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!