Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Government needs to get back in touchJune 29, 2012 - 12:03pm
TWO events over the past week served to perfectly illustrate the disconnect between the centre of power and the people – one was the bizarre redrawing of Dáil constituencies and the other was the confrontation between turf cutters and the authorities over the EU’s habitats directive.
Polar opposites they may be, but what they shared was the fact that those who make the rules – or change them – don’t live in the same world as the rest of us.
Take the redrawing of the constituencies – and let’s stick to the impact locally. How in God’s name did it make sense to include a section of South Mayo in Galway West? This was in essence an exercise carried out by accountants or number crunchers with a glorified abacus, as opposed to people who actually know the reality on the ground.
Constituencies which transcend county boundaries have rarely worked; pity poor Leitrim which was halved and then stuck as an afterthought onto Roscommon and Sligo, when the county should have been ensured some form of representation all of its own at the national table.
Votes rarely cross county bounds; Roscommon/Westmeath was a four-seater but in effect it was two two-seaters because votes didn’t come across the Shannon. And yet these bureaucrats insist on redrawing the map just so the numbers balance from their perspective. If you wanted to cut the number of TDs, you could have looked at simply dropping one from every constituency – that would be more equitable, it would have greater impact and it would leave the current boundaries untouched.
But that’s too simplistic and wouldn’t involve a roomful of actuaries sitting for an inordinate amount of time, playing God with the logical divisions that we call county boundaries.
That disjoint is also responsible for the awful scenes on Clonmoylan bog over the last week, where ordinary people – law-abiding citizens – find themselves subjected to the full rigours of the law for continuing to do something that their fathers and forefathers did before them.
It would be easy to blame the current Government for this – and indeed the pathetic interventions of the likes of Jimmy Deenihan and Alan Shatter only underline their own ignorance of the real issue – but the reality is that we started down this path under their predecessors. It’s just that nobody seems at any stage to have shouted stop.
Equally our MEPs did little or nothing to stop this in its tracks when the EU passed this habitats directive that now means we will be fined €25,000 a day if we don’t stop cutting on these ‘protected’ bogs.
What these two debacles also share is the fact that there was no consultation with the ordinary people of Ireland – they are decisions made in ivory towers which we dare not challenge because you’d be hard-pressed to find a more subservient race on the face of the earth. But the mouse has roared in Clonmoylan and the powers that be don’t like it.
They don’t understand how cutting turf is a family tradition, a gift passed through the generations; how it’s about more than making fuel for the fire; how it’s about rural Ireland, about our ways and our culture and our right to self-governance.
There had to be one grain of sand before we had a beach – and perhaps the good farmers of south and east Galway have taken the first step on the road to regaining control of our own destiny.
We get over the boundary changes by ignoring them – or maybe in John O’Mahony ‘s case moves into Galway West, hoping those who remember days of All-Ireland glory will give him a vote – but the ban on turf cutting is a different matter.
We elect our politicians to represent the people in our national parliament and – on this issue at least – they have singularly failed. The only Dáil representative to show solidarity with the turf cutters was Luke Ming Flanagan, who might be representing some of the bog owners in the next election – but he wasn’t when he stood there on a wet night last week.
The Government must represent the will of the people, not do the bidding of our European paymasters – and if it takes an uprising on a small Galway bog to return them to their original purpose, then more than turf cutters will have a reason to be grateful to the Clonmoylan protesters.