I recently had the opportunity to ask the Taoiseach about the Metrolink. I have been campaigning for two possible alternative routes - one through Harold’s Cross to Rathfarnham and beyond, and another connecting UCD. You can see my exchange with the Taoiseach and a map of what some of these alternative routes might look like below.
At the most recent meeting of the Climate Action Committee, we had the opportunity to put questions to the General Secretary to the Department of Transport.
You can see my engagement with the General Secretary below.
I had the opportunity to question the Taoiseach on his Government’s approach to Climate Change and the Enivronment - having himeself described Ireland as a “laggard” earlier in the year, I wanted to know how he was going to turn things around.
I was suprised by his callous response and uncaring attitude.
You can see the exchange for yourself below.
Following the recent establishment of the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee, the committee members had an opportunity to quiz the General Secretary of the Deparmtnet of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
You can see my exchange below.
Sir John Rogerson’s Quay to Orwell Park
The Dodder Greenway project aims to provide a high quality walking and cycling route along the River Dodder while simultaneously protecting and enhancing the existing ecology of the river corridor. Following the course of the river, from Bohernabreena in the Dublin Mountains to Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin City Centre, it will serve as a vital linear amenity within the urban fabric of Dublin.
Community Engagement & Public Display
The Emerging Preferred Route for the Dodder Greenway is being presented by Dublin City Council following design development and stakeholder engagement.
The Emerging Preferred Route will be on public display at the following five venues:
Dublin City Council, Civic Offices, Wood Quay* Mon. 24th Sept. to Sun. 14th Oct. Office Hours
Ringsend Library Mon. 24th Sept. to Sun. 14th Oct. 2018 Office Hours
Milltown Parish Centre Mon. 24th Sept. to Sun. 14th Oct. 2018 Mon-Fri, Sun 10am to 1pm
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, County Hall, Dún Laoghaire Mon. 24th Sept. to Sun. 14th Oct. 2018 Office Hours
Dundrum Area Office** Mon. 24th Sept. to Sun. 14th Oct. 2018 Office
The display at Dublin City Council Civic Offices on Wood Quay will be manned by project representatives on the afternoon of Wednesday 3rd October (12pm to 4pm) and the evening of Tuesday 9th October (4pm to 8pm).
During the consultation period it will also be possible to inspect the scheme drawings and leave comments by visiting either the Dublin City Council website consultation.dublincity.ie or the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council website https://dlrcoco.citizenspace.com/consultation_finder/.
If you cannot attend one of the five public display venues, a submission or observation in relation to the project may also be made by contacting email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org on or before the last day of the community engagement period, Sunday 14th October.
This November I think the Irish people will turn out in huge numbers to march for peaceful international co-operation, and against the divisive politics which Donald Trump represents.
Some say ignoring him will send a better message but I do not see how that works. Others rightly point out that previous Presidents also deserved condemnation but his erratic leadership brings risks that are off any historic scale. You have to go back to George iv to find a suitable reference point. I also acknowledge those who say we have to get our own house in order by tackling our health, homelessness and climate crises but that does not mean we stay silent on the world stage. We just need a bit of humility and to be open to heeding any criticism coming back the other way.
This is not an attack on the American people. They understand that political protest has a role to play if it is done right. We also have every right to demand they rejoin the Paris Climate agreement, because it is our common home that they threaten by leaving it. We have a duty to call out his treatment of refugees because human rights are for everyone and you cannot legally tear families apart. Some say we should stay quiet for fear we might upset US companies but I think we cannot afford to look the other way as he starts trade wars with our own European Union. His switching of their aid budget to pay for an ever bigger military machine could come back to haunt us all some dark night.
Turning over in bed and pulling the pillow over your ears will not keep such fear at bay. At some point you will hear a news headline which makes you wish things would stop. It is at that moment you will be glad to say at least I stood up and marched for what was right. If we do so in sufficient numbers then the world will see we did not accept this way as the new norm. We called for a return to a more sane path.
It will not be an easy thing to do because President Trump has a special gift for turning public protest to his own advantage. He either blindly ignores protesters, derides those who take part, or else welcomes demonstrations which stir further hatred between people so he can swell his own support. The challenge is to turn up while not falling into the trap of allowing him play that card.
We have one great advantage because Ireland is a long time home for big public rallies. Daniel O'Connell showed how to do it in the ‘monster meetings’ he organised in the 1840’s in support of Catholic emancipation. They were peaceful demonstrations coreographed from start to finish, in locations such as Tara and Clontarf so everyone knew who had the weight of history on their side.
We should take that model and have a ‘monster meeting’ when Trump hits town. We could choose our locations with the same due care, marching to O’Connell Street and assembling between his monument and our own Alamo at the GPO.
The Parade could come from all four points on the compass, starting in Parnell Square where we have worn a small grove in the road, with all the assembling we still do. The Lord Mayor could come from the Mansion House in his Ceremonial carriage. It was first rolled out in 1791, just weeks before the US congress agreed the first amendment to their constitution. It guaranteed the right to peaceful assembly, the freedom of religious expression, a free press and free speech.
The Rights of Man by Tom Paine was published that same year. It was on sale in Grafton Street only a few weeks after it came out in New York. The queue to buy a first edition stretched right down the street. It was a new enlightenment that belonged to us both. That’s carriage could be our version of the London Trump balloon, a visual icon for the parade, so US visitors can recall we share such a long and rich constitutional tradition, respecting individual rights.
Another student column could start from outside the Edmund Burke theatre in Trinity to remind US Republicans of his line ‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. Then down Dame Street could come a banner with the line carved into the base of a statue to Thomas Drummond, reminding people that ‘property has its duties as well as its rights’.
Those are historic male connections but this march would have women at the front. I can see Patricia King of ICTU leading a big band of trade union members across Rosie Hackett Bridge and up O’Connell Street. I hope Mary Robinson could lead out the environmental pillar. At her side would be the Sisters of Mercy and the members of every other religious congregation who stand up for Laudato Si.
I can similarly imagine Ursula Halligan or Olivia O’Leary walking at the head of the Press corps. They are threatened more than anyone else by what Trump has defined as fake news. If you let that go and fail to march then you are yielding the stage to just confusion and lies.
Last but not least I can see thousands of young women and men who were engaged in our own recent referendum campaigns coming along. They learnt during those campaigns that turning up and being part of something big is both fulfilling and important. Those campaigns were divisive in their own way but on this occasion I think we could get people from different sides to unite.
Friends say be careful using the term ‘monster meeting’ for fear that not a lot of people will turn out. But I think the risk is worth it. We all have two months to think about it and prepare for the visit. By turning up and returning to our historic tradition I think we can win the day.
Address to the Unitarian Church Dublin 19th August 2018
I am very grateful for the invitation to address your service this morning. I am glad my contribution was described as an ‘address’ rather than a sermon, as I am nervous crossing over a certain line. The separation between Church and State has served both sides well. One can of course inform the other but both are liberated when they get to operate apart.
I will have to give up being political as I step across the line but hope to share instead a few personal reflections on how the changing nature of faith in Ireland might influence what is happening in the wider world.
A lot of my comments will refer to the Catholic Church for that is the tradition that I come from and know something about. I hope the thoughts might as easily come to someone of any belief and no religion at all, as we look around together in this time of uncertainty, fear and change.
I feel this Unitarian Church is a safe space to speak. I had the honour of addressing a meeting here once before, as part of a series of talks Andy Polack organised on the subject of climate change, in the run up to the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. I salute the work you have done as an eco congregation and I note your statement that love is the doctrine of this Church, the quest for truth is its sacrament and service is its prayer.
I saw your Reverend Bridget Spain give a talk in UCD where she tried, in as simple terms as possible, explain her understanding of the concept of God. She used a short depiction of God being the mystery of life.
Those simple words resonated with me.
I was raised in a Jesuit school and have a lot of friends from that order who were influenced by the writing of their colleague Pierre Teilhard De Chardain. His work in the first half of the last century was revolutionary in showing how a spiritual view of the world can be compatible with evolutionary thinking. He availed of the scientific method and through his work in paleontology and geology sought to expand his understanding of material substance in space and time. That work helped him express a new theological understanding that the divine was all around us, in every minute particle within the physical world.
The Episcopalian American Bishop Michael Curry described Chardain as one of the greatest minds and spirits of the 20th Century in the sermon he gave at the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. He was inspired by Chartains view that ‘Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.’
That spirit burned brightly in the early years of my life when the Beatles sang all you need is love and Martin Luther King shared a dream that this was time to make justice a reality for all god’s children. It was a time of hope when many believed in such a dream. Post Vatican 2, I was told that God was a source that loved me, rather than an object to be feared. Sin was defined to me as the absence of love rather than some original failing, which had to be purged by the obliteration of some internal evil intent.
A jesuit teacher Kennedy O’Brien inspired me with this vision of God living in every dappled thing, where there is ‘neither spirit nor matter in the world, the stuff of the universe is spirit matters’.
Kennedy O’Brien was the last full time Jesuit teacher in this country. He was not saddened by that fact, arguing that the Catholic Church had promised in Vatican 2 to hand over power to the Laity but had failed to do
so. Now due to a lack of new clergy it would have no choice in the matter. He hoped that out of the embers of its decline a new fire could be ignited.
He died suddenly in January this year, with the same gospel lines in his funeral missalette that had been his mantra. ‘Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him or her’
I know that there are a lot of people in this country who welcome the decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland for its many failings. It is true there can be no forgetting of the institutional and individual abuse and it is equally true that the failure to admit and respond to such abuse was the worst example of failing to practice what is preached.
I did not witness such acts myself but I do regret a lot of the orthodoxy that clung on beyond its time in that era.
I wish I had known my best friend and brother were gay, so we could celebrate the fact that love is the same no matter where it is found.
I wish the girls school had not been behind such an iron curtain, so I could open up more easily to the opposite sex.
I regret that the orders were arranged with such class distinction. The fathers doing the teaching and preaching for the affluent, the brothers and sisters doing the same for the less well to do.
I can remember the dank smell of poverty you could sometimes get at the back of a poorer church. There is no doubt that the power of the institutional church was a contributing factor in the lack of an honest response to the abuse that took place but there is also truth in the fact that we were living in a social and cultural environment which had been shaped by the historic hardships our people had endured for so many years. It was that history which also I think accounted for a culture where individual rights were forgotten about and institutional wrongs were ignored.
Peace and Love
There is another wider truth which I hope we will not ignore. It is the fact that there are also so many people within faith and religious communities who were and still are true champions for peace and love in this world.
I may be biased in that view because I saw it in my beloved uncle, a Dominican priest who followed the path of South American liberation theology in his missionary work.
My educators were inspired and lead by their Superior General Pedro Arrupe, who radically promoted a preferential option for the poor within Catholic Social teaching. It is because Pope Francis is of that same tradition, that I am looking forward to seeing him in Dublin later this week.
It is not just that he has written a new encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ which puts care for our common home at the centre of the church’s mission. He has a broader vision whereby social justice and ecological justice must go hand in hand if we are to take the evolutionary leap we need to make in this world. It is the path I believe we need to take to bring us a safe, sustainable and more fulfilling future.
He says he wants a ‘field hospital’ church with the ability ‘to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.’
Sure enough, when It comes to caring for those with disabilities, including my own son, who do I meet but people from religious communities.
You find the same thing when you go to the frontline of poverty eradication.
At the most radical environmental protests it is the Sisters of Mercy and members of a dozen other congregations who are leading the charge. Inspired by a new theology which reimagines our relationship with nature.
Where will this all lead too? I have three thoughts that I might share. As well as being a Catholic I also sometimes attend the Church of Ireland parish in Sandyford, to hear the exact same Gospel, to listen to my wife sing and to sit in welcome contemplation with my Protestant neighbours.
The services are lead and sermons given by two female pastors Sonia Giles and Anne-Marie O’Farrell. I see no reason why my own local Catholic church should not be able to follow that example.
I read that the Pope is looking for a new ‘synodal church’ where the Bishop of Rome meets on an equal basis with every other centre of the Church.
Perhaps it is time for a second Synod of Whitby, one thousand three hundred and fifty four years after the last one redefined the working relationship between the Celtic Christian Church and Rome.
Rather than having a Colman who represented us back in 664 maybe we should this time include within our representatives a trinity of present and past presidents: Michael D to consider the philosophical approach, Mary McAleese to make sure women and gay people have a role and Mary Robinson to remind us of the historic truth that ‘We are the first generation to fully understand the seriousness of climate change and the last generation with time to do something about it.’
I am sorry if that is too political a line up and perhaps in reflection we also need to send as our representatives a whole new generation of young people to consider what spiritual future they see unfolding. Diarmuid Martin is right, that is the biggest question for every church in Ireland today. Where are the young people and what will they want to do?
Whatever answer comes I hope it will be ecumenical in nature. If what I mentioned earlier is right and there is a sense of God in every aspect of the material world, then how can that be an exclusive phenomenon.
My Communion host is made of bread which is made of cells, which grew from the power of a plant synthesising the energy of the sun. It is a celebration of life and that celebration can surely belong to everyone no matter whether they are Christian, Athiest, Muslim Ignostic, Buddhist, Hindu or Jew.
I would prefer a broad a Church and as broad a range of Churches as possible. Allowing for difference in belief should not stop us coming together when it comes to living the dream of a Just World which Martin Luther King proclaimed from the hill.
Last but not least I hope the Churches and the Political World can inform each other in providing some critical thinking for our critical times. A number of people coming from such different backgrounds came together recently to set out how this could work in a book entitled ‘Dialogue of Hope’
They did so given their view that: ‘We live in an Ireland, and a world, where conventional economic models have failed, politics is fractured, what it means to be human is contested, and opposition between secularists and believers is conducted like some kind of Punch-and-Judy show. The dominant narrative of our time is spent.’
It will not be easy to derive a new story from the fractured Church in Ireland but some things will surely be telling. First among them is a line I heard Kennedy O’Brien gave at a climate gathering we organised in Liberty Hall three years ago when he said: ‘We are Divine beings not economic units.'
Surely that concept might be the foundation stone of a new economics which allows us avoid destroying life on this planet and making poverty history once and for all.
The first assumption that was drilled into us in studying economics was that people were first and foremost interested in maximising their own profit. It always rested uneasily on the mind of a child raised in the 1960’s. We need a new economics which is based on the original meaning of that word which is looking after and managing our own home.
If we see God is in every field we plough and in every utensil we make and use, if God is reflected in every post we send and every bed we make then surely it might help up make the leap we need to make to a better world, where we can live together as ten billion people, in peace and love with each other and with the natural world.
Following a series of meetings with Facebook in Dublin and London, an agreement has been reached to provide access to advertising data related to the referendum on the 8th ammendment. Having an understanding of the volume and origin of advertising targeted at that Irish electorate is key in preventing the dissemination of misleading information and the success of campaigns run from abroad. This is an issue of growing importance when considered against the backdrop of Cambridge Analytica and concerns sorrounding the Brexit and American Presedential elections.
This is an important step to securing our democratic proccesses into the future.
On Thursday the 12th of July 2018, the Green Party welcomed the passage of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill as historic, putting Ireland on the right path towards tackling climate change.
The passage of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, that has been worked on by Thomas Pringle TD and his team, seeks to drop coal, oil and gas investments from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, meaning that Ireland will fully divest public money from fossil fuels.
The passage of this Bill sends a clear message- that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end. Investing in fossil fuels is unsustainable from an environmental point of view. It is becoming increasingly clear to people that it is also unsustainable from a business point of view, and an economic point of view.
I commend Thomas Pringle TD for bringing this Bill to the Dáil, and I congratulate all the NGOs and environmental activists who campaigned in favour of it. It is a historic move for the environmental movement in Ireland.
Green Party Motion re Transparency Across Communication Platforms
“That Dáil Éireann notes:
— the increasing importance of digital communications platforms such as Facebook and
Google during national elections and referendum campaigns;
— the Cambridge Analytica scandal which highlighted how outside interests can use
online tracking and advertising tools to influence national elections;
— that advertising on such platforms is not regulated under existing election advertising
— the work of the Transparent Referendum Initiative in recording the source and number
of adverts carried on such platforms during the recent referendum campaign;
— how both Facebook and Google decided, with just three weeks to go to polling day, to
amend their own rules to restrict the carrying of advertising in relation to the
referendum for the remainder of the campaign;
— the need to understand whether the volume of advertising from overseas was a factor
in those decisions; and
— the opportunity that exists to set a precedent on the need for transparency surrounding
calls on the relevant social media companies to:
— work with the Transparent Referendum Initiative to provide details on the volume and
value of referendum advertising that was carried on their platforms during the recent
referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland; and
— publish such data in a prompt manner and in accordance with the provisions of the
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) European Directive; and
calls on the Government to commit to finalising the necessary legislation to ensure there is
proper regulation of such online election advertising in the future, including mechanisms to
provide full transparency on the level and source of such advertising expenditure.” — Eamon
Ryan, Catherine Martin.
[3 July, 2018]
Full motion can be found on Dáil Order paper here.