Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climate Change Seminar & Vegetarian Day Launch

Climate Change Seminar & Vegetarian Day Launch,
Waterford City, Friday 27th November 8pm Tower Hotel.

The Local Restaurants Who Will Be Showcasing Their Vegetarian Dishes On The Night.........
Cafe Lucia
Cafe Goa
La Boheme
La Palma
Jade Palace
Kasmir Tandoori
Limeleaf Restaurant
Arlington Lodge
Fan's Restaurant
Becketts Restaurant

Just to name a few!!!! More to follow.......
The City's Book Centre Will Be Showcasing Books Keeping With The Climate Change and Vegetarian Theme.

Press Release about the event:

Waterford' City's Green Party Representative Maria Raftis Kennedy is delighted to announced that the City is getting ready for the upcoming Countdown to Copenhagen Climate Change Seminar which is taking place at the Tower Hotel Friday November 27th @ 8pm and afterwards hosting a cheese and wine reception.

On the night the main guest speaker will be Declan Waugh. Declan is an environmental Scientist who resides in Bandon.Co Cork and he is giving a presentation on emergency preparedness, food security and climate change.He will also speak about the emergency response to the events of the flooding which took place around the country and in his hometown of Bandon which was severely affected. He will discuss how their emergency services, local councillors and representatives responded to the community of Bandon in the wake of the floods on the 19th November.

The Seminar is part of a series of events being organised throughout the world as part of the countdown to the United Nations Climate Change Conference being hosted in Copenhagen from December 7th to December 18th and Ireland will be represented by Our Green Minister John Gormley. On the same night the Waterford Green Party are announcing that the City embrace a Vegetarian Day to show their support for Climate Change."We wanted our goal to be easily achievable ,it's not hard to skip meat one day a week, also, we wanted it to be something people could rally behind" she says.

Local restaurants & bars who serve food in the City will be there on the night as well as local food artisans who like Ardkeen Market have a great range of produce. They will all have fantastic samples of their food and vegetarian being the theme on the night, people who come along will get to know all about the local restaurants and food producers.

The Book Centre will be there as well showcasing books with vegetarian themes and books on topics to do with green issues and have said they are delighted to be doing their part to support the City's Climate change seminar.. "How is the City embracing a vegetarian day supporting climate change I hear you ask.

It's simple, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation, meat production accounts for 18% of annual greenhouse-gas emissions,that's more than transportation, which is about14%. Each year, millions of acres of rain forest are cleared for cattle ranchers and suppliers of animal feed, further accelerating climate change. Then there are the urgent human-health issues. The world feeds much of its grain to cattle and other animals even as millions of people starve. Those wealthy enough to consume fatty animal products are themselves at higher risk of certain health problems, including heart disease and some cancers" she concluded. "This event will let people know that Waterford City Supports Climate change and that we can get behind our local restaurants and local food artisans and book suppliers, and by helping them achieve that,we can support them by getting out there and buying local produce, eating vegetarian dishes that the restaurants have on offer in their support for climate change”.

There will be also in attendance many other non green organisations. All members of the City Council have been invited as well as local environmental groups and we hope to see everyone there , which is going to be a taseful and informative night.Malcolm Noonan, a member of the Green Party and Killkenny's Mayor will be there as well to lend his support for the Waterford City event. For enquires if you wish to be part this event phone Maria (087-6487627).(Tickets for the cheese and wine reception after the seminar can be bought at the door,Tower hotel reception desk, or contact Maria)

All about Our Guest speaker

Declan Waugh

Declan is a Chartered Environmentalist and Environmental Scientist. He has many years experience in environmental management, risk assessment, renewable energy development, environmental research and more recently as a climate change activist.

Declan is the founder of Partnership for Change a new initiative set up to assist in education and awareness on climate change.

Declan organised amongst many other initiatives the largest and most significant climate change conference in to held in Ireland which included presentations by the worlds most prominent scientists including Dr R.J. Pachauri, Nobel Laureate and Chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), and Dr James Hansen, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA’s leading climatologist and one of the worlds leading authorities on climate change. Declan will be speaking on his recent experiences of the extreme flooding in Bandon, Co. Cork, disaster management, emergency preparedness, food security and climate change.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Hand of Injustice

If there is one thing that the sporting public should not stand is foul play yet tonight the worlds soccer media and supporters witnessed an astonishing infringement of the laws of international sport between two competition teams, in the world cup qualifier between Ireland and France.

Video evidence clearly demonstrated that two infringements occurred in the Thierry Henry offside and hand ball goal facilitating France qualifying to the next stages of the World Cup in South Africa. The two offences were clearly demonstrated in video evidence yet no action was taken by the match referee.

Notwithstanding the offside offence, the hand ball infringement by Henry was an act of unsporting behavior and a clear breech of the rules of international soccer.

So what did FIFA the co=governing body of soccer have to say about this?

FIFA News reported the game with the following comment on their website
"In the first additional 15-minute spell, France had an appeal for a penalty correctly turned down after striker Nicolas Anelka tumbled to the turf under pressure in the eighth minute. Five minutes later, William Gallas bunled the ball home to win the match for Les Bleus. The goal enabled France to qualify and avoid a repeat of their humiliating failure, at the hands of Bulgaria, to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals.”

It is astonishing that FIFA would be willing to state that the penalty decision was correctly turned down yet made no reference whatsoever to the handball incidence and the fact that the decision to allow this subsequent goal was incorrect. The reporting by FIFA that William Gallas bundled the ball home is an insult to ever soccer supporter worldwide and brings the game of soccer into serious disrepute.

Such reporting is completely unacceptable in the modern age where video evidence clearly shows that the goal should not only have been disallowed but the player Henry cautioned for unsporting behavior.

So what do the laws of the game have to say about such behaviour?

The FIFA Laws of the Game 2009-2010 require the referee to provide the appropriate authorities with a match report, which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players and/or team officials and any other incidents that occurred before, during or after the Match.

As video evidence will clearly shows a breech of the laws of the game, one that is a cautionable offence by a player the referee is obliged to report this to FIFA. The evidence clearly shows that since a serious infringement was committed by Henry the goal should have been disallowed and the player cautioned with committing serious foul play.

Furthermore prior to the goal itself video evidence clearly shows that players were in an offside position contravening once again the rules of the game. What was clearly observed for all to witness was two infringements from which France obtained the foul goal to allow qualification for the world cup.

According to the rules of the game as noted by FIFA when a player commits an offence such as that of unsporting behavior, it is a cautionable offence and they are required to be shown a yellow card.

While the illegal goal denied Ireland an opportunity to play in the world cup Henry received no caution or yellow card for misconduct and unsportly behavior.

His deliberately handling of the ball, an action resulting in an illegal goal denied Ireland, the opposing team an opportunity to compete in the World Cup in South Africa and should be viewed no less than bringing the international game into serious disrepute. So what do the FIFA rules of soccer have to say about this?

According to the FIFA rules the following conditions must be met for an offence to be considered a foul:
• it must be committed by a player
• it must occur on the field of play
• it must occur while the ball is in play

All three conditions were breeched by Callas in ensuring the goal and therefore without any doubt it should have been regarded as a foul goal.

Furthermore FIFA rules states that it is an offence for a player to handle the ball “handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration: the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)”.

Video evidence clearly shows that the player Henry move his hand twice towards the ball in order to keep the ball in play and direct it towards his foot. This was a deliberate act that should have resulted in sanction by the referee.

For such actions the conditions for disciplinary sanctions by FIFA state when a player attempts to score a goal by deliberately handling the ball a caution for unsporting behavior is required. Yet Henry received no caution and the goal was allowed.

FIFA rules clearly state that the referee should caution a player for unsporting behaviour “when a player handles the ball in an attempt to score a goal (irrespective of whether or not the attempt is successful”.

What the viewer clearly observed was a player committing a deliberate act of unsportsmanlike behaviour, breaking the FIFA rules of soccer, receiving no caution or disciplinary and being rewarded with a goal that resulted in a place at the World Cup.

Article 27 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that the result of a match is annulled if the result reached on the field of play is disregarded. Ireland should clearly have disregarded the goal forcing FIFA to examine and review the incident in order to prevent such injustice taking place.

Article 57 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that anyone who violates the principles of fair play or whose behaviour is unsporting in any other way may be subject to sanctions in accordance with art. 10 ff.

Article 76 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee is authorised to sanction any breach of FIFA regulations which does not come under the jurisdiction of another Body.

The injustice of the referee’s decision and the actions of the offending player clearly illustrates the breach of FIFA Regulations and must be acted on by the organisation to ensure the integrity of the sport.

Article 77 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 is responsible for:
a) sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention and
b) rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions;

The video evidence provides clear evidence that must surely require FIFA to ensure compliance with Article 77 and rectify the obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions.

Article 96 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2009 states that various types of proof may be produced including declarations from the parties and witnesses, material evidence, expert opinions and audio or video recordings.

FIFA the FAI and the FFL must clearly allow the provision of expert opinions and video evidence to repair the damage done to international soccer for the injustice suffered by the Irish soccer team in their world cup qualifier against France on the 18th November 2009.

The Code of ethics of FIFA state that it is essential to the integrity, image and reputation of FIFA and the competitions that the conduct of the member associations comply with the standards of ethical behaviour.
Let us wait and see if FIFA live up to this code of ethics?

You can contact FIFA Here to lodge a complaint.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis.

The following is an extract from a new report from the Global Humanitarian Forum on Climate Change.

Public surveys show that people worldwide are concerned about climate change. Science is now unequivocal as to the reality of climate change. Human activities, in particular emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are recognized as its principle cause. Nevertheless awareness about the impacts of climate change is low, particularly among the poor. In industrialized countries, climate change is still considered a solely environmental problem. It is seen as a distant threat that might affect our future. A viewpoint reinforced by pictures of glaciers and polar bears — not human beings

And yet Australia is witnessing a full decade of drought. Large tracts of the United States are exposed
to stronger storms and severe water shortages — leading to crop loss, job loss, fires, and death.
We testify here to the human face of this dangerous problem. The first hit and worst affected by climate change are the world’s poorest groups. Ninety-nine percent of all casualties occur in developing countries. A stark contrast to the one percent of global emissions attributable to some 50 of the least developed nations. If all countries were to pollute so little, there would be no climate change

The effects of pollution driven by economic growth in some parts of the world are now driving millions
of people into poverty elsewhere. At the same time, decades-old aid pledges continue to go unmet. The Millennium Development Goals are endangered. And the poor lack capacity to make their voices heard in international arenas, or attract public and private investment. For those living on the brink of survival, climate change is a very real and dangerous hazard. For many, it is a final step of deprivation.

Where does a fisherman go when warmer sea temperatures deplete coral reefs and fish stocks? How can a small farmer keep animals or sow crops when the water dries up? Or families be provided for when fertile soils and freshwater are contaminated with salt from rising seas?

Climate change is an all encompassing threat, directly affecting the environment, the economy, health and safety. Many communities face multiple stresses with serious social, political and security implications, both domestically and abroad. Millions of people are uprooted or permanently on the move as a result. Many more millions will follow.

Even the most ambitious climate agreement will take years to slow or reverse global warming. A global carbon economy has been the basis of all productive efforts since centuries. Emissions are still steadily increasing, and the world population is set to grow by forty percent by 2050.

If we do not reverse current trends by close to 2020, however, we may have failed. Global warming will pass the widely acknowledged danger level of two degrees, since there is an approximately 20 year delay between emission reductions and the halting of their warming effect. This report’sclearly demonstrates that climate change is already highly dangerous at well below one degree of warming. Two degrees would be catastrophic.

Weak political leadership as evident today is all the more alarming then. It is not, however, surprising, since so few people are aware of just how much is at stake. That we are already this far into the most important negotiations ever for the future of this planet without a clear idea of the full impact of climate change on human society speaks volumes in itself. In this respect, I hope that the report will change political attitudes, spur public debate and more research.

Copenhagen needs to be the most ambitious international agreement ever negotiated. The alternative is mass starvation, mass migration, and mass sickness. If political leaders cannot assume responsibility for Copenhagen, they choose instead responsibility for failing humanity. In 2009, national leadership goes beyond the next elections, and far beyond national borders

We live in a global village and we each have a responsibility to protect our planet. Isn’t it logical and equitable, therefore, to insist that those who pollute have a duty to clean up? Pollution by some affects us all. Every one of us needs to understand that pollution has a cost, and this cost must be borne by the Polluter. Least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are the world’s poorest communities who suffer most from climate change. This is fundamentally unjust. If efforts to build a global framework to address climate change are to succeed and endure they must be based on the principles of fairness and equity. People everywhere deserve climate justice. And everywhere people must stand up and demand exactly that from their representatives.

Climate change is a truly global issue. Its impacts, while skewed, are indiscriminate and threaten us all. People everywhere deserve not to suffer because of climate change. People everywhere deserve a future for their children. People everywhere deserve to have leaders who find the courage to achieve a solution to this crisis.

We must go beyond piecemeal changes to alter the very structure of the global economy. This will only be feasible if we manage to force a global price on carbon that is more representative of its costs to society, calculated at over 1 trillion dollars per year today according to this report’s findings. Taking these costs into account would redirect resources, exponentially multiplying possibilities for taking a greener path.

Indeed, that transformation is likely to prove the greatest opportunity for new economic growth since the advent of the industrial revolution. Renewable clean energy in particular would benefit the poor most, because of health, social and access reasons. It could also help springboard development: remembering, in particular, the 1.6 billion people on this planet who lack access to any modern forms of energy whatsoever.

When it comes to dealing with climate change, everybody must contribute according to their fair share of responsibility for the problem. No nation has the right to pollute. The role of this report is to document the greatest ongoing silent crisis of human history. When reading these pages it must not be forgotten that solutions exist: we can take preventative measures, we can adopt greener practices, and we can provide a dignified existence for all. We can contain climate change and end the suffering it causes.

But nobody can do it alone. Even if the United States or China — the world’s largest polluters in total emissions — were to stop polluting today, if others are not on board, climate change will continue to menace human society. Together, we can multiply the possibilities for overcoming it, and lessen the burden on everyone. But we must act now.

Humanity is facing a rare challenge. But it is a common challenge. There are no sides in the fight for climate justice.

Kofi A. Annan,
President of the Global Humanitarian Forum

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

ECONOMISTS are joining up with scientists to help save the planet threatened by global warming while species disappear at an alarming rate.

A major report says that much of the solution is to use and work with nature rather than just putting resources into expensive technology. The key joint EU-German global study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity shows that it is essential to protect nature and that up to now we have failed to appreciate its value. 

For the first time the study has calculated the cost of using nature to clean drinking water as against building treatment plants; closing off and protecting fishing grounds; protecting areas of natural beauty. 

Eventually around one in every six jobs in Europe depends on the environment, or one in 40 if you take a narrow definition of such jobs based on organic farming, sustainable forestry and green forms of tourism. 

They show that controlling and adapting to climate change is closely linked to halting the loss of biodiversity. For instance, the loss and damage to forests is responsible for around 20% of global CO2 – more than all forms of transport combined and points to the need for a halt to deforestation. 

On fisheries the study says that it is an underperforming asset in danger of collapse and is generating €34 billion less than it could. 

The study found that the benefit of protected areas under the EU’s Natura scheme is considerable. 

Species are becoming extinct at up to 1,000 times the normal rate so that more than half the earth’s ecosystem has been degraded in the past 50 years. Should this continue at this rate in 40 years the cost will be 7% of global GDP. 

"There is little doubt left in the minds of scientists that we have entered the sixth Great Extinction, and that the losses are due to human factors," said Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment. 

"Beyond the moral responsibility we have to protect our planet, the simple truth is that our future is inextricably tied to the fate of nature," he added. 

The report points out that we have no way of measuring, monitoring and reporting natural capital, unlike economic and human capital and says we have only scratched the surface of what natural processes and genetic resources have to offer. In the future the value of nature and the services she provides, especially to poorer regions, must be measured and factored in by those in charge of deciding policy. 

The report is available at: www.teebweb.org

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Man's best friend, it turns out, is the planet's enemy.

Just what is the environmental impact of feeding the huge quantity of "companion" animals around the world?

A provocative new book titled ‘Time to Eat the Dog?’ examines how pets are bad for the planet. The book examined the ecological footprint of pet food outlining how pets consume vast amounts of precious resources, produce mountains of noxious waste – and they can be a disaster for wildlife as reported in Guardian Newspaper and
in New Scientist in a recent editorial entitled Cute, Fluffy and Horribly Greedy

Just like us humans, the millions of domestic dogs and cats – as well as our collective menagerie of rabbits, horses, lizards, tropical fish et al – consume a wide variety of foodstuffs. In recent years, and despite the economic downturn, the pet food industry has witnessed a move towards "premium products", but the market is still dominated by products made with ingredients including "Hydrolysed feather meal", "derivatives of vegetable origin", "ash" and "animal derivatives" are just some of the delights routinely found in pet food.

The Real Guide to Sustainable Living has triggered a highly charged debate about the environmental efficacy of our pet-owning habits. If we are to examine the environmental impacts of all our lifestyle choices, the book argues, then we must also include pets in the discussion, no matter how unsettling the answers. The various environmental impacts attributed to the human food chain are well documented, so isn't it right, for example, that we should now be questioning the environmental impact of feeding domestic animals too?

The New Scientist article, largely agreed with the book's findings that some pets, due to the food they eat, have a surprisingly high "ecological footprint" (a way of quantifying human demand on the planet's ecosystems using a measure called "global hectares"). "According to the authors . . . it takes 0.84 hectares [2.07 acres] of land to keep a medium-sized dog fed. In contrast, running a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser, including the energy required to construct the thing and drive it 10,000km a year, requires 0.41 hectares. Dogs are not the only environmental sinners. The eco-footprint of a cat equates to that of a Volkswagen Golf. If that's troubling, there is an even more shocking comparison. In 2004, the average citizen of Vietnam had an ecological footprint of 0.76 hectares. For an Ethiopian, it was just 0.67 hectares. In a world where scarce resources are already hogged by the rich, can we really justify keeping pets that take more than some people?

When feeding a pet, however, the advice is to favour pet foods made from chicken and rabbit meat and avoid those containing red meat and fish which, by comparison, have a much higher environmental impact. Last and, perhaps, most obvious: the smaller the pet, the better.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Truth about Peak Oil

According to the Guardian Newspaper today, the world is much closer to running out of oil than than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

'There's suspicion the IEA has been influenced by the US' Link to this audio
In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.

Now the "peak oil" theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. "The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.

"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources," he added.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added.

The IEA acknowledges the importance of its own figures, boasting on its website: "The IEA governments and industry from all across the globe have come to rely on the World Energy Outlook to provide a consistent basis on which they can formulate policies and design business plans."

The British government, among others, always uses the IEA statistics rather than any of its own to argue that there is little threat to long-term oil supplies. The IEA said tonight that peak oil critics had often wrongly questioned the accuracy of its figures. A spokesman said it was unable to comment ahead of the 2009 report being released tomorrow.
John Hemming, the MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on peak oil and gas, said the revelations confirmed his suspicions that the IEA underplayed how quickly the world was running out and this had profound implications for British government energy policy.

He said he had also been contacted by some IEA officials unhappy with its lack of independent scepticism over predictions. "Reliance on IEA reports has been used to justify claims that oil and gas supplies will not peak before 2030. It is clear now that this will not be the case and the IEA figures cannot be relied on," said Hemming.

"This all gives an importance to the Copenhagen [climate change] talks and an urgent need for the UK to move faster towards a more sustainable [lower carbon] economy if it is to avoid severe economic dislocation," he added.

The IEA was established in 1974 after the oil crisis in an attempt to try to safeguard energy supplies to the west. The World Energy Outlook is produced annually under the control of the IEA's chief economist, Fatih Birol, who has defended the projections from earlier outside attack. Peak oil critics have often questioned the IEA figures.
But now IEA sources who have contacted the Guardian say that Birol has increasingly been facing questions about the figures inside the organisation.

Matt Simmons, a respected oil industry expert, has long questioned the decline rates and oil statistics provided by Saudi Arabia on its own fields. He has raised questions about whether peak oil is much closer than many have accepted.
A report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) last month said worldwide production of conventionally extracted oil could "peak" and go into terminal decline before 2020 – but that the government was not facing up to the risk. Steve Sorrell, chief author of the report, said forecasts suggesting oil production will not peak before 2030 were "at best optimistic and at worst implausible".

But as far back as 2004 there have been people making similar warnings. Colin Campbell, a former executive with Total of France told a conference: "If the real [oil reserve] figures were to come out there would be panic on the stock markets … in the end that would suit no one."

Read more on the future of oil and
Terry Macalister

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Political Tipping Point, can we prevent runaway collapse of the Green Party?

No doubt there will be members of the Green Party that will not have welcomed my comments as reported in the Sunday Tribune today. Some will say the Party have never had so many members nationally. The reality in West Cork is that the number of members in the local constituency group have dropped from over 80 paid up members to less than 50 in the past year alone. Facts do not lie.

On average over the past 14 months the local group now get perhaps 3-6 members attending monthly meetings. The local group could only get a handful of members, and I mean a handful, to canvas the public in the recent local elections. Paid up members simply refused to participate as they did not support what was happening in Government or at parliamentary party level.

My comments in the Sunday Tribune do not just reflect my own personal attitude; I was asked by the reporter what was the view of the local party members?

While I cannot speak for all of them from my communications with members I know many are totally disillusioned with what happened within the party in the past year and in particular more recently at the NAMA convention.

They feel the convention was manipulated, they believe that the parliamentary party (PP) has by passed select committees within the organization such as the energy group, the sustainability group and the social and economic policy group who have been largely totally ignored by the NEC and PP. This week Tony McDermott, co-convenor of the Economic policy group resigned from his position for this very reason.

Many of the local members have said they believe the local branch has no role to play any more in the current political climate as the PP do not communicate with local organizations, consult with local organizations and seem to largely ignore party procedures to suit their purposes.

The parliamentary party has always said that it has a bottom up approach to management and policy development, however recent experiences do not support this view.

While it may be claimed by some that membership numbers reflect support for the GP in government, in reality you need to take a closer look at the membership statistics to test this claim. While a lot of new members joined the GP in the past two years, this has plateaued out dramatically or is scued on the basis of recent attempts at political lobbying which probably saw, for example, more student members join to lobby on education cuts at the recent convention.

Yet at the same time the party has lost some of the longest serving and most loyal members including former councilors and many active green members. How many more will they lose in the next year?

One also needs to look at the geographic spread of membership. The numbers may show a rise in membership in Dublin for instance yet not one recent candidate got elected in the capital or in any other major city. This is a travesty for the party. If the GP cannot get one green candidate elected in Cork city (15% city population are third level students) or indeed Dublin, Galway or Limerick when green global issues are to the fore, the party, as a political movement, has a problem of enormous magnitude.

The morale of the local branch is without doubt very low, they could not get a candidate to stand for the county council in local elections for my area and I at a late stage accepted the challenge to offer the electorate an alternative political candidate.

The party had an excellent candidate and community activist in the town council elections for Clonakilty, but through no fault of her own only managed to get 54 votes; and this in Clonakilty! the heart of West Cork, a self-proclaimed model green town with an active sustainable community group, numerous national tidy towns awards and the first fare trade town in Ireland to boot.

In Kinsale, the founding location of the transition town movement, the party had a standing green councilor who only managed to get elected on the eighth count. Moreover this was achieved by the candidate not promoting herself as a Green Party member to begin with.

I took up the challenge for the county county elections and canvassed a huge constituency with a few friends who were not Green Party members. Members were either too afraid or too disillusioned to canvas given the national mood of the electorate. I did manage to increase the Green Party vote by 20% from the last election receiving a respectable 3,500 votes which included 1-5 preference votes in a seven seater with 13 candidates standing that included two strong independents.

Some Green Party members may feel that my comments may influence morale negatively in the local group further. I would answer, you don't need to tell me about morale; I took a month off work to canvass, largely paid for the entire campaign myself and erected every single one of my posters and most of those for Senator Dan Boyle in West Cork, an area the size of most other counties. To boost my morale further when the counting was finished I had to take them all down again. How’s that for morale busting!

I'm a realist, a pragmatist, a real life environmental professional who has worked in the environmental field for many of the largest and most successful companies in Ireland. I have been active in climate change and environmental initiatives all my professional life. I know the challenges we face as a society and it scares the hell out of me.

I want people to embrace green politics, but the public right now have largely closed down the shutters on the Green Party; they just aren't listening.

What worries me more than current morale is that we could be left with no Green parliamentarians after the next election based on current public sentiments and surveys.

What are we as a political party and green movement supposed to do if this occurs?

There is no doubt the Green Party have shown themselves to be ahead of the game on environmental and sustainability issues, climate change, energy security, peak oil etc, the very reasons I joined the party in the first place. Notwithstanding this, right now they are totally failing to manage their public relations and what is most important, the sustainable development of the party.

What have the Parliamentary Party achieved that makes this worth while? A ban on stag hunting and light bulbs is what the public now associate with the Green Party and a Programme for Government (PFG) that is neither radical enough nor has enough concrete deliverables. The PFG had 200 pledges of which only 9 have any timeframes for commencement, the rest can be largely seen as aspirational.

And then we have NAMA, a delusional NAMA business plan, a newly conceived Special Purchase Vehicle (SPV) and a mountain of private financial sector debt that some believe we can manage with access to cheap credit. Have we not learnt already that credit is not cheap? I am worried that NAMA and its ramifications will bankrupt the nation, we do not have the means to protect all institutions and attempting to do so will ruin any possibility of us addressing the issues that are so critical right now.

Martin Wolf, former senior economist with the World Bank and former fellow of the World Economic Forum, stated clearly yesterday that Ireland does not have the national balance sheet to bail out all the institutions in trouble, yet we plough ahead regardless.

So, is support for NAMA REALLY worth the Green Party committing political hari kari, the clock is ticking not just on Copenhagen but on the current government and we may well have passed the tipping point to prevent runaway collapse of the party.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Part of the professional work I undertake in due diligence, at the Lisbon convention there was an economic workshop that Minister Eamon Ryan chaired where I raised the subject of due diligence or lack of, undertaken by financial institutions on development and business loans that will now form a large part of the NAMA or SPV assets.

Financial controllers and business executives undertook ENRON economics in submitting business plans and financial auditing reports to support the widely unrealistic and bloated long term economic value of property. These assumptions were supported by auditing, risk assessment, financial accountancy and private equity advisory firms. In many respects the very same consultancies that are now still employed by the Government in drafting the NAMA legislation.

As with the fable of “the King has no Clothes” when reality finally hit home ENRON was exposed for what it was, it revealed that the business plan was sustained by institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud, known as the "Enron scandal". That scandal caused the dissolution of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, yet in Ireland nobody has been held accountable.

In the USA within months senior executives of corporations, financial and auditing companies were in jail, in Ireland it’s a get out of jail pass, golden handshakes, fat pensions and compensation by the taxpayer for deceit, dishonesty and professional incompetence.

More recently the collapse of Bear Stearns in Wall Street, a bank like Anglo Irish that existed for private wealth creation, occurred once again because their internal risk management systems failed.

All these institutions including Anglo Irish, NIB, AIB, BOI employed auditors, risk managers, insurance advisors, asset management professionals and legal advisors to protect their investments. What we have since witnessed is that the entire financial system was based on falsification and deceit, excessive risk taking and shocking standards of risk management.

During the boom years of the Celtic Tiger we witnessed what could be called criminal behavior by evaluators, bankers, land surveyors, financial advisors, risk assessors, all addicted to institutionalized greed. Nobody has been held accountable for the failure of the financial regulator, the central bank or the Government to control our economy. Yet with NAMA one thing is certain the taxpayer is now accountable.

The unsustainable business model of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and total lack of supervision by the financial sector created the conditions for the catastrophic collapse of the economy we now see. We have learnt in the meantime how the banks were interconnected, did business, and still do, with the same advisory firms, we know they were sustained with plastid Government support attempting to store up confidence in the banking sector and Government Policy. Anyone who spoke out about financial mismanagement was labeled a loony and encouraged even by our last Taoiseach to commit suicide.

The consequence of this mismanagement we are now lead to believe is that the banks have become to big to fail. Why this was allowed to occur is unclear. After all, both the financial regulator and the Central Bank had or should have had ample information on the stability of the banks as well as the legal ability and obligation to prevent destabilising banking.

In the financial crisis we face, the strength of a bank’s balance sheet is of little consequence. What matters is the explicit or implicit guarantee provided by the state to the banks to back up their assets and provide liquidity. Therefore, the size of the state relative to the size of the banks becomes a crucial factor.

Can the state now afford to save all the banking institutions, today Bank of Ireland posted a pre-tax loss of €979 million for the six months to September 30 compared with profit of 647 million euros during the equivalent period in 2008.

Bank of Ireland said loan impairment charges in the six months were 1.8 billion euros, up from 267 million euros a year ago. The bank has forecast loan impairments of 6.9 billion euros in the three years to March 2011.

Least we forget just last February Bank of Ireland’s estimates for loan impairment charges were calculated at €3.8 billion to circa €4.5 billion for the same period up to March 2011. In the six months since loan impairment has increased by an astonishing €3billion. In the same period both Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank received €7 billion in state aid from the Irish taxpayer.

What we are seeing is the taxpayer through the state investing money in a financial black hole, a black hole that Anglo Irish Bank’s transfer of €28 billion in loans to NAMA will suck us all in.

It is clear that the state is not in any position to attempt to save Anglo Irish Bank. Still the Government pursues this agenda. They have not addressed the failure of the banking system and are gambling for a resurrection on the backs of a NAMA business plan that would not pass the most basic risk management test. A business plan, that must be pointed out is based on continued economic growth over the next ten years.

What is most shocking of all about this is the acceptance and willingness of the Green Party to go along with this fiasco. A fitting satire to peak everything and runaway credit.

What bothers me even more is that the Green Party credits itself as the most transparent and democratic political party in the state. Yet just days after the NAMA convention the Government releases the now discredited NAMA business plan, which would have been in existence well before the convention, followed a week later with revisions to the NAMA legislation with the inclusion of a SPV that will be controlled by private interests but paid for by public monies, which also must surely have been discussed at cabinet by the government.

I find it unbelievable that the Green Party Ministers were not aware of either nor that they wouldn’t have discussed them at Cabinet table with their colleagues. After all isn’t this what collective cabinet responsibility is all about! A bit like how the green parliamentary party is supposed to work as well. If they were not informed or consulted this surely must be the last straw for the current Government.

Of course none of this would have happened if the last Government had acted prudently in the first place, the economy regardless of the global financial crisis would be in a much better shape.

Looking back I cannot escape the feeling that the board and directors of the Central Bank and the financial regulator, along with senior officials there knew what was happening. Similarly, all government ministers, along with senior bureaucrats in the ministries of finance, revenue commissioners and office of the Taoiseach had to have known.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The future of Green Politics is dead and buried under a monument to failure called NAMA

After a weekend of reflection with a large group of my friends I am left in no doubt that the consequence of the Green Party supporting the NAMA legislation has resulted in the party destroying any opportunity for not just the current generation to embrace green politics but it will prevent the next generation from being given an opportunity to join what I had hoped until recently was a Party of the future in this country.

I joined the Green Party as an environmental scientist who believed in what the party stood for back in 2007. I actively encouraged friends and colleagues to think differently about the Green Party and made some serious inroads into bringing about behavioural change within the community I live to support green politics. I was asked to stand in the local elections and did so in west cork, standing up for the Green Party when many others were not willing to engage with the public. This cost be significantly in time and personal finances.

I can categorically say right now I now do not have one personal friend or acquaintance who believes that the Green Party are making the right decision in government in regard to NAMA.

The universal belief of people I meet is that they will NEVER vote green again, even regardless of their friendship to me or their support for me in the past in my career or in my public endeavours.

Without fail they are of the opinion that whatever principals or integrity the party had amount to nothing in the debacle we now find ourselves in with NAMA.

As a committed environmentalist this has shaken my own belief in the party, I find that the willingness of the party to support the NAMA legislation is a step too far and I fear that I may have no choice but to resign from the party.

As a environmental scientist if I wish to continue to build support in the community for sustainable development and green ideologies I find all of my work in attempting to build a low carbon future is now in jeopardy as a consequence of my association with the Green Party.

A party that has lost the support not just of a large percentage of its own members but of the public at large.

I am even more enraged and saddened at this because this should be at a time when Green politics should be on the rise with the threat of climate change and sustainability, instead the parties continued support for NAMA is extinguishing and possibility of the party offering a realistic alternative to the public in the difficult years ahead.

I fear the Green Party will be remembered for NAMA; for not being willing to take the principled stand, but for supporting a vehicle that goes against the very core of green philosophy or matters of sustainability, legislation that supports greed, unsustainable development and the concept of profit from a failed financial system that has bankrupt the state.

Right now it brings to mind Jim Morrison of the Doors with the words,

“This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again..”

As someone who has always felt that I have an ability to feel the pulse of the people and have many times rode ahead of the posse in current or political opinions I believe that NAMA will be the tombstone of green politics in Ireland for a generation.

What a sorry waste,
What a terrible tragedy.

Finger Printing Politicians

I wrote recently about misuse of expenses by certain individuals in regard to the Seanad Eireann.

I questioned how a figure of more than €10.57million could have been claimed by certain Senators when the level of attendance by many is so abysmally low?

I asked the question what are they being paid expenses for and what are they doing if not Seanad work. Well now thanks to recent statements in Seanad Eireann by Senator Michael McCarthy I know exactly what some of them are doing and it all makes sense.

Speaking recently against the proposed changes to the Oireachtas expenses regime Senator McCarthy railed against the proposed Bill, which allows for greater transparency in expenses stating:“While this legislation is necessary and we must take a principled stand, it is also important to ask the serious questions and be practical about this matter. For example, are we now going to sign in to public meetings? My constituency is over 120 miles long, from Cork airport almost to Kenmare, taking in the Beara peninsula, the Mizen peninsula, and the harbours at Kinsale, Clonakilty, Baltimore and Courtmacsherry.”

He added "There are three electoral areas. As a successful constituency politician himself, the Minister of State will be aware of the importance of attending events and being seen where the crowds are. The perception and optics of a public representative include being seen in different places to meet constituents and support events".

Will we have to sign in for attending festivals, regattas, tidy town competitions, public meetings and ribbon-opening ceremonies? Will we have to provide proof of attending funerals to the Minister of State? Will we sign in when we meet planners or when we visit a site? Will we sign in when we attend a local authority meeting to listen to a report to councillors? said Senator McCarthy.

The Senator is talking about the Cork South West, Dail Constituency. He seems unaware that his constitutional role as a Senator means that he does not have a constituency. In fact he is arguing here that he should be permitted to be paid by the taxpayer for attending funerals, festivals, ribbon opening ceremonies and in his own words being seen where the crowds are.

Is this why Senator McCarthy is being paid over €130,000 a year in salary and expenses?

Is this the role and responsibility of a Senator to use his time being paid as a public servant canvassing for a Dail seat, instead of doing the job he is actually paid for in Seanad Eireann. Certainly not.

In a time when the public are seeking greater transparency on how public monies are spent or where they could be spent, one must question the value we are getting for OUR money. Let us not forget that our taxed income is paying for this extravagance.

Senator McCarthy had much more to say however on transparency in expenses for politicians. He view is that it is unnecessary.
“this Bill concerns the over-regulation of politicians. Are we to be fingerprinted when we come into Leinster House so that we can draw expenses? We must not forget the add-ons in the public service, as well as the vulgar filth that took place in FÁS, and the illegal practices in banks. Did they have to sign in? No they did not. They left their jobs, took their large pensions and lump sums and sat down…They do not have to sign in, but we must do so. It has become ridiculous.”

It surely has become ridiculous.