25 February, 2007

Finally, and in Conclusion

...was the title of Barry Desmond's memoirs, a fine read. It also marks the end of a busy weekend in Galway at the Green Party's Annual Convention. There's a pic I took just after Trevor Sargent finished his leader's address to a packed-out auditorium at the Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill last night.

I've never been as nervous in the Dáil as I was during Trevor's speech. Mary White's intro had run late due to applause, so he had to race through, to catch up. I could see the RTE Floor Manager running his hand across his neck trying to guillotine the end of Mary's speech, and I had thought she hadn't noticed. I found out later that she had in fact effortlessly skipped to her final para. She had a great line about hiding a helicopter behind a hedge. It's worth reading it here to get the full story. As Trevor got into his stride, I was worried that our applause would drag on too long and stop him from getting through the specific proposals towards the end of his speech. Then I realised that we'd look stupid on the podium if we didn't clap along, so I just decided to smile and go with the flow. In the end the timing worked out fine, with enough time for the applause and the ovation to be captured in the live broadcast. I thought the wrapping of climate change into a new deal for Irish children hit the spot. Here's his script.

The evening continued till the wee hours in the Resident's Bar. That's Dan Boyle tinkling the ivories, with Renate Kunast looking on amused in the background. She had earlier commented that the German Greens conferences were never as well organised as ours, but heck, that's live television for you. I wandered back to my room around three, but reports emerged that there was still singing emanating from the bar around eight this morning! A short sunny walk along a windy Prom in Salthill blew away the cobwebs this morning, and here's a clip of my thoughts on how I felt it all went. Let's just hope that we can keep this up for another 80 days. Nobody wants to peak too soon. Heading back on the train this evening we felt we'd won the triple crown, between the rugby, the polls and the sheer buzz off the whole weekend.

24 February, 2007

Ullamh chun dul i mbun Rialtas

'Ready for Government' for those challenged by our mother tongue. That's the slogan we're working to today, and that's the view from the podium into the glare of the TV lights this morning.

Renate Kunast former German Agriculture, Consumer Rights and Food Minister was great. Simply put, 170,000 new jobs have been created in the renewable energy sector in Germany alone.

David Grey, our candidate in Kerry North elicited a sharp intake of breath from the audience as he took a swig from his flask of biodiesel. I was delighted with the support I got when I spoke to a motion that called for more social and affordable housing, up to one third of the floor area of developments where the need is great. Later John Gormley gave a witty speech, accusing Michael McDowell of being the Tammy Wynette of irish politics.

After lunch Eddie Hobbs stated that a green tinge wouldn't go amiss in the next Government.

Everyone seems to be dangerously on message - I'm not convinced that we've got the balance right between anarchy and the choreographed spin of new Labour.

Now it's 5 o'clock, and I'm at Seamus Sheridan's workshop, where he's giving a fantastic rant about good food, and bad-mouthing the slops that were served at the Plowing Championships. Shop local, and make sure that you know where the Irish meat is coming from apparently. I sense the vegetarians in the audience are getting a bit nervous...! Upping the quality and adding value is crucial. Oh, and be a bit careful about over-hyping bio-fuels, as it can have a knock-on affect on dairy and meat production. Finally, a dose of passion is a necessary part of the equation.

18 February, 2007

Up where the air is clean

I just couldn't resist that title link. Anyway, it was great to take advantage of the sunny weather on Saturday, and climb with the kids to the top of Katty Gallagher, near Shankill, as those of us who grew up on the side of Carrig Golligan affectionately call it. The Sugarloaf mountains are in the distance with the Glen of the Downs just about visible in the middle of the shot. Katty's only 912 feet high, but when I was a child it felt like the Alps. The Leeson family have farmed the fields in the foreground for hundereds of years, but have been getting offers for their land that they couldn't refuse. That new road on the right is the entrance to the relocated Dún Laoghaire Golf Club, about to open, even though planning permission hasn't yet been granted for the controversial development on the old club lands in Dún Laoghaire.

I knocked on Monica Barnes's door on Friday afternoon. She was in great form, and seems to be relishing her retirement from national politics. We mulled over the choices available to voters in Dún Laoghaire in a few months time. I asked her for her number four vote, as my election manager Kealin Ireland dragged me away from the door, and her cheery wave as I left made it seem like I was well placed for a 'consideration'!

The auction politics are continuing, with Labour and the PDs setting out their stall over the last two weekends. It's our turn next weekend, and we'll be heading west to the city of the tribes to give Mayor Niall O'Brolchain a boost, and watch the sun go down on Galway Bay, and hopefully a pint in Neachtain's as well!

Bob Geldof is facing a bit of competition this summer apparently. Al Gore seems to have jostled him aside and is behind the LiveEarth -'A Concert for a Climate in Crisis' this July. 070707, -mark the date in your diaries. Of course if you feel going to a gig is too frivolous a way of tackling global warming you can always take up your mouse and play the BBC's new climate challenge game, as president of the 'European Nations'. I suspect José Manuel Durão Barroso hasn't had a chance to try it yet, probably too busy with the Bolkestein Directive.

08 February, 2007

One hundred days

...Or thereabouts till Election Day, although Paddy Power doesn't seem to be banking on the 18th May just yet.

We've had a few good days recently, seems like the fate of the Planet is inversely related to the Greens' poll ratings. Even Ruairi Quinn is talking about climate-proofing the National Development plan for gosh sakes!

A lively Green Party Dún Laoghaire branch meeting this evening, Two dozen people, and we had to resort to sitting on the table, as we'd run out of chairs. People want vision and they want ideas, it's as simple as that. The Green Party doesn't for a minute have a monopoly on either of those, but we have been beating the drum on climate change for a long time, and people are starting to notice.

Yesterday went well. Publishing an Urban Development policy has been an aspiration of mine for years. hats off to Deirdre Joyce, one of our researchers for pulling my own scattered thoughts and those of others together. Five pages of comments on the ireland.com poll with the question "Do you think an independent planning agency, as suggested by the Green Party, is needed?" the last time I looked, and 79% in favour.

The Cake Café in the Daintree Building on Camden street in town was the venue, and a perfect place it is. The building is a brilliant example of good practice: - mixed-use; mix of the old and new; green cement; grey water; wood cladding; bicycle parking, the works. Mike and Brian from Solearth Ecological Architecture did themselves proud. Remind me not to have press conferences outside in February ever again though! It was a tad on the chilly side.
This diagram that I borrowed from the 'Towards an Urban Renaissance' report is one of my favourites, though. We nicked it from Richard Rogers' report and it really clearly illustrates how to build sustainable urban neighbourhoods.

Chris, Patricia and Trevor spoke well, and we adjourned into the cafe afterwards to thaw out after the press conference.

There's lots more info to come on the Government's green record or lack of one. Wait till you see the Minister's carbon footprints, once I get the replies back to the questions I fired in to each Minister last week!

04 February, 2007

Power of One?

"There's a vague notion out there that somehow it is moral to be concerned about the environment but it's not moral to be concerned about economic success and prosperity.
Michael McDowell, 2007


"Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God's in his heaven
and all's well with the world is wrong.
The young know what you mean.
The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can't be counted
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize.
It will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave."
Yevgeny Yevtushenko 1962