29th February 2016

A couple of things from the first part of yesterday’s brilliant Green Party conference in Belfast:

12Aidan, just arrived from Manchester with two hours’ sleep, presenting the Young Greens’ manifesto with a powerful and moving speech.

 

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Here I’m listening to questions about the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Greens’ motion calling for an integrated flood prevention and mitigation strategy.  No audio, you’ll be relieved to know, but what I said was:

In Northern Ireland as throughout the world, floods are growing more frequent, more extreme and more destructive. In my own home constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, we have seen serious damage inflicted: personal misery, isolation, disruption and serious economic loss.

Climate change is, of course, a major driver of these changes, and I’m entirely happy to support the South Belfast amendment. It’s yet another reason why Northern Ireland needs its own Climate Change Act, and why, with the rest of the Green Eighteen, I would be pushing relentlessly for this in Stormont.

But there are other reasons too, reasons more immediately under the control of our institutions. Some of these are obvious, like construction on floodplains, some counter-intuitive, like the dredging of rivers which more often exacerbates, rather than relieves flooding problems.

And some may appear at first sight to have nothing to do with flooding at all, such as changes in farming policy and practice: the removal of vegetation especially from high ground, the decline in ground cover plants, subsidy changes and a veritable bonfire of the regulations which once conserved our soil. The effect of these changes is that rainfall which was once absorbed by our landscape, and slowly released, now flashes off bare hills and compacted ground, thundering in torrents towards our homes.

This is why, valuable as initiatives such as local Flood Risk Management Plans are, they do not go nearly far, or deep enough. In the same way that the disjointed operation of children’s services, before Steven’s Bill, let those very children down, so the isolation and competition within our Executive make flooding more likely, more violent and more destructive.

There is probably no department which is unrelated to flooding, either by cause or effect. Decisions about the location, structure and catchment areas of schools and hospitals are nonsensical without taking into account the likelihood and nature of local flooding. The viability of industries which DETI wishes to support is altered when flooding is taken into account. The risks of fracking, for example, high enough already, are dramatically multiplied.

This motion doesn’t seek to identify the precise policies which would work best in Northern Ireland. That is a fascinating discussion which I hope we will have in the future. Nor does it detail the mechanism by which the duties outlined would be imposed. That, again would be too complex for the time we have available. But if Steven, with the support of the children’s sector, can do it for children’s immediate needs, I think we could do it for their future.

When people are unable to live in their homes, travel to work and school, operate what should be sustainable businesses and make plans for the future, our society cannot function effectively. The effects of climate and agricultural change will, if unchecked, exacerbate these problems to the point of crisis. We cannot afford not to spend the time, thought and resources necessary to take long-term and effective action.

(Photographs by Anne Ramsey)

 

10th October

1010A busy day, leaving the house just after seven for the bus and train journey to a long Green Party meeting in Bangor.  I’d planned to join the Belfast manifestation of the Day of Action on Climate Change – Frackdown, Divestment and No to TTIP, demonstrating against Barclays’ ‘investment’ in fracking, but by the time I got there, it was all over. But I shared the train ride between Belfast and Bangor with Aidan (our youngest son, chair of the Young Greens in Northern Ireland) which was lovely.

24th August

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Just a couple of photographs from our fantastic Green Party in Northern Ireland strategy weekend at Drumalis in Larne.  The sun didn’t shine quite as much as last year, but it had its moments.

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Here we all are – Green Party members, officers and elected representatives from across Northern Ireland, along with Adam our facilitator.  Adam was Caroline Lucas’s campaign manager for this year’s Westminster elections, so he knows a thing or two about success!

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5th May (1)

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At the G8 protest in Enniskillen two years ago.

Only two days now, and this morning, as the rain teems down over Fermanagh, it feels like a blessed lull before the storm.  Not that Friday will see anything like an end, of course.

This has been a long journey, much longer than the election campaign, and it will go on for the rest of our lives and beyond. While I was out canvassing yesterday, one man asked me why on earth I bothered.  ‘You’ve chosen the worst possible place to do this,’ he said.

But that’s why.  I’m not under any illusions.  Both the big power blocs have been out in force in Fermanagh & South Tyrone this spring.  They’ve poured everything they can into this campaign, and everything they have is a great deal.  We can’t compete; not in money, time or people; not in power or influence. But we far outweigh them in the things that really matter.

I’d love to have been able to visit all the homes in the constituency.  I’ve had a wonderful welcome at those I have managed to reach; with not a single word of insult or disparagement.  Even those who don’t feel that they can vote for us this time recognise the integrity and vision of the Green Party, and are glad that I am standing.

But those who will vote for me on Thursday will be a part of something very important.  This is the beginning of a change in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, the start of a transformation of our politics.  For heartbreakingly long, our people have been treated as election pawns, their votes horsetraded in grubby deals.  We deserve better.  We deserve representatives who work for the common good, who are motivated by what unites rather than what divides, who are ready to build a fairer, cleaner, better society for our children and our grandchildren.

If that’s what you want too, please help us.  Whatever your circumstances, there is something that you can do.

If you can spare a few pounds to help the five Green Party in Northern Ireland candidates to pay our deposits (£500 per seat) please visit our Crowdfunder site here. Or if you’d like to help towards the costs of my leaflets and posters, please click here.

If you’d like to join the Green Party in Northern Ireland, please follow this link.

If you use social media, please like and follow our pages, maybe beginning with this one, and share this site with your friends and family.

And most of all, if you’re a voter in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, please choose the Green Party this time.  Thank you.

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.

22nd March

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The plan for today was to have a rest. I managed to spend a good portion of it sitting on the sofa, but between Crowdfunder (more on this soon) and new systems for membership management and canvassing, the repose element has been confined to the physical.  Which is a convoluted way of saying that I haven’t got anything much to write yet.  I’ll show you this jolly picture, though, of the Green Party in Northern Ireland’s 2015 Westminster candidates.  (May 2015, perhaps I should say, in case the pollsters’ predictions of an immediate re-election come true.)

From left: Councillor Ross Brown, standing in East Belfast, me, MLA Steven Agnew, standing in North Down, Clare Bailey, standing in South Belfast and Ciaran McClean standing in West Tyrone.

14th February

0214No energy left to say very much today, except that the long journey to Bangor and back for a Green Party NI meeting was well worth while, I’ve got some interesting books from the charity shops of Botanic Avenue, including Simon Jenkins’ Thatcher & Sons which quotes her as saying “Once you have been a [Parliamentary] candidate, everything else palls”, and that M and I had an excellent dinner and bottle of wine at Horseshoe & Saddlers back in Enniskillen.

31st December

2014 in pictures…

1231aJanuary – In London for an environmental law workshop on behalf of the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network.

 

 

1231dFebruary – Joined Gawain playing chess in Bunratty.

 

 

1025March – Appointed as membership secretary for the Green Party of Northern Ireland.

 

 

freisingApril – Visited Germany and found some Green inspiration.

 

 

1231cMay – The European and local elections (a bit of family leafleting here)  – Ross Brown, Noelle Robinson, John Barry and Paul Roberts were elected as Green Party councillors in Northern Ireland.

 

 

1220June – The Energy Democracy group came to Fermanagh, my friends Julie and Jayne were married, and we met Natalie Bennett at Glastonbury.

 

 

mJuly – In Larne with GPNI members for an inspiring residential.

 

 

uAugust – Tamboran moved into a site just outside Belcoo and we all got even busier.

 

 

castleSeptember – Launch of a new phase of the frack-free campaign at Carrickfergus Castle.

 

 

3October – Nominated as Green Party Parliamentary candidate and celebrating Global Frackdown Day.

 

1101aNovember – with Clare Bailey, the newly-elected GPNI Deputy Leader,

 

 

1209aDecember – In London again for the Chess Classic.

Thanks to everyone who made this such a great year, especially Martin and Aidan.

6th December

greenpartyAcross to Bangor today for a meeting of Green Party NI officials and representatives from the local groups.  We’re growing so quickly, and there’s so much excitement about the Green Surge, that there was scarcely space in the room for everyone and latecomers had to go in search of folding chairs.  Clare Bailey, our new Deputy Leader, and the Parliamentary candidate for South Belfast, went out of the room to collect some papers, and had to crawl under the table to get back to her seat.  It’s a good thing that a Green lifestyle keeps us reasonably healthy – I can’t imagine all politicians being able to do that.

Thanks to Fiona and John Beatty of the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Greens for giving me a lift there, and to Jenny Muir, GPNI chair (not the folding sort) for her usual heroic achievement of getting me back to the bus on time.  The 261 was busier than ever, but I managed to squeeze on and to read most of Paul Vallery’s biography of Pope Francis.  I haven’t quite finished it, though, so you’ll be spared any thoughts about the Argentinian junta, the Dirty War, and Chief constable Peter Fahy’s warning in today’s Guardian about the UK’s drift towards a police state.  I’ll leave you to make your own connections, while I force down another glass of Lidl’s fair trade Cabernet.  It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.