Staying open!

July 30, 2007 at 10:27 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment

For now at least, I will keep this blog open and post comments on contemporary affairs and on the ongoing Corrib gas issue. From comments and feedback that I have received, there seems to be a significant appetite for a new political mobilisation that can address social and environmental sustainability. I am quite happy to contribute to that debate in the coming months.

Thanks

July 26, 2007 at 10:50 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

I want to record my sincere thanks to all of those who supported my campaign for Seanad Eireann. As a first-time candidate who entered the race in February and with no political party or trade union machine behind me, I am delighted and honoured to have received almost one thousand first preference votes. I want in particular to publicly thank those who allowed their name be used as endorsers of my campaign – Kathy Sinnot MEP, Joe Murray of AFRI, Richard Douthwaite of FEASTA, Lelia Doolan, Dr Jerry Cowley, Davie Philip of the Cultivate Centre, Fr Peter McVerry, Dr Nollaig O Muirile and Donncha O’Connell. 

I ran in order to raise issues that I believe to be of critical importance. These particularly involve the quality of our democracy and our need to reform our economy in the light of peak oil and climate change. We urgently need to bring about a society that is socially and environmentally sustainable.  

I am also deeply concerned about the Corrib gas conflict. This issue should have been resolved years ago and has been allowed to continue because of an appalling lack of political leadership and courage. The people of North Mayo deserve better and I will continue to do all I can to support them. 

Finally, I hope that this NUI Seanad election will be the last one where graduates from all other third level institutions are excluded from voting. The refusal to implement the constitutional amendment expanding the university electorate is symptomatic of our democratic deficit. I look forward to the day when my own students can vote in the same way as students from certain selected universities.

Vote Statistic

July 26, 2007 at 10:30 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment

For the record I received 951 first preference votes. I was in twelfth place among the twenty-four candidates. I was eliminated following the thirteenth count and had, at that time, 1,149 votes.

Final Thanks

July 23, 2007 at 3:24 pm | Posted in News | Leave a comment

I want to thank sincerely all those who have supported my campaign. I want to particularly thank those who allowed their name be used as endorsers of my campaign – Dr Jerry Cowley, KathySinnot, Joe Murray, Richard Douthwaite, Lelia Doolan, Davie Philip, Fr Peter McVerry, Dr Nollaig O Muirile and Donncha O’Connell.

I have been very touched by the messages of support I have received and the many stories that I have heard of people’s situation and circumstances.

Counting begins tomorrow but irrespective of the outcome I am delighted to have had the opportunity to raise the issues that I believe are important.

Appeal to Seanad voters – elect a genuine opposition

July 19, 2007 at 10:48 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

Voters in the university panels have just a few days left to vote for true independents who can provide a genuine opposition to the present government / opposition consensus. There is a unique opportunity to make the Seanad relevant as a location where independent and dissenting parliamentary voices can be heard. It is no surprise that the three government parties are so anxious to ensure that candidates supporting them are elected. 

I believe that the Irish people are crying out for intelligent and reasonable leadership that addresses critical issues. They are tired of sound-bites, bluster and clichés. These issues include our democratic deficit, health and crime, our looming energy crisis and, above all, the need to address social and environmental sustainability. The pro-growth, business-as-usual model supported by all political parties is simply not up to meeting the challenges of our times. It is a matter of mounting regret that parties such as the Greens have now become effectively co-opted into supporting this model. 

I accept that the key drivers of social change are social movements. However, for these movements to be most effective and realise their full potential, they need to be allied to parliamentary representatives who can articulate and advance their ideas at parliamentary level. This is simply the lesson of history.  

There is a final opportunity now to elect independent Senators who can challenge the contemporary consensus and seek to address through debate and ideas the intellectual requirement to forge new social, political and economic models. I call on voters to exercise their franchise accordingly. 

Debate about Seanad Reform has become a missed opportunity

July 17, 2007 at 11:28 am | Posted in Statements | 1 Comment

I welcome the commitment made yesterday by Minister John Gormley to undertake a full review of the university registers for Seanad elections. However, Seanad reform needs to go far further than this and must, at the very least, include extending the vote to all graduates of Irish Third Level institutions. 

However, the endless debate about Seanad reform has meant that the main issue of the Seanad election campaign has been the Seanad itself. This is a wasted opportunity to address real issues of importance. Such issues must include significant political and economic reform. We clearly need far greater levels of democracy at local and national level and we need to re-configure our economy towards achieving social and environmental sustainability. We need to recover our concept of the citizen and place citizenship, with the rights and responsibilities that that implies, at the centre of our political and social life. 

In conducting a Seanad campaign, we need to stop talking about ourselves and start talking about the issues. Throughout the country, citizens feel that they cannot meaningfully engage in decisions which directly affect their lives. They have lost the belief that politics is a way of achieving real and substantive change. Vested interests seem to dominant public debate and decision-making. As I have argued throughout this campaign, the difficulties surrounding the Seanad are merely symptomatic of a far deeper democratic deficit and malaise.  

Other infrastructural projects may also be illegal

July 13, 2007 at 9:40 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

The Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, is today meeting with EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas regarding Ireland’s failure to transpose EU Environmental Impact Directives into Irish law. As a result of this failure, questions have arisen about the legality of the Tara M3 road project.  

However, these legal concerns are also relevant to other large infrastructural projects, most notably the Corrib gas project in Mayo. Shell’s proposed re-routing of its production pipeline has meant that the cumulative environmental impact of the project is now unknown. The consequence is that the original Environmental Impact Assessment is inadequate and out-dated. Furthermore, the division of the project into separate components for environmental assessment purposes is contrary to the Directive and is an example of ‘project-splitting’ – also illegal under EU law.  

It is imperative that Irish law be brought into line with the EU Directives immediately and that the government exercises its responsibility in this regard.   

Some internet news

July 11, 2007 at 8:53 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Two links that might be worth looking at.

First, you can see the BBC report on a new scientific study which discounts the theory that variations in the activity of the sun may be responsible for climate change. This is an important finding as it shows again that contemporary climate change is being caused by human activity. The link is: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6290228.stm

Second, you can hear the brief presentation I gave to the recent Mediaforum conference in Galway. Please note though that I merely acted as a spokesperson for the Rossport Five rather than managing their PR campaign over five years! The link is: http://www.mediaforum.ie/?p=147

Disappointment at Green Party positions

July 9, 2007 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Statements | 3 Comments

I wish to express my great disappointment at the comments of Trevor Sargent regarding the Seanad election. Mr Sargent has requested Green Party councilors to vote for Fianna Fail party candidates in order that the government can achieve a majority in the new Seanad. This, he says, is to ensure that government legislation will achieve an easier passage through the upper house. 

I believe that these comments reveal a limited understanding of the role and value of the Seanad in our legislative process. In my view, 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. This as a crucial check and balance in our legislative process. I greatly regret that the Greens appear more concerned with the dynamics of power than with ensuring democratic diversity. The Seanad should not be a mere rubber-stamp for government bills.

 I also regret the remarks of Minister Eamon Ryan on RTE’s The Week in Politics. The Minister betrayed a poor understanding of the Corrib gas conflict by assuming that the issue could be resolved by a mere re-routing of a production pipeline. As he well knows, the core issue centers on the method chosen by Shell to process the gas and therefore whether there should be a production pipeline at all within any populated area.  

We need a new Whitaker Plan

July 6, 2007 at 10:03 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

The time has come for a major renewal of our society and economy towards sustainability. In effect, we need a new Whitaker Plan to guide us towards achieving new social, economic and environmental objectives. I believe that there would be great excitement and potential in engaging on a national project like this. But to begin this task what we now need are vision and leadership. 

The reason that we need such a new direction is clear. The age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. This is for at least three reasons. Because of peak oil fossil fuels will become uneconomic. Second, dependence on fossil fuels is becoming a political liability in an unstable world. Finally, our use of fossil fuels is triggering a climate change sequence as yet with unknown consequences.  What all of this means is that ‘business as usual’ is not an option.  

The irony is that a move towards sustainability offers the only viable way to trigger long-term economic growth in this country and greatly improve the quality of our social lives and community. We should commit to a net zero-carbon status within the next twenty to thirty years. To achieve this we will need carbon quotas for each citizen and business, carbon taxes and significant incentives for research and development. We need a serious energy conservation programme. We need a major renewal of our agricultural sector so that can produce more high-quality foods for local sale and crops that can be used for energy and construction purposes. 

The potential is there to make Ireland a world-leader in developing new, sustainable economic and social models. We had the courage and vision in the 1950s to think our way to new solutions. We need the same qualities of leadership today. 

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