16 June, 2009

Crawling from the wreckage

Ouch, that hurt!

It's small comfort, but it was great to meet up with Garret Fitzgerald and Mick Rafferty in the RTÉ Election studio in Donnybrook as the votes were being counted on Saturday 6th June.

Mick took over on Dublin City Council after Tony Gregory stepped down, and after a few years he passed on his seat to Maureen O'Sullivan who was in the process of being elected to the Dáil that Saturday that we were in studio. Mick is a real renaissance man, and compared to his work as an activist, organiser and Thespian I suspect that the minutiae of Dublin City Council's Traffic sub-Committee didn't quite engage him sufficiently. Garret was in fine form, and had several tomes of results from elections past with him, and almost every number on each page had his own annotations about the particular results.

It was a rough result for the Green Party and it is tough not to have representation for the next five years on Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Councils. There's enormous scope in the capital to deliver on Green Party policies, and it hurts to be sit so hard within the Pale. We have achieved a considerable amount in the Departments that fall under control of Green Ministers, but there wasn't enough airspace to make that point in the recent campaign. People were mad as hell about the wasted opportunities of the boom years and while Fianna Fáil were taking the brunt of the kick, we were also a target.

We could walk away from government, and unless there's greater delivery of Green Party policies, particularly in areas of responsibility that don't fall directly under our control I think we should. The failure to publish the Civil Unions legislation before the Local and European elections definitely cost us votes. There's other areas where we have to ramp up Green Party policy delivery. Another round of significant cuts is on the cards in the December budget, and unless we see reforms within education, health and social welfare, it would be hard to stand over additional billions being pared from their budgets.

I'm hoping that the Commission on Taxation's Report which is due out in July makes the case for radical changes in how we fund local government. I want to see local authorities given financial autonomy, and that may well be proposed. Some form of residential charge may be needed to replace the windfall receipts that we got from stamp duty during the boom years. I also want to see a climate change levy, and an assurance that any such charge will be poverty-proofed. The home energy grants are already creating jobs, and there's huge potential to ramp up and expand that programme to ensure that people on lower incomes have their homes well insulated and draught-proofed.

Speaking of reform, that's the theme of next week's Leviathan gig down at the Button Factory. I'll be speaking on the theme of Does Ireland Now Need Radical Political Reform?" along with Killian Forde, Noel Dempsey and that McWilliams fellah.

It's on Wednesday next 24th June 2009 at 8pm, so if the Government loses the usual 8.30 private members business vote next week, you can blame the Greens.

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