8th May 2017

A letter to the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone

 

Dear friends and neighbours

We’ve been through a lot in the past year, locally, regionally and globally. Twelve months ago today we’d only just got the results from the last-but-one Assembly election, when we were plunged into the last weeks of campaigning on the EU referendum. I was travelling across Fermanagh, South Tyrone and Belfast speaking at events and on the radio about why staying in Europe was the best way of preserving our rights, our economy, our freedom and our futures. A large majority of you agreed with me.

Then we had the RHI fiasco, and the collapse of the DUP/Sinn Fein executive in bitter recrimination, leading to another Assembly election in March of this year, only ten months after the last one. We all know what that led to – absolutely nothing. After weeks of talks behind closed doors, the mainstream parties were no further towards agreement. Putting their political games before your interests was fine by them – and left our already starved public services, our education, our healthcare and our environment, in an even worse state.

We were dreading the announcement of yet another election. And sure enough, just as we (well, some of us) got back to work after Easter, our fears were realised. But it wasn’t another Assembly election, but a Westminster one, called by Theresa May in a breathtakingly cynical breach of her previous promise. She knows that the kind of Brexit she is determined upon will lead to desperately hard times, and she wants to get another five years in the bag before that happens.

So here we are again. You won’t be surprised to hear that I was tempted not to stand again, to stick my head under the duvet and leave my posters stacked in the loft. After all, it will be their fourth expedition up the lampposts – there must be a limit to even our recycling. Why not leave this election to the big parties, with their secret donors and their deep war chests?

But it isn’t their futures that this election is about – it’s yours, and our children’s. It’s time to put you first, and that’s why I’m willing to stand again.

You know me by now. You know that we’ve lived in Enniskillen for eleven years, have made Fermanagh our family’s home and have become deeply embedded in the community. You know that when I stood in the 2015 Westminster election as the first ever Green candidate, other smaller parties didn’t think this constituency was worth bothering about. I was delighted and honoured by the support I received then, and the other candidates and commentators were quite taken aback. But it isn’t really surprising. Green principles – non-violence, a clean and healthy environment, fairness for all and real democracy – they’re the only way we can protect what is precious and at the same time build a better future.

As your Green Party MP, I’d put those principles into practice, putting you first and speaking up at Westminster on the issues that matter to you. They’re the issues that matter to me, too.

Your say on Brexit and our future in Europe. I’ve been consistently campaigning for us to stay in Europe, with all the benefits, rights and positive relationships that EU membership has brought. Unlike some other parties and politicians, we haven’t jumped from one side of the fence to the other. I believe that Theresa May’s Brexit will be a great mistake for the UK, and will do great damage also to the Irish Republic. The border is a huge and urgent issue, but it isn’t the only post-Brexit problem which we face. That’s why we need a representative who will be at Westminster, ready and willing to work with other MPs in keeping our options open and calling for a people’s referendum on the terms of any final deal. And as European Greens, with sister parties in Ireland, England and Wales, Scotland and across Europe, we are uniquely placed to work at all levels to protect you from a hard harsh Brexit.

Your services, your schools and your healthcare. The important things are the things we do together. That’s what those who would divide us always forget. A thriving, positive community is one which cares for our children, for older people, for those who need special help and for the fragile environment which we share. More than ever, across the world, those basic decencies are under threat from greed, fear and ignorance. Here in Northern Ireland, as the main parties repeat their old squabbles, we’re in danger of losing sight of the big picture. Let’s take care of what matters, while we still have the chance.

Your equal rights, whatever your identity. We’ve come a long way, even in my lifetime, in understanding the ways that people are different and in learning to accept and listen to one another. Young people especially are inspiring us with their wisdom and generosity. But we’ve also seen, in the rise of Trump and the global far right, the bigoted resentment of those who would rather build walls than bridges. Rights that we thought were established are under attack, while those that a clear majority want to share, like equal marriage, are denied by those who claim to represent you. Equality isn’t a slogan, or a weapon; it’s the simple and fair basis for everything else that we do, for building a prosperous and peaceful society in a clean environment. When we stop fighting, we have time to do the important things.

We’ve had too many elections in the past two years, and I share your feelings about this one. But there’s one thing worse than having too many elections, and that’s not having any. The world is at a crossroads now; and the loudest voices are shouting for us to follow them towards more division, more greed, more hatred and more repression. The other way, the way of co-operation, of fairness, of thoughtfulness and respect, is the road we Greens have always taken. It’s not so noisy, not talked about by the media or the mainstream politicians, but more and more people are taking that road too, across the world, throughout Europe and notably in this week’s local elections in Scotland, England and Wales.

If that’s a vision that you share, then you’ll understand why I’m here again. It’s time to put you first.

With thanks and best wishes

Tanya

13th September

tree with small red post box
Entwistle, Lancashire this morning

Jeremy Corbyn is not the Antichrist.  He is not planning to confiscate our savings to be spent on scarlet flags, feast on our children in the company of terrorists or to leave us huddled on a rock in the midst of the Atlantic, with only a stick of organic celery to defend what was once our proud nation.

But neither is he the Messiah. The achievement of his campaign in winning fifty-nine percent of the leadership ballot is incredibly impressive and inspirational.  Like thousands, I am heartened by his victory and by the sense of hope, of compassion, justice and common sense which it represents.  But winning the contest was the easy part.

Golden age myths are pervasive, persuasive and usually wrong.  The one that underpins the confident optimism of many Corbyn supporters is as romantic and misleading as any other.  It narrates that, pre-Blair, the Labour Party was a haven of left-wing consensus, a united and progressive community in which Jeremy Corbyn and those like him were mainstream and central.

This, as anyone who has dipped into Tony Benn’s diaries of the period will know, is emphatically not the case.  It is true, as I have written before, that the window of acceptable policy has shifted sharply rightwards in the past thirty years.  Tony Blair and Gordon Brown bear a heavy responsibility for completing the transformation of Labour into Tory-lite.  But they did not do it alone, or from a standing start. Neither Corbyn nor Benn were any more popular with Neil Kinnock than Corbyn is with senior Labour figures today.  Although some of the suggestions put forward by Corbyn now, such as public ownership of the railways,  were once unremarkable party policy, the change has generally been brought about by historical events rather than ideological alteration.  On issues of defence, foreign policy etc., Corbyn, like his mentor Benn, has always been viewed as a dangerous rebel.

There is a second myth,  accompanying the Golden Age one, that local Labour constituency associations are full of proto-Corbynites, only awaiting Jeremy’s coronation to throw off their Blairite chains.  As new, young, idealistic members flood into the party, these old stalwarts will totter forward, grateful tears streaming down their gnarled cheeks, and embrace their courageous liberators.  Councillors, officials and local activists, who have spent decades of their lives doing mundane and tedious tasks to attain their positions in middle-of-the-road Labour, will happily stand aside for the newbies, many of whose previous political activities have been limited to liking a Facebook page or clicking on an online petition.

Let’s see, shall we?

Meanwhile there is a political party, active across the UK, for which Corbyn’s plans for economic stimulus, banking reform, opposition to Trident, extrication from American foreign policy excesses, common ownership of essential public services and a more redistributive tax system are not wild notions to be quixotically championed but established and detailed policy, set on a firm foundation of philosophical and political principle.  This party actively welcomes new members and encourages them to become involved and influential at every level.  It is growing fast, respected widely, and, in the House of Commons, its sole current MP has worked closely with Jeremy Corbyn, far more closely than any of his own party colleagues, on many vital issues and campaigns.

The future does not belong to one or two monoliths.  There is space in our political system, especially in the regions and at European level, for a creative coalition of progressive parties and movements.  Those people who have been inspired to join the Labour Party by Jeremy Corbyn’s example are doing a good thing.  But they should not imagine that his victory is going to bring about an immediate or easy transformation of the party.  It may never do so.  They will have to put much of their time and energy, not into campaigning for Corbyn’s policies among the wider electorate, but into internal struggles with their new comrades.  It will be a long, depressing and thankless business.

For some people, this is the kind of politics that they enjoy.  I’m grateful, on behalf of all of us, that there are those ready to take on this task, and hopeful, for our shared future, that they succeed. Meanwhile, for those who don’t relish the internal as much as the external battles, who thrive on the camaraderie of colleagues and the positive energy of a common vision, who want to be part of an existing global movement that has firm roots in social and economic justice, environmental sustainability, non-violence and grassroots democracy, the Green Party offers a warm welcome.

 

 

 

5th September

0906Across Europe, Green Party members and representatives are working hard to help refugees, both in terms of practical immediate action, and by explaining our immigration policies, based on justice, compassion and shared humanity.  It’s good that others are coming to realise that we have been right; terrible that it has taken such visible suffering to wake up our media and mainstream politicians.

Pictured above are Clare Bailey of the South Belfast Green Party, and Green Party Councillor John Barry of Holywood, taking part in refugee solidarity collections.

14th August

0811Surprise, surprise, a few hours after the profile of Saint Yvette was published by the Guardian yesterday, it released an editorial advising its readers to vote for her.  At least that’s an end to the charade of even-handedness.

Meanwhile I’ve had a good response to my posts over the past few days about the profile series.  Thanks to everyone who tweeted, shared etc.  One question that everyone has been too polite to ask is whether it’s any of my business.  As a Green Party member in Northern Ireland, where Labour doesn’t even stand candidates, what right do I have to comment on the internal workings of this leadership contest?  Isn’t it just mischief-making, on a par with paying my £3 and trying to get my own vote in the contest? I haven’t done that, by the way, though I did manage a prescient tweet, a fortnight before Corbyn’s announcement, when Harriet Harman was still smiling (see below).

According to some arguments, of course, the last thing I as a Green should be doing is expressing sympathy with Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign.  The similarity between his platform and Green Party policy has been widely noted – are we supportive Greens simply dismantling our gains, squashing our surge and handing out our clothes to cover Jeremy’s famous vest?  I don’t think so.

It’s true that some of the increased Green vote across the British Isles has come from disaffected Labour voters, and, conversely, that a Labour Party with a more visionary and radical leadership would attract some of those votes back again.  It’s a mistake, though, to think that there is a finite pool of ‘left-wing’ votes over which progressive parties need to compete.  A comparable mistake would have been to assume that, in Fermanagh & South Tyrone this year, there were a limited number of  potential ‘cross-community’ electors.  According to this logic, votes which I received in the Westminster election would have been gained at the expense of the Alliance Party. In fact Alliance increased both their number and share of the vote, but we still got more.

And, of course, perverse as it may seem to say it on this blog, elections aren’t the most important thing.  I decided to become more involved in the Green Party, as I’ve explained before, because getting more Greens into every level of government is, in my view, the best way to create a fair, sustainable and peaceful world.  It’s the best way, but it’s not the only way.  Whenever members of other political parties do the right thing, take wise decisions, adopt policies to make life better for us all, we can rejoice and be glad. We’re not ideological purists, we don’t need to fear contamination and we’re happy to work with others to make the changes our society and our environment so desperately need. And however radical, however ‘green’ the Labour Party could conceivably become (not actually very, I suspect) there would still be plenty of work for us to do, plenty that could be made better, plenty of people inspired and energized by the distinctive vision of capital-G Green politics.

But for the Labour mainstream it seems that elections are all that matters.  The key accusation levelled at Jeremy Corbyn isn’t that he’s weak or misguided, or that his policies are wrong, but that he would make the party ‘unelectable’.  The worst fate for the country, according to this line of thinking, would be Labour failing to win the 2020 election.

There are two separate points here. I’m not convinced about the unelectability.  Corbyn’s policies, as many have pointed out, were fairly mainstream in the not-so recent past, when giving Labour a turn was a standard electoral event.  And even those with shorter memories have more radical instincts than the media and politicians give them credit for – I found that out very quickly during my little campaign.

But even if it’s true, that a left-leaning Labour Party couldn’t win in 2020, would that be the worst possible outcome?

It would be truly terrible to have another Tory government like this one; I don’t deny that for a moment.  The mean cruelty, the ideological dishonesty, the sheer nastiness of this crew is just about impossible to overstate.  And with Osborne as PM … I can only shudder.  But what is it that has made this nastiness possible: this scapegoating of the innocent poor, this triumphant destruction of the environment, this adulation of an unrestrained, bloated, bailed-out, gambling-addicted financial capitalism?

Without underplaying the individual moral responsibility of current ministers for their actions, decisions and statements, which is huge,  I believe that what has made them able to act so is the normalisation of something only slightly less nasty.  When the mainstream position, shared by the main parties, is to be a bit sceptical of the rights of disabled people, a bit condemnatory of the unemployed, a bit dismissive of ‘green crap’ and more than a bit liable to cosy up to the banks and the mega-rich, how else can the Right distinguish itself except by being more so?  It’s not true that they’re all as bad as each other; life, especially for children and the working poor, is considerably worse under the Tories than it would be under Labour.  But it was Labour governments, under Blair and Brown, which, as Simon Jenkins pointed out,’supercharged’ Thatcherism, and a Labour Opposition which, despite Miliband’s honest but feeble efforts, failed to stop the rightward shift.  (I don’t discount, of course, Nick Clegg’s destruction of the Liberal Democrats as any kind of effective brake.)

As Owen Jones has pointed out in the New Statesman, the concept of the Overton window, though recognised and mainly referred to by the American Right, is an important tool in understanding what is going on.  As Wikipedia explains, Joseph Overton:

“claimed that an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within [the window], rather than on politicians’ individual preferences. According to Overton’s description, his window includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.”

It is this window, of perceived acceptability, which has shifted sharply rightwards over the past thirty-five years, and outside which Corbyn’s policies are viewed as falling.  But of course the very act of defining the window, of placing one’s position safely within its limits, pushes it a little further along its trajectory.  This is presumably why the Right like it so much.  Once it’s moving in the direction you want it to, all you need do is make sure that everyone knows how powerful it is and adjusts their behaviour accordingly.

Yes, under Cooper or Burnham, Labour might be given their turn in 2020, as a sort of reward for good behaviour.  But by then the window will have moved so far to the right that the chances of recovering anything close to equality, of being able to do anything about climate change, of reining in the banking behemoths, will be miniscule.  Our only hope is to start shifting it back again, at least towards what used to be the centre.

That’s what we in the Green Party are doing; inch by inch, doorstep by doorstep, giving people the courage to rediscover their own best instincts.  It isn’t easy; we don’t have the heavy lifting equipment of the media, of corporate funding or of mainstream discourse.  But it’s absolutely essential if our children are to have any chance of a decent life; one in which they can breathe and eat and drink and grow and look their sisters and brothers in the face without being ashamed.

We need all the help we can get.  And that’s why I hope Jeremy Corbyn wins.

 

0814

3rd April

fDenzil McDaniel’s How I See It piece in last week’s Impartial Reporter was entitled “It’s about time the people were the real winners”. He is right.

Whatever the outcome of May’s election, little will change for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Rodney Edwards’s Stormont Files in the same edition of the paper reveals that Fermanagh has the lowest earners in Northern Ireland and that over nine thousand of us are in fuel poverty, unable to afford to heat our homes adequately. And this is even before the so-called ‘welfare reforms’, inhumane and arbitrary punishments of the sick, disabled and unemployed, begin to hit us.

Whatever the outcome of May’s election, little will change for the country, with the policies of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour virtually indistinguishable. Whether we have a Sinn Fein MP who refuses to take her seat, or a unionist who props up one of the big parties, the problems we face will continue. None of them will take effective action to protect our public services, to shield the NHS from privatisation, to tackle serious tax dodging or to invest in clean and sustainable energy solutions. All will waste our money on renewal of the useless Trident nuclear weapon system, on pointless military action that kills civilians and children, on yet more bail-outs for banks and hand-outs for the rich.

If this is ‘a two-horse race’, who is winning? The owners of the horses, yes; the Executive parties who keep us arguing amongst ourselves instead of asking hard questions about them and their funding. But the voters don’t get anything out of it. At least if you put a fiver on a horse and it wins, you get something back. Cast your vote according to your ‘tradition’, and you’re no better off than before.

So what can make a difference? Sometimes we think that, in a first-past-the-post election, nothing ever can. But even in the first-past-the-post system, change comes about. It just needs a start. In 1895 Kier Hardie’s Independent Labour Party stood in twenty-eight constituencies and got less than 45,000 total votes. It would have seemed impossible that it could ever break the stranglehold of the Conservatives and Liberals. Those people who voted Labour would have been laughed at, scoffed at as idealistic fools or condemned for splitting the Liberal vote. And yet fifty years later a Labour government established the National Health Service to which so many of us owe our lives today.

It was those early Labour voters who made that possible. They knew that they weren’t backing a short-term winner, that they wouldn’t have the exhilaration of seeing ‘their’ candidate raised on anyone’s shoulders at the count. But they knew something more important: that they were paving the way for a better future, a more equal and fair society, a world where justice and compassion would be stronger than greed.

4aI hope that it won’t take fifty years to get a Green MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Our children need action far sooner than that. But when it happens – and happen it will – those who were there at the beginning, who voted for the very first Green Westminster candidate here, will be the ones really celebrating. Imagine how that will feel.

There’s more to first-past-the-post than who’s first past the post. There are urgent messages to those currently in power, and deep roots planted for the future. The eyes of the whole UK will be on Fermanagh and South Tyrone this May. Let’s give them something new to be looking at.

18th January

GPNI people in Larne last summer – Georgia is third from the right (spatially only!)

A productive day today, working on fracking and TTIP issues, but it’s Sunday evening and you don’t want yet more bad news. Instead, why not take a look at this inspiring and encouraging blog post from Georgia Grainger, chair of the Young Greens NI.  As Georgia says,

I never became a Green, I just found a term and party for it, and I think that’s somewhat inherent in the reason I am a Green. I’m not just a Green party member, or a believer in Green politics, but I am a Green, the same way I am a socialist and I am a feminist. I think being a Green is a type of politics, not just a party, but it helps that there’s a party to go alongside it.”

I think that is the experience of many people who have joined the Green Party, especially this week, when the combined membership of the Green parties in the UK overtook that of UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.  Here in Northern Ireland our membership went up by 10% in just 48 hours.

We didn’t decide to join a political party and then talk ourselves into agreeing with its policies; we just followed our deepest beliefs about how people can support one another for the common good, and found that the Green Party was there waiting for us. Green ideas, about social justice, non-violence, grassroots democracy and environmental sustainability, chime with our natural instincts about what is right.  The problem has been that so many forces around us: mainstream politics, the media, big corporations, sadly often the churches, who should know better if anyone does, tell us not to trust those instincts.  They tell us that they know best, that the way things are is the way things have to be, that we should keep our heads down and follow the crowd.

Well, this week has seen lots more heads raised well over the parapet, and nothing terrible has happened to them.  I hope their example will give courage to many others to ask themselves what they really want, and to find ways of working towards those goals.  I can’t promise that it will be easy, but you’ll find encouragement, inspiration, strength, friendship and the knowledge that you’re playing a small part in a brighter and better future. That has to be better than a shrug and a sigh.

2nd January

duckYesterday afternoon I was wandering idly about the internet, as one does on a rainy bank holiday, and came across this nice photograph of a duck.  The photographer, Maren Winter, had kindly put it onto Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons licence, so I used it to create this image, reminding people that a New Year’s resolution to join the Green Party would be an easy one to complete, leaving another 364 days for learning Cantonese or giving up Wotsits.

I put it onto the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Greens’ Facebook page and forgot about it, while I went off to invent a leek and cheese pasta bake for dinner. (I’d misread the recipe for the Christmas cabbage thing and bought four times too much cream, which now needs a purpose in life.)  I only came back to look at the page this morning, and found that five others had shared the image, including the Chichester and Bognor and Pennsylvania Green Parties.  Now, I know that five shares in sixteen hours isn’t exactly a viral sensation, but I’m old enough to find the internationalness of the web a little bit exciting, and to be slightly thrilled by my (well, Maren’s) duck being liked by a hypnotherapist in Pennsylvania, a CPR instructor in Texas, a Canadian photographer, a fossil-fuel-free activist in Queensland, an Anglican clergyman, also in Canada, and people in Norway, Belgium, Tasmania, along with many who’ve sensibly set their privacy settings so that I can’t see where they live.

It’s an indication, obviously, of the global nature of the internet, but also of the Green Party itself.  There wouldn’t be much point in the DUP or Sinn Fein having memes sent around the world, and not many people outside this island who would find them of much interest.  But Green values and priorities are universal, and the vital issues which we address are central to lives across the world. I’ll go on watching the duck’s travels, and will report back sometime soon.  If you see him, do say hello, and don’t forget to take his advice.

p.s. An hour later, the duck is on twelve shares, including the Green Party in south-west Australia.  I don’t think he can waddle any further than that…

 

1st January

At the borehole site in August

What I’d really like to see in 2015:

1. Climate change being taken seriously.

We don’t have any more time to mess around.  We have to make real and substantial changes now, if our children and grandchildren, and the most vulnerable and blameless of the world’s people, are not to pay a terrible price for our stupidity and greed. The best piece of news recently is the anticipation of Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical. If he speaks out as trenchantly as we hope, it’s possible that millions of Catholics, the other Christians and people of other or no faith who respect his judgment, and global leaders both political and religious, will take notice and act. That is my first prayer and hope for our new year.

 

2. The departure of this cruel and duplicitous coalition government in the UK.

David Cameron and his cronies, facilitated by the spineless LibDems, have succeeded in overseeing a massive shift of resources from the poor to the rich, an increase in fear, suspicion and selfishness, the destruction of hopes for a sustainable future and the worsening of every measure of the common good.  Their friends in the media, fellow beneficiaries of the Tory Robin-Hood-in-reverse, have gone along with every step, setting up only the straw Farage as a pseudo-opposition.  My second hope, therefore, is that the people of the UK will come to their senses before May and choose a genuine alternative.

 

3. The Green surge continuing throughout the British Isles.

This isn’t mere party loyalty.  The growth in membership and support of the Green Party has been the only effective counterbalance to the media-fuelled rise of UKIP and will serve not only to bring more much-needed Green MPs into Parliament but also to remind parties such as Labour that there are people out there who respect principle, know that ‘aspiration’ means more than a fatter wallet and that our children’s futures are not to be gambled for a cheap soundbite.  Without the Greens, I fear we’d only have shades of blue.

 

4. Northern Irish politicians acknowledging their mistakes and seeking a wider vision.

Between Sinn Fein, whose wafer-thin progressive credentials were accidentally exposed by Gerry Adams this year, and the DUP, who increasingly glory in having none, politics in Northern Ireland is increasingly petty, bad-tempered and out of touch with external standards of behaviour.  The results aren’t just embarrassing; they’re positively retrograde and damaging to our hopes of a positive and prosperous future for this beautiful and gifted region.  It is no coincidence that Steven Agnew has won numerous independent awards for his integrity, professionalism and hard work as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.  If other MLAs followed his example, our shared future would be a real prospect instead of a ragged hope.

 

5. An end to the threat of fracking in Fermanagh and beyond.

2014 has brought great successes to the frack-free movement both locally and worldwide, with Tamboran forced to postpone their plans for Belcoo, increasing evidence of the futility and destructive nature of the technique, and bans in the most unexpected places, including New York and the ‘fracking capital’ of Denton, Texas. It would be foolish, though, to think that we have won.  The UK government is more keen than ever to subsidise its friends in the fossil fuel industry, Tamboran are bringing judicial review proceedings to try to recover their licence, and more areas of Northern Ireland are under threat from the experimental process.  Nearly all of our politicians here in Northern Ireland, and especially those standing for election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, claim to be ‘anti-fracking’ but few, apart from the Green Party, have taken any action to stop it (1).  And with political funding still secret here (2), we have no way of knowing what might be in their interests during the months and years to come.

 

There are a few more things on my long wish list, including new brakes for my bike and the loss of the few pounds I’ve put on in mince pies, but these will do for a start.  Very best wishes to you all for a peaceful, happy and hopeful New Year.

 

 Notes:

(1)  At the recent vote on the government’s Infrastructure Bill, which will change the law of trespass to allow fracking under people’s homes against their will, only ten MPs voted No, including Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.  Sinn Fein MPs do not attend the House of Commons and so did not take part in the debate or the vote.

(2) The Green Party does not accept corporate donations, and publishes details of all donations over £500.

 

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.

20th December

1220
At Glastonbury this year with Natalie Bennett and my sons Aidan and Rory.

This is the first Saturday since the summer when I haven’t been away, at a meeting or out doing some Green or frack-free campaigning.  Not that the post office and Christmas food shopping this morning were exactly restful – I think I’d prefer to be in a flashmob than a checkout queue.  And there’s plenty of computer-based anti-fracking work to be done, as there has been for the past three Christmases, so I’m not quite in holiday mode yet.

Talking of fracking, I was delighted to read that Tina Louise Rothery has been selected as the Green Party candidate for the Tatton constituency, challenging George Osborne on his home turf.  I first met Tina in Belfast when she and a group of fellow frack-free activists from Lancashire came across to support us on a march, and then we met again at Glastonbury this year when Natalie Bennett was speaking there (see picture above).  Like many others, Tina was galvanised by the fracking issue into joining the Green Party two years ago, and will be an inspiring and committed candidate.  As she says;

“The problems with our current situation appear less to do with the economy and far more to do with the way that economy is managed and whom it does – and doesn’t – benefit.

“Corporate interests have an unhealthy influence on decisions made in Westminster.  Look at the planned spending on huge projects like HS2 (due to end Wilmslow’s direct London service) instead of improvements to existing rail – including the Mid-Cheshire line – that would bring greater benefit to the local population; or the way they insist on pursuing short-term, risky energy solutions that will bring no benefits on prices or security for UK residents.

“Time and again the UK electorate watches the predictable cycle of political activity in the run up to an election; promises being made that we know will be broken. Each election leaves us disappointed and for too long, the choice on the ballot paper has been limited to a very similar line-up.The priorities, concerns and challenges in our everyday lives are not reflected in the policies of the current government and haven’t been for as long as I can remember. Looking at the grey suits and behaviour in the House of Commons is like looking back in time to a fossilised place that just isn’t part of the ‘real world’ anymore.”

Unlike other parties, [the Green Party] is not funded by big business and is not influenced, swayed, encouraged or bullied by corporate interests and because we are focused on the issues that matter; the preservation of our NHS, the integrity of our education, clean affordable energy, getting the railways back into public ownership, fair taxation, action to tackle air pollution and refusing the advance of dangerous industries.”

“Unlike the vast majority of those in politics who claim to represent the residents of the UK, I do not come from a background that has groomed me for the government we know today – and I believe this to be a distinct advantage.”

It will be interesting to see how many other new Green Party candidates come from a frack-free campaigning background and how the issue has given us the impetus and confidence to take our political involvement to this level.  It will be even more interesting to see how many voters choose the Greens in May, especially in areas threatened by the shale gas industry.  David Cameron’s remarks this week about wind energy and fracking nail his fossil-fuel colours firmly to the mast (remember the ‘greenest government ever’?) and throw down a blatant challenge to the clearly stated priorities of the public.  People across the UK are not so daft as Mr Cameron hopes: they recognise the vital necessity of sustainable energy and reject the dangerous and unnecessary speculation that is fracking.  If I were George Osborne, facing Tina in the polls, I’d be asking my old chum to pipe down.