You would almost be feeling sorry for our blue-shirted friends. Almost.

images-2 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.

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Wexford gets ready to party at annual Opera Festival

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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!

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Wexford wins bronze in 2014 Tidy Towns

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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

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Are we heading for another housing-led boom?

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/

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Poolbeg incinerator looks like becoming a reality

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.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/controversial-poolbeg-incinerator-plan-set-to-proceed-1.1919259

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/locals-pledge-to-fight-tooth-and-nail-to-oppose-poolbeg-incinerator-1.1919435

 

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Wexford County Council leads by example on biodiversity front

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! Media,24576,en

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Food and climate change – breaking the link

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

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Government cutbacks means environment suffers

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.

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So should government listen to IMF and continue with current austerity programme?

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.

http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/imf-urges-noonan-to-continue-plan-for-2bn-adjustment-1.1836872/1.1836879

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Government’s U-turn on discretionary medical cards

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.”

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Working Group Report on Citizen Engagement with Local Government

A working group, under the chair of Fr Sean Healy, presented this report to Phil Hogan T.D. Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government. The Department published it in February 2014.  I like the look of it. That said, it has the look of something that the Minister would be happy to stick at the bottom of the “To Do” pile  … means he can get away with saying he has the report on his desk! http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/Community/CommunityVoluntarySupports/FileDownLoad,36779,en.pdf

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“I AM THE ONE!”

With the elections almost upon us politicians up and down the country are growing ever more frenetic in their efforts to convince you that “I AM THE ONE”! The last minute attempts to ensure all bases are covered has more than a few in a dervish-like trance-state of near exhaustion. The whole thing is a great game, dirty tackles and all! Not that you can expect any dirty play from your Green Party candidates. We are not ones for petty off-the-ball harrying or name-calling even if we do not shy away from going in with the shoulder! We leave gratuitous mud-slinging to others. I am listening to a panel on Sean O’Rourke’s radio show (|RTE 1) discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of local democracy and the doing away with our Town Councils. Will we miss them? The general feeling is that their days were numbered way back in the 1970s when much of their power was transferred to County Councils. One thing is certain: with Town Councils gone we will make a big saving on unjustifiable expenses and junkets. What chance we might see reform to present abuses in this area at County Council level? Now, more than ever, people want to know that it is not simply a case of business as usual in the Council. They want public representatives who will do what is right rather than doing what they are told. There is a palpable sense of anger towards politicians of all persuasions, a sense that a promise made is a promise waiting to be broken, and that, for the majority of politicians, party will always come before the common good. No wonder people find it hard to trust politicians. Let us hope that our incoming Councillors can learn to work together, for the good of his constituents, in a responsible and transparent way.  Councillors need to have one overriding aim, one which starts with the question: “What can I do to make Wexford a better place to live, shop and work?”. Councillors cannot wave a magic wand and make everything alright. What they can do is lay the groundwork to allow us build a better Wexford whether through better policy development and more careful allocation of scarce resources. They can, and must, ensure that tax/rate payers get a bigger bang for their buck by working more closely with local business and the community. Such an approach can deliver better services, better roads, safer streets, and a Wexford that is open for business.

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Elections – don’t you just love ‘em!

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.

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Health Service is still not working says departing Hiqa head

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

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National Biodiversity Week, May 17-25

Media,22594,en This week (May 17-25) is National Biodiversity Week. There are events happening around Ireland to try encourage us all to get out celebrate the great outdoors.

“National Biodiversity Week provides us with lots of great opportunities to get up close and personal to nature. Explore and enjoy our unique landscapes, from beaches and bogs, to rivers and urban canals, to forests and mountainsides. It’s amazing what you can discover, even in a familiar place!”
Wexford is spoiled for choice when it comes to biodiversity-rich areas of great scenic beauty whether that be a stroll on the beach, a riverside walk or maybe a trek up the Blackstairs Mountains.
Maybe try this: Jamestown Nature Reserve, Oylegate, “a working farm and nature reserve in Wexford that fosters and explores the wonder of natural diversity”. See more at www.jamestownnaturereserve.com.
It’s worth mentioning that Wexford Tidy Towns has a big biodiversity push on this year with its “Bee Friendly” project. The aim is to get us all to plant bee-friendly plants in our gardens. Any garden centre can you advise you or you can find an easy-to-follow guide at www.wexfordtidytowns.com. Be sure to pledge your support to the “Let’s Bee Friendly” campaign on the Tidy Towns website! And if the kids are slow to get the message tell them that if there were no bees there would be no chocolate!
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Grace will work for “a politics of the common good”

At the recent launch of the Green Euro election manifesto, candidate for Ireland South, Grace O’Sullivan, said: “The Government are not listening to the people, and it continues to place an undue burden on the most vulnerable in our society.

 “I hear the same disillusionment from people across the ten counties of Ireland South – that those in difficulty are still being left behind. This is not good enough. I want to work to secure a fair recovery for all.

 “I have fought for over 35 years of my working life against injustice. I want to bring that fighting spirit to Brussels on behalf of the people of Ireland South, to work for a politics of the common good, not just for the few. One which cares for all our people and looks towards the next generation. The Greens are the only party with that vision and the capacity to deliver.”

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Cllr Danny Forde – working for Wexford

Danny Happy2As Cllr Danny Forde faces into the final few weeks of campaigning before the elections he has taken time out to tell us how he feels he can make a difference. Forde has been getting a very positive reaction on the canvas trail. However, he says that there is a palpable sense of anger towards politicians of all persuasions, a sense that a promise made is a promise waiting to be broken, and that, for the majority of politicians, party will always come before country. “People find it hard to trust politicians,” he says.
Cllr Forde says he will not make promises he cannot keep and will always act in a responsible and transparent way for the good of his constituents. “My priority,” he says, “is to make Wexford a better place to live, shop and work.” Here are some of the ways he hopes to do this:
 Preparing for the Upturn
- with house prices on the way back up, what chance that we return to the reckless speculation and poor planning of the boom years? How do we prevent young first-time buyers from getting priced out of the market? How do we include a safety net to ensure vulnerable families do not end up in  hotel room or, worse, out on the street? I stand for sustainable development and transparency in the planning process; I also stand for the right of everyone to have a roof over their heads.
 Build Smarter, Save Money!
- yes you can save on energy costs while also being kind to the environment!
- we can lead the way by starting on social housing and public buildings.
 Better local services … and less roads to no where!
- ensuring that you get better value-for-money from your Council. Whenever hard questions need to be asked, I ask them!
 Better support for town centre business
- getting the message out that Wexford is open for business!
- you pays your money, you deserve better. Your Council needs to work harder to make Wexford a more attractive place to work and shop.
 Make it easier for new business set-up
- putting in place the conditions to make Wexford more attractive to new business,  encouraging inward investment, ensuring meaningful handholding of start-up business.
- especially target I.T., services, local producers, “green” jobs.
 Think Local, Buy Local!
- especially when it comes to quality fresh food produced locally. 
- Let’s make the route from producer to consumer as short as possible so the producer not only gets most of the price paid, he can also keep his prices down. 
 Rosslare Harbour – “Get the Harbour back on track”
- this is our gateway to the EU and it is not fit for purpose. Reversing years of neglect here must be a priority.
 Develop brand “Wexford” 
- on land, on sea, lets push “Destination Wexford”!
- good for tourism, good for business.
 Speaking up for communities
- every voice deserves to be heard. If you have an issue you are passionate about talk to me!
 Making Wexford a bike-friendly town
- let’s take a lead from the Dutch and make cycling the default mode of transport around Wexford.
- develop a Wexford bike self-service rental scheme. What better way to get around!
 Working to make Wexford an all-ages-friendly zone.
- Easier to get around, safe and always welcoming; more activities for teenagers; nurturing respect for the elders in our community.
 Focus on the arts
- better support for local arts groups;
- recognition of the part the arts can play in giving young people a constructive and rewarding outlet for their creative energies;
- acknowledge and reward excellence in the arts.
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With elections looming Labour’s Joan Burton breaks her silence!

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.”

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‘Kick up the arse’

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

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Duncan Stewart decides not to run for Europe and gives support to Grace

Duncan Stewart has decided not to run in the upcoming European elections opting, instead, to give his full support to the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan. http://greenparty.ie/news?n=393

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