We’re just coming to the end of three weeks of a fascinating political election campaign here in Ireland. Fascinating that is if you’re a political anorak. The big election is on Thursday and the two main blocks seem to be neck and neck with a hung Dáil a possibility.
People have asked how I’m voting and the answer is Green. The reactions are often skeptical or surprise. “Green? They won’t win.” They won’t win? Of course they won’t bloody win! Heck, they don’t even have enough candidates to form a Government!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no a sandle wearing hippy; I voted Fianna Fáil last time (but to be fair – there was no credible opposition at the time). I’m voting Green because:
- I want Green policies implemented by the next Government: the only way to make that happen is to ensure that enough Green deputies are returned to the Dáil to put them in a position to help form the next Government;
- I don’t want to sound clichéd but I want a change in Government. Whether it’s small social organisations, multi-national companies or Government departments, they all have a leader. In our case, it’s the Taoseich and the Ministers and Junior Ministers that form the Government cabinet.
And just like any walk of life, when the same people steer the ship they become complacent, lethargic and (as we’re seeing more and more) arrogant. That complacency and lethargy seeps through the ranks all the way to the bottom. Waste, mis-management, bad processes and “sticking to the status quo” become common place.
A change of Government will put new Ministers in place. They will be enthusiastic and hands on. They will question the status quo. They will make new demands with new energy and vigor. Yes – it may take them some time to learn their brief in full but it’s at that enthusiastic time that they will question and poke the mandarins and the accepted norm.
- I’m worried about our economic future. Fianna Fáil would like us to believe that they are the only party with the credentials to manage the economy. They forget to mention that it was a labour Minister for Finance that gave us the first budget surplus in the nineties. They remind us that they had nine surpluses in ten years – is a surplus not as much of a mis-management than a deficit?
But it’s not the ability to deliver a realistic budget that worries me – it’s our deadly dependency on petroleum. Did you know that we are dependent on imported fossil fuels for 90% of our energy requirements? Did you know that the cost if a barrel of crude oil has doubled in the lifetime of this Government? Did you know that we, the Irish tax payer, will pay over €500 million for carbon credits between 2008 and 2012? We’re the fourth more dependent country in the world on fossil fuels and our economy couldn’t currently exist without them – a commodity that is volatile, ever-decreasing in availability and ever-increasing in cost – we need to get away from fossil fuels.
Through a variety of measures, the Greens will help reduce our carbon footprint. By reducing our carbon footprint, we reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. These measures include: new building standards which include heat efficiency; promotion (not advertising but through policy and financing) of renewable energy sources; pay as you use tax on car fuel (see below); real investment in public transport both in Dublin and around the country; joined up thinking for urban planning and, most importantly, they have an understanding and enthusiasm for tackling this dependency.
My only concern here is that I’m not doing them justice in the above paragraph. Read their manifesto and energy policy yourselves.
- I’m sick of stupid planning decisions with out thought or regard to schools, public transport and other essential facilities.
- The end of car tax and VRT with the introduction of a pay as you go tax on petrol. This doesn’t seem to have gotten the public debate it deserves but it sounds ingenious to me. Cars cost so much money – both with VRT at the beginning and with tax, maintenance and insurance annually – people feel they have to use them. By reducing the annual cost and taxing on a per-use basis people may start reconsidering the car for some short trips.
You know, I was out walking last night (strolling – not canvassing; I’m not a member of any political party) and the numbers of houses trying to cram three or more cars into their driveways was starking. I was walking in Dublin 16 and 18; places where public transport should be effective but it simply isn’t for a lot of people. Many of these cars were impeding the footpaths and straggling already narrow roads. The owners of these cars are no doubt wasting their lives away sitting in traffic this morning. A lot of these owners are also the children of the home owners who cannot afford to get a home of their own. These are bad legacies of our current Government (they do have good legacies too; I’m not blinkered). Hopefully with the Green’s combined policies and a role in Government, this situation will help reverse itself.
- Here’s a great one from their manifesto: carry out a feasibility study into the State re-taking control of Eircom, divesting any commercial operation, and maintaining the fixed line network as an open access infrastructure to all operators. As someone who has worked in the telecommunications sector for an OLO (Other Licensed Operator), I see first hand the disastrous decision it was to sell off Eircom. Think about the assets and infrastructure – at a minimum you have a copper pair into every premise in Ireland that has been built up over more than a hundred years. And we now have a commercial organisation more interested in their profits that the countries badly needed broadband infrastructure for the growth of our “knowledge economy”. Green Party, I hope you find a way to CPO their asses!
By the way – if any member of Government defends that decision remind them that they are now trying to do it the correct way with the ESB: sell off the retail arm but retain control of the infrastructure and assets. Once bitten, twice shy? Or have they simply learnt from their disastrous mistake.
- Just to finish up, there is one more policy that I think is long overdue: no more corporate donations to political parties. For a modern, honest and impartisan Government, this is a policy that is long overdue. I am a strong democratic. I believe in politics and I’m not apathetic or ignorant to the very very hard work that politicians do. I believe the political parties should be 100% funded by the public exchequer. Then they’ll really work for us free of outside influences.
By voting Green you will help ensure that have a mandate sufficient to put them in a coalition Government and the stronger the mandate they receive, the greater their negotiating position for their policies.
Voting Green doesn’t get you a Green Government, but it does get you some Green policy implemented in Government. If we can even get some of the above implemented, I believe we’ll all be better off.
Now, the obligitory party political broadcast. The theme is clear: