Last night Young Friends of the Earth and advocacy group the Environmental Pillar (http://environmentalpillar.ie/) hosted a much needed Environment election hustings in Dublin city centre. At the top table were representatives of six of the main political parties, and the discussion was chaired by Irish Times journalist Sylvia Thompson.
The format of the hustings was an effective one; five questions, from five different environmental NGOs, were put to the panel, and after each question, each party representative was allowed about two minutes for their answer. While this meant no audience Q&A, it did make for pertinent questions and efficient answers.
The politicians present, who are standing for election unless otherwise stated, were:
- Richard Boyd Barrett (People before Profit)
- Lynn Boylan (Sinn Féin) – MEP not standing for election
- Robert Dowds (Labour) – outgoing TD not standing for election
- Mary Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fáil)
- Cáit Keane (Fine Gael) – Senator not standing for election
- Eamonn Ryan (Green Party)
Each individual’s response to each of the five questions is presented in the all-conquering table below (apologies for the quality of the image). Disclaimer alert: the questions are not transcribed verbatim, and the same goes for the politicians’ answers, these are my notes on what they said, so no indignant politicians ringing me up please.
A couple of observations on the above: I always feel that these events are weighted in favour of the opposition parties – much easier to say “of course we would do this and this” than to defend what you have or have not actually done. So it is normal that the Fine Gael representative was the only one using phrases like “be realistic”, and not making promises on fracking, peat burning etc.
A point worth noting is that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour could have sent their official spokesperson on the environment (hello Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly?) rather than someone with an interest in the area, as the difference in understanding and knowledge was apparent at times. Lynn Boylan and Eamon Ryan in particular are experts on the environment.
Finally, perhaps it’s encouraging that all the parties seem to agree on some things. It looks like, no matter what, we’re going to get retrofitting of houses for energy efficiency, afforestation,investment in electric and public transport and support for small Irish businesses. And broadband. Lots and lots of broadband.