13th January 2016

An excellent Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party meeting this evening – I meant to take some photos but there was so much to talk about that my camera stayed forgotten in my bag.  It’s wonderful to have such support from brilliant friends and colleagues, and I’m feeling really confident about this year and this campaign.  By the way, we’ve now fixed our meeting dates as the second Wednesday of every month, at 6pm in the Westville Hotel Enniskillen, so if you’re thinking of joining us, please feel free to come along.

Meanwhile I was a bit disappointed to read in the Fermanagh Herald that Tom Elliott’s suggestion for dealing with our flooding problems is to dredge the local rivers.  I thought it was pretty well known by now that dredging does no good whatsover in these situations, and may even make flooding considerably worse.  Here is a straightforward explanation of why.

11th November 2015

1111A good Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party meeting this evening, at which Laurence, our treasurer, a member of the Fermanagh Red Squirrel Group, gave out these rather delightful wheelie bin stickers.

25th September

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Just a couple of pictures today.  Above are some of our Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party members at the AGM on Wednesday.  Laurence was taking the photo, and John, though physically present at the venue (the excellent Westville Hotel) was working there, so too busy to stop for the picture.  Even so, we do have a substantial female membership which, in a country where women often feel that politics isn’t for them, is something about which I’m very pleased.

0925Meanwhile here are some more women doing traditional ‘men’s’ work – packing and shrink-wrapping pallets.  I don’t think I contributed an awful lot of expertise, but Roisin and Molly (who took the photo which I’ve pinched – thank you Molly!) were dab hands with the giant cling film by the time we’d finished the second one.  As you’ve probably guessed, this was the penultimate stage in the great Fermanagh-Calais Refugee Solidarity Action which Roisin has heroically guided over the past few weeks.  Tomorrow a lorry arrives to take it all down to Cork and thence across the seas, but I’ll be in Belfast and Cookstown by then.

22nd September

In preparation for the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party AGM tomorrow evening, I’ve been looking back at what we’ve done over the past year.  Here’s a brief summary in pictures. We …

Local issues

11 Took part in the March and Rally Against Cuts and For Investment

18Welcomed Steven Agnew to Enniskillen to support integrated education here.

0318Celebrated in the St Patrick’s Day Parade

3 GNWWorked with the Roads Service to get trees replanted along the Great Northern Way and carried out a survey of local residents’ experience of pedestrian crossings.

 0427cWere the only party to join the protest against puppy farming

And (no photos yet) are taking an active part in the development of the Fermanagh & Omagh Community Plan.

 

 

National issues

150530aTook part in several equal marriage support events in Belfast

0324Brought motions on libel reform and school uniform to the Green Party in Northern Ireland AGM

Global campaigns

3Campaigned as part of Global Frackdown Day

0103aand against TTIP with stalls in the Diamond, Enniskillen

Raised funds and awareness

1123awith stalls at the sale in aid of Bright Eyes animal rescue centre

1115and Willowbridge school, as well as our own tabletop sale.

0501Prepared for the election with a final pub quiz

Speaking of which, we also ….

0425aSpread the word in Dungannon

0410dPut up a few posters

0417Debated at hustings

0423Got into the papers

0407fDid a bit of canvassing

Gave blood for the cause

0507aRemembered to vote

0508aAnd kept vigil through the count.

Meanwhile our membership more than doubled, lots of people did lots of work on our newsletter and social media accounts, and individual members gave much time and energy to crucial Green campaigns including the frack-free movement, support for the homeless and refugee solidarity action.  It’s been a great year – watch this space to find out what we’re doing next!

 

1st April

5Aidan, our youngest son, Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party secretary, GPNI YouTube man and my campaign manager is eighteen tomorrow.  Lots of things have happened today, but this is the one that’s leaving me a bit wobbly.

13th March

11
Fermanagh Greens (there were eight of us altogether, not including the dog) at Enniskillen’s March and Rally Against Cuts and For Investment.

To listen to the media, you’d think that today was about nothing but disruption. Innocent commuters, schoolchildren, patients, all inconvenienced by the selfish activities of a few union die-hards. Believe them, and you’d think that those of us on marches or rallies or picket lines would be rewarded with vats of champagne. Somehow I didn’t notice them.

But fast-forward twenty years, and imagine our children’s generation looking back. “You were scared of a day of mild annoyance,” they’ll say, “so instead you put up with decades of decaying public services, brutal cuts to essential lifelines, poverty, squalor and hopelessness? Good call, Mum.”

3We weren’t there, the hundreds of public sector workers and supporters,  to get anything for ourselves. We were there for those who couldn’t be: those who are too old, too young, too sick or too poor. We were there because we’ve been let down. We’ve been let down by a coalition in Westminster that can spend hundreds of billions in bank bail-outs and nuclear weapons but says there’s no more money for our hospitals and schools. And we’ve been let down by the Executive parties in Stormont, who can’t agree on their own secret agreements, and think reducing corporation tax is a really bright idea.

We’ve got news for them. Corporation tax isn’t charged on working people’s wages, so reducing it won’t lead to more jobs or to higher pay. Corporation tax isn’t charged on research or development, so reducing it won’t lead to more investment.  Corporation tax is charged on net profits, on the money that goes into wealthy shareholders’ dividends. “To those who have, more will be given. To those who have not, the little that they have will be taken away from them.”

4But we were there today,  from the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party, standing shoulder to shoulder with our friends and neighbours.  When our children and grandchildren look back and say “What did you do on Friday the 13th?” we’ll be able to answer: “We were there. And we helped to turn that inauspicious date into the beginning of some better luck, and a new hope for Northern Ireland.”
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1st March

A few photographs from last night’s celebrations:

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Fermanagh Green Party members Karen and Janie.
Young Greens Claire, Rory, Aidan and Michasia.
Young Greens Claire, Rory, Aidan and Michasia.
Fermanagh and Tyrone frack-free campaigners
Fermanagh and Tyrone frack-free campaigners
Fermanagh farmer John with Greens John and Fiona
Fermanagh farmer John with Greens John and Fiona
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Lots of great conversations. In the centre of the photo are GPNI chair Jenny Muir and West Tyrone Parliamentary candidate Ciaran McClean.

And today:

Martin with climate scientist Ian Totterdell of the Hadley Centre.
Martin with our friend from college days, climate scientist Ian Totterdell of the Hadley Centre.
And lunch at our local, the Horseshoe & Saddlers.
And lunch at our local, the Horseshoe & Saddlers.

11th February

Tanya and DanielleLots more going on today.  We had a great meeting of the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party this evening.  In all the busy conversation, I completely forgot to take a photograph, so here’s one of Danielle, one of our new 2015 members, and me on our way out canvassing recently.  We had a lot of positive things to discuss, including the motions that we’re going to put forward at the forthcoming Green Party in Northern Ireland AGM.  There will be two of them (motions from us, that is, not AGMs) – watch this space for details.

We got home to find our optimistic mood plummeted by the news that that the notorious ‘bedroom tax’, famous for its cruel imbecility across Britain, has now been imposed in Northern Ireland.  It was voted for by Sinn Fein, the DUP, UUP and Alliance, with only the SDLP, independent MLA Claire Sugden and the Green Party opposing it.  Earlier in the evening, benefit sanctions up to eighteen months had been voted for by every MLA in the chamber except for Basil McCrea and our Steven Agnew.

We’re in a pretty unusual position here in Northern Ireland at the moment.  We’ve watched, across the Irish Sea, the terrible effects of the coalition attack on the easiest targets: of the ‘bedroom tax’ that particularly penalises disabled people and single parents; the arbitrary ‘benefit sanctions’ that deprive people, often for no rational reason, of even the barest income; and the idiotically-administered ‘work capability tests’ that drag seriously, often terminally, ill people through months of needless anguish.  We’ve seen the enormous growth in the need of ordinary people for foodbanks, the most shocking indictment of a brutal and heartless regime.  And, having seen all this, the Northern Ireland Executive parties, including those who once claimed to speak for the poor and disadvantaged, have voted to bring in exactly the same cruelties here, unleavened by the slightest compassion.

And the political betrayal isn’t even over yet.  When I got in, another debate on the Infrastructure Bill was taking place in the House of Commons.  You’ll remember, if you read my previous post, that at its last vote in the Commons, the Bill was amended at the behest of the Labour Party to include a few tweaks.  These, minor though they were, gave Labour MPs a semblance of excuse for not voting in favour of a moratorium on fracking, as proposed by Caroline Lucas and others.

What happened next could no doubt have been predicted, and probably was, by the fossil fuel industry and its willing Parliamentary pawns.  The Bill went to the House of Lords, where the most important concession, that fracking should not take place in land which is located within the boundary of a groundwater source, was amended to allow that:

4)     The Secretary of State must, by regulations made by statutory
instrument, specify—

(a)   the descriptions of areas which are “protected groundwater
source areas”, and

(b)   the descriptions of areas which are “other protected areas”,

for the purposes of section 4A”

In other words, a ‘groundwater protection zone” would now mean, as Humpty Dumpty would approve, whatever the government chooses it to mean.

It was the crucial debate on these amendments for which, as Caroline Lucas pointed out, a measy hour of Parliamentary time was allowed.  And upon which, as I have been writing this, the Commons has voted by a smallish majority (257 to 203), to follow the Lords, and remove all semblance of special protection for our drinking water from the clear and demonstrable threat of fracking contamination.

When I first switched on the BBC Parliament Channel this evening, Anne McIntosh, who would have been our MP, had we stayed in Yorkshire thirteen years ago, was speaking.  She said, of the fracking and groundwater issue, that “the detail should appear on the face of the Bill” and that not to do so was to offer a “hostage to fortune”.  It is true in relation to fracking, and it is just as true with regard to the NI Welfare Reform Bill, as Steven pointed out yesterday.  If our elected representatives cannot be trusted to speak and vote on primary legislation that affects the most basic and essential needs of ourselves and our children, how on earth can we expect them to give proper scrutiny to secondary regulations, far outside the public gaze?

Of course we cannot.  What events on both sides of the Irish Sea have shown is that only a very few are prepared to speak and vote for what they know is right.  Steven Agnew and Caroline Lucas are among those few, and we in the Green Party are proud to stand beside them.

14th January

I’m in the middle of my post about TTIP and CETA, but I won’t have time to finish it before our Fermanagh & South Tyrone Greens meeting, and after that it’s Pride, so here’s a bit of today’s Fermanagh Herald instead.

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