s a link to an interesting article by Independent TD Stephen Donnelly entitled ‘Traditional Parties Have led Ireland into the Abyss’: http://stephendonnelly.ie/traditional-parties-have-led-ireland-into-the-abyss-a-new-party-can-help-rescue-it
All across Europe trust in the established parties is at an all-time low. Ireland is no exception. According to this week’s Red C poll FG is experiencing its lowest ever Red C poll rating (22%). Labour is at 8% and FF 18%. SF is up to 22% while the Greens are up 1% to 3%. Inds/Others are at a massive 22%.
Maybe the time is ripe for a new political party in Ireland. We have been here before: The PDs were supposed to offer an alternative to the existing parties. However their raison d’être was never unique enough for the party to be seen as a viable alternative. So they imploded. What would a new political party offer at this time? Would it be to the right or the left? Or both? Would it be pro or anti EU, looking to Boston or Berlin? Would it be pro big business or pro union? Would it perhaps find that it is not so different from the established parties, that the policy routes open to it are fewer than it ever imagined?
We know that FF, in its time in charge, really did march the country up to the edge of the abyss, that elements of the party were corrupt and that the party could no longer be trusted to govern. We know that FG and Labour have done their best to meet the fiscal demands of the Troika, that they have subsequently behaved somewhat recklessly in moving away from the fiscal rectitude script, both no doubt spooked by the continued haemorrhaging of their traditional support base. We know that they have continued to play old-style politics instead of responding to public demands for greater honesty and transparency in how we are governed and how our resources are managed. This government has played its part in further tarnishing the image of old-school politics.
Maybe we need revolution!
So the government thought it was going to placate the masses with a relatively benign budget and what do we do? We snub our noses at it and say “too little, too late”. We cannot forgive them for asking to tighten our belts and then watch as the Irish Water story unravels. The waste, the ineptitude, the arrogance. Too much! And guess what, both government parties have been here before – they are no strangers to going into it up to their oxters.: remember the failed 1982 Budget when a FG/Lab coalition fell because of a proposed tax on children’s shoes?
It is not entirely comfortable viewing watching a government slowly imploding before your eyes. The sad fact is that, much and all as they have tried to do what they think is best for the country, both FG and Lab have not managed to disentangle from this what is best for the party. When the banking crisis hit and brought us to our knees we all presumed that the “never again” from the incoming government parties was a sign that things would be done differently in the future, that cronyism and sloppy practise would no longer be tolerated. The momentum behind any potential changes to the system is now all but gone and we find that nothing has changed.
This government will either limp to the end of its term or fall apart amid acrimonious internal bickering and ideological differences. You can also expect to see TDs jumping ship in the hopes of winning back some support in their constituencies. What then? Can we expect the incoming government to be completely different, a reforming government, one with a social conscience, one which cares for the small guy and is not afraid of the IMF, the ECB and the multi-nationals? And just who will make up this government: FF/FG – not likely, FF/Lab – very possible, FF/SF – gonna happen sooner or later. Maybe it will be much simpler than that: FF!
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
You can find out at St Iberius Church, Wexford on Thursday, Oct 30 (7.30pm). The occasion is International Day of Prayer for Climate Justice. What better time could there be to take an objective and reflective look at an issue which is going to affect us all to a greater or lesser degree in the decades to come. A service of music, prayer and discussion will look at how we can be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
With Wexford’s Opera Festival in full swing at this time most of you are likely to be struggling to fit another event into an already packed schedule. That said, we encourage you to pop into this service even if just to show your support. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Listening to the news today it feels like the good times are back. One hears that unemployment continues to fall (now at its lowest level since 2009), job creation is going up, the economy is performing strongly and “could bounce back more quickly than expected” (Davy Stockbrokers), house prices are going back up, ghost estates are seeing the ghosts banished as they are finally brought to completion, Dublin Airport is jammed again and the traffic reports on radio are getting longer as the queues get longer, retail sales are up while new car sales are a full quarter up on last year. And the banks are making money! And yet for Fine Gael things appear to be going from bad to worse with disillusionment, confusion and anger breaking out among the troops. Why is it always the little things that trip our blue-shirted friends up? On the one hand they really do appear, with their partners in government, to be doing their best to do what they think is best for the country. On the other hand they go and do something stupid and before you know it everyone is talking about ‘McNulty-gate’. Boys that is really not the kind of thing you want people to be saying about you! The ham-fisted way in which the McNulty affair was handled has done nothing to counter the image of a regressive, misogynist and self-serving bunch of lads who appear to have let power go to their heads. And then to have the ultimate insult thrown at you – that this is something you might have expected from FF in the bad old days! Look at these headlines: “Minister’s driver resigns from Irish Water” “FG TD thinks McNulty appointment is ‘stroke politics at its worst’” “Jobs Minster Bruton defends crony appointments to State boards” “Public still left out as state board jobs go to ministers’ candidates” “Coalition breaking own rules on State boards” The truth, of course, is that the practise of appointing people to state boards is something that parties in government have done with impunity for decades. And in many instances those appointed are about as useful to the board to which they have been appointed as the proverbial spare tit on the bull. Anyway now that all the appointments have been made the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform is going to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again.
While most towns on the island have put Summer well behind them and, with ever shorter and cooler Autumnal days, have begun to batten down the hatches for the Winter. They will keep the heads down until Christmas. Not so in Wexford. For come mid October we will be dusting off our glad-rags and getting ready for the annual knees-ups that is Wexford Opera Festival. And it’s not all opera and classical. The festival has always had a very lively Fringe with a high quality Singing Pubs competition, theatre, readings, concerts, exhibitions, etc. For the past couple of years the Fringe has gotten even bigger with the arrival of the Spiegeltent Festival. The guys behind this have put together a hugely diverse, exciting (and brave!) programme of music, theatre, comedy, burlesque and vaudeville. Where else would you get Beautiful South and Brendan Grace on the same programme? Or Panti and the Lambert Puppet Show! Full details at http://wexfordspiegeltent.com
The Opera and Fringe Festivals are the high point of the cultural year in Wexford. They are also very important to the local economy with beds in short supply and restaurants, pubs and hotels filled to the rafters. So while the rest of the country sits in by the fire waiting for Christmas we will be burning the candle at both ends and making merry!
Well done to Wexford Tidy Towns in winning bronze at the recent Tidy Towns Awards. Many man (and woman) hours have gone into getting us to this point. The weekend cleanups regularly attract in excess of twenty volunteers. There are also smaller midweek groups who tackle the towns streets, and satellite groups who take on responsibility for various parks, estates and approach roads around the town. The Council has, over the past few years, worked very closely with WTT to help keep momentum going. This relationship has been very successful and, for all concerned, it is gratifying to see one’s labours bringing such positive results. Onwards and upwards! www.wexfordtidytowns.com
For house prices the only way right now seems to be up. According to the latest report from the Economic and Social Research Institute the Irish market still appears to be undervalued. While the upward trend is partly down to natural correction much of it is down to poor supply, especially in and around Dublin. The ESRI says there is no suggestion that we are heading for another boom. They also say that they do not see rapidly rising house prices as a good or healthy sign. “As the economy continues to emerge from the recent recession, keeping key cost of living factors affordable, such as housing, is imperative as the economy seeks to maintain the competitiveness advantage that has been gained in recent times.” Of course there is nothing to stop an Irish government from screwing up again. http://www.thejournal.ie/house-prices-irish-market-esri-1606629-Aug2014/
We hear today that the National Development Finance Agency has cleared the way for the controversial incinerator to go ahead in Poolbeg. What a shame. Dublin City Council has, from the start, made no bones about its commitment to the project regardless of cost and the impact on the environment. Having thrown so much money at it over the years one could be forgiven for thinking that the only reason they have stuck with it is to try justify the expenditure to date (much of it consultant fees). There is also the fact that the current government is more than likely giving its own support to the project. No surprise there as they have displayed a real lack of commitment to follow through on environmental policies introduced by their predecessors. Expect to see hordes of angry residents, in the Ringsend and Poolbeg areas especially, coming together to fight the authorities on this one.
If you have been to the Council’s new offices in Carriglawn you cannot have failed to notice the multi-coloured splash of colour coming from the wild flowers and grasses near the main entrance. This is a very positive statement of intent from the Council that the whole area of biodiversity is one they are taking seriously. With flowerbeds in the Wexford town area now containing a greater percentage of bee-friendly flowers we hope that the Council’s planting policy county-wide will move in a similar direction. Wexford County Council’s biodiversity page contains a wealth of information on the subject: http://www.wexford.ie/wex/Departments/Environment/Biodiversity Visit www.wexfordtidytowns.com to see how Wexford Town is nurturing its biodiversity side. While there read up on the “Let’s Bee Friendly” campaign and pledge your support to the bees!
We know that with the effects of climate change ever more visible and that, with current political inaction and general lack of political will, we can expect those effects to continue ever upwards we cannot continue to behave and consume as we do. Prof Timothy Lang gets the point across very nicely in this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gl00pKzARE
One of the unfortunate impacts of the government’s austerity programme is not only that standards fall but that things simply do not get done. Check the newspapers on any day and you will find examples of this in one or other sector: hospital operations not happening, medical cards not getting issued to those entitled to them, university grants not getting processed, streets not getting cleaned, EU emissions limits not been adhered to, and so on.
We have already seen several examples of Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s rather indifferent approach to how he deals with his brief. He is not only not getting things done, he is rolling back on much of the good work done by the Greens in government. The unfortunate end result is that the environment is the loser. We have learned in the past week that Ireland’s Nitogen Oxide emissions through 2010-2011 exceeded EU targets. We are failing to meet the MINIMUM targets set by the EU for Irish air quality. Not only are we setting ourselves up for hefty fines, we are endangering the lives of many by not maintaining good air quality.
In pursuing an austerity programme this government can always say that it is only doing what must be done, what the Troika has told use must be done. However, not doing certain things, such as maintaining a clean environment, is going to cost us more in the end both in fines and in the negative impact on our health.
The IMF has stated that Ireland should continue with plans for a €2 billion budget adjustment next year notwithstanding strong economic growth here. Joan Burton, the likely new leader of the Labour Party, “has indicated that her intention is to remain in the coalition and to maintain the fiscal targets for 2015, while also emphasising the need for social repair alongside economic repair”. Sounds like she wants to have her cake and eat it! The view of an increasing number of top economists is that the present austerity drive across Europe is not in the best long term interest of the EU or its citizens. If we continue on this path it will take more than a little “social repair” to get us back on our feet.
The government’s U-turn on discretionary medical cards along with the announcement that eligibility may in the future be determined by medical need is further evidence that Fine Gael & Labour do not have the stomach to change our unfair two-tier health system.
Green Party Health Spokesperson, Oisin Ó hAlmhain, says: “Allocating resources simply on the basis of medical condition continues the policy where illnesses with a strong emotional appeal receive more funding, while those conditions which are thought to be less deserving, such as psychiatric illness or chronic pain, do not. Evidence of this can be seen in the recent cuts to gastric banding surgery for obese patients, and in the growing waiting lists for ENT and dermatology services throughout the country.
“The Green Party is committed to the goal of equity of outcomes in health, as well as to fairness in opportunities and services for health. Medical cards must be allocated to those in greatest need, and not simply to those with the most vocal lobby group. Measures are needed to ensure that some discretion remains, but only in a transparent and equitable system, where those with greatest medical need are cared for.”
The elections were some craic though weren’t they? The tension, the drama, the pontificating experts, the cliff-hanger outcomes, the grey stoic faces of the vanquished, the whoops of joy from the victorious. Live theatre at its best. John Bowman was happy as a child on confirmation day, Noel Whelan was making wild predictions then betting against himself! And the parties? FG are a chastened lot, the people having sent a warning shot across their bows. And yet they have suffered nothing worse then some flesh wounds – nothing broken. Expect the internal grumblings to grow louder. Labour cannot understand how it is that they can be so misunderstood. Cannot the people see that they – Labour – are of the people, that anything they have done has been for the people. And this is the thanks they get! They have swallowed hard and begun the process of atonement in delivering the head of their leader. Expect to see further efforts to make amends and win back favour at the expense of the working relationship built up with their partners in government. FF are quietly happy with themselves. Who would have thought that forgiveness would come so soon? Just like old times. And sure won’t the best always rise to the top! Part of the next government? Eamonn Ó Cuiv says he can work with SF. And how about SF’s performance in the elections? A master class, that’s what it was, north and south. Their most impressive performance yet. Truly they are of the people, the face of modern Ireland. They may not yet have been bloodied in battle, their policies may be still be very much works-in-progress (that’s being kind!), their past something which still leaves many uncomfortable. And yet. They are on the march. A nation once again. Then there were the “Others”. Collectively they had a field day taking seats all over the place. Of these “Others” People Before Profit were particularly big winners. They may come across as a pretty disconsolate lot. That was before the election. Now they are happy, happy, happy. Bet they are hoping the government keeps on bringing in taxes! It’s all one big game.
We all know that there are major problems with our health service – long waiting times, shortage of senior doctors, unreliable ambulance service, cost overruns, withdrawing of medical cards from needy families, etc. We know that some of this may be put down to austerity measures brought in by the Minister for Health. Today we read in The Irish Times in a piece by Paul Cullen that the departing head of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) says the health service is failing patients. According to Cullen, Dr Tracey Cooper reckons that ‘the health service lacks accountability, is not sufficiently patient focused, fails to learn from its mistakes and “doesn’t know how many patients it is killing and harming”‘. She goes on to say “we haven’t cracked the paradigm that ‘actually, it’s about the patient, not the people working in the system’.” Cooper also says that there are no consequences when the system fails a patient or, generally, when something goes wrong. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/health-service-failing-patients-says-departing-hiqa-chief-1.1808738
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton finally decides enough is enough and she is making a stand. She wants no cuts to her department’s budget. We read in the Indo that the Minister “launched a scathing attack on a number of her Fine Gael Cabinet colleagues”. So you see she is on our side after all. (http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/joan-burtons-gloves-are-off-over-welfare-reform-plans-30242290.html)
Some of the comments to the piece would suggest a degree of doubt on this:
“Isn’t it totally amazing that Labour are finally making a ‘public’ stand like they did before the last election, right before the next elections. I know that some cynics may question Labours ‘line in the sand’ after the ‘Frankfurt vs Labour’ slogan, but this time they swear it is different. You would have to be a cynic to not believe them.”
“Ms Burton hacked away with a disorganised and crazy axe for the past few years – but says no more hacking (for now) because there are elections. The basis of Irish political thinking has always been just to lie low for a while after the faux pas and the people will forget soon enough. Let’s hope the mentality and education of the Irish voters has improved.”
“Thanks for sharing that with us, Joan. It’s really great news. And the fact that you’ve finally broken your vow of silence naturally has nothing to do with the minor matter of imminent elections and Labour’s resolute march into Armageddon? No? Of course not! We know you for one have no Rabbitte-esque tendencies, you know, that nasty habit where one promises certain things before elections and does the polar opposite afterwards.”
I read in www.thejournal.ie that, on the subject of the first pre-election opinion poll (the Irish Indo’s Millward Brown poll), a Fine Gael party source has described it as “a long overdue kick up the arse”. http://www.thejournal.ie/european-election-opinion-poll-labour-1436968-Apr2014
Wexford Tidy Towns launches its “Let’s Bee Friendly” project this Thursday, April 10 at 7pm in Wexford Town Library.
“Let’s Bee Friendly” is an exciting biodiversity project, developed in association with Wexford County Council, to generate greater awareness of the importance of bees as pollinators and what we can do to make their job easier. We are reliably informed that this launch will be short and, of course, sweet! Tea/coffee served … and, one can only hope, honey waffles! Everyone is welcome to attend. www.wexfordtidytowns.com/biodiversity/bees
Glenbrook Estate lies in the shadow of the old Wexford hospital. Unfortunately for its residents it also sits right next to a dump they did not know about on the old hospital grounds. Suffice to say that they know now! Those residents whose houses back on to the dump have found various medical waste items in the soil. And analysis has shown up dangerously high levels of toxins in soil samples tested. Are they concerned? You bet they are – you certainly would not want to be eating carrots grown in those gardens. It would appear that the authorities have not been bending over backwards to meet this matter head on and deal with what looks like a potentially hazardous situation. The Green Party’s EU candidate Grace O’Sullivan joined Cllr Danny Forde at an on-site meeting with residents last Friday. She was genuinely shocked, and moved, at what they had to tell her. She has vowed to do whatever she can to progress the matter and arrive at a satisfactory solution.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is not happy. Of Labour in power he has this to say: “Broken promises and missed opportunities”.
Over the last two and a half years, he says the Labour Party has had to break every false promise they made to the Irish people about what they would do if they were to form a government. “The most obvious of these is their faithful adoption of the economic strategy that had been set out by the previous administration and their careful adherence to implementing it line by line. Their worst deceit has been to victimise and single out the young people of this country, who have borne the brunt of increased college fees and slashed grants, savage social welfare cuts, and the abject failure of Labour to provide any substantial protection to our education system while they are in power.”
He goes on to say that Labour has no desire, and has made no effort, to reform our tainted and inefficient political and administrative systems. As regards the huge energy and climate challenges facing us Labour, he says, is happy to continue in a “Crisis? What crisis?” mode.
If you do nothing else this week make sure you make a trip to your local food and craft producers market. Every Friday morning the Bullring Market in Wexford town comes alive with discerning foodies and lovers of locally made crafts. Chemical-free food? Check. Absence of air-miles? Check. Value for money and service with a smile? Check Check! While you browse be sure to grab a java at Una’s – best in town. Around the corner at the rear of St Iberius Church there is a smaller market where you can pick up delicious quiches and pastries, including a favourite in our house – gluten-free coconut slices.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan says that “For every month this Government has been in office they have found ways to make our country less Green.” He goes on to say that “At a time when Governments across the world are starting to see the economic sense in going green, Labour and Fine Gael are stuck with an outdated view of the world. They seem to relish undoing some of the progressive measures the Green Party progressed in Government, as if to score a political point and prove their old fashioned conservative credentials.”
The list of reversals is long but here is Eamon Ryan’s top twelve from the first year:
1 Climate Change legislation ditched while they watch the flood waters rise.
2 They are digging for GMO potatoes and giving up our food marketing advantage in Europe.
3 Out of town Shopping Centres ……. bring them on says big Phil Hogan.
4 Ocean energy and microgeneration supports dropped, …..sure haven’t we lots of turf left.
5. Changing the tax rules to punish people who are doing the right thing.
6 Directly elected Mayor for Dublin, …… no let the bureaucracy reign.
7 Site Value taxation swapped for the most bungled introduction of a property tax ever.
8 Tax breaks for home insulation axed, along with thousands of retrofit construction jobs.
9 Public transport budget savaged – Government takes easy option to cut capital ahead of current.
10 The review into improper planning abandoned – same old Fine Gael – always rezoning.
11 Moriarty tribunal safely gathering dust with the other papers on the Government’s reform shelf.
12 School children pay the price for across the board cuts rather than work practice change.
And there is more to come – college fees, incinerators, water privitisation, over-fishing, fracking, sale of ESB and BGE, pay to view your Irish teams on TV.
Do you think Wexford town needs allotments? If yes we want to hear from you. A recent attempt to set up an allotments scheme in a lovely old walled garden adjacent to town foundered just before it was due to open. We say that this issue is too important to put on the back-burner any longer. Let’s get together on this one and get allotments in Wexford. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
“And I would ask the political economists, the moralists, if they have already calculated the number of individuals who must be condemned to wretchedness, to overwork, to demoralization, to infantilization, to despicable ignorance, to insurmountable misfortune, to utter penury, in order to produce one rich person.” José Saramago