Consider this sequence of events over recent weeks and months…
1: The Green Party gets a huge vote in the Euro and local elections.
2: The EPA (a state organisation) brings the ESB (a semi-state body) to court over the warm water discharge into the River Shannon which has been going on for over 40 years and which attracted thousands of tourists to Lanesboro every year. It stops electricity generation in Lanesboro, threatening the security of around 150 jobs.
3: An Bord Pleanala (a semi-state body) refuses to sanction planning permission for the ESB to change the raw material for Shannonbridge Power station to biomass from 2020. Hundreds more jobs are put at risk.
4: Bord na Mona make an operating profit for the year of €41 million, but the redundancy programme and their search for alternative business turns that into a €50 million loss for the year.
It is very clear that the ‘Green Agenda’ has accelerated the push to close down the use of peat to generate electricity altogether – with the prospect of the loss of hundreds of jobs in the midlands. Despite promises from the Government, the vast majority of the workers concerned are in their 50s and 60s and there is not likely to be alternative employment for them.
I attended the recent protest meeting in Lanesboro and while there were very passionate speeches from everyone there – including from local politicians – it certainly looks to me that Bord na Mona peat production, and the reign of the power stations in Lanesboro and Shannonbridge, is coming to the end very soon. It will be the end of an era in this area if that proves to be the case.
Then last week the Climate Change Council recommended that the Irish Dairy Herd should be cut in half by the year 2030. Add to that the Taoiseach and his Ministers, who have promised that there will be sharp increases in carbon taxes in the forthcoming Budget. Anyone who needs a diesel car to go to work in areas where there is no public transport will be severely affected.
The chances of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit are now very high since Boris Johnson has assumed power in the UK, and all indications are that that it would have a disastrous effect on the Irish economy and on Rural Ireland in particular.
The situation with electric cars has not been thought out properly either. The infrastructure that is needed for the majority of people to operate electric vehicles is simply not there and it may take many decades before it is. Driving electric cars sounds like a great idea, but did anyone seriously look into the practicalities of such a fundamental change in Irish transport habits?
The Green agenda is gaining momentum – and it all makes so much sense. There is no doubt that climate change must be tackled. But the big question is, are we doing it fairly here in this country? The onward march of the Greens and their increasing vote means that the main political parties are trying to muscle in on the action. Are the people of Rural Ireland the ones who are going to suffer the most as a result of this race?
I fully realise that we have to be seen to be acting in response to the possible effects of the changing climate but we must have a coherent and sensible plan, one that will not devastate Rural Ireland. The facts of the matter are that there are chimneys belching out more pollution in three streets in Beijing in a year than there is in this entire country! Until the Chinese and the Americans take climate change seriously we are wasting our time on it here in this small country.