What I stand for.

April 4, 2007 at 10:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

People want to live in a civilised society. That is one in which they have maximum freedom to be themselves, are free from harm and threat, and can live their lives with respect and dignity. Such societies are socially and ecologically sustainable.

All complex societies tend to produce problems and inequalities that reduce the quality of the social world. There therefore needs to be a political culture of critique and debate so that problems can be identified and resolved and our goal of creating sustainable societies can be realised. A vibrant and engaged democracy is key to that.

In running for Seanad Eireann I commit myself to contributing to such a debate. The role of the Seanad is to reflectively review legislation. This is best achieved in a second house of parliament in a non-party political manner. The Seanad should act as a restraint on the Dail by examining Bills outside the heat of party-political controversy. I see this as a crucial check and balance in our legislative process. However, it must be clear that ultimately the Dail is paramount as the directly elected House.

I am a genuinely independent voice. As a Seanad candidate, I am not presenting a Programme for Government. It is more relevant for me to outline the criteria by which I will assess proposed legislation and to identify the issues of importance to me.

In examining proposed legislation I will ask:

  • whether bills are socially and ecologically sustainable
  • whether they improve the social position of the poor
  • whether they increase or erode civil liberties
  • whether they enhance or degrade our environment

I believe in a regulated free market where government acts to protect citizens from over-powerful private corporations. I believe in a vibrant parliamentary democracy where good ideas triumph over vested interests. I believe in the ‘open society’ where the socially deprived such as the homeless, the disabled and the ill are protected. I believe in an Ireland that provides a strong voice for international human rights and justice.

Below, I wish to outline some specific policy and legislative objectives that I will pursue. Rather than outline a pious ‘wish-list’ I am concentrating here on practical, achievable actions. 

Planning

  1. An obligatory pre-planning phase whereby developers of major infrastructural projects must engage meaningfully with communities affected by their projects and agree a development proposal.
  2. One independent body which oversees and reviews major infrastructural projects in order to ensure the use of best available technology, ecological viability and community consent.

Democratic / Institutional Reform

  1. Directly elected County and Town Mayors exercising the functions of the existing County and Town Managers.
  2. Implementation of the reform of University representation in the Seanad to include electors from all Third Level institutions.
  3. A Joint Oireachtas Petitions Committee to be established along the EU Parliament model to receive issues and complaints directly from citizens.

Ecological Institutional Reform

  1. All proposed legislation to have an environmental / sustainability stage.
  2. Codification of existing environmental legislation and rights, both domestic and international, and the establishment of an Environmental Court to oversee and adjudicate on the implementation of these rights.

Natural Resources

  1. The Corrib gas conflict needs to be resolved by the establishment of an Independent Commission which can determine the best development model for the project under the criteria of best available technology and community consent.
  2. A full review of the licensing terms and financial regime governing oil and gas exploration and development in Ireland.
  3. Income arising from these projects to be directly invested in developing new, renewable energy resources for the country.

Education

  1. Reduction of pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools to 20:1.
  2. Concentration in primary and post-primary education on physical education, citizenship and cultural studies.
  3. Removal of the focus on learning outcomes in Third Level in favour of a concentration on educational process.

Health

  1. Immediate investment in developing locally available, primary health-care clinics.
  2. Initiate a ‘de-hospitalisation’ strategy for many ailments and procedures, for example in regard to maternity services.

Rights

  1. Acknowledgement of new rights particularly the right to shelter, the right to receive full and appropriate services if disabled and the right to be nomadic by the provision of a comprehensive network of serviced halting sites.
  2. Acknowledgement of cultural rights in the new, multi-cultural Ireland. This includes particular protection for the integrity of the Gaeltacht communities.
  3. A major initiative on drug treatment is required involving education, maintenance programmes, therapeutic interventions and social supports.

  4. Increased funding and support for international aid efforts and a clear re-positioning of Ireland as an independent, neutral voice for international law and human rights.

There are a great number of additional issues and reforms that I could outline. Here, I want just to prioritise a number of immediate issues. I want an Ireland of informed, included and engaged citizens where everyone counts.

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April 3, 2007 at 9:14 am | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

Social Science Research Council workshop, NUI Galway.

 

The SSRC is comprised of a group of academic researchers working in the field of environment. Disciplines encompass sociology, geography, law and the natural sciences. The third annual workshop was held last weekend in NUI, Galway.  In my paper I argued that environmental conflicts are not always easily identifiable in terms of specific issues. In fact they often involve cultural assumptions which are not necessarily articulated in the course of disputes. 

In the Corrib gas conflict, locals were forced to define the dispute in terms relevant to their various interlocutors.

Yet the dispute was about far deeper cultural issues than that. Take Willie Corduff’s explanation for his ongoing opposition: I was born and reared on this farm. It’s memories that are making us do what we are doing. My father came here in 1947. The place then was pure bog with a fallen-down house. The memories we have are of the way we were brought up. Hard times. They’re the memories you have and the memories you have to keep. To see someone coming in now and trying to destroy it, as Shell is doing, it kills you. Our footsteps are around the place since we were able to walk. There are memories of our fathers and mothers and how hard they worked to bring us up. This was all bog land. It all had to be reclaimed by hand. Doing corners by spade and shaking a bit of their own seed that the cows had left after them in the shed. It wasn’t that they went out and bought seed for they couldn’t afford to go out and buy seed. They gathered up the seed that was left after the cow had eaten. They shook it in a corner every year to make it green. That’s the reality. It’s all memories. You cannot let them die (Our Story: The Rossport Five 2006:15).  How do you translate that into terms cognisable by bureaucratic processes or multi-national corporations? Therefore, in my Seanad campaign I will argue that planning for major industrial developments must involve: 

  1. An obligatory pre-planning phase whereby developers and community engage meaningfully and agree a development model.
  2. One, over-arching independent body which oversees complex projects which involve multiple consents.
  3. That development be recognized as requiring community consent with the community as genuine partners in the pre-planning and consents phase.

Our Story Rossport Five book launch Ennis

April 2, 2007 at 11:20 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment

There was a very successful book launch of the Rossport Five Our Story book on Friday, March 30th at the Sceal Eile bookshop in Ennis. The launch was introduced by Ciana Campbell and there were addresses from local TD James Breen, Ms.Lelia Doolin, myself and Michael O Seighin. A large local crowd attended.

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