Walking the plank, Greens preening on the banks, Cycling from the ranks.
John O’Donoghue’s statement is just out and I’ve read it and it’s long enough on volume but short enough on substance. Essentially, he refuses to engage on the subject of his travel expenses other than a half-apology at the end for some of those that ‘seemed’ high. There has been a strange silence from opposition parties about this, save for Aengus O Snodaigh and Paschal Donohoe.
Essentially, there are are only two sentences that are important.
1. He says it is not appropriate for him to comment inside or outside the House on the matter.
2. But right at the end of the letter, he does acknowldege that some of the costs are high and then offers his sincere apology. However, he quickly adds the rider that he would not have been apprised of the high costs and, therefore, would not have been aware of them.
There is a short appendix at the end of the letter, which contains a statement (undated) from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism that states that tourism is worth almost €5 billion. It also points out that the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism goes to high profile events as a representative of Ireland (and they include the World Cup, the Olympic Games, Cannes Film Festival). The costs around those ‘marquee’ events always invovle a premium (as everybody else is going!), it argues.
However, he incurred astronomically high costs on other trips. And was there a justification for his wife accompanying him on so many trips with some of the cost being borne by the taxpayer? And is it enough to say that he didn’t know? Should he have made it his business to know?
If the opposition parties do decide to react today, it could spell big trouble for him.
The Green Party
Can you imagine a worse tool for gauging democratic reaction than the Green Party’s preferendum?
Besides the low turnout (150 members, diminishing returns), a couple of the choices were of the fantasy league variety.
Which would be your preference; gruel; cold porridge; cooking grease; Marmite; or a freshly-baked homemade scone with melting butter and lashings of ginger ale?
Some of the choices being offered to the membership were just not real. And of course, they opted for the ones that seemed the best in an ideal world.
There has to be some reality to the debate. You offer what’s on the table and what your Ministers have wrought out of the Fianna Fail colleagues. And if that’s not enough you go back looking for more.
Value of preferendum in my humble opinion: Nil.
It was fantastic to see the dublin bikes racked up this morning, ready for the rush. As I cycled in I noticed that about half the bikes were taken from each stand, which wasn’t bad for a first morning, though I only say one in actual use on the road.
It’s a pity that the city itself is not yet cycle friendly with loads of streets and roads in the city centre that are hostile places for two wheels to travel. When are they going to stop cars zooming along the southern quays? When are they going to put cycle lanes along Pearse Street, Tara Street, Townsend Street and the Southern Quays? When are they going to finish the job on the Northern Quays? And when are all those one-way systems in Dublin going to be changed to accommodate bikes?
When? When? When?
And on the political side, whatever about the mixed results of the Green experiment in Government, the party did make a difference at a local level.
One of the great pities of the local elections is that the electorate didn’t distinguish between the national and local. The Greens have been arguably most effective on a local level because they really care for the built and unbuilt environment and the need of both to be human.
Fair play to Andrew Montague from Labour who first proposed a Velib scheme for Dublin. But I was leafing through the Greens’ ten-point manifesto on cycling in Dublin last week and it was a brilliant plan. If it were to happen, the capital city would be transformed, made all the more human.
Sure, the party paid the price for going into power. That said, it’s a little sad, on a day like this, that there aren’t any Green councillors there to celebrate what we all hope will be a milestone.