Monday, November 29, 2010

Zombie Government

We’ve heard a lot about zombie banks in recent months but what got us into this crisis is a zombie government. A government that appears to be staggering aimlessly from one crisis to the next, cannibalising the economy to feed its insatiable addiction to saving the private banking sector at the cost of our economic sovereignty.

The primary responsibility for what has happened in Ireland lies with our own political, administrative and banking sectors. Fianna Fail have been in power for 18 of the past 20years. They represent the Anglo Irish bank of Irish politics. Their political manifesto is one of party cronyism-appointed supporters to key positions in all sectors of the economy from the Financial regulator, to the boards of banks, FAS and 800 other quangos. These are appointments not based on skills or experience but on the basis of who they know. Through these appointments they control the avenues of power in this state.

Nor does it stop there. They have wrecked our health system, mismanaged our education system, destroyed our banking system and now handed over our National Pension Reserve Fund to further bail out the failed banks. Money which should be used for strategic investment will now be used to further bankrupt the state and wreck any opportunity of recovery. This is the latest in a long line of disastrous decisions that have had catastrophic impacts on the state. This government has utterly failed to take responsibility or accept the consequences of their actions and incredibly continue to speak for and represent the nation in negotiations with the IMF and the EU. Slowly but surely it is dawning on intelligent, responsible and productive adults everywhere that the people they have elected to run the country on their behalf are simply running it for themselves.

The political ideology of the past has failed. Today, we as a nation look into a financial abyss brought about by a total failure of authority and democracy. We urgently need political reform based on a new vision for the 21st century. A political system fit for purpose, one that looks to the future not the past, one that encourages people with real skills and experience into politics, not seeking a lifetime career but a period of national service where they have a responsibility to the citizens of the state first and foremost. The time for civil war and trade union politics routed in the 1920s is long gone.

As a people we have evolved but not our government and political system. Unless our political system is radically changed nothing will change. We need to change the political system before this county turns into a zombie retirement village, run by a zombie government in a nation cannibalised by a failed capitalist and political system.

Over 50,000 people turned out in Dublin last Saturday; I was among them. Having talked and listened on the day to a lot of people of all ages from college students to pensioners, everyone had one common belief. We need political reform. It's time we said "Enough!"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Shining a light from West Cork to Rajasthan on the Worlds Poorest Communities

This past week Partnership for Change, a Cork based low carbon and climate change initative received notification from India that the community based, sustainable energy and lighting project it sponsored through the support of West Cork based EnviroManagement Services and Bord Gais was successfully completed.

As we turn the clocks back and darkness desends earlier for the winter months it is a little easier to imagine what life must be like for those that have no access to artificial light or electricity. We have travelled light years technologically since the days when our homes, towns and villages were in darkness after nightfall, save for oil lamps and candles. The daily illumination of our homes is something we take for granted until there is an unwelcome power outage resulting in an interruption to our energy-fuelled lives or indeed until we read about the unfortnate incidences of households in Ireland now being disconnected because they cant pay their utility bills.

It is hard to believe that there are still over 1.6 billion people around the world who do not have access to electricity and are thrown into darkness as soon as daylight fades. Access to electric lighting allows people to illuminate their environment, providing them with artificial light so that they can undertake basic tasks, like cooking, reading, and household chores. It allows children to study, reducing poverty and provides basic human needs within the household. In instances of no access to electricity many people are forced to light and heat their homes with kerosene lamps. The World Bank has found that burning kerosene indoors to be equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. It is estimated that almost one billion women and children are breathing in kerosene on a daily basis. Continued use of these lamps can cause infection of the lungs or eyes as well as respiratory problems. In addition to the significant health risk of the fumes, fires can also erupt when a lamp is knocked over or when household items or clothes are exposed to the flame.

It was to help tackle this that Partnership for Change supported the ‘Lighting a Billion Lives’ (LABL) campaign founded by TERI, The Energy and Resources Initiative, based in India. The LABL campaign aims to bring light into the lives of a billion people across the globe who don’t have access to articifical light or electricity.

In support of TERI’s campaign, Partnership for Change organised a major international climate change conference in Cork in November 2008 through which the proceeds have now directly benefitted the lives of 250 people in a village in Rajasthan in rural India. Proceeds from the conference went to two other charities as well as the ‘Lighting a Billion Lives’ campaign.

This Climate Change Conference supported by some of Ireland’s leading companies was the largest and most significant conference on the topic of climate change ever to have been held in this country, hosting international experts from the field of climate change science. Appropriately, Partnership for Change, which was founded by Bandon-based environmental scientist and consultant Mr. Declan Waugh, committed to making the conference as carbon-neutral as possible. Driven by this objective, some of the international experts who addressed the conference did so remotely by live video confereencing which was sponsored by BT. Both Dr James Hansen, the Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute and leading world climate change expert, as well as Dr.Vicky Pope, the Director of the British Hadley Centre for Meteorology and Head of Climate Change for the UK Government, spoke to the conference by live-video link up from America and England respectively. Both speakers took questions from the delegates at the Cork-based conference following their lives addresses. Questions and answers flew back and forth between Ireland, the USA and England at what seemed the speed of light. This cutting-edge technological element to the conference which brought world leaders in the field of climate change science to Cork city added greatly to the ‘energy’ and excitement levels on the day not to mention the reduction in the carbon foot-print of the Climate Change Conference.

The third speaker to address the conference delegates remotely was the Chairman of the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr.R.K Pachauri, who also founded TERI.

Over the last two years, the TERI campaign using renewable solar powered energy sources around has illuminated 30,000 households spread over 550 villages across 15 states in India. Work on the village of Balesar in the state of Rajasthan was funded entirely by Partnership for Change has now been completed. The project involved establishing within the community a solar powered co-operative, managed by the women of the village and providing the funding to install the solar power technology. The project also trained the co-operative members and providing recharagable lamps to every household in the village. It benefitted 250 people within the village directly and created one full time green job in the village.

Founder of Partnership for Change, Declan Waugh says that “knowing that so many people, especially women and children have benefitted from the provision of clean renewable energy light sources to their rural village in India is very rewarding. It will increase the standard of living of the villagers and make a real difference to their everyday lives while also supporting and creating sustainable green jobs in rural communities.”

Other charities which benefitted from the proceeds of the conference included Water Aid and Médecins San Frontieres, both organisations that assist populations that are being affected daily by the impacts of climate change and humanitarian crises around the globe including most recently the earthquake in Haite and the catastrophic floods in Pakistan.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our Bleeding Country

I have had the great Patrick Kavanagh’s words floating in my mind this past few months.

I have taken the liberty of rewriting his poem '
O Stony Grey Soil of Monaghan' to represent our current state of thinking.

Our Bleeding Country

O Soldiers of Destiny

The laugh from my soul you thieved

You took the gay child of my passion

And gave me your clod conceived

You clogged the feet of our children

We believed in your strut and tumble

Having the poise and stride of Bertie

And his voice the thick tongued mumble

You told me the Celtic Tiger was immortal

Our futures were safe and secure

Your country now bankrupt your citizens blunted

A banking and political system impure

You sang on steaming dunhills

A song of coward’s brood

You drained the public purse,

With your nose in the taxpayers trough

You have flung this countries future

A future once bright and strong.

O Soldiers of Density

You burgled my bank of youth!

Lost the joys of employment and pleasure

All the young men and women that leave

O can we still stroke the monster’s back

Or write with unpoisoned pen

Your name in these lonely verses

Or mention the dark future where

The first gay light of our youths future

Got caught in a bankers prayer.

From West Cork to Dublin City

Now there’s four hundred and fifty thousand

In a welfare state that shows no pity

And a population bludgeoned.

Declan Waugh courtesy of Patrick Kavaghan

Monday, September 13, 2010

Economic Crisis and a Failed Democracy

This is the most dangerous Government in the history of this State which has preceded over the destruction of our economy and left my generation bankrupt, unemployed and without effective leadership

Our system of governance is a sham, power is supposed to belong with the people. In the view of this Irish man who actually gives a damn, the democratic system we have in this country has utterly failed its citizens. Its not just Fianna Fail fault, the strength of a government can only be judged by the strength of its opposition and it is fair to say that the opposition has failed abysmally.

The majority of issues started from 1987 when Fianna Fáil got into power, they preceded over deregulation of the financial system, lack of corporate governance, massive overspend in public infrastructure projects, inept planning policy and total lack of enforcement regulation, HSE mismanagement, public sector benchmarking, the property bubble, FAS, decentralisation, the universal bank guarantee, Anglo Irish Bank and NAMA. We were told unequivocally by this Government that the bank guarantee would be cost neutral for the exchequer and may even bring a profit, at this moment it appears our country is insolvent as a result of the bank guarantee.

The Irish banking system is looking as credible these days as the Afghanistan Kabul Bank assuring the world that it absolutely, positively had enough capitol to available meet all its obligations (ie. About five days before it went bust last week). Unlike Anglo Irish Bank it was not guaranteed by the State, what we have witnessed in Ireland is the transformation of private debt into public debt on an unprecedented scale. We are now in unchartered territory, with no compass, no leadership, no map and a rapidly sinking boat.

National debt now stands at 67% GDP up from a surplus of 3% in 2006. On top of this the bill for paying our public sector is soaring, unemployment is approaching near half a million and we need to borrow €30 billion a year just to pay our public sector.

We were in no uncertain terms betrayed by Government, by the unions, by ourselves. We appear unanimously to be furious about this Government, it has the lowest approval rating of any government in the history of the state, yet nothing has changed.

We continue to hear about innumerable indications (and no conviction) of perjury, bribery, corruption, embezzlement, favouritism, self service, abuse of power, etc, and we all know that this is not even the tip of the iceberg.

I am sick to death of this dysfunctional Government (and its opposition) and their perverse attempts to make the ordinary citizen of this county carry the can for the incompetence of a tiny number of wealthy elite.

In a true democracy the state does not command us, we command the state, democracy means government by the people. Right now more than ever we need to change the political system; out with the old failed civil war politics and in with a new form of government for this century and future generations. Democracy in this county has been Government for the highest bidder and in the past twelve years Fianna Fáil and the PD’s greased the system, the unions and public service to ensure three electoral successes and we let them.

Irish citizens have and always should have the right to choose who represents them. Irish citizens should also be given their right to choose who represents them in the middle of an Economic crisis. I believed last year when I spoke against the banking guarantee and Anglo Irish Bank at the Green Party convention on NAMA that an Election was the only answer to this problem. Ireland belongs to its citizens and not political parties who choose power over democracy. When the Green Party voted for NAMA, I along with many other members resigned. We were told that the bank guarantee would be cost neutral for this country and may even make a profit, I did not believe it then and the results are clearly in; it has bankrupt our state.

The failure of this Government to hold the three outstanding by- elections further illustrates their contempt of democracy. Yet the Government remains in power while the opposition dithers and bickers.

Irelands gross external debt increased by 262% under Fianna Fáil and the PD’s from around €521 billion in 2002, to over €1.36 trillion as of 30 June 2007. In March 2010 the Central Statistic Office (CSO) stated that the gross external debt of all residents sectors in Ireland amounted to €1.67 trillion. The bulk of this debt lies with failed banking institutions and we the taxpayer are being left to carry the can. In a population of 4.5 million that’s €370,000 per citizen on top of their negative equity mortgages and reduced income.

In the words of the soldiers of density, a lot done more to do!

So how much more is left to be done?

It is easy to identify who is responsible; they remain sitting in government and on the opposition benches, failed politicians for a failed generation. Our entire political system is corrupt. Something is rotten in the state of Ireland and we need to realise that only we can change it. The longer we dither, the more we lose.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Times Passing, Shinagh House, SWS Co Operative, Bandon

It is with a sense of sadness that I visited Shinagh House on the 10th September last to meet with some of my past colleagues on their last day in Bandon prior to their move to Cork city. I relocated home to West Cork to work with SWS Group in Jaunuary 2000, starting the new millenium with a new career and fresh hopes for the future.

I spent seven years working in Shinagh house at a time of tremendous change within the organisation and established a new department and created new jobs based in West Cork. I remember the enormous pride combined with some trepidation that I personally felt in providing employment to recent graduates while also giving summer experience to students from across West Cork and throughout Munster.

Shinagh House was a melting pot of incredible people; men and women working together in a co-operative in areas as diverse as marketing, IT, agriculatural services, forestry, environmental services, farm relief, accounting, corporate services, auctioneering, recruitment and rural development. It was truly a unique work environment, one that it is unlikely we will ever see again in West Cork.

In the early part of the last decade there were in excess of 120 people working under the one roof in Shinagh House in addition to the considerable numbers employed in the call centre, which was also located on the estate providing much needed trade and business to Bandon town and beyound. Its closing will be a huge loss to the community, one that I deeply regret and wish otherwise.

In memory of my time in Shinagh House I would like to wish all the wonderful people I had the pleasure of working with during my time there the very best.

I was truly fortunate to have met so many incredible people and hope that this will not be the end of days for such a remarkable building and work environment, overlooking the wonderful Bandon river valley with its majestic woodland, green fields and the morning mist rising from the river.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

If ECB wants Anglo to survive, let it bear the cost

This article deserves to be circulated so here it is as reported in the Irish Times by Fintan O Toole this week.

The only reason left for saving Anglo is the EU and ECB must have decided no European bank can fail. We can’t afford to do it, so Mr Trichet will have to, writes FINTAN O'TOOLE

IN LITTLE Britain, Vicky Pollard is a delinquent teenager who begins every answer to an awkward question with “yeah but no” before plunging into a stream of incomprehensible drivel.

In Little Ireland, Vicky Pollard is a member of a delinquent government who begins sentences with “yeah but no” before plunging into a stream of incomprehensible drivel. Here is Eamon “Vicky” Ryan on Morning Ireland last Thursday, attempting not to answer a straight question from Aoife Kavanagh.

Aoife: “Does that mean you favour a faster winding down of Anglo Irish Bank than had originally been proposed, ’cause that’s exactly what Senator Dan Boyle said and he was very clear about that?” Vicky: “Yeah but no, he wasn’t, yes of course, you would, would want, we want, to move on quickly from the mistakes that were made . . . ”

He may or may not have added, “Oh my God! I so can’t believe you said that.” I’m not sure, because at that point, his voice was drowned out by the screams in my head.

Eamon Ryan is one of the brightest people in Irish politics. If he can’t articulate Government policy on Anglo without going adrift on a sea of verbal slurry, it is safe to assume that no one can. It cannot be articulated because it is irretrievably mired in nonsense.

Propping up Anglo is one of the most momentous decisions an Irish government has ever made and it can no longer say why it is doing it. Yet, by a process of elimination, we are at last getting to the truth at the core of this policy. We have been given, in all, five different explanations by the Government of why we must continue to pour money into Anglo and, lest we forget, its mini-me Irish Nationwide.

The first was that these institutions were basically sound but needed temporary rescue from a liquidity crisis. No one needs to be told how stupid that was.
The second was that we needed to give them the money to get credit flowing into the economy again. This was always a cynical line spun for the supposedly gullible masses – Anglo and Nationwide never lent significantly into the real economy and will never do so in the future.

The third reason we’ve been given is that it was vital to avoid having zombie banks. This actually has been achieved – as the Financial Times pointed out last week, Anglo is nothing as lively as a zombie. It’s a “rotting corpse”.

The fourth proposition was that saving Anglo and Nationwide was necessary to maintain Ireland’s “credibility” with the international financial markets. In fact, watching a State borrow endless billions at high interest rates to shovel them into a grave has merely enhanced our incredibility.

Which leaves us with the fifth reason for the strategy, and the only one that makes any sense: that the European Union, and more specifically the European Central Bank, have decided that no European bank should be allowed to fail.
Strip away the drivel and the spinning and this is the one truth left standing. At least if we clarify this much, we can also clarify the nature of the decision that now faces us.

The choice is now stark: do we go on being “good Europeans” at the cost of destroying our own society or do we become “bad Europeans”, lose the trust of some of our European partners, but save ourselves?

There are costs to be paid whichever choice we make, but we know which side we have to pick. In the appalling state we’re in, there is just one rational course of action: tell the ECB that if it wants Anglo to survive, it can save it.
Otherwise, we are calling in the bondholders and negotiating a debt-for-equity swap in which this brat becomes their baby.

And yes, this will be most unpleasant. We’ll be accused of causing a new crisis for the euro, German magazines will run cartoons of greedy Irish piglets sucking on the teats of the German taxpayer, German politicians will issue statements telling us to sell off the Cliffs of Moher and Skellig Michael.

Brian Cowen won’t get ego- boosting profiles in Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal will rip down its posters of Brian Lenihan. The initial market reaction will be terrible. Everyone will hate us – until they find someone else to hate.

But we have to do it anyway. Whatever the ECB’s Jean Claude Trichet says, Anglo is not merely an Irish problem – it was European banks that fed its frenzy for cash and the ECB is now its biggest debtor – and Ireland has done its best. We’ve tried the “good Europeans” track and it has led ever further into the wilderness.

There comes a point of existential crisis when even the meekest of countries has to put its vital national interests before its international obligations. We are at that point now.

If Trichet is determined that Anglo should not fail, the message from Government must be: “La clé est dans la porte. Voici le numéro de téléphone de Monsieur Dukes.”
© 2010 The Irish Times

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bandon Frontier Town of Munster

This week marks National Heritage Week 2010, which kicked off with the Irish Walled Towns day last Sunday 22nd August. To commerate this and the wealth of history, natural heritage and culture that West Cork has to offer I will attempt to recreate the period associated with the development of many West Cork towns but especially Bandon, the frontier walled town of Munster.

The Darkest of Centuries
The late 16th and particularly the 17th century was one of the most brutal and oppressive periods in the history of Europe and Ireland. This darkest of centuries began with the last stand of the Gaelic lords against the English in the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, the flight of the West Cork Earls to Spain in 1602, widespread famine in 1603 and the assassination of the last prince of Ireland Donal Cam O'Sullivan Bere in 1613.

What followed was a century of religious persecution, wars, famine, plagues, rebellion and ethnic cleansing on an unimaginable scale and not just in Ireland but throughout Europe. This century had the most profound and devastating impact on Ireland, it left in its wake a desolate land and its population perished as a result of war, starvation and plague. A second great exodus at the end of the century saw tens of thousands forced into exile to find service in France, Spain and beyond. Indeed, so great was the number of these exiles that landed in France over the next half century, from the landing of James' army up to and including the battle of Fontenoy in 1745, that the French war-office computed that upwards of 450,000 Irishmen laid down their lives in the service of France.

The Plantation of West Cork
Many towns in Munster, and in particular West Cork, owe their origin to Queen Elizabeth’s colonisation of Munster following the defeat of the Geraldines in the Desmond rebellion. The rebellion marked a watershed in Ireland, after three years of scorched earth warfare the population was decimated by famine and plague. Although English control over the country was still far from total, the southern Geraldine axis of power had been annihilated and in 1585 the lands of many West Cork clans were confiscated by the English crown. Into this wasted and almost dispeopled region, Elizabeth resolved to introduce English colonies. Not long afterwards, a series of English settlements sprung up in south-west Cork, in particular at Baltimore, Crookhaven, Bantry Bay and Bandon, frontier settlements on the edge of the English empire, deep in the heart of Gaelic Munster.

The Plantation of Bandon and the Nine Years War
In the Bandon area the O'Mahonys, who supported the rebellion, were uprooted from their castle at Castle Mahon (later Castle Bernard) and 40,000 acres of their land was confiscated. This land was given to the English undertaker Phane Beecher who set about attempting to colonise it from 1590 onwards.

The early years proved difficult and dangerous. Bandon lay on the outer edge of the area under English control; it was surrounded by a vast woodland populated by wolves, deer and the displaced O Mahony clansmen and other rebels. With the Nine Years war, another Irish rebellion against English rule came to Munster in 1598 most of the settlers were chased off their lands and took refuge in Cork city or fled back to England. The war was won in Kinsale in 1601; the battle marked the failure of the Spanish effort in Ireland, the collapse of the Ulster resistance, the completion of the Tudor conquest and the eclipse of Gaelic Ireland.

In this new century, Bandon developed rapidly as a frontier town. The early years saw rapid deforestation with the East India company purchasing large tracts of woodland in 1612 to be used as a fuel for smelting. In 1613 and 1619 the First Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle, purchased the former owner's interest in the town of Bandon and by 1625 Boyle was the sole owner of the town on both sides of the river. He built new houses and set about building the town walls and gates. The walls began in 1613 and were completed by 1625.

The Walls of Bandon & Irelands first workers’ strike
The walls were generally about nine feet thick, and varied in height from thirty to fifty feet. There were six bastions each mounted with two guns and the area enclosed by the walls was estimated at 27 acres compared to 30 acres within the walls of Londonderry. The fortifications in Bandon, however, were said to be the best in Ireland. By 1622 there were about 250 houses in Bandon and a population of over 2000 English families residing in the town and neighbourhood. By comparison in 1659 the population of Derry was 586. Within a century, Bandon would be the largest town in County Cork.

One notable event occurred during the building of the walls with what may be the first recorded strike in Ireland. The stonemasons demanded a pay increase and all of them bar one went on strike when it was refused. Boyle being anxious to complete the walls as soon as possible finally relented; the strikers won the day and upon their return, they murdered their fellow mason and strike breaker sealing him up within the walls. Here he lay undiscovered for over 200 years until two labourers removing part of the old town wall came across his hidden tomb with his skeleton wrapped in a large flag surrounded by his tools and a small silver coin.

Rebellion of 1641 & Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
In October 1641 the native Irish rose in rebellion in counties Derry and Tyrone. The rising spread rapidly throughout Ireland and made its first appearance in West Cork in Glandore. Panicked settlers throughout the region fled to Bandon for protection as it was the only walled town west of Cork. Before the rebellion was one year old, it was reported that one thousand of them lay buried within the churchyard walls as a result of hunger and disease. By 1642 all of the West Cork chieftains were outlawed and the same year civil war broke out in England. What followed in Ireland was a period of widespread sectarian violence and killing of civilians on both sides. Throughout the country only the areas where English settlers were concentrated such as in Cork city, Youghal, Kinsale and Bandon remained in the hands of protestant settlers.

The warfare and bloodshed of the 1640s ended in a terrible manner in 1649 with the arrival of Cromwell. While Cork city was the first town in Munster to declare for Cromwell it was the townspeople of Bandon, however, that acted first to deliver up Bandon town by forcibly taking the garrison for the Parliament and Cromwell. The invasion and victory of the English parliament under Oliver Cromwell had a catastrophic impact on Ireland. It resulted in the death of a least 400,000 people out of a population of around 1.5million inhabitants.

After the war vast tracts of land were confiscated and the second plantation of Munster began. Not only did Cromwell confiscate lands and force tens of thousands into exile but he also sent many thousands into slavery to work the tobacco plantations of the West Indies, Virginia and other colonies. Many of these poor souls left in slave ships from Kinsale. Into this waste land, new colonists flocked to Ireland numbering, it is suggested, more than 200,000.

Rebellion in Bandon, Kind James arrives in West Cork
Following the death of Cromwell, the monarchy was restored but peace did not last long. In 1685 England again rebelled against the Stuarts in the reign of James the second. The Irish siezed the opportunity to rebel in support of King James. The English settlers and protestant population were terrified. Many fled the country to the new world. A new charter was conferred on Bandon and the provost of the town was now a catholic, Teige McCarthy. The garrison in Bandon town was under the command of Captain Daniel O Neill who held the town for King James but not for long.

In September 1688, apprentice boys in Londonderry closed the city's gates to deny admission to a Catholic regiment under Lord Antrim. In February 1689, the townspeople of Bandon likewise rose against the garrison and seized control of the town in support of William of Orange. Without adequate provisions and lacking sea access, the town was quickly taken by Jacobite forces under Owen McCarthy.

News of the rebellion enraged King James when he landed in Kinsale a few weeks later. After this act of rebellion the walls of Bandon were partially demolished never to be repaired. The forces of King James marched on Derry but the population refused to surrender; the city held withstanding a three month seige before relief came by sea. James’ forces were subsequently defeated in the Battle of the Boyne. After two centuries of violent resistance, colonisation and rebellion the surrender of the Irish lords was to bring what it set out to establish. It determined the political, social and ecomonic development of Ireland to this day, controlled through a centralised system of governance over the localised Irish system of family rule and the absorption of the Gaelic world into the English world.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Plans for Ireland's first Climate Change Park in Skibbereen

A new proposal speadheaded by Declan Waugh founder of a not-for-profit climate change initiative
Partnership for Change and Director of EnviroManagement Services is set to influence how Ireland responds to the treat of climate change and flood risk management.

Mr Waugh an Environmental Scientist and Chartered Water and Environmental Manager has prepared a draft design for the creation of Irelands first climate change park to be created in the town of Skibbereen.

The proposal could see the creation of a climate change park that would create a floodplain to increase flood water storage and the resilience of the Ilen River to floods. The proposal would also see the creation of new amenities for the town that would be transformational in their design, supporting the principles of sustainability, increasing biodiversity and enhancing the urban built environment by providing an inspirational green space for the community.

The project designer Mr Waugh said “the park can provide an example of how green spaces can be enhanced to cope with climate change providing sustainable drainage systems that can help deliver natural flood management while also offering much needed tourism and amenity benefits to the town of Skibbereen”

Mr Waugh, recipient of the 2009 Cork Environmental Forum environmental person of the year award is a member of the Bandon Flood Task Group and Environmental pillar representative on the Cork County Council’s Strategic Planning Committee. He recently prepared and funded a detailed socio-economic assessment template for Bandon town to examine the impacts of the recent floods in addition to presenting a comprehensive examination to Engineers Ireland and Cork Environmental Forum on the Bandon River Catchment and flood risk management. The presentation included a review of the planning history, recent developments on floodplains, water catchment management and the role of professionals in particular engineers in planning cases and is available to view freely on the

Declan said “following on from this presentation I also wished to provide whatever assistance I could to the community of Skibbereen which suffered devastating floods on two occasions last year. The climate change environmental park was something that was always on my mind and following discussions with some members of the community I decided to put these ideas down on paper for circulation and wider consultation”.

Since preparing the draft he has circulated the proposal and design to the head of flood risk management of the OPW, the County Manager Mr. Martin Riordan, Minister for Environment John Gormley, Minister for Sustainability Ciaran Cuffe, the EPA, An Taisce, Skibbereen Business Association, West Cork Development Partnership, West Cork Tourism, Skibbereen lions Club, the River Ilen planning project liason executive, local TD’s and elected officials.

While Declan is still waiting on responses from various parties the head of the OPW Flood Risk Management Division Mark Adamson observed that "this is an excellent proposal, well aligned with the catchment-based approach to flood risk management, the concepts of managing flood risk (rather than solely relying on flood prevention) and the principles of the Guidelines on the Planning System and Flood Risk Management" and has forwarded it through his offices to the OPW engineers addressing the current flood management plans for Skibbereen.

While last years flooding may have been exceptional recent extreme weather experiences in West Cork, particularly in Skibbereen and Bandon, have highlighted the urgency to plan and prepare for future risk scenarios, especially the management of water and urban flooding. “We must not become complacent, the issue of flood risk management has not gone away” said Mr Waugh. “While we have enjoyed some wonderful weather this past month we must be reminded that other communities across Europe and worldwide have suffered catastrophic flooding and loss of life during the same period”

While thankfully no lives were lost in Ireland during the flooding of last November last month 20 people drowned as a consequence of flash flooding in France. In May 20 people drowned in Poland and a state of emergency was declared with flood waters up to 10 feet recorded as far as 3 miles from the banks of some rivers. Similar devastation was experienced in Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. In the past week flash floods in China have killed up to 200 people and more than 10 million people have also lost property, been injured or suffered a cut in power or water supplies as a result of the week of torrential rain. The flooding also raising concerns on food security with 1.24m acres of crops affected in China alone. This week in Brazil torrential rain devastated towns and cities in the north east where up to 1000 people are missing now presumed drowned and 120,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes due to flash flooding.

According to Mr Waugh “it is imperative that as a society we learn from our experiences and act now to protect our communities from future flooding. The needs of individuals and communities such as Skibbereen who have suffered flooding and continue to be a high risk of future flooding must be urgently assessed”

This proposal if adopted could make a real difference on the ground, improving the quality of people’s lives and helping to sustain the vitality and vibrancy of the Skibbereen town. Mr. Waugh has acted expeditiously and generously to provide assistance for the towns of Skibbereen and Bandon, it is now up to the public to come bring these proposals to the next stage. It is intended that a public meeting will take place in the West Cork Hotel over the summer months to build support around the Climate Change and Environmental Park only by working together as a community can we deliver long-term, sustainable flood risk protection for Skibbereen and West Cork.

Monday, May 24, 2010

River of Opportunity, Environmental Park for Flood Plain Management in Skibbereen

If I may please let me outline my views on flood management in Skibbereen and my vision for an Environmental Park in the marsh area of the town; a project that aims to protect the town from future flooding while providing an innovative community space that would transform Skibbereen into a model for sustainable development.

This approach to the flood management of Skibbereen looks to open up new management options that explore the potential for innovative partnerships between the Planning Authority, the Office of Public Works as well as environmental and community groups.

The concept must be a community lead approach accommodating flood defence with environmental protection while simultaneously enhancing the urban environment.

With environmentally sympathetic designs, radical concepts, technological interventions and a shift in perception we can create an environment that will serve to both protect and enhance the town of Skibbereen while also creating a unique sense of place for the community and visitor.


The area of the marsh can be developed to create a new meeting ground between nature and people in creating a new vision for Skibbereen.

It can involve the transformation of the town providing an educational, recreational and amenity area for the community. The whole area could include an amphitheatre, walking areas, community gardens, public walkways, streams, constructed wetlands and outdoor spaces that integrate the town with nature while offering a unique long term protection to the town from future risk of flooding and sea level risk.

The development plan would include riverside seating, picnic areas and allow for public works of art within the public realm while also providing an array of natural environments from constructed wetlands to woodland, meadows, marshland and shallow and deep ponds with varying aquatic margins.


Land and water are intrinsically linked and nowhere more so than in Skibbereen where the River Ilen meanders its way to the sea. Preserving the riverside land areas is not only crucial to future generations but also to the long term sustainability of the town.

The core aims of any flood management plan must be first and foremost the protection of Skibbereen from future flooding. Secondly, the creation of an innovative community space that will provide new amenities for the town, and also offer alternative landscapes that will be a visitor attraction while developing a new pedestrian gateway to the town of Skibbereen.

The ability of this new park to meet the urgent needs of the town to alleviate flooding while aspiring to be something of wider importance is a key starting point to the Enviro Park vision.


The site would be set out in various sections to provide a multifunctional park, creating new open public spaces, fulfilling the need for additional car parking spaces, while allowing a variety of amenity uses, nature conservation and community gardens. The themes of environment and sustainability in the 21st century are appropriate to underpin such multi-facetted proposals applicable as it is to all society.

A diverse landscape of hills, valleys, waterbodies, woodland, and open fields can give a variety of habitats and enclosure providing opportunities for recreation, relaxation, inspiration, sculpture, craft, wildlife trails, fitness trails, adventure play, walks, meeting and performance space with an integrated drainage system to protect the town from future floods. Ideas could include, trail bike riding areas a skateboarding arena, public amphitheatre, a famine commemoration park, a mini golf or pitch and putt course providing a variety of themes and uses while also promoting Skibbereen as a visitor attraction.

Its immediate proximity to the town offers enormous opportunities in particular the potential to refocus the town on the river and its immediate environment. The local community and the town stand to benefit greatly from such an inclusive vision for a new Enviro Park while also giving the potential for a new focus for the southern part of the town.

The park needs to be multifunctional, providing flood relief while also offering new opportunities to culturally enhance the town and improve its environment. Such a park would illustrate the human ability to reciprocate with nature.

The methodology of creating an Enviro Park must be one of inclusive community involvement in designing, implementation and managing elements within it.


Firstly, as follows is a conceptual outline for the Enviro Park.

Funding from the OPW for flood relief study should be used to fund the production of a feasibility study that would include consultation with the local authority, landowners, business associations, community groups, schools and environmental interest groups.

The next phase of the plan’s implementation would involve constructing river embankments to act as flood water retainers. The design of the embankments would include a number of automated sluice gates to redirect flood waters within the Enviro Park when the town is at risk of flooding.

The ground level within the park would be reduced and designed to retain substantial volumes of water by creating a series of undulating low hills and valleys. The existing pumping station on the lands would be re-designed and equipped to allow for dewatering the Park when flood waters reside in the river Ilen.


The extended park can be accessed by four bridges, with the new pedestrian bridge acting as the focal point for pedestrian entry into the town. Limited parking could be provided on raised parking lots thereby securing additional parking for the town.

The Enviro Park would be the first of its kind in Ireland reshaping and redesigning Skibbereen for the 21st Century. This unique opportunity has the potential to create activities for old and young that will draw people to the park and the town while providing new visitor attractions for Skibbereen.

I believe, that the way in which we as a community design and ultimately use these lands will be a defining moment for planning in Ireland. The very future of the town depends on it. As a community we must face up to the challenges and risks that will impact on the town and none is more alarming than climate change, flooding and the inevitability of sea level rises in the coming decades.

This concept offers the possibility for the community of Skibbereen to engage with nature, rather than fight against it. It requires imagination, community inspiration and co-operation with nature.


What if in the future the predictions of climate change are correct and we will witness sea level rise, continued and increased flooding and extreme weather events such as the extreme flooding of 2009. If history is anything to go by, we will be ready for neither unless we learn from our mistakes and design innovative solutions now to work with nature and support our communities.

The idea that future sea levels will rise is now a certainty; this will impact on coastal and inland tidal river communities such as Skibbereen which has an established history of flooding.

How could the landscape look if the urban area was designed to help alleviate future flooding? The future scenario is particularly relevant now to Skibbereen as it’s commences yet another flood impact study and attempts to design future flood alleviation for the town.

It is my belief that the conversion of the marsh area into an innovative EnviroPark could achieve just this and breathe new life into Skibbereen.


We don’t have to cast our minds back that far to remember the extraordinarily difficult circumstances that Skibbereen was in twenty years ago when it had the largest level of emigration of any community in Ireland. I have been privileged to have a long association with the town and remember the terrible floods in 1987 that closed some businesses permanently such as the wholesale shrubbery and nursery business which was located on the marsh.

We are now in the grips of another major recession, one that may last longer and have deeper social and economic implications for this country and particularly the younger generation who are faced with little prospect of employment. On top of that we have witnessed major social and economic impacts associated with extreme weather events on a scale not previously experienced in this country in the past century. Catastrophic flooding was experienced across Ireland and in particular in Skibbereen, Bandon and Cork City. The cost to the insurance industry for the recent unprecedented flooding and extremely cold spell that Ireland endured was in excess of €550 million. T his figure does not portray the true economic cost in jobs and added indebtedness to businesses and householders for repair and renovation to damaged property and many of them will be unable to get insurance in the future.

Enormous and painful lessons are being learned, we are dealing with people and communities and must protect ourselves from the destructive power of nature which we cannot control.

If we want a future for Skibbereen town, we must be creative. If we want to protect our community from future flooding, we must provide innovative and cost-effective solutions to manage the environment in a more sustainable manner.


The risks associated with flooding in Skibbereen offer what is probably the greatest new landscape opportunity of our generation.

To reduce vulnerability and future risks of flooding we must seize the opportunity to redesign urban spaces, to work with nature and to forge innovative lasting solutions that build a sustainable future.

I believe that the development of an Environmental Park could provide a showcase for creative, innovative, urban landscape flood alleviation design.

Objection to Proposed Retail Commercial Development on a Flood Plain in Skibbereen Town


The full grounds of objection together with the arguments, reasons and considerations upon which these are based are set out below. For clarity and ease of reference we propose to deal with each individual element of the grounds for our clients’ objection and outline our response to each in turn.

2.1 Development on Floodplain

We respectfully submit that a moratorium on any such development should exist until the Office of Public Works (OPPW) complete the flood impact assessment and alleviation plan for the town of Skibbereen.

It is clear that the proposed site is located on a flood plain and under no circumstances should planning and development be considered until a thorough appraisal of the potential impact of such a development on a flood plain is examined in light of recent flooding of the town and in particular in the absence of OPW flood mitigation works for the town of Skibbereen. The applicants have clearly failed to address this major planning consideration in their application.

The Draft Planning System and Flood Risk Management Guidelines require the planning system at national, regional and local levels to:

  • avoid development in areas at risk of flooding, such as floodplains, unless there are wider sustainability grounds that justify appropriate development; and where the flood risk can be reduced or managed to an acceptable level without increasing flood risk elsewhere;
  • adopt a sequential approach to flood risk management and guide development away from areas that have been identified as being at risk through flood risk assessment. In areas of high risk, for example, you should see water-compatible developments such as docks and marinas, amenity open space, outdoor sports and recreation, while other more vulnerable development should be directed towards areas of minimal or no flood risk.
  • incorporate flood risk assessment into the process of making decisions on planning applications and planning appeals.

We respectfully submit that the applicants have clearly failed to address these issues in their application.

2.2 Traffic Implications

Such a large scale development will attract large volumes of car-borne customers and require a high quality road network with spare capacity. Furthermore, it is clear that the proposed mixed-use retail and commercial development will result in traffic that would result in significant traffic congestion at the already busy access and link road to Skibbereen town as well as within the town centre.

The planning application has not examined the traffic implications and existing infrastructure to support this development.

The site of the proposed development does not serve the mobility needs of the wider community including the needs of pedestrian shoppers. No traffic mobility assessment has been undertaken for the proposed development which must ensure a high standard of access both by public transport, foot and private car so that the proposal is easily accessible by all sections of society, especially those that do not have access to a private car and of course the elderly.

This is particularly relevant where the site does not provide for public bus set-down or bus service in the vicinity of the proposed development. The site is neither accessible nor convenient for public transport facilities and contrary to the information provided in the planning report submitted, the site is located approximately 700m from the established town centre not less than 200m.

The applicants have clearly misrepresented the distance of the site for the proposed development from the established town centre. The established guidelines clearly state that the distance considered to be convenient for such a development is unlikely to be much more than 300-400 metres from the edge of the prime shopping area. The applicants have clearly failed to address these issues in their application.

Prior to even considering such a development a thorough traffic mobility and impact assessment must be undertaken in addition to a socio-economic impact assessment of the impact of such a development on the viability of the town centre to survive such a development.

The proposal is likely to result in a back-up of traffic onto the access road in and out of the retail development as well as onto the link road and roundabout thereby obstructing the free flow of traffic at this location and endangering public safety by reason of traffic hazard.

The applicants have clearly failed to address this issue in their application.

We further respectively submit that in the absence of a traffic impact assessment or mobility management plan for such a large-scale commercial retail development the planning application should be refused.

2.3 Retail Impact

It is our respectful submission that the applicants have failed to provide any reasonable grounds that would allow the Planning Authority to grant permission for the proposed development. We respectfully contend that the submitted documents do not demonstrate the true impact of the proposed development on the established commercial business centre of the town and local stores within the catchment area and the materially negative impact that the proposal will have on the business community which has already been substantially degraded in recent years due to the economic recession.

We respectfully submit that the assessment of current retail provision for the town is based on the Cork Strategic Retail Study, a survey of existing retail floor space conducted in the summer of 2007. The report does not examine the level of empty commercial retail space currently in the town and the impact of the proposed development on the remaining established businesses.

We respectfully submit that the retail impact assessment has based current expenditure in the town at 2006 levels set during the height of the economic boom in Ireland and is not based on current expenditure during the worst economic downturn in the history of the state. The applicants have clearly failed to address this issue in their application.

We respectfully submit that the retail impact assessment has not examined the cumulative impact of the proposed development with other recent retail developments such as Lidl on the commercial town centre. We respectfully submit that the cumulative impact would cause an adverse impact on the commercial viability and vitality of the town centre sufficient to undermine the quality of the town centre or its role in the economic ands social life of the community. Furthermore, the creation of 490 additional car parking spaces at this location outside the town would clearly not serve the need of the town centre as a whole but rather the exclusive use of this development. The introduction of pay parking in the town would subsequently encourage business drift from the town centre to where free parking was available and further commercially damage the viability of the established town centre businesses leading to inevitable closure and increased economic hardship for the business community in an already deepening period of economic recession. The applicants have clearly failed to address this issue in their application.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development does not support the development of the town centre as a viable business centre, does not address the current problems facing business in the commercial town centre nor present a realistic vision of how the community want the town centre to be developed.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development must be based on realistic appraisal of the need for such a development and the impact of such a development on existing businesses within the town.

In dealing with these matters, the Planning Authority should take account of the views of retailers, shoppers, property owners and the National Roads Authority. We respectfully submit that no such consultation has been undertaken. The purpose of the planning system includes the promotion of healthy town centres in the public interest. We respectfully submit that the proposed development does not support this objective.

In submitting evidence in relation to retail impact the applicant is required to address the following criteria and demonstrate whether or not the proposal would:

  • Support the long-term strategy for town centres as established in the development plan and not materially diminish the prospect of attracting private sector investment into one or more town centres.
  • Cause an adverse impact on one or more town centres, either singly or cumulatively with recent developments or other outstanding planning permissions, sufficient to undermine the quality of the centre or its role in the economic and social life of the community.
  • Diminish the range of activities and services that a town centre can support.
  • Cause an increase in the number of vacant properties in the primary retail area that is likely to persist in the long term.
  • Ensure a high standard of access both by public transport, foot and private car so that the proposal is easily accessible by all sections of society.
  • Link effectively with an existing town centre so that there is likely to be commercial synergy.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development does not comply with these criteria. The proposed development will not support the long-term strategy for town centres, will materially diminish private sector investment into the town centre, will cause adverse impact on one or more town centres in West Cork, will undermine the commercial viability of the town centre and its role in the economic and social life of the community.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development will diminish the range of activities and services that a town centre can support and cause an increase in the number of vacant properties in the primary retail area that is likely to persist in the long-term.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development does not provide a high standard of access both by public transport, foot and private car so that the proposal is easily accessible by all sections of society.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development does not link effectively with an existing town centre so that there is likely to be commercial synergy.

We respectfully submit that there is a significant unused retail space in the town at present and that the market cannot support the proposed development.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development will support the development of an unacceptable local monopoly effect on smaller retail shops in the established commercial town centre.

We respectfully submit that this proposal will clearly have a detrimental impact on the provision of services in the established town centre and is therefore inappropriate development for the sustainable development of the town.

In assessing the need for additional development as proposed it is important that the assessments are based on a realistic appraisal of both expenditure change and market requirements. Plans should be based on up-to-date information regarding existing retail floorspace and shopping patterns in the area.

We respectfully submit that the applicants have clearly failed to address these issues in their application. Furthermore, the development of additional large-scale regional retail centres on greenfield sites or outside established centres is not regarded as sustainable in relation to transport objectives. Consequently, there should be a general presumption against large-scale out-of-centre retail development such as that proposed.

We respectfully submit that the proposed development would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

2.4 Critical Infrastructure:

We respectfully submit that a moratorium on any such development should exist until the critical waste management infrastructure is provided for the town of Skibbereen.

We respectfully submit that the planning application has not examined the potential pollution load from such a development “population equivalent load’.

We respectfully submit that where no sewage treatment works have been built for the town there is an inability to treat the wastes arising.

We respectfully submit that the implications for waste management, in particular foul sewage treatment and storm water run-off have not been addressed.

We respectfully submit that major developments such as that proposed should not be permitted where the waste water treatment infrastructure is not available.

2.5 Planning precedent

We respectfully submit that there is a clear and unambiguous precedent set for the determination of the proposed development by the Planning Authority. An Bord Pleanála and Planning Authorities have refused a number of applications for developments on floodplains around the country, which should act as precedent for the refusal of the proposed development. Where planning was granted for such a development it would introduce a risk of potential liability on behalf of the Planning Authority for future damage.

2.6 Environmental Assessment

We respectfully submit that no environmental assessment has been undertaken on the site to establish the likely impact of the proposed development on the environment.

Factors such as biodiversity, species or flora and fauna on the site have not been examined.

No ambient noise assessment has been undertaken to examine the likely impact of the development on neighboring residential houses.

We respectfully submit that planning should be refused in light of the inadequacy of information provided.


The proposed development is located on a floodplain and was under several feet of water during the November 2009 flood of Skibbereen. We respectfully submit that a moratorium on any such development should exist until the OPW complete the flood impact assessment and alleviation plan for the town of Skibbereen.

The proposal will have an adversely negative impact on the existing established commercial town centre. The site location of the proposed development is in excess of 700m from the commercial town centre and is not accessible nor convenient for public transport facilities. The site of the proposed development does not serve the mobility needs of the wider community including the needs of pedestrian shoppers. We respectfully submit that a moratorium on any such development should exist until the critical waste management infrastructure is provided for the town of Skibbereen. We respectfully submit that the implications for waste management, in particular foul sewage treatment and storm water run-off have not been addressed for the development. We respectfully submit that major developments such as that proposed should not be permitted where the waste water treatment infrastructure is not available.

No traffic impact assessment has been provided for the proposed development. The creation of 490 additional car parking spaces at this location outside the town would clearly not serve the need of the town centre as a whole but rather the exclusive use of this development.

The introduction of pay-parking in the town would subsequently encourage business drift from the town centre to where free parking was available and further commercially damage the viability of the established town centre businesses leading to inevitable closure and increased economic hardship for the business community in an already deepening period of economic recession.

The proposal is likely to result in a back-up of traffic onto the access road in and out of the retail development as well as onto the link road and roundabout thereby obstructing the free flow of traffic at this location and endangering public safety by reason of traffic hazard.

We request the Planning Authority to conclude therefore that the proposal is contrary to the provisions of sections 90-95 of the Retail Planning Guidelines and therefore not in the interest of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area nor in the interest of the common good.

The application has failed to address our clients’ concerns in terms of its material impact on the viability of the existing commercial town centre and their associated stores, as well as its cumulative negative impact, due to its direct association with the Lidl supermarket, located outside the town centre. The proposal will adversely impact on the residential community adjacent to the development creating the potential for ambient light and noise nuisance. Furthermore, factors such as biodiversity, species or flora and fauna on the site have not been examined.

For all of the above reasons, to permit the proposed development would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area including the protection of amenities therein.

We therefore respectfully request that Cork County Council refuse this current application on the grounds set out above.

Yours sincerely


EnviroManagement Services