26 June, 2006

Green Energy at Leopardstown

We were swamped! On Sunday 18th June we held our Green Energy Fair in the Tote Hall at Leopardstown Racecourse. Eamon Ryan, Deirdre deBurca and myself organised the day that brought over 3,000 people interested in low energy solutions to Leopardstown to see our forty exhibitors dispalaying their wares. Sustainable Energy Ireland went through three days worth of leaflets in the first two hours, and it really showed that there is a hunger for solutions out there.

There was some irony in the fact that your local Green Party TDs spent much of the day directing cars into the overflow car park after the first two car parks filled up by lunchtime, but it was worth it in the end.

Much of the technology on display consisted of products such as solar water heaters, wind turbines and lambswool insulation. Several people seemed overwhelmed by the bazaarlike atmosphere of the Tote Hall and asked me for my relatively impartial advice on the subject. Insulation, insulation, insulation was my response, oh and if you're replacing your boiler think about a high-efficiency condensing one, or perhaps a wood pellet model if you have the space.

In the longer term we need to dramatically improve standards in the Building Regulations. Ireland has no energy efficiency standards for lighting, even though California has them in place for years. Meanwhile Grant Engineering in Co. Galway are exporting most of their Boilers to the UK where they tightened up their building standards years ago.

02 June, 2006

White Lillies on Kildare Street

I never thought I'd be sitting in a room discussing sexual positions with Michael McDowell. Politics is a strange calling though, and along with Jim O'Keefe and Brendan Howlin and a clatter of advisors (all male) I found myself in a ministerial meeting room, not once but three times over the last few days. It all felt like a bad dream, and in the end we differed over the criminal penalties for sexually active fifteen year olds. Rushed legislation is bound to be flawed, and that's why I proposed a 'sunset' clause of two years for the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006.

The crowds outside was angry but it feels a bit odd to have a state broadcaster egging them on. We TDs were damned if we showed our faces there and damned if we didn't. Someone said to me that there were very few of us there, but someone else was giving TDs a hard time for showing up. Curious having a PD candidate addressing the crowd when their own Minister had forseen stormy waters as long as ten years ago.

The devil is in the detail, and perhaps Part 5 of the Act is the most contentious. Stigmatising fifteen and sixteen year old boys for having sex, while saying to girls of the same age that they won't be criminalised for having penetrative sex, but will be for other kinds of sexual act must be one of the most bizarre pieces of legislation in recent years. It seems doesn't seem like the right kind of message that the Stay Safe Programme is teaching in schools, but even that is hard enough to get details on from the web.

Perhaps some sort of Romeo and Juliet clause that wouldn't criminalise 15 and 16 year old teenagers who have sex with persons less than two years older than themselves would have been a better way to go. The Green Party tabled various amendments, but even the seemingly uncontentious suggestion that the rights of the child should be a primary consideration was opposed by Government. Doubtless the Sunday papers will have a field day.