Blowing up a political s**t storm

Fintan O’Toole is, for my money, the most insightful commentator on Irish life, and has been for years. Like any of the rest of us,  he has his hobby horses, and I’ve often been disappointed that he rarely turns his intellect to the rich grounds of the sustainability/climate/environmental catastrophe that’s now unfolding.

On Nama, he’s been superb. Were it not for the intervention of two of Fine Gael’s eminence grises, in the forms of Garrett Fitzgerald and Alan Dukes, I’m pretty sure the anti-Nama arguments, so forcefully articulated by O’Toole, would have prevailed. As it was, while naturally the Greens are getting it in the neck, in fact two ageing FGrs sealed its fate. The Greens pissed O’Toole off on Nama, and, thanks to John Gormley’s gormless travel arrangements, O’Toole has hit them in their ethics, where it really, really hurts.

What may have sealed the Greens’ fate with the electorate is this toe-curlingly embarrassing stuff about John Gormley taking the ferry to Holyhead, then getting picked up in a limo and driven to London, at a cost of €2,200. John bloody Gormley rides a bloody bike! And not just for show, he actually uses it as a goddam means of loco-goddam motion. Every day. Jaysus wept.

I just have to believe there is an honest explanation here somewhere, but the optics are disastrous and the FF smear-by-association this time has really stuck, and stuck firm. Based on the facts as presented to date, Gormley only has himself (or whatever gobshite books his travel plans) to blame.

Nor did he do much of a job on RTÉ radio on Sunday of limiting the damage. I wrote yesterday about the Greens’ apparent escape act in their Saturday conference. One thing I found hard to shake off in reading the lead-in to this special conference was the number of non-core items, from hare coursing and badger culling and stag hunting to repealing efforts at bringing in third level fees and getting more teachers back on the payroll.

Helooooooo. It’s 54 days to Copenhagen, and the last chance to get our collective arse out of the bacon slicer as the environmental crash draws ever closer. What’s all this other stuff about then? Making sure the sons and daughters of the upper middle classes get a massive subsidy from the general taxpayer so they can acquire highly lucrative qualifications, such as in medicine, pharmacy and dentistry with no strings attached might seem important, nay vital, to a few, but shurely this is just a smidgen off the radar as Ecological 911 beckons?

I could on and on, but I won’t. Kevin Myers, on the other hand, does and did. His metaphor this morning was of the headless chicken – it certainly described his own state of mind when he sat down to fulminate into his keyboard. The hilarious headline set the tone: “We should force-feed Greens their bikes until they choke”. It was all downhill from there.

Describing environmentalists as “pious reptiles’ foreskins” sums up his soaring Freshers Week rhetoric. Mildly amusing to drunk undergrads, but deeply disturbing from someone of Myers’ age. His own words best sum up his own intellectual quagmire: “Pathetic. Truly, desperately, unspeakably, shamefully pathetic.”

Meanwhile, over in the Daily Mail, columnist Richard Waghorne has the Greens down as “environmental zealots, prepared to put their unelectable eco-extremist agenda ahead of the national interest”. Way to go, Richard. Bulls eye, old bean.

The “national interest”, as defined by the Oirish Daily Mail appears to consist of third hand gossip and innuendo about what the late Stephen Gately might have been up to, and with whom, in the hours just before his death. That, of course, and its staple diet of homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, soft-boiled Tory Little England-ism and sorry Richard if I missed out on any of your pet hates.


ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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6 Responses to Blowing up a political s**t storm

  1. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    I agree that the Greens’ wish-list was too diverse and not focused on the core issues. I wrote to Minister Gormley on the Monday after the list was published in the Irish Times and suggested that he pick out just two big-ticket items and forget the rest if they threatened to derail any agreement. My two suggested items were climate change (specifically a bigger annual reduction in carbon emissions, not just the promised 3%) and energy security (specifically, massive investment in indigenous renewables such as wind energy). These, I said, were the two most vitally important issues, and not just for the Greens. But they stuck to their game plan and did, in fairness, do well, as the party is united, the government has the stability it needs to bring in a tough budget, and the Green seats are safe, for the moment. If you don’t think they did well, just ask the Labour Party, whose TDs looked sick as parrots on Saturday evening as their hopes of an early general election faded away. I actually felt sorry for them for a moment.

  2. John Gibbons says:

    Coilin, good points. It’s not that I don’t think they did well, it just pains me to see precious political capital being put into a blunderbuss and dissipated with this one-for-everyone-in-the-audience stuff. Apart from it being ineffective, it also leaves the door open for those anxious to unload their personal anti-environmental grudges with a clear conscience – “those loons care about long-eared hares more than cervical cancer vaccines for 12-year-olds” – you know the kind of stuff.

    They’re going to get that anyhow, but please, there’s no need to chop one’s own head off. JG

  3. Coilin MacLochlainn says:

    Yes, one for everyone in the audience could cause those problems. That’s why I favoured the two big items only. Nobody could deny these were needed, and also very Green. Oddly enough, Gormley on Prime Time tonight actually said the Greens were ‘the party of education.’ What happened to ‘party of sustainability’? They need to change that rule about consulting the membership every time, or getting two-thirds to agree, because it’s causing them to lose focus. They squandered a golden opportunity, yes, but there’s still plenty to play for, as you said earlier.

  4. John Goodwillie says:

    You should have read the subsequent page in the Sunday Tribune where John Gormley explained that he hadn’t known that a car would be despatched from London. Assuming he had to get to Hay-on-Wye, a car was reasonably necessary, and a car hired in Holyhead was surely preferable to hiring one in Liverpool or Cardiff after a flight.

  5. John Gibbons says:

    John, appreciate the heads-up. I was in fact contacted directly by a spokesman for the minister earlier today arising from my remarks above, and he made the points you made, and a few more besides.

    We both know the problem here is that Green ministers, unlike their FF/FG counterparts, can’t simply throw their hands up and say they didnt’ know X,Y or Z was happening. People have far less tolerance for the guy who appears to be holier-than-thou getting tripped up than they have for the Michael Lowry type, who just rubber necks his way through one scandal after the next, smiling and waving all the way.

    This is a godawful mess for Gormley to land himself in. Mary Harney, for instance, has cheerfully buzzed around in the govt. jet for the last few years, using it like her personal taxi, at a cost to the taxpayer of 735,000 euros! She doesn’t give a stuff what people think either. She’s the Minister and the begrudgers can go to hell, sez Mary.

    You might recall she took an Air Corps helicopter to Sligo a few years back for the crucial State business of opening an off-licence for buddy of hers. On another occasion, she (and McCreevy) accepted lavish ‘hospitality’ in the south of France from Ulick McEvaddy – and two fingers from Chas n Mary to anyone who found this carry-on repugnant (by the way, that’s the same McEvaddy who recently described the Anglo Irish Ten as, if you don’t mind, “heroes”).

    Poor Gormley is in the ha’penny place behind this lot, but out media has big eyes and a very poor memory, so the ‘two faced Greens’ story is gaining traction. Is it an appalling misrepresentation? Abso bloodly lutely. Does anyone care? Not an iota.

    As I’m sure you know, blogs are just that, online logs or diaries, and not subject to the same kind of fact-checking my newspaper column undergoes. That’s not an excuse, just being honest. I may re-blog on this topic again soon. JG

  6. Christopher Hone says:

    In the light of the debacle on John Gormley’s travel arrangements as well as those of other politicians, most notably John O’donohue and Mary Harney, it would be interesting if J Gibbons would publish something in the IT on the carbon footprint associated with diffrent methods of travel. For example he could compare the carbon footprint of an individual travelling from Dublin to London by:

    -Commercial aircraft
    -Private jet
    -boat and train
    -boat and limousine
    -boat and bus

    Other routes where it would be of interest to repeat the exercise include:

    – Travelling between London and Paris and including Eurostar as an
    -Transatlantic travel comparing a commercial flight with private jet

    I accept that comparisons with train travel will depend on whether the train is diesel or electic and, in the case of an electric train, the source or sources of electricity used.

    Also in the case of air travel carbon emission is not the only issue of concern as the clouds, i.e. jet trails from jet engine exhausts are believed to have an impact on climate.

    I always enjoy your articles

    Christopher Hone

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