Monday, 28 November 2011

Windfarms in Irleand.

In a recent flyer from the protest group Anglesey against wind turbines they claim:

"Similar developments in Scotland and Ireland have permanently damaged their tourist industry."

I have posted before about the impact of wind farms on tourism in Scotland, see Wind farms and tourism 'compatible'.

But what about Ireland?

Research in 2008 undertaken by Lansdowne Market Research which involved face-to face interviews with 1,300 tourists, both domestic (25%) and overseas (75%) (1,000 in the Republic; 300 in Northern Ireland, for Fáilte Ireland’s Environment Unit says in summary:

Almost three quarters of respondents claim that potentially greater numbers of wind farms would either have no impact on their likelihood to visit or have a strong or fairly strong positive impact on future visits to the island of Ireland.

Of those who feel that a potentially greater number of wind farms would positively impact on their likelihood to visit, the key driver is their support for renewable energy and potential decreased carbon emissions. Those who are negatively disposed are more likely to cite that wind farms look ugly, are noisy and can frighten or damage wildlife. A small number also claim they have preference for other forms of renewable energy.

In terms of the size and composition of wind farms, tourists tended to prefer farms containing fewer turbines. If both produced the same amount of electricity, tourists also preferred wind farms containing a small group of large turbines (55%) to a large group of smaller turbines (18%).

You can download the leaflet from Fáilte Ireland’s Environment Unit.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Travellers have basic human rights too.

It may seem a long time ago, but I still think that the way the travellers at Dale Farm were treated was wrong.

Recently Dale Farm has been back in the headlines with some of the families moving back onto the access roads. See BBC News Jail threat over travellers' return to Dale Farm

One of the arguments against the extension to the existing lawful travellers site was that it was development in open countryside, although how a former industrial site at the location it is, with it seems much industrial units and housing in the vicinity, can be described as open countryside is beyond me. Have a look yourself on Google Maps.

And this is how Basildon Council saw fit to leave the a site in "open countryside" after the evicitions:

Now isn't that a nice view for the existing travellers living in the lawful site to wake up to every morning.

Sadly it seems discrimination against travellers is also a problem in Ireland as highlighted in this excellent programme by Vincent Brown

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday

Home at Last a poem by Tony Church

He's home at last, a mother's son, a fine young man, his duty done,
Yet not for him the fond embrace, a loving kiss, a smiling face
Or cries of joy to laugh and cheer the safe return of one so dear,
It is his lot to show the world a soldiers fate as flags unfurl
And Standards lower in salutation, symbols of a grateful nation.

Sombre now, the drum beats low, as he is carried, gentle, so
As if not to disturb his rest, by comrades, three and three abreast
Who now, as quiet orders sound, they, one by one then move around
To place him in the carriage decked with flowers in calm and hushed respect,
Preparing for the sad, slow ride through silent crowds who wait outside.

So the warrior now returns to native soil and rightly earns
The great respect to one so young, though sadness stills the waiting throng,
While flowers strew the path he takes, as the carriage slowly makes
A final turning to allow the veterans standing there to show
The soldiers pride, a silent, mute, proud and respectful last salute.

Yet, while onlookers stand and see the simple, moving ceremony,
There is a home, a place somewhere, where sits a waiting, vacant chair,
And one great yawning empty space in someone's heart, no last embrace
To bid a final, fond farewell to one who will forever dwell
In love and cherished memory, a Husband, Son, eternally.

And we who see should not forget that in this soldier's final debt
And sacrifice for duty's sake, it is the loved ones who must take
The hurt, to bear as best they can, and face a future lesser than
The one they dreamed in bygone years, now to regard with bitter tears,
Reflecting, as time intervenes, on thoughts of how it might have been.

But in their grief there's quiet pride that loved ones bravely fought and died
Believing in a worthy goal which helps give solace, and consoles
By knowing that the loss they bear is shared by all our peoples where
In gratitude, their names will be forever honoured, guaranteed
To be remembered and enshrined, beyond the shifting sands of time.

From Poems for Remembrance Sunday

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Is a Fedral Europe now the only answer?

This week we shall be remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free, be they in the first world war or second or conflicts since.

With the European Union seemingly close to collapse, I think the following speech given by a famous person from the past is one we should all be reminded of.

"I must congratulate the Assembly upon the high level maintained during this debate. Not only have the speeches been full of thoughts which have their own particular value because they have been contributed from so many angles, but also there have been successful attempts at oratory which have triumphed over the acoustic conditions which, I must tell you, are none too good and which will, I trust, be subject to development, like all the rest of our proceedings.

We are engaged in the process of creating a European unit in the world organization of the United Nations. I hope that we shall become one of several continental units which will form the pillars of the world instrument for maintaining security, and be the best guarantee of maintaining peace. I hope that in due course these continental units will be represented in the world organization collectively, rather than by individual States as in the present system, and that we shall be able to settle a great mass of our problems among ourselves in Europe before they are brought, or instead of them being brought, to the world council for decision.

We are not in any way the rival of the world organization. We are a subordinate but essential element in its ultimate structure. The progress of our first meeting has so far been encouraging. Our relations with the Committee of Ministers show a desire on both sides to reach a working harmony. That should not be difficult if we recognize clearly what our respective functions are.

We are a deliberative Assembly, and we must have full freedom of discussion on all questions except defence. We must assert our right to this freedom and we must have our own Parliamentary officers to assist us in our debates. I trust that the necessary Amendments to the Statute will be made by the Committee of Ministers on this point as the result of our first session here at Strasbourg.

But while I feel that we should insist upon full freedom of debate, and choice of subjects, we do not possess executive power, and at this stage in our development we could not possibly claim it. Our foundation by selection by the Governments of the day from the various parliaments is not such as to give us authority at this stage to take decisions. We claim, however, to make proposals. It is not for us to make decisions which would require executive authority. We may discuss European problems and try to bring about a sense of unity. We must feel our way forward and, by our good sense, build up an increasing strength and reputation.

But we must not attempt on our present electoral basis to change the powers which belong to the duly constituted national parliaments founded directly upon universal suffrage. Such a course would be premature. It would be detrimental to our long-term interests. We should, however, do our utmost to secure that these national parliaments examine and let us know their views upon any recommendation on European problems that we may make. That, I think, we may require of them. Each of us, in our respective parliaments, should take the opportunity to raise points according to the procedure which prevails.

I touch upon some of the points which are upon our agenda. I am not myself committed to a federal or any other particular solution at this stage. We must thoroughly explore all the various possibilities, and a committee, working coolly and without haste, should, in a few months, be able to show the practical steps which would be most helpful to us. I will not prejudge the work of the committee, but I hope they will remember Napoleon's saying: 'A constitution must be short and obscure.'

Until that committee reports. I think we should be well advised to reserve our judgment. I am in accord with what Mr. Morrison has said on this subject. I share his view that we would be wise to see what are the recommendations of our committee which. I hope, will sit permanently and not be broken up by our departure. To take a homely and familiar test, we may just as well see what the girl looks like before we marry her. It is to our advantage to have an opportunity of making a detailed examination of these problems.

Then there is the question of human rights, which is the second subject set down on our agenda. We attach great importance to this, Mr. President, and are glad that the obstacles to discussion by the Assembly have now been removed by the Committee of Ministers. A European Assembly forbidden to discuss human rights would indeed have been a ludicrous proposition to put to the world.

Again. I should like to see the report of the committee on this subject before we put forward our proposals to the Committee of Ministers. There is an urgency about this, because once the foundation of human rights is agreed on the lines of the decisions of the United Nations at Geneva but I trust in much shorter form we hope that a European Court might be set up, before which cases of violation of these rights in our own body of twelve nations might be brought to the judgment of the civilized world. Such a court, of course, would have no sanctions and would depend for the enforcement of its judgments on the individual decisions of the States now banded together in this Council of Europe. But these States would have subscribed beforehand to the process, and I have no doubt that the great body of public opinion in all these countries would press for action in accordance with the freely given decision.

I now come to the question of the empty seats, which was put before us by M. Andre Philip. Ten ancient capitals of Europe are behind the Iron Curtain. A large part of this continent is held in bondage. They have escaped from Nazism only to fall into the other extreme of Communism. It is like making a long and agonizing journey to leave the North Pole only to find out that, as a result, you have woken up in the South Pole. All around are only ice and snow and bitter piercing winds.

We should certainly make some provision for association with representatives of these countries, who are deprived of ordinary democratic freedom but who will surely regain it in the long march of time. This is a matter which should be carefully considered by the Assembly, and I agree with all those, and there are many, who have spoken in favour of setting aside some seats in the Assembly as a symbol of proof of our intention that the Assembly shall some day represent all Europe, or all Europe west of the Curzon Line.

I now come, sir, to the greatest and most important of all the questions that are before us. A united Europe cannot live without the help and strength of Germany. This has always been foreseen by the European Movement to whose exertions our presence here is due. At The Hague, fourteen months ago, where we resolved to press for the formation of this Assembly, a German delegation was present and was welcomed by all, especially by the representatives of France. One of the most practical reasons for pressing forward with the creation of a European Assembly was that it provided an effective means, and possibly the only effective means, of associating a democratic and free Germany with the Western democracies.

It is too early to judge the results of the German election; but so far as we can yet appreciate the results, many of us, apart from party considerations, may have felt encouraged by the evident size and validity of the poll and by the general results. We cannot part at the end of this month on the basis that we do nothing more to bring Germany into our circle until a year has passed. That year is too precious to lose. If lost, it might be lost for ever. It might not be a year, but it might be the year.

On the other hand, I am assured and here I must break the rule which Mr. Harold Macinillan laid down this morning, that the word 'impossible' must never be used again that it is physically impossible for any German Government that may emerge in the next few weeks to be represented here before we separate.

I need scarcely say that I should be very glad if a way could be found. If, however, this cannot be found, then we must draw the attention of the Committee of Ministers to Article 34 of the Statute, which says: 'The Committee of Ministers may convoke an Extraordinary Session of the Consultative Assembly at such time and place as the Committee, with the concurrence of the President of the Assembly, shall decide.' I think we must ask that an assurance shall be given to us before we separate that the Committee of Ministers will convoke an Extraordinary Session of the Consultative Assembly at the earliest suitable date.

If we could be told that we should meet again for an Extraordinary Session under this Article 34 in December or in January. I personally should be content to leave the matter in the hands of the Committee of Ministers, and even to forgo our claim for a debate upon this subject at this juncture. I would ask that we should receive an assurance that an Extraordinary Session will be convened and I appeal to you. Mr. Vice-President, personally to place yourself in communication with M. Spaak and urge him to confer with the Committee of Ministers upon this subject, so that we may have an answer and know what course we should take in the limited number of days and weeks which are at our disposal.

When we meet in the Extraordinary Session, if one is granted in December or January next, it is my hope that we shall find ourselves already joined by a German delegation similar to that of other Member States; but if this cannot be done, then will be the time for us to debate the issue in full freedom.

Mr. Vice-President. I earnestly hope that an agreement on this matter may be reached along these lines, and that we may be informed of it as soon as possible. It would enable us to avoid various serious difficulties at the present moment and would, I think, give the best chance for the future development of the European Assembly, and the best chance of making sure that the peace of Europe will be given every opportunity to consolidate itself. Such an event as the arrival in our midst of a German delegation as a result of our work here this month would certainly crown our first Session with a solid and memorable achievement, and would have a highly beneficial result in the cause of world peace and European security.

I have only ventured to deal with these particularly important practical points, and I have not attempted to speak of the sentimental and moral aspects of our work. I hope that we shall not put our trust in formulae or in machinery. There are plenty of formulae-"slogans" I think Mr. Morrison called them and, in spite of all the misfortunes which have occurred, there is still plenty of machinery in the political field.

It is by the spirit that we shall establish our force, and it is by the growth and gathering of the united sentiment of Europeanism, vocal here and listened to all over the world, that we shall succeed in taking, not executive decisions, but in taking a leading and active part in the revival of the greatest of continents which has fallen into the worst of misery.

As some of you will know that famous person was Winston Churchill, and a speech he made to the Council Of Europe at Strasbourg, August 17, 1949. Source: The Churchill Centre

At the time Winston Churchill was not sure about a federal Europe - he says "I am not myself committed to a federal or any other particular solution at this stage. " Which does not rule out support for a federal Europe in the future had he been convinced of its merits.

I think that that time has arrived and why we need now to begin a true debate about the future of Europe and whether it would be in all of your interests for closer integration and the formation of a federal Europe.

Lastly when reading the speech again, do take note of his strong support for human rights and the establishment of an European Court.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tonight with Vincent Browne

For a refreshing and intelligent political debate can I suggest you forget the BBC and consider instead a nightly program from Ireland that is Tonight with Vincent Browne

From the website:Vincent Browne has been in journalism since 1968.

He was Northern News Editor of The Irish Press group 1970-'72, with Independent Newspapers from 1973 to 1977.

He founded and launched Magill magazine in 1977. Vincent was Editor of The Sunday Tribune from 1983 to 1994.

He is a columnist with The Irish Times and The Sunday Business Post.

He broadcast on RTE radio from 1996 to 2007.

He was editor and publisher of Village magazine and is writing a biography of Charles Haughey.

Vincent is married to Jean Learmond and they have two children, Emma and Julia.

Hat Tip: Golem XIV - Thoughts

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A special Remembrance Day

This year as the 'The Royal British Legion' website says at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011, the nation will pause.

We will fall silent and take two minutes to reflect on the sacrifice of our brave Service men and women from conflicts past and present.

And what 'sacrifice' are we remembering? - for me this was brought to sharp focus today by a report on Excavating tunnels from World War One by Robert Hall for the BBC.

You see sometime back me and my mate did a tour of France, and one place neither wanted to miss was the 'Thiepval Memorial to the Missing', Somme Battlefields, France. (Somme Memorials)

Now pardon my french, but with all honesty that day, when I was standing reading all them names and how young the majority were when they died, silently with tears in my eyes, I went fuckty fuck fuck as I realised the madness of mankind.

Which brings us to another memorial we visited - Lochnagar Crater,"The largest crater ever made by man in anger" (see above BBC report)

As said in Wilkipedia - "The Lochnagar mine was an explosive-packed mine created by the Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, located south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département of France, which was detonated at 7:28 am on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Lochnagar mine, along with a neighbouring mine north of the village known as the Y Sap mine, contained 24 tons of ammonal. At the time these mines were the largest ever detonated.

The explosion was witnessed from the air by 2nd Lieutenant C.A. Lewis of No. 3 Squadron RFC:

The whole earth heaved and flashed, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up in the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet. There it hung, or seemed to hang, for a moment in the air, like the silhouette of some great cypress tree, then fell away in a widening cone of dust and debris.

Some of the British infantry waiting in no man's land were struck by falling debris and one man, having braced himself in a trench, had his leg broken and later required amputation.

The Lochnagar mine lay on the sector assaulted by the Grimsby Chums Pals battalion (10th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment). When the main attack began at 7:30 am, the Grimsby Chums successfully occupied the crater and began to fortify the eastern lip which now dominated the surrounding ground. However elsewhere the attack at La Boisselle went badly and infantry sought shelter in the crater, particular those who had been attacking up Sausage Valley to the south of the village. The prominent crater drew fire, including from British artillery although eventually it was learnt it contained sheltering infantry and the British shell fire ceased."

And that is just one reason I'm wearing my poppy with pride this year.