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Democracy and Public Happiness

WHY WE NEED OUR POLITICIANS.

 

New book on ‘Democracy and Public Happiness’, Launched.

 

 

‘Democracy and Public Happiness’ is the name and theme of a new book by Edmond Grace SJ, launched by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan on Thursday, June 28th, 2007 at 6pm in the Rotunda Hall, City Hall, Dame St., Dublin 2.

Edmond Grace SJ worked in the Dublin inner-city parish of Gardiner St. and was a founder member of the Dublin Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign. His work there brought him into contact with politicians and public servants and his book has its roots in this experience where he began to see the value and power of good public service. Subsequently he set up a network of 20 people, comprised of politicians, senior public servants and voluntary community workers to whom he submitted a series of papers on different aspects of democracy: citizenship and the notion of ‘the people’; the role of the opposition; the elected representative; the public servant; and the global perspective. They discussed and critiqued the papers, which became the core of the book.

 

According to Edmond Grace this process worked so well that it was rolled out around the country in ten local authorities, from Donegal to Waterford, from Kerry to Louth. “We asked a simple question, ‘What makes people mad with public administration in Ireland today?’ Among the top answers were a lack of information, lack of accountability and electronic answering machines!”

 

In the preface to the book the five political party leaders state that, “The elaborate bureaucracy of the modern state has become a barrier between elected leaders and ordinary citizens, yet within the perceived barrier lies the means of restoring popular trust in public life.” The author says that throughout the western world there’s growing cynicism about public life, and political leaders know this. He believes they want do something about it. “This process – both the writing of the book and the workshop – is very much in tune with the concerns of many political leaders and public servants.”

 

 The book is published by the IPA (Institute of Public Administration), and according to the author it is “for everyone in Ireland who wants to ensure their voice is heard, their views respected and their opinions considered by those who govern”. The book demonstrates that there can be no democratic government without political leadership and “only when political leaders are able to command the free attention of ordinary people and convince them that they are seen, heard and respected by those in power, can we speak of government by the people”.

 

Dermot Mc Carthy, Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach will also speak at the launch.

 

For Further Information or to arrange an interview with the author contact:

Ms Pat Coyle,

Jesuit Communications Manager.

01 6768408/ 086 819 0029.

 

Democracy and Public Happiness is published by the Institute of Public Administration.  The book is available in paperback at €20.  Copies available in major bookshops or from the Institute’s Sales Division, Tel: 2403768 and sales@ipa.ie.  It is also available on click pay at www.ipa.ie.

A vacuum in the body politic.

NOW the recession is here, it's time to stop partying. Right? Wrong. Now is exactly the time to start partying. Political partying, I mean.

Now that PD stands for Permanently Decapitated, middle Ireland is politically orphaned. Fianna Fail listens only to academics and civil servants. Fine Gael listens only to medics and farmers. The vast swathes of us working in the private sector in urban Ireland are being ignored.

In one way, this shouldn't be surprising. Decent though they are, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny both inherited their Dail seats from their fathers. And, as rural leaders of largely rural parties, they cannot understand first hand the urban struggle of buying properties in Europe's most expensive urban housing market, paying exorbitant stamp duty, and putting up with crime and traffic congestion. Still tied to the parish pump, where the publican, the doctor and the biggest farmers hold the handle, they are drifting further and further from the new country emerging all around them

Being in government, the damage this has done to FF is most apparent. It's once-proud republican ethos has been imprisoned by vested interests. Instead of tackling a ridiculously archaic and costly system of public sector pay and pensions, it inflicted the cost of fiscal adjustment on the old and young. Instead of making local authorities more cost-effective by consolidation and reform, it forces property owners to pay even more money to them. Instead of economising on billions of euro at research and development in universities -- much of which is needless -- money is saved by raising class sizes in primary schools. There are stamp duty breaks for farmers and commercial developers, but nothing is done to help families trading up. Even worse, those families have their mortgage interest relief cut to bolster a first-time buyer market that already has the upper hand.

An effective opposition wouldn't let it happen. But all civil war parties are the same in the dark. FG's stance on the medical card issue is a disingenuous and self-contradictory insult to the public's intelligence. Its health spokesman, Dr James Reilly, was the man who pushed then Health Minister Michael Martin into agreeing outlandish payments of €640 per person for the over-70s medical card scheme.

Decisions such as this are behind the alarming rise in the tax burden -- from 36 per cent of GNP in 2004, to 45 per cent by the end of 2009. This could put the last nail in Ireland's economic coffin, and any good party of opposition would put make sure its policy proposals all added up to getting this level back down. But FG takes positions on individual policy issues as if there were no such thing as budgetary restraint. A public letter written by another doctor and FG TD, Leo Varadkar, appeared to tell us that Dr Reilly's actions seven years ago were all right because he wasn't the minister for health. In fact Leo goes further and says, "It is a great shame that Dr Reilly was not minister for health and Micheal Martin the president of the IMO."

In the same week, Leo's colleague Michael Ring wrote against publishing details on farm subsidy payments on the grounds that this might result in farmers getting robbed. I share his concern for farmers' welfare. But, as the relentless rise in the tax take as a share of the economy shows, it's the taxpayers who are getting robbed. So much for FG as the champion of transparency and consumer rights.

Neither has FG any high ground on the state of the economy. In a stunningly incompetent move, it took its pre-election forecasts from the Government -- when commentators like myself, the Central Bank, Davy stockbrokers and the Economic and Social Research Institute were warning that they were too optimistic. Instead of opposing Government forecasts or policies with better ones, FG agreed with them! This is why FG has lost every election since November 1982: it didn't have the courage to fight based on reality and conviction.

Although smaller issues, FG's stance on the Groceries Order, pub licence reform and drift net salmon fishing proves that it hasn't got the backbone to stand up to vested interests. Richard Bruton has nobly given the party some credible stance on public sector reform. But FG failed to insist on Bruton being finance minister in the event of the party winning the last election. This was incompetence of the highest order -- Bruton was and remains the trump card in FG's hand -- and shows that the party won't back him on reform if it gets into government. If it's a choice between this and Brian Cowen's blunderbuss, give me the Biffo any day of the week.

Final judgement on whether FF really is the party of the public sector awaits the publication of its plans for public service reform. Even if it is, FG now looks like the party of farmers and medics. Caught in the crossfire between these two civil war armies, middle Ireland is getting shot to pieces.

The real problem is that, more than eight decades after it ended, the civil war still casts a shadow over our politics. In politically sane countries, there is a strong party on the centre-right and a strong party on the centre-left. In most countries, politics is ideological. Although ideologies are imperfect, they do guard against parties being excessively controlled by vested interests. Thanks to a now irrational civil war split between two parties that aren't that different, vested interests have a field day playing one side off against the other, using moral blackmail to fleece the taxpayer.

But now things are changing. Expectations for prosperity have grown. So has the population of a large and questioning young electorate. Tolerance for incompetence is vanishing. FF and FG could give the country strong leadership by forming a government of national unity. If they put their increasingly irrelevant differences behind them, a government strong enough to rule for the people rather than for interest groups could emerge. If they don't, we may witness instead the creation of a Frankenstein: a new party exploiting the recession to express anti-European and anti-immigrant sentiment.

There is a similar, but less gruesome, alternative: John Bruton had little brains, but he had guts and a conscience. Richard Bruton is lacking in guts , but has a conscience and brains to burn. Perhaps both should be placed side-by-side on an operating theatre so we can create the perfect opposition leader. God knows, there are enough doctors in FG to do the job.

Failing that, we'll have to start partying. Find a party that is closest to your own outlook on life, join it and use it to let politicians know how you feel. And if they don't let you, then take inspiration from your elders and betters. Last week, they showed us how it's done. To modify the old saying, "If you can't join 'em, beat 'em."

Marc Coleman is Economics Editor of Newstalk 106 to108FM

Quangos to isolate the State from accountability to the citizen.

Sunday October 07 2007
The Government has set up so many state agencies that it "can't event count them, let alone tell us how much they cost", according to Fine Gael's new Enterprise spokesperson Leo Varadkar.
That was the only conclusion he could come to after many government departments failed to answer a parliamentary question he put down about the number of 'quangos' they have established and funded.
Varadkar claimed this failure was all the more surprising since some Departments like that of the Taoiseach, Justice and Enterprise were easily able to come up with the figures.
The Fine Gael deputy noted that when it came to the rest the only conclusion he could come to was that the ministers in question "do not know the structures of their own Departments if they do not know what bodies actually exist there". He also believed that the sole purpose of many government quangos is to "mollify troublesome interest groups and trade unionists."
He said he was appaled that tax-payers money was being spent "providing the finest of offices and state subsidised jobs which are so unimportant that the Minister didn't even know the person in question existed."
The Fine Gael spokesperson claimed that what we are seeing is the creation of "an edifice that resembles a Stalinist state or the Peoples Republic of Gaddafi" where bodies "whose work is questionable and whose appointments are made in a non transparent way" are used to head off trouble for the Government.
Unsurprisingly, when it came to Departments who didn't have a clue who they employ, Health headed the list. The HSE may have nine national directors and 61 assistant national directors -- but they were utterly unable to come up with a figure.
Martin Cullen in Social and Family Affairs and Noel Dempsey (Transport) were also unable to provide an answer whilst both of the Green Ministers in Environment and Communications and Natural resources were equally clueless about quango's operating and funded by their ministries.
One of the more remarkable responses came from Education, where Mary Hanafin claimed "the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department and it would require an inordinate amount of administrative time to compile."
The FG's new spokesperson on Enterprise and Employment also expressed some surprise at the inability of Eamonn O Cuiv to answer his question.
"Last week, O Cuiv was complaining about how when it came to getting information from the HSE it was an impossible organisation to deal with and he couldn't make head or tail of it." 
However, when it came to his own Department, O Cuiv also claimed it "was not practical within the time available to provide the information sought", while Brian Cowen in Finance was also unable to provide a reply.

three pillars of corruption in Irish society.

Government by propaganda blitz!

By BRUCE ARNOLD
Saturday December 22 2007 (Irish Independent)

Members of the Government are not free to speak, as they have been doing, about the Mahon Tribunal. In the case of some of them, their disparagement and criticism is a gross abuse of their constitutional position and duty.

And, in the case of the Taoiseach, the offence contained in his expressed views about "being stitched up" are aggravated by the fact that he is responsible both for and to the Mahon Tribunal in his official capacity as head of government.

The Constitution is explicit in the collective designation of executive power to the government, binding all its members to act together and to protect the legislative decisions of the Oireachtas. They are not free to engage in independent and possibly divergent criticisms or attacks on what the State has appointed them to protect and enforce.

In this respect, they do not have the freedom of speech of the individual man or woman, or indeed members of the Opposition, who are not constitutionally bound in the same way.

They are not part of any old debate that may come along concerning the ways in which we are governed. Were they free to hack away independently at legislation concerning the way we are taxed, or the rules of the road, they would be rightly condemned for introducing chaos at the top. No state could sustain such an approach for long.

The setting-up of the Mahon Tribunal by the Oireachtas was a legislative act that falls completely within these terms of reference -- and required, even demanded, support and backing from the Government.

This had been the case with all previous tribunals, breached from time to time, but essentially held in place to the betterment of public control of wrongdoing and the introduction of more transparency.

It was always going to be the hardest part of all to detect corruption in a clear and unequivocal way. It was implicit that some of the actions of some of those appearing before these public inquiries appeared to be corrupt. But the proof of corruption -- probably the most difficult to establish before the courts -- has been an elusive .

Government ministers, over a year ago, showed some collective recognition of their constitutional obligation. This was to withhold from comment. It was their first position.

This then shifted to a second position when they stood together over the argument that the Mahon Tribunal would be left to finish its investigations, produce its report, and would be accepted as the final word.

As the going got hotter for Bertie Ahern, this mode of defence changed to a third set of arguments.

The line taken by members of the Government, wrongly entering into a debate about the value of Mahon, was that there was nothing wrong in receiving money.

It was complete nonsense. Everything was wrong with receiving money, starting with the fact that it was against the law. It had also been stoutly condemned by Judge Brian McCracken in respect of Charles Haughey's receipt of money.

This approach -- that there was nothing wrong in receiving money -- was a dangerous line to take; it undermined the whole constitutional obligation those Government members had to a tribunal, the purpose of which was to look into gifts of money to politicians and officials.

This defence was absolutely wrong in constitutional terms for Government members.

Yesterday, Seamus Brennan introduced another diversion that was both wrong for him as a minister and also not in accordance with the facts.

This was to claim that Mahon was concerned solely with the problem of Owen O'Callaghan and Bertie Ahern, and should not have strayed into the territory covered by recent days of interrogation, particularly of Bertie Ahern.

The Mahon Tribunal has a wider remit. It is concerned with politicians receiving money and it is proper that the Taoiseach's bizarre and unbelievable chronology of his own finances should be investigated.

Dermot Ahern made a similar error in the line of attack he adopted against the tribunal.

He said the work of Judge Mahon was confined to "urgent planning matters" and that he had breached this confine.

However, it is not the case and the tribunal has not breached its terms of reference.

Painful as it may be for senior ranks of Fianna Fail, they are precluded, by virtue of their constitutional position if they are members of the Government, from engaging in any line of defence that seeks to undermine what they are legally responsible to protect.

The various lines of defence -- confused, erratic and conflicting -- are indicative of growing panic and alarm at the political level. But this is, and should be, clearly distinguished from the legal and constitutional level at which duly appointed government members operate.

If they mean to change things, they have to do it in very particular ways, holding in special regard the legislative powers of the Oireachtas and their own executive powers in implementing that body's decisions.

Bertie Ahern and his ministers have repeatedly misrepresented the legal position public servants occupy in respect of the receipt of money from private individuals, claiming there is "nothing wrong with it".

Judge Brian McCracken would disagree, as would well over half the population of Ireland. The law also would disagree, though this will need to wait for another day.

Chaos and confusion is being created willfully and wrongly by the most senior and powerful figures in the State. Read it for what it is: collective guilt leading to defective defence.

- BRUCE ARNOLD

5% own 40% of the wealth of the Irish nation.

The damning statistic that the top 5% of the population own 40% of the countries wealth-and that this imbalance will worsen in the coming years puts Ireland in a kind of Argentina status where the wealth owning figures are pretty similiar. There a solid middle class were recently impoverished when fiscal juggling and devaluation wiped them out.
The irish currency is happily protected from all this despite having the worst inflation record in the EEC.
What happens when a huge imbalance in prices occurs within a common currency area.?
Well, for a start, flight of capital.People from Italy and England, and Ireland snap up holiday homes in places like Austria,France & Spain ,where they cant believe they have bought a mansion on its own grounds for the price of a two bedroom apartment near their own capital city.
When I left Ireland some years ago, I sold an old property close to Dublin central, near the peak of the madness, & I bought my new home here in Gran Canaria.
It is (a lovely three bed house in a small development of 15 properties with private pool and overlooking the beach)
I invested the surplus cash in a number of small lettable properties: my “Insurance bonds”,inflation proof; also easy to sell if necessary, and I retained a sufficient sum to live a very good life in the sun. Despite having no pension and none expected-except Mr Ahern´s generosity in the 66th year of my life which is still five years away and many do not live long enough to collect it..I find that my total asset value has grown effortlessly in recent years, despite taking a good living out of the very modest “wealth pie”.
Something similiar has happened to the hugely wealthy buccanering property people attached to the main political parties, Fianna Fail & Fine Gael.
For decades they have accrued extensive property portfolios. Many of them cooked the books,paid little or no taxes, and aided by a tax regime which allowed them to pay 20%capital gains taxes or reinvest their profits in high rise car parks etc. they prospered. They have vast cash reserves, and land banks which they will now happily leave undeveloped, and wait patiently for them to be rezoned in the fullness of time,by their dutiful colleagues in government at which time the profits of their investment will have multiplied a thousand fold.! Until the Irish property market again moves in their direction- they have set off to Britian, France, Poland , The Czech Republic like Viking marauders to plunder the European property market with the fortunes they have bled from the young irish mortgage holders; fortunes amassed under a benigh government which has overseen the reduction of infrastructure, and public services, to those of a third world country; and in parallel created perhaps the wealthiest coterie of landowners and developers on the european continent.
As long as Bertie mantains our tax haven status for american companies, the country will continue to fill with immigrant workers.They will continue to accerbate the shortage of public services, health schools and so forth.
Speculators will continue to get good rents because the present hiatus in the building industry is simply the result of prices reaching unaffordable levels.Remember, the 5% who own 40% of the wealth, own most of the development land.They can sit on it for 3 decades. They are not stuck for a bob.Dont expect the present downturn in the building industry to bring any solace for ordinary working people.If anything more grief.

the nobbling of "An Bord Pleanala" by Greenstar holdings/Fianna Fail

March 2007.

An Bord Pleanála has agreed before the High Court that its decision granting planning permission for a landfill site in Co Kildare must be overturned.

A local residents group which challenged the permission had claimed the manner in which the board had dealt with the planning application had been "peculiar throughout". The board yesterday conceded that its permission, granted on the basis of certain conditions, should be quashed because the board had reached that decision on the basis of inadequate records.

The court heard there was no record of any meeting of the board as to how the planning conditions as finally prepared were approved. The issue of how the matter should now proceed will be decided later.

The Usk and District Residents Group said the conceded shortcomings in the board's decision failed to address other matters relating to how the board had reached its decision, including the group's concerns relating to further information being sought from the landfill developer by the board after an inspector had recommended that permission be refused for the development.

The board had not followed the inspector's recommendation to refuse permission but instead directed that a further information request prepared by the inspector be issued in its entirety, the group said.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday heard submissions from the sides as to how the matter should now be addressed in light of the board's concession that its permission should be quashed. The judge said he would reserve his decision on how the planning application should be dealt with in the future.

The challenge to the board's decision of July 24th, 2006, had been brought by the residents group and related to a proposed landfill at Usk, Kilcullen, being developed by Greenstar Recycling Holdings Ltd for 200,000 tonnes per year of non-hazardous waste for 10 years.

An inspector who conducted a four-day oral hearing into the proposed landfill, submitted a report to the board in July 2005 recommending that permission be refused on four grounds. The board later sought further information from the developer and that was assessed by the inspector who, in a second report, reduced the number of grounds for her refusal to three.

The board decided in July 2006 to grant permission on certain conditions. It said that, in deciding not to accept the inspector's recommendation to refuse permission, it had regard to national policy; a waste licence granted by the Environmental Protection Agency on June 8th, 2004; the previous use of the site as a sand and gravel quarry and the location close to the national road system.

The residents group suggested the second of the inspector's reports was delivered after the board meeting of June 20th and, therefore, it did not have the required information when it made its decision. The board later said the conditions were prepared after the June 20th meeting which, it said, was not unusual because no conditions had initially been prepared by the inspector because she had recommended refusal of permission. It said the conditions were fully discussed at the June 20th meeting.

However, because there was no record of any meeting of the board at which the planning conditions as finally prepared were approved, the board conceded its decision granting permission should be overturned.

John Collins, solicitor for the residents group, said his clients have no faith in the objectivity or impartiality of the board relating to the landfill development appeal. The manner in which the appeal had been dealt with "has been peculiar throughout", he said.

© 2007 The Irish Times

From the Irish Independent:

Planning Board forced by court to overturn decision

…But the commercial dump at Usk, Kilcullen, may still go ahead. Justice Kelly has reserved judgment on the development by Greenstar Recycling Holdings Ltd and will make his decision soon.

Spokesman for the residents group Pat Higgins said the decision left locals "in limbo" but at least they retained some hope that the dump will not go ahead.

Last night, Mr Pat Higgins said locals had been forced to raise almost €60,000 to fight the case against allowing Greenstar to open a new commercial dump at Usk, Kilcullen, in the courts and had lost all faith in An Bord Pleanala.

Ann O'Loughlin and Grainne Cunningham

© Irish Independent

Back to August 2001.No plan No policy.Fianna Fail.!

Fingal County Council is to introduce a quota system on waste contractors disposing commercial waste to Baleally at the beginning of next month. But Dr Kelly said waste contractors, represented by the Irish Waste Management Agency, have no alternative disposal facility.

Businesses producing food waste or waste contaminated with food will be worst hit when the crisis bites in August, Dr Kelly said.

"No other outlets exist for this material. Contractors will have no choice but to leave this waste on the streets when their quota is full.

"Hotels, restaurants and commercial establishments will be the hardest hit. Waste contractors do not want this to happen, but have no choice."

She said the crisis in Dublin was mirrored all over the country, with commercial waste banned or under threat in many areas. Existing landfills are closing and no replacements are being created, she said.

"The situation is very serious, with some companies already experiencing difficulties. Everybody points the finger at somebody else, but nobody seems to have overall responsibility."

She said Ireland's waste infrastructure is fraught with difficulties and involves a number of bodies, including the Department of Environment, local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency.

She called on all bodies to act to avert the crisis and for emergency measures to allow Baleally accept commercial waste until an alternative is put in place. She also called for a review of the Dublin Waste Management Plan and other regional plans.
A spokesman for Dublin Corporation, which is co-ordinating waste strategy for all of Dublin, said the quota system was being put in place because there was a very limited amount of space at Baleally.

"We've had to ration the space to commercial operators to 50% of what they've had in the past." There had been several discussions with waste operators and these were ongoing.

Commercial waste operators had a number of options, including the use of a
private dump near Kilcullen, Co Kildare and a local authority landfill in Kill, also in Kildare. "Fingal County Council is trying to arrange a new landfill, but that's tied up in the courts," he said. A Department of Environment spokesman said waste strategy was a matter for local authorities and said most had drawn up a plan to deal with the problem.

The Great Jackson Way /Carrickmines Corruption Pit not yet unearthed

A group of conservationists who are opposed to the building of the M50 motorway through the archaeological site of Carrickmines Castle in south Dublin,  claimed in 2007 that a State agency warned of the danger of a "any interference with the ancient sites" at Carrickmines Castle in 1983.

The conservationists also questioned why the warning - contained in a report from An Foras Forbartha and heeded by Dublin County Council for 15 years - was subsequently overturned by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in the drafting of the 1998 County Development Plan.

Mr Ruadhan MacEoin said the 1998 decision to move the road has led to one of the State's largest compensation claims which may amount to €118m for 22 acres required from Jackson Way Propertied Limited for the motorway - "and we have legitimate questions about taxpayers' money".

In addition to the 22 acres required for the motorway, Jackson Way Properties also owned about 24 acres of land to the north and 60 acres to the south of the new route. The 1998 County Development Plan also rezoned the northern lands for "industrial and related uses"
while the southern lands remained for the development of agriculture.

Jackson Way Properties subsequently sought between €96 million and €118 million from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in compensation for the loss of its 22 acres to In January of this year, the council won an injunction on the arbitration of the compensation claim pending the conclusion of investigations into Jackson Way Properties by the Flood Planning and Payments Tribunal. The High Court decision was subsequently the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court by Jackson Way Properties. The ownership of Jackson Way has not been revealed.

Yesterday however, Mr MacEoin told The Irish Times that "all this could have been avoided if the council, like Dublin County Council before it, had left the route of the motorway to the south of the interchange, away from the castle ruins."

Now the "Carrickmineders", as they have styled themselves, say they want an explanation of who decided the route of the motorway should be changed and what the reasons for that change were.

The 1983 report from An Foras Forbartha - the National Institute for Physical Planning and Construction Research - identified the fortifications to the north of the existing farmhouse which form the northwestern part of the castle complex. It detailed the extent of these earthworks, including the fosses fed by artificial watercourse, the site of a bawn, and the avenue and gatehouse.

It recommended that: "If the road was placed on the south side of the farm it would avoid any interference with the ancient sites." The recommendation was apparently heeded and the route was drawn at a remove to the castle. The 1993 Dublin County Council County Development Plan also respected the recommendation with Map 26 showing the route again away to the south of the castle site.

By Tim O'Brien, Regional Development Correspondent
Irish Times
the motorway.


onward march the "Soldiers of destruction".

Statement by Michael Canney, plaintiff,
29th. August 2007, 13:00.

Save Tara/M3 Legal Case

It has never been my ambition to put my name forward in a legal challenge, especially a challenge against such a seemingly impregnable array of powerful political and economic forces. I have done so only as a last resort, and only because it is absolutely essential that the silent majority who oppose this road are given a final chance to have their concerns heard before the courts. While the political and commercial backers of this enterprise have seen fit to ignore public opinion up to now - they cannot so easily dismiss the judiciary.

The debate which has raged unevenly between heritage and economics since the Wood Quay protests of the eighties have finally reached its' nadir at Tara, a low-point that even the most pessimistic among us could not have anticipated. The Tara landscape - the cradle of our civilization, an icon of our nationhood, the mythical heart of our country is to be defaced in the name of private profit and political expediency.

The damage already wrought on the landscape cannot be undone; and the destruction of individual sites over the last six months are individual and collective acts of vandalism. However, the integrity of the landscape as a whole, its stillness and physical beauty are still to be preserved and so this struggle will be conducted by any means and through any mechanism available to the Save Tara Campaign.

No matter how much damage has been done up to this point the road remains totally unacceptable along its present alignment. Over the last few months people say to us "but they are going to build it anyway", or "sure isn't the damage already done". In reply we argue that this road, like Tara itself is a signifier - a signifier of values and attitudes - this debate embodies not only the value we place on our heritage and history, but also signifies how we might deal with the challenges of an energy-poor future and the massive sociological changes that are necessary in order to meet these challenges.

The placing of economic and sectoral interests, above those of the wider environment and society, is one of the main reasons we find ourselves in the environmental mess we are in. Unregulated and profit-driven property development, both residential and commercial, is the primary cause of the transport crises facing the people of Meath. A shocking fact, little reported in the acres of coverage of this issue is that the route of this road was chosen to increase traffic volumes, and therefore tolling profits. This road is engineered to increase car-dependency. Could our transport planners possibly get any more cynical and profit-driven?

Our friends and neighbours in the European Union have voiced grave concerns about this motorway. To deal with one specific concern - the Commission have questioned how the Lismullin National Monument, a massive structure over 80 meters in diameter could have been missed during surveying. The EU maintains that, having missed the structure initially, it's subsequent discovery should automatically lead to a new Environmental Impact Assessment. There would seem to be a prima facia case that the EIA process is inadequate at best. A less benign interpretation is also possible; our summons maintains that in only carrying out a EIA on one route - the so-called "preferred route" through the Valley, the EIA process is actually subsumed to a function of the route selection process, as opposed to an objective basis upon which to decide upon one route as opposed to another.

It is in the public interest that the procedural and legal shortcomings of the M3 debacle be further examined in the courts. It is in the public interest, not only because of the importance of the Tara landscape in and of itself, but also because this private motorway is iconographic of future planning, transport and environmental policy in this country. Who can look at the Dublin Civic offices now and not regret the lost opportunity of a public park; sweeping up from the river Liffey to the Christchurch Cathedral, a potential resource of immeasurable cultural, educational and aesthetic value? At a time of unprecedented prosperity, who can say that the M3 will be anything but a source of bewilderment and regret to future generations?

The preservation of the Tara landscape can our moment of reflection and renewal, a moment when we realised that our environment is a finite resource and also an opportunity to take strength from a proud and ancient past to meet the challenges ahead.

ENDS

Michael Canney.