My letter in today’s Impartial Reporter:
(not sure what happened to the final ‘y’, but I don’t mind belonging to the Green Part.)
Here’s a pro-Remain piece by me published in yesterday’s Impartial Reporter and paired with a pro-Leave one by Socialist MEP Joe Higgins. For the sake of your eyesight, here is my text:
Not another article about Brexit! The trouble with the so-called debate so far is that, on both sides, it’s so distant from our real lives. Disputed calculations about how much ‘the UK’ pays into the EU, and how much it gets back, bad-tempered squabbles about so-called ‘sovereignty’ and pathetic contests about who is ‘stronger’. No wonder we are fed up.
That’s a shame, because whether or not we stay in Europe will make crucial differences to our lives, in ways that hardly anyone is talking about.
Our health. The environment isn’t just something distant, to do with polar bears and rainforests, it’s the place where we live: the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, wash with and bathe in, and the soil where our food is grown and nurtured. If those are not kept clean and safe, then we and our families will suffer. Almost all of the laws that protect our air, our water and our land have come to us through our European membership. If we left Europe, this Conservative government could immediately repeal those laws, allowing its friends in dangerous industries like fracking to grab our resources freely, ruining both our countryside and our health.
Our local economy. It’s not just our landscape and our health that would be left in tatters by unregulated exploitation, it would be our local businesses as well. Fermanagh’s key economic sectors, tourism and agriculture, depend on a clean and safe environment, on European financial support and on the rights of people to travel and trade across our border. We have worked hard to build those businesses, those relationships, those quality goods and services. Let’s not let them be taken away from us.
Our rights. The laws that protect our health and our environment are underpinned by basic principles: that those who pollute should pay the costs, that development should be sustainable for our children’s future and that it is up to those who benefit from experiments like fracking to show that they are safe. Those principles, along with our rights to freedom of information, our rights as consumers, as workers, as women or as LGBT people, are all under threat if we throw away our European protections. And our children‘s choices to study or work in Paris, Berlin or Rome, with all the wide horizons they offer, could be lost for good.
Of course, things are not perfect. We are working with our Green Party colleagues across Europe to make the EU work better for us, to put our rights and needs as people above those of financial speculators and multinational corporations. That is why the European Greens are campaigning so strongly against the proposed TTIP treaty between the EU and the USA. But if we were to leave, David Cameron would swiftly lock us into the very worst version of this.
So far, especially in Northern Ireland, we haven’t really experienced many of the ways in which Europe can help and protect us. Enforcement of environmental laws here has been a scandalous farce, for which successive Executives must take the blame. But we have the rights, and we have the tools to enforce those rights. Rather than giving them away, I think it’s time to use them.
That’s why I hope that this referendum, instead of just a dreary debate, will be a wake-up call to us. I hope it can remind us of how we, as citizens, families and communities, can use the tools of Europe to defend our health, our businesses, our wildlife and our landscape. And I hope that it will inspire us to play our part in making Europe what we want it to be: a peaceful, fair, diverse and thriving place, a safe and clean home for our children, our grandchildren, and those whom they will love for many years to come.
Another letter, this time in the Impartial Reporter, referring to the interview last week with the TUV’s Donald Crawford. Mine is between two letters supporting him, though one of the two is from the TUV Press Officer.
We did a little leafleting in Dungannon yesterday, and were really struck with the change since this time last year. Now people know what the Green Party is, many even know who I am, and they’re looking forward to our doing really well in this election. One especially gratifying experience was talking to people from other parts of Northern Ireland, outside this constituency, and being able to assure them that they would be able to vote Green too.
Meanwhile there’s more on the Fermanagh & Omagh council transparency story in the Impartial Reporter …
… including a long quotation from me.
Today I’m off to Belfast for a conference of the Integrated Education Fund. It includes a hustings, but sadly the Green Party hasn’t been invited, so I will have to do my best with questions from the floor. The chair will be Alex Kane, in an interesting reversal from the last time. I wonder whether he will remember me?
Today’s Impartial Reporter also carried my thoughts (slightly truncated) about the call centre jobs, as the only mildly dissenting voice from the chorus of political delight. Here’s the link to the online version.
Here’s a picture, from this week’s Impartial Reporter, taken at our recent FCF Conference at the Manor House Hotel, and below is its text coverage. It’s great to have a local press which supports this kind of cross-community peacemaking initiative.
Talking of the Impartial, Rodney’s book launch last night was a great success, with a smattering of the of the great and the good, and plenty of us ordinary mortals as well. Here are my feet, relishing the red carpet ….
… and Rodney performing one of his dialogues with the irrepressible Fr. Brian D’Arcy. Meanwhile the video was shown in wide-screen format, not the most flattering, but none of us minded.
I was especially pleased to see a large donation bucket for the wonderful Aisling Centre prominently displayed on the bookstall. The Aisling Centre is a non-profit organisation which provides professional counselling and psychotherapy, promoting hope, healing and growth. Many of us in Fermanagh have personal reasons to be enormously grateful to the centre and its staff, and Rodney couldn’t have chosen a better cause to share in his special night.
This morning’s Impartial Reporter – quick off the mark (thanks, Rodney)
Well, the Big Move is over, we’re established in Enniskillen for good, and I’m ready to get back to this blog. I had no idea what my first post in the new series would be about, but when I read this story in the Impartial Reporter, I knew what it would have to be. I spent quite a bit of time with Michelle at the hustings for the Westminster elections, and she was unfailingly courteous and warm. Her speech at the count was dignified and gracious, and I have great respect for her. The burning of her effigy on a bonfire at Moygashel, with its accompanying chilling placard, shocked and appalled me. There is much in Sinn Fein’s organisation that I oppose, and many unanswered questions about past crimes carried out during the Troubles. But none of that makes this kind of behaviour acceptable. I was disappointed that Tom Elliott could not appreciate that this is not a time for the old ‘whataboutery’, but for simple decent human compassion. I would like to express my sympathy to Michelle and to her family, for whom this must be deeply painful, and hope that, working together, we can put this kind of vitriol, by any segment of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone community, firmly behind us.