28 May 2007

Looks like Fianna Fail will be back, which is a virtual guarantee that no real progress will be made for another five years except in those ministries where some miniscule coalition party exercises an obscene amount of power in the area of their particular concern. Michael McDowell almost succeeded in reconstructing the Department of Justice in his own image having been elected to the Dail on a handful of votes representing a party which fewer than five percent of the population supported. McDowell, Harney, Sargent, Adams et al, are all very aware that in other countries with PR systems of government similar to our own, they have special provisions in place to ensure that tiny, fringe parties such as the ones they represent are not in a position to exercise a disproportionate amount of influence.

And on this topic, there is much talk of an FF/Green coalition which will undoubtedly mean that Trevor Sargent will be the new Minister for the Environment. It doesn’t fill me with confidence. First, I don’t think there’s any real doubt that the Greens have an anti rural mindset. If they don’t state it explicitly in their party manifesto (which is a worry in itself) its fairly obvious from their behaviour. For example, despite several invitations, they failed to send a delegate to the Irish Rural Dwellers Association annual conference in Killarney last month. This speaks volumes. The PDs sent a speaker who’s opinions were roundly criticised, but with great respect from the floor (except from me - I was rude). And whenever reference was inadvertently made to the Green Party during the normal run of events, the chair insisted that the comments be struck down as the ‘Green Party were not in attendance and therefore not in a position to defend themselves’. Even An Taisce had a delegate at the conference.

So there’s an arrogance issue.

The other thing which bothers me about Green influence on public policy is that it’s very difficult to say exactly how literally they will apply their green agenda. Taken to it’s logical conclusion, a green style of life would have the entire population of the country living in one giant straw bale building with all facilities shared, no private transportation (except bikes) and control over our rights of reproduction. I’m not suggesting that Trevor Sargent has this in mind for us all, but the Green ideology is such a flexible concept it’s hard to know what exactly it means. And the Irish Green Party’s manifesto doesn’t do much to help. I mean, it’s written by a group of people who identify themselves as ‘green’ and yet its so milk-toast on environmental issues it could have been written by any of the main parties. Which leaves you with the feeling that the they must be hiding something from us.

I do agree with them for the most part (but not entirely – a discussion for another day) that the twenty year old Kenny Report recommendation which would prevent windfall personal gains when land has been rezoned should be implemented. It would make housing affordable.

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