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Left Archive: Environmental Emergency Conference, Programme – Green Alliance/Comhaontas Glas 1987 January 27, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Green Alliance/Comhaontas Glass, Green Party, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
3 comments

GPCON

To download the above document please click on the following link: GPCON87

This is an unusual document in that it is a programme from an Environmental Emergency Conference held by the Green Alliance/Comhaontas Glass, the precursor of the Green Party. Held in 1987 it had a number of speakers including David Bellamy, Sean McBride, Carmencity Hederman (the Lord Mayor of Dublin), representatives of An Taisce and political parties.

Held in the Synod Hall in Christchurch I myself was at a day or two of the sessions. I vividly remember Bellamy suggesting that nuclear power might be a necessary option in the event of massive environmental degradation and as a means of diverting societies away from fossil fuels. One notable aspect of the conference was the relative lack of emphasis on climate change, though one session is on AIR POLLUTION INDUSTRIAL and mentions ‘CFCs and ozone, CO2 and greenhouse effect’ – though the risks of nuclear pollution and nuclear power are dealt with. Another interesting aspect is the absence of most of the names that would come to be associated with the representative face of the GP in later years.

There is a letter from the Green Alliance on page 4 that outlines the aim of the Conference; ‘…an adequate forum for the presentation of reasonable arguments on most aspects of pollution and pollution risk in Ireland’.

Page 2 has an outline of the Green Alliance/Comhaontas Glas stating that:

…[it] is a new political grouping, one that cannot be placed anywhere on the usual Left/Right axis. It is unlike all established Irish parties; it is structured different, makes decisions differently, advocates very different policies and is working towards a very different kind of society.

Worth too noting the seven principles of the Green Alliance/Comhaontas Glas which are also on that page.

Finally, as an aside, is that the genesis of Left Archive on the back page, all the way back in 1987? It could be.

Brian Lenihan: Multi-Award Winning Finance Minister December 7, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Fianna Fáil, Green Party, Irish Politics.
2 comments

So the budget is later today. I was going to put up an open thread on it, but I suspect that there may be a much more sophisticated post in the offing from someone else who writes here. I quite liked my putative Budget Day: Open Thread for Open Class Warfare headline too, but there you go. I’m sure I’ll have the chance to use it again. On a day that is likely to live in infamy, we can at least console ourselves with the thought that the Financial Times at least seems to have learned something from this crisis and the Fianna Fáil/Green government’s reaction to it over the last few years, and sees Brian Lenihan for what he is. It will probably be the only thing likely to raise a smile associated with Lenihan today.

An Expert Speaks on the Irish Banking System: Nick Leeson Lets Fly April 25, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Capitalism, Economics, Fianna Fáil, Green Party, Ireland, Uncategorized.
4 comments

THE rogue trader who single handedly brought about the collapse of Barings Bank has said Ireland will be paying for the mistakes of its “incompetent” government and banks for another three decades.

Interesting interview in the Sunday Tribune with Nick Leeson, who went to gaol for his his fraudulent behaviour when a trader with Barings Bank. A man who knows all about the structural weaknesses of the international financial system, as well as the reckless greed that lies at its heart. So it’s worth listening to him when he speaks about the nature of the southern system.

“It looks to be far more irresponsible in Ireland than anywhere else in the world,” he told the Sunday Tribune. “The government, the Central Bank and the regulatory authority have been totally incompetent and anyone who says otherwise is lying.”

“I don’t think anything should alleviate the level of anger. Ireland is a net borrower; they are borrowing at a low rate but that is only going to go one way, up. So it is going to cost more and more to service these problems,” he said. “I would imagine that the Irish people are going to be paying for these mistakes for the next 25 to 30 years at least. That is the remainder of my lifetime. Why would the anger alleviate?”

“There is a façade that surrounds the world of finance. It’s like when you go to the doctor and you expect that they know what they are doing and you have complete faith and you hope they will cure you.
“It used to be the same with the banking system, that you put your money in there and you hope they deposit it for you but now, over the last 18 months or so, that façade has come crashing down and that is apparent to every man in the street.”

The man knows what he’s talking about, especially when it comes to a great deal of the financial system being based on nothing but collective delusion. He also knows what he’s talking about when it comes to gaoling people. No point talking about economic treason, and then paying the economic traitors to cover their mistakes and lies. I can think of a certain Sunday newspaper that could do worse than employ him as a columnist.

Where you stand is where you’re at… the Green Party , left, right and wrong. October 29, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Green Party, Irish Politics, The Left.
21 comments

I’ve been thinking a little about the quote I referenced from Monday’s Irish Times about the Green Party. It went…

A spokesman for the Green Party said they recognised it was a difficult poll finding for the Government, coming at a time of unprecedented international calamity in financial markets.

“But for the Green Party, it is a solid result in keeping with opinion poll trends since entering government 16 months ago. People recognise we are there to do a specific job on environmental and other issues,” he said.

This blog has been – in the main – critically supportive of the Green Party over the past year or so, as it has been of all our left and progressive formations. But note that I say left and progressive formations.

One of the less lovable traits of the Green Party is the way in which in the course of conversation with their members the line ‘but the Green Party isn’t left-wing or right-wing…’ comes up. It is produced with all the relish of a magician saying ‘ta-dah!’ and it is, like all such lines, intended not so much a means of demonstrating some transcendental political quality as being a conversation stopper. If it is neither left nor right then it does not, or so the thinking goes, have the negative characteristics of either.

Indeed, if the party is not left or right then it can be strongly pro-enterprise, but also vaguely redistributionist. It can be in favour of local government, but seek state power by joining government. It can be fervently, but not too much so, for the retention of Medical Cards and their extension (go see their health policy) while sitting around a Cabinet table and overseeing their reduction. It can be good, it can be bad. It can be up, it can be down. It can be post-ideology and, as the old Marxism Today joke had it, post early for Christmas.

But that’s all so much hogwash because, of course, the reality is that just as gender and race are part and parcel of the US Presidential campaign, however much all parties tend to eschew the language of gender and race, so it is that left and right are intrinsic to the nature of the political environment that the Green Party operates in and therefore impinge directly upon it.

The point being that at some stage the Green Party was always going to have, as this last couple of weeks has forced it, to show the colour of its money on issues which are self-evidently of left or right, or of class if you prefer. And to me as a leftist their response has been startlingly inadequate, which leads me to believe that they may well believe that they are not of right or left. Well. They can believe it, but that doesn’t mean that they’re correct.

The fallacy here is to believe that a contemporary society can be beyond class division, that in some ineffable manner ‘class does not matter’, or to look to the future that even under the massive pressures generated by climate change that a society will somehow operate in such a way as to avoid the internal pressures of class, or that the floods will wash all else before them. There’s more than a little of the old contortions on the further left about the nature of the Soviet Union and its relationship to Marxism, in whatever flavour favoured. The blindingly obvious reality that the Soviet Union, as with any other state/society, couldn’t be reduced to the simplifications of models generated to sustain a political position in entirely different societies appeared to elude those who spent years developing them (and I blame all from orthodox pro-Moscow parties through to the most internationalist of internationalists for that particular failing). And so it is with the Green Party and class and the coming dispensation. I’d tend to take a pessimistic view of such matters and suspect that if climate change isn’t managed in a humanistic fashion then some of the ‘solutions’ might take a very hard-edge right wing character.

In any case, it is impossible in a modern functioning liberal democracy to take political positions which are entirely detached from left/right or class. To pretend otherwise is to misunderstand the fundamental nature of those societies and the power relationships within them (remember the difficulties the Liberal Democrats, another operation who eschew the concept of class, got into at the their last Party Conference as they sought to square that circle). And to reify such a misunderstanding to something close to a truism, or at the least a badge of honour, is to demonstrate – if not an actual vacuity – a problem at the heart of a project.

It is also a product of a party culture, one which is for the most part middle class. No change there from our other parties, one might say, and one might be right. But without an ideology at least with some nodding acquaintance of class (and here I’m suggesting this operates for both left right and centre – indeed Fianna Fáil have managed to turn it to their advantage across the best part of a century) the possibility, no – the awareness – of the impacts of policy decisions will be lacking.

Let me hypothesize for a moment. Imagine, if you will, a newly reinstated Fianna Fáil led Coalition government which is largely tone deaf to the implications of its policies after ten years in power. Times are not as good as they were and it decides that in order to restore some financial “order” it must cut back the Medical Cards for the elderly and introduce means tests. The suggestion itself emanates from a member of another political party in the government, a party of the right. Fianna Fáil knows that this is tricky. It’s basic instinct for recognising this is now intermittent, it’s populism but a shadow of its former glory, but it remains savvy enough to run the proposal past the small more radical environmentally minded party which is also part of the Coalition. They raise no significant objection. They, after all, have no ideological reason for doing such. In fact their own health policy is rather vague on such matters. There is much talk of primary care, but nothing hugely informative as to funding or structures. And so it goes. Fianna Fáil misreading this as an indication that the policy will be tolerated, if not loved, proceed to announce it at the Budget. Chaos ensues.

Now, I’m not saying that is how it happened. I suspect that that might be an element of it, but in fairness few commentators on the day of the Budget were in a position to predict how this would play out, or the ferocity of the public response. But the fact that it is a not implausible reading of the situation tells us something perhaps of our own expectations of such matters and something about the nature of the Green Party.

One might suggest too that if one casts an eye over the past three decades of the Green Party and its successor one will see a very conscious effort to find positions that were distinct from the left and right. Hardly a surprise, for any party there is a necessity to demonstrate its uniqueness. For the Green Party the problem was that its radicalism of many issues has been similar, if not quite the same, as that of the left and further left which has led to a belief that it is of those. Well, yes… and no.

But then look at the place the Green Party is today and consider where have significant portions of their previous platform have gone. And here I’m not talking about transitional issues such as Tara or suchlike which are contingent on time and will for better or worse vanish into the mists, but more long-held beliefs. But here is the curiosity. What precisely were those long held beliefs? Basic income, well that slipped off the radar some while back (it’s still in policy but way down in the tax credits area). And for the others many policies, as with Tara or Shannon, were of a sort that broadly any formation on the centre or left could sign up to with little worry.

And here another political dynamic is apparent which may have more marked problems for the Green Party than other parties. We are all aware of the near-macho requirement for left parties to jettison policy as a mark of their political ‘maturity’. We saw something of a fire sale of such at the last election with the Labour Party and Sinn Féin vying with each other over issues such as personal taxation and corporate tax to present the most ‘responsible’ face to the electorate. Remember, these are avowedly leftwing parties, both pitching in a way which is near-indistinguishable from the centre parties. Near-indistinguishable? I’m being too generous. Indistinguishable.

And that’s not a lash at them to restore some balance at my having produced a critique of the Green Party, but merely to point up that for the Green Party the dynamic can operate in a potentially more pernicious fashion. When the bottom line is the planet itself there is really no bottom line at all in the face of general political activity. Hence the concentration on ‘business-friendly’ rhetoric in the past number of years, hence the push to government as if government in and of itself is a validation of their project. Hence sitting at Cabinet table and acquiescing to co-location, etc (any chance of a change there now that the balance of forces have shifted in the past week?). And most importantly, the concentration on the centrality of climate change to the near-exclusion of all else. As long as the former is being addressed all is well-ish.

But the obvious problem there is that government isn’t about a single issue, however important. It’s a process of compromise and negotiation, of retaining a political base in the face of competing demands and pressures. It is about enabling a society, with all that that entails. It is most importantly, if one does – as indeed I do – believe that climate change is a near existential problem, about shaping a societal response which has to have a collective face and generating the broadest possible coalitions of the people to do so. But the clue is in the term ‘collective’. That means that, like it or not, there will be options for left positions and there will be options for right positions and there will be the consequent necessity to have well thought out and credible policies to determine between them and – if we are fortunate – to provide that humanistic left of centre approach that I mentioned earlier. We’ve just seen an object lesson in the limitations of the use of the word ‘tough’ in our political discourse. A little bit of conviction, some rethinking and some effort to convince wouldn’t go amiss.

While their drop of one percentage point in the most recent poll is far from catastrophic they might do well to reflect upon the trend. And also on a further political reality which is that despite the stringent and near-hysteric calls for self-sacrifice and patriotism from the usual suspects on the centre right as regards this Budget the people weren’t buying, even in the wake of the most serious financial dislocation in generations.

That being the case, and given the fuzziness of their policies in a range of social areas far beyond healthcare, how do they believe they can bring that same people with them to make the sort of sacrifices that may be necessary to implement even the most marginal changes necessary to combat climate change?

The Left Archive: The Green Party Election Manifesto 1989 September 1, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Green Party, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
17 comments

A guest post from Pidge who is developing a parallel resource to the Irish Left Archive at the Irish Election Manifesto Archive.

green-party-ge-19892

I always used to think that the Green Party was crazy. It was one of
those lazy, cheap stereotypes that helps mask a gap in your knowledge,
and acts as a simple way to dismiss a group. Thanks to a few friendly
arguments (largely on Politics.ie – from its current state you’d never
guess that anything constructive ever comes of it), I came to see the
error of my ways, and decided to get involved in the party. I went to
my first meeting with a friend towards the end of 2006, and I’ve been
fairly active since. One of the main things I like about the party is
the sense (whether justified or not) that it’s simply the initial
drizzle of a coming downpour. I often get the impression that the
widespread adoption of the broader Green agenda is inevitable
(although, I can’t help but wonder if the Labour Party in the late
sixties thought the same about their own agenda).

Reading through the 1989 Green Party manifesto, I can find
justification for both views I’ve held about the party. There’s
certainly a healthy dash of oddness in the document, but there’s a
surprising amount of foresight too.

Take, for example, the half page discussion of climate change. In
1989, I can’t imagine that many people were talking about climate
change, on any part of the political spectrum. Yet, there’s a half
page which outlines the primary causes of anthropogenic climate
change, the basic mechanisms involved and loose solution. There’s also
stuff about recycling, cycle lanes, CFCs/Ozone, acid rain and urban
conservation. Issues which have, by and large, entered into the
standard political lexicon in Ireland. For example, every manifesto in
the last general election mentioned climate change, recycling and
renewable energy. That’s quite a shift.

The more interesting and zany parts of the manifesto can be found
mainly on page 8 in the section entitled “Work”, which doesn’t really
acknowledge any of the pitfalls of removing all disincentives to not
working. The tone of the section “Women & Society” seems out of place
and over-aggressive. The line at the end of the section reads “This
section is being reviewed by the Women’s Group”, which strikes me as
one of the compromises which were apparently typical of the early
Greens.

I won’t keep prattling on, but it’s an interesting document to read.
Many of the issues have been taken into the political mainstream
(albeit in a watered-down way), and some have fallen by the wayside.
All the same, it provides an interesting backdrop to where the Greens
currently are, and how much the party has changed since those days.

On an aside, I scanned this document as part of the Irish Election
Manifesto Archive, a project I started working on out of sheer
boredom. I’m attempting to create a single site where you can access
digital copies of party political manifestos from throughout Irish
history. If anyone has any documents which they think might be
suitable (either on paper or digital), I’d really appreciate a copy.
All contributors will, of course, be credited fully.

A Greener Green Party… John Gormley talks about the future in Belfast. Meanwhile… why they won’t be the ethical watchdog MkII in the Fianna Fáil led Coalition February 19, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Green Party, Northern Ireland.
61 comments

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An interestingly robust speech from John Gormley in Belfast at the special conference of the Green Party.

Speaking in Belfast at a special regional party agm on Saturday, he insisted only the Greens could offer real opposition to the Sinn Féin/DUP-led Executive at Stormont. He claimed the Northern Ireland Greens, as a political entity, had emerged as a result of the Good Friday agreement.

Is this true? That’s quite a claim to make, and perhaps indicates some effort to take a degree of ‘ownership’ of the process albeit at a remove. They certainly make great play of the way in which the Green Party in Northern Ireland is a ‘Region’ of the Irish Green Party, and yet also has links to the Scottish, Welsh and English parties. Which, in some respects seems weirdly reminiscent of the Socialist Party approach. But, maybe they’re correct. Then it’s on to the current situation.

“The DUP and Sinn Féin have fought their war and signed their treaty. That is their legacy. It is now our turn,” he said.

The term ‘chutzpah’ springs to mind, considering that both those entities command many multiples of the support garnered by the Green Party. But… one has to start somewhere. And it is with at least some sort of an ideology that he does so…

“We are the result of a political climate that soars far above sectarianism or religious identification – climate change, pollution and the challenges of the globalised economy do not stop at national borders. Sectarian politics aimed at one section of the community and not the other is one reason why so many in Northern Ireland feel disaffected – the Green Party offers these people a reason to vote.”

Brave words too, when he said:

“With the entry of the Green Party into government in Dublin, we will deliver not just for voters in the Republic but also for the people of Northern Ireland,” Mr Gormley said.

“Using the cross-Border bodies and other joint initiatives on nuclear power, renewable energy, tourism and GM food, the party in Northern Ireland will approach voters at the next elections with evidence that Green power delivers a better quality of life for all.”

I simply don’t know the terrain that the Green Party in Northern Ireland negotiates well enough to be able to judge how this sort of appeal will play. On the one hand this is all eminently sensible stuff. On the other one might suggest it is the sort of message which might have a certain resonance that would be slightly off-putting to some in the North. After all, however well-intentioned, the idea that Irish Government Ministers are casting their eye across the Border is likely to cause some pause for thought in certain circles. Mind you, the language is precise. ‘Northern Ireland’, ‘cross-Border’. This may indeed not scare the horses.
And this dovetails with a good article in Sundays Business Post by Pat Leahy about the way in which the Green Party has taken the sensible step in government of avoiding becoming the ethical watchdog of Fianna Fáil. They learned well from the Progressive Democrats who foundered upon precisely that issue. As Leahy notes:

The new approach by the Greens to sharing power with Fianna Fail is motivated by the party’s belief in the importance of its own policy agenda. If you believe that you are helping to save the world from potential disaster caused by climate change, it puts the issue of who paid for Bertie Ahern’s curtains in perspective. But the Greens’ approach is also informed by the experience of previous coalition partners of Fianna Fail – and in particular by the combustion of Michael McDowell’s PDs in the last government.

Now there are those, and some are reading this, who disagree profoundly with this analysis. But… it’s sort of sensible if one believes we face an existential threat then, as Leahy notes, Ahern and the North are relegated to a very distant second and third – perhaps in that order.

And that leads to a pragmatism that in a sense puts government at the heart of the project:

The message that the Greens understood was this: if we go into government with Bertie Ahern, it can only be on the basis of waiting for the tribunal to report. We can’t let evidence or leaks or court challenges dominate the business of government.

The Greens were also, say senior sources, heavily influenced by the experience of Green parties in Europe. ‘‘Agree the programme, get the ministries, compromise and say when you can’t do things,” said one source. ‘‘Try to get our stuff done.”

It’s a model of coalition different from anything that Fianna Fail has encountered in the past. ‘‘Basically, we’ve seen that approach doesn’t work,” said Dan Boyle, a senator and influential figure within the party.

I’m genuinely intrigued as to how long this can run. It seems to me that it might be for quite a while, but time will tell. Certainly the Green Party appear to be digging in. As Leahy also notes:


Besides, as one Green source pointed out, when the party’s ministers are looking from the government benches at the opposition hyperventilating about how the Greens are failing to keep Fianna Fail honest, the thought often occurs to them: do we really want to do what our enemies want us to do?

It’s a fair point. And always important to remember that no one group holds the franchise on the belief that their way and their way alone is the true expression of the public good. And wow, the Greens have that in bucket loads. Gormley said at the weekend that:

“It is up to us now to get out there, to spread the word, to recruit more members and to compete aggressively and confidently in elections. We are members of the most progressive, responsible and dynamic political movement on this island, in these islands, and across the world.”

Now it may be misplaced confidence, but the polls so far support them.

As it happens I have a reasonably nice year planner from the Green Party which has photo’s and contact details of their current elected representatives including Brian Wilson (Member of the Legislative Assembly – and believe it or not apparently a member of the NILP back in the day, later on the Alliance Party and later still and Independent. A heart in all the right places, more or less.). I like the way in which they’re forging something of a broad based, all island(s) approach, but… we’ve seen how socialism didn’t quite go the distance to bridging the gap between communities. Being the old cynic that I am I tend to be dubious that environmentalism or Green philosophy will somehow do better.

Still, this is a different age. Perhaps if Gormley does soft-pedal the one phrase he didn’t use clearly in the above quotes, that of ‘national identification’, he and the Green Party will be fine. Perhaps. But maybe to come to terms with the situation it will be necessary to actually engage with that very issue.

Party rejection of treaty ‘a mandate to support it’, says Gormley as EU Treaty divide firms up. January 20, 2008

Posted by franklittle in European Politics, European Union, Green Party, Greens, Irish Politics, Media and Journalism, Minor Left Parties, Sinn Féin, Socialist Workers' Party, The Left.
26 comments

It’s a great headline to the story that yesterday’s Green Party conference failed to agree a position of either opposing or supporting the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty. It is pretty clear that the majority of Green Party delegates decided to back the party leadership’s call for a Yes vote. Whether it was because they felt that as a party in government they had to do so, or because they had a road to Damascus conversion on the issue like the previously vehemently EU-critical Deirdre de Burca (She wasn’t a Senator then of course), or simply because that always substantial section of the party that supported both Nice referendums and was generally more in line with the European Green movement, now commands a majority.

The Greens are calling for plaudits for the fact that they had an open debate and reached a decision democratically. Leaving aside Gormley’s imaginative interpretation of that vote I suppose, grudgingly, one must acknowledge as much though frankly attempting to lecture other political parties for not doing the same kind of misses the point. No left-wing party would need to debate opposition to Lisbon any more than it would need to debate support for public services or opposition to privatisation. Basic left principles such as support for democracy, opposition to neo-liberalism, opposition to centralisation of unaccountable power and so on make opposing the Treaty a bit of a no-brainer.

It will be interesting to see the practical implications of this for the party though. Since the Green Party does not have a position, can Green Party staff issue press releases in support of the Treaty when they’re supposed to be working for a party that has no position on it? Can the Green Party TDs and Senators use Green Party premises to conduct their Yes campaigning? And as for the No campaign, what organisation or vehicle will they use to advance their arguments? A number are involved already on a personal level in the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, which I am told will be changing its name because the EU has decided to change the name of the document, does this mean they will now move into that structure or will they established a Greens Against Lisbon grouping of some sort?

There might be some suggestion that the Yes side has been undermined by the failure of the Green leadership to get two-third on Saturday, but I’m not so sure. It’s pretty clear that the Green leadership, for whatever reason, carried the bulk of their membership with them and are likely to carry the bulk of Green voters come the referendum. The loss of the Green Party’s organisational muscle is a negligible one. The Greens don’t have the money at the minute to run a major campaign and in both Nice referendums their work on the ground was pretty weak. Where they were key in previous referendums was that in Gormley especially, but also De Burca and McKenna, they had articulate, experienced and educated debaters to be rolled out on the media who could argue for a No vote without being republicans, socialists or working class and scaring middle Ireland too much.

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Meanwhile, among the anti-Treaty campaigns, there has been some frustration that the SWP has established another front entity to campaign against the Lisbon Treaty while aleady being affiliated to the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, established a couple of years ago when the EU Constitution was first being put forward. Happily, in a remarkable display of honesty for one of the most duplicitous political entities in Ireland, the SWP has altered the site since it was first put up to acknowledge that the people identified behind it, Kieran Allen and Sinead Kennedy, are both members of the Socialist Workers Party. Still, there is some ill-feeling that they went ahead off their own bat without consulting other people in the CAEUC.

Also of interest is that it is the SWP that has both established the website and it affiliated to the CAEUC. Firstly, the SWP’s affiliation to the CAEUC is quite a recent one, and as late as early last year a prominent member of the SWP told me they honestly didn’t see the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty issue as a priority. Certainly SWP activists were noticeable by their absence from early CAEUC meetings. Yet here we have them setting up a website, publishing a pamphlet outlining he reasons for a No vote, describing it as a key priority in their New Year’s message and affiliating to the CAEUC. Curiously, there is no reference to People Before Profit, their previous electoral front group. The PBP website has not been updated for several months and seems to have no position, good, bad or indifferent, on the Lisbon Treaty. Considering the use that could be made by the SWP out of Lisbon for attracting people to the organisation, it’s a slight surprise to me they’re being upfront about who they are in the campaign and not using the PBP brand.

But more frustrating than the SWP playing ‘silly buggers’ has been the annoyance felt by many, and ably pointed out by Daily Mail columnist Joe Higgins in last Thursday’s Irish Times, about the media’s appointment of Dermot Ganley as head of the anti-Treaty movement in Ireland. Ganley, and his Libertas movement, with no track record on Europe at all, has come from almost nowhere at the start of December to being seen as a key played in the Lisbon Treaty debate. Libertas certainly has money, but no actual organisation as such, though it’s clearly got some smart people doing the media. But Higgins rightly points out that the media, and the Irish Times in particular, has been doing what it can to portray the anti-Treaty campaigns and groups, predominantly left-wing or progressive in Ireland, as right-wing or even fascist. It’s what the media tried to do in both Nice referendums, successfully in the latter case.

But the reason for the Dermot Ganley love-fest has two other aspects. Firstly, if Ganley is the leader of the No campaign, then no other organisation or individual can be leader. With Sinn Féin the only substantial political party to be opposing the Treaty and, at this point in time, the only serious political organisation to be opposing it, the media would find it difficult to avoid handing the mantle of leadership of the No side to Sinn Féin if Ganley wasn’t there. Considering that party’s weakened position, the last thing the Irish media establishment wants to do is give it the shot in the arm of portraying it as leading anything. With Ganley on the chessboard, he can be appointed figurehead, sparing the need to pay attention to what the Shinners are doing.

Secondly, Ganley is a businessman, and a successful one. Most other opponents of the Treaty in Ireland are left-wing, they wear beards, many of them are in trade unions and some have stood on the side of the road holding placards. The Irish media worships business and successful businessmen. A successful businessperson can have his or her opinion taken seriously on any topic in Irish society, whether he or she knows anything about it or not and it’s clear Ganley has some understanding of the Treaty, simply by virtue of the fact that he or she has made a success at business. Ganley is credible in a way that people like Patricia McKenna or Mick O’Reilly, people with far vaster experience of anti-EU Treaty campaigns and a much better understanding of the Treaty than Ganley, can never be.

Huntin’ and shootin’… just why is Tom McGurk so worked up about the Green Party? December 30, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Environment, Environmentalism, Green Party.
8 comments

fox_hunting.jpg

An entertaining (albeit for the wrong reasons) article by the usually somewhat better Tom McGurk in todays Sunday Business Post. Tom has taken it upon himself to worry about:

[a] political cult, a complex 21stcentury miasma of world-enders, global warmers, suburban hysterics and political correctors; they are the new puritans come among us to spread the new materialist guilt. Daily they pronounce on all the new sins, from big petrol-guzzling engines to hunted foxes, one-off houses and the carbon costs of a family holiday in Torremolinos.

Why yes, that’d be the Green Party then.

Under the title “Greens must not be allowed to sabotage our ancient rituals” his ire is raised by;

[the] increasing concern in rural Ireland about the Green agenda in government, particularly among the equestrian and country sports communities.

Early this month, two well-attended public meetings at Slane in Co Meath and at Gowran Park in Co Kilkenny demonstrated the growing unease about the Greens in government and their attitude to hunting and other rural sports.

The Ward Union Hunt in Meath was the first to feel the displeasure of environment minister John Gormley, who delayed for months before finally granting the hunt its licence. In the event, Kafka ruled – conditions attached to the licence were such that to attempt to hunt and obey them was going to be farcical.

The true horror of this situation only brought home to him”

not only by Gormley’s attitude – to a hunt that is over a century old and unique in Ireland, if not the world – but also by the sneering cynicism with which he acted. But then, as someone remarked, Meath’s Ward Union was easier to kick around than Meath’s new highway through Tara.

In rural Ireland, many feel that the Ward Union battle marks the beginning of a campaign by the Green Party and other environmentalist lobbies to put manners on Ireland’s traditional hunting, shooting and fishing community. One Green Party website has been describing all country sports as ‘‘blood sports’’.

Good Lord. A Green Party website ‘describes’ all country sports as ‘blood sports’. Beyond belief isn’t it? So different say to a Sunday newspaper columnist who describes John Gormley as… as… Kafka!

Still, he is right, isn’t he? The ‘ancient ritual’ (Meath Ward Union: estd. 19th century) has been knocked back by the granting of a license.
McGurk further argues that unlike the UK there is no class dimension to hunting. Well, yes and no. Firstly that is to suppose that class issues are unchanging. Sure, no doubt there are many ordinary people who hunt in Ireland… McGurk says:

Hunting in Ireland is enjoyed by the local butcher, baker and farmer; it’s not about killing foxes, but about the enjoyment of horses and the countryside. Given the historic battle for the repossession of the land and our emotional relationship to it, the Greens could be picking a fight with forces they are badly underestimating.

But, so what? The class issue has always been the weakest plank in the argument against hunting. He is on even more contentious territory when he suggests that hunting is part of some integral relationship between us Irish and ‘our’ land. There is a clue in the date of the establishment of the Meath Union. The reality is that land ownership amongst the Irish in a broad sense was a factor of the 19th century (and through into the early 20th century). The sense of alienation was very much a class issue, and one directed against those who had previously expropriated the land. And it is this alienation and consequent identification amongst a broader population, and some aspect of the ethical issue as regards animal rights and welfare, much more than his straw man of:

two and a half thousand suburban votes in Dublin 4 and 6 – thanks to the vagaries of proportional representation – can result in such a threat to the wealth of our rural traditions.

…which leads to a degree of unease about hunting. A rural tradition of hunting on horseback which is a century old is a fairly shallow tradition. I’ve never been overly exercised about hunting, but I have encountered hunts in the countryside (as recently as it happens as last week) and there is something about large groups of people on horseback that raises a, perhaps, atavistic response in me. It’s an obvious response… one borne of the power relationship that humans on horses generate, a relationship not unnoticed by security and police forces the world over.

So, would I ban the hunts? Well, let’s just say that I’m happy enough with the Minister setting conditions. Still, it is later that McGurk’s argument becomes even less coherent.

Where once rural Ireland was seen as the place from which you escaped, there is now a growing sense that the quality of life there far exceeds anything to be found in towns. Communities are stronger, there’s better value in housing, there are superior schools and there is seemingly more space and more time. Perhaps most importantly of all, technology has profoundly reduced the disadvantage of distance to manageable proportions.

I suspect that it is into this new 21st century political territory that the Green campaign against country sports is heading. This is a territory where, as we saw in Britain, prejudice rather than rationality held sway. For example, in a world dependent on factory farming and globalised animal production, the notion that the killing of a small number of wild animals by that minority of the populaton involved in country sports is morally different is simply absurd.

The first paragraph is full of unsustained assertions. Perhaps he’s right to shed a tear for ‘community’, or perhaps not. Others with an equal measure of sentimentality and distance shed a tear for the rare ould times in Dublin’s inner city twenty years back, when said city was plagued by crime deprivation and drug abuse. And no doubt some in twenty years will look back with equal fondness on the present situation urban and rural. But… if – as we see – urban sprawl and a movement of people back to the land through largely unrestricted development, that too generates its own traditions which are at odds with the supposedly ‘ancient’ ones he defends.

The second paragraph contains an odd argument. Purpose is all, or at least it has some traction in this debate. Killing an animal for sport is not the direct equivalent of killing an animal for food. And farming is increasingly regulated to provide for animal welfare. It’s not enough and there are many who find the killing of animals simply abhorrent, but it is a factor. Still, he doesn’t see it that way.

The cruelty argument against hunting has neither a scientific nor a moral basis, given the farming methods by which our species survives. In fact, it is hard to imagine a community whose relationship with animals is closer and more intense than the farming community from which most of the hunting community is drawn.

When prejudice, not to mention hysteria, takes over, and the arrogance that goes with telling other communities – which have spent many generations with animals – how they should treat them, the debate will sink up to its axles in its own pointlessness.

I love this argument. The logical conclusion is that democracy, or indeed potentially any level of animal welfare, should not apply in certain circumstances. But worse again it would sanction any sorts of behaviour simply because it had gone on for generations. Nah, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t believe that.

He concludes with a bizarre point:

Extraordinarily, they (the Greens) are happy to cover the historic landscape of Ireland with enormous windmills, but go berserk at the prospect of someone digging a new septic tank. The now extinct PDs have vacated the moral high ground, only to be replaced by ‘know-all of Sandymount’.

You read it here first – next year all of this will have political ramifications for Fianna Fail and its rural vote if the Greens turn out not to be the house-trained environmentalists that Bertie had anticipated.

Examples perhaps of the supposedly ‘beserk’ behavior? Why none. What is one to make of it? A media keen to find an ‘enemy’ now that the dreaded Shinners have been badly wounded and an election is still 4.5 years away? An excess of Christmas pudding leading to dyspeptic fears for the future?

As it happens I think there are interesting debates to be had as regards the rural and the progressive (including different forms of hunting), and I suspect some may throw up outcomes that are less than congenial to progressive thinking. But… to argue that a rather mild-mannered Green presence in government and response to a hunt is a harbinger of political Apocalpyse and the egregious destruction of all that is rural is no more than hyperbole.

And returning to:

the world-enders, global warmers, suburban hysterics and political correctors

Does one sense that here, as in so many other places in our supposedly ‘liberal’ media, there is a retreat from actual engagement with issues into facile denigration and name calling? Or is it just the rush to make that New Years deadline? Must do better in 2008…

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