21st October

1421bTo Dungannon (with a rainbow) for a workshop organised by REPUTE , the Renewable Energy in Public Transport Enterprise.  The project covers the European Atlantic Area: the whole of Ireland, western Britain and France, the north Spanish coast and Portugal.  One of its partners is the South West College, and so the workshop was held in its fantastic spaceshippy STEM Centre, bathed in soft pink light.

There were speakers from academia, local authorities, business and transport providers; all useful and interesting; though, as tends to happen, the earlier ones overran so that the later talks had to be truncated or, in one case, missed out altogether. I particularly appreciated Mark Mitchell of 1421Wrightbus talking about the company’s electric and hybrid buses which not only reduce fuel usage, costs and greenhouse gas emissions but also drastically reduce emissions of air polluting hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. They recently won the global competition to design and supply the new hybrid London Routemasters after, as Mark pointed out, many years and millions of pounds spent on research.  It is this combination of vision and meticulous work that our Executive ought to be supporting, indigenous, responsible and creative industries that benefit us all in both the long and the short term.  Their courage and success contrasts vividly with the strategies of desperation coming out of Stormont: slavish pleas for ‘inward investment’ and a corporation tax race to the bottom.

Another of the morning’s speakers was the general manager of Translink’s bus services, who talked about its desire to be led more by its customers and to make decisions based on local needs and priorities.  This sounded like potential good news for the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone and so I introduced myself afterwards, and suggested that we have a conversation about the Enniskillen and Dungannon Goldline buses, on which so many of us rely.

He was happy to agree, so I will be arranging this soon.  If there are issues about the 261 and 273 services that you would like me to raise with him (I have several in mind already) please add a comment to the end of this post, or send me an email to tanya@greenlassie.com

Tomorrow Dublin ….

20th October

Home again, to five days’ worth of things to catch up on, and some press releases to send out.  Email makes that a little easier than back in the eighties, when I worked in charity PR, but it still takes longer than I expect.  Then the Fermanagh Herald asks me to call in for a photograph, so an emergency hairwash gets added in.  (Ah, the vanity.)  The Impartial Reporter already has a picture of me, taken at Tamboran’s proposed drill site near Belcoo, on the evening of the shared prayer service, when we’d just heard the news of Mark Durkan’s decision not to grant them permitted development rights.  (See my decombustion blog for more details.)  That was a joyful evening, and definitely no time for hair-washing.  Sure enough, they’ve used the picture in their story in today’s online edition.  By the way, the dog whose lead I am holding isn’t our Robbie, but my friend Lynn’s Dobby.  Lynn took the picture I was actually posing for, the one on the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Greens site.



p.s. (10pm)  Sinn Fein have just announced that Michelle Gildernew, the sitting (well, not quite sitting, more staying away – Sinn Fein don’t believe in the House of Commons) MP will stand for them again.  No great surprise there; it will be her fourth time and she’s been the MP since 2001. Maybe time for a change now, though.

19th October

1019a10am, Stafford station. It was very thoughtful of my parents and sister to stay in Stafford, which has a mainline train station and is therefore easy to both reach and leave, even on a Sunday morning. It won’t be so comfortable at the other end of the journey.

Enniskillen, of course, used to be a major railway junction itself, with trains to all parts of Ireland for business and pleasure. The Headhunters barber shop in the town doubles as railway museum, and is well worth a visit for anyone seeking inspiration as to what could regenerate the economies of border counties. (Hint: the answer isn’t fracking.) Despite the insistence of the Executive parties that all that matters is road-building, it’s no coincidence that the most prosperous parts of the UK, such as the affluent suburbs of London, have the most comprehensive and heavily subsidised public transport. The day after tomorrow I’m going to a workshop in Dungannon about renewable energy and public transport: it will be interesting to see what initiatives are bubbling under the surface, and how I as the local MP would be able to support and encourage them.

Meanwhile, as I check the departures board, I hear a man talking to his companion behind me.

“The National Trust have the most evil bunch of lawyers and accountants. The only ones worse are probably the wildlife trusts.”

This is bizarre, but oddly encouraging. Presumably either the man is a hardcore eco-anarchist or he faciliates a developer in some way. The glimpse of grey suit I see from the corner of my eye suggests the latter, but I don’t turn around. The NT and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust must be doing something right, though. You don’t get called evil without either being a serial killer or getting under someone’s corporate skin. I was talking to the National Trust’s Northern Ireland director recently about its position on fracking; I think she might appreciate this.

As our train pulls out of the station, passing the back of my primary school and the wild-bird-friendly Doxey Marshes (maybe it’s the SWT’s new hide there that has enraged the suited man), a jolly voice welcomes us in a pre-school TV programme tone of manic jubilation.

“Hel-Lo and welcome to Virgin Trains! Today we’ll be travelling to….” The suspense is double-cream-thick, like wondering which window they’d choose on Playschool. “…. Liverpool Lime Street!” That’s all right, then. It’s five minutes late, but we don’t lose any more time, and make the connection in Crewe.

1019d1pm, Holyhead. It’s windy here, and as the ferry sets off, we’re given a warning of a moderate sea-state, which will apparently require the huge Irish Ferries Ulysses to use its stablisers. I imagine Neptune rising from the Irish Sea to give us a push, like a dad giving bike lessons. It’s getting bumpy already, though; I think I’ll get this finished as soon as I can.

I spent the train ride reading more of the Naomi Klein book, in between gazing out of the window at the beautiful North Wales
coast, enhanced off Colwyn Bay by a cluster of dignified white wind turbines. It’s very well-written and readable, so I haven’t been tempted away from it yet by my other book, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe’s The Blunders of Our Governments, though I’m looking forward to that too. A few years ago I read Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which was a revelation to me, and which I wrote about at length on another blog. This time there haven’t been any major issues which I haven’t known about, but the degree of detail and examples make this book a marvellous resource. So far I’m in agreement with all her arguments, and reassured by the experts she’s consulted, especially Professor Kevin Anderson, with whom I talked about fracking and climate change at an event in Stormont a couple of years ago.

One especially apposite chapter tells the story of Richard Branson and his much-publicised ‘pledge’in 2006 to spend three billion dollars over the next decade to battle climate change. Eight years through the ten, we’ve seen the massive expansion of his airline, the space tourism wheeze of Virgin Galactic and the transformation of a carbon-sequestering challenge into a huge boost for the tar sands industry but, er, not much of the three billion. It isn’t that Branson is uniquely bad or green-washed, just that the idea of what he called “Gaia capitalism”, the corporate world saving us from its own greed and destruction is, like the deceptions of the carbon market, the gestures of philantropist billionaires and the follies of geo-engineering, a species of magical thinking. As Gus Speth says, “A reliably green company is one that is required to be green by law”. Not by the whisper of increased profits, or by its PR consultants, or by any cosy scheme of self-regulation. And to get those laws passed, we need reliably green elected representatives. That, I hope, is where we come in.

18th October

1018(Stafford) In England this weekend, visiting family (parents, sisters, in-laws etc.) and a large quantity of associated dogs and cats. For these two, the canalside footpath is a place of wonder and boundless excitement, with lots of other dogs to meet, barges chugging gently past, the occasional thundering train on the nearby railway line and the ever-present possibility of falling in.

Talking of trains, this trip involves a lot of them (I even had to sprint through Manchester Piccadilly twice yesterday) so I brought along Naomi Klein’s new book on climate change, This Changes Everything, to read.  Here’s an early extract that sums up much of what I feel about Green politics and why I’m doing this.

“In other words, the culture that triumphed in our corporate age pits us against the natural world.  This could easily be a cause only for despair.  But if there is a reason for social movements to exist, it is not to accept dominant values as fixed and unchangeable but to offer other ways to live – to wage, and win, a battle of cultural worldviews.  That means laying out a vision of the world that competes directly with the one on harrowing display at the Heartland conference and in so many other parts of our culture, one which resonates with the majority of people on the planet because it is true:  That we are not apart from nature but of it.  That acting collectively for a greater good is not suspect, and that such common projects of mutual aid are responsible for our species’ greatest accomplishments.  That greed must be disciplined and tempered by both rule and example.  That poverty amidst plenty is unconscionable.

It also means defending those parts of our societies that already express these values outside of capitalism, whether it’s an embattled library, a public park, a student movement demanding free university tuition, or an immigrant rights movement fighting for dignity and more open borders.  And most of all, it means continually drawing connections among these seemingly disparate struggles – asserting, for instance, that the logic that would cut pensions, food stamps, and health care before increasing taxes on the rich is the same logic that would blast the bedrock of the earth to get the last vapors of gas and the last drops of oil before making the shift to renewable energy.”  (pp. 60-61)

Many thanks to everyone who has said nice things, either in person or on social media, about my candidacy.  I’ve been having problems pronouncing that word, but if I think of it as ‘candid’ and then add the rest, I might manage it.  Being candid sounds like a good way to begin an election campaign, anyway, though I’m not sure that it’s universal.




17th October

Official announcement now made on the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party Tumblr page. More tomorrow…