Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan opening environment section and addressing motions 98 and 112
I would like welcome delegates and open the first section of the day -
environment. This section covers a wide range of issues from the reiteration
of our opposition to incineration to the promotion of strategies to tackle
climate change, from the reopening of the full western rail corridor to the
protection of our national heritage.
Sinn Féin has long been active on environmental issues from playing a key role in the battle to prevent to imposition of incinerators on local communities in Carronstown, Co. Meath, Ringsend in Dublin and Ringaskiddy in Cork to campaigning for the closure of Sellafield. Sinn Féin activists have also been involved in campaigning to save our heritage including the campaign to prevent the M3 motorway going through Tara. Sinn Féin has been to the fore in the campaign against services charges and for a waste management policy based on reduction, reuse and recycle. At last year's Ard Fheis delegates endorsed a comprehensive waste management policy document which should be utilized by activists and elected reps to put forward Sinn Fein's alternative in whatever forum they are active in.
In recent days the Dublin Government published a Strategic Infrastructure Bill designed to prevent communities and individuals from gaining a proper hearing at the planning stage of major projects including incinerators, landfills, thermal power stations and installations for the onshore extraction of oil and gas. This is clearly a response to the communities across the state who have courageously fought to protect their health and safety - the people of Carranstown, Ringaskiddy, Rinsgend and Rossport. Those who have been campaigning against individual projects across the state need to unite in opposition to this anti-democratic legislation.
Environmental issues are particularly conducive to working on all-Ireland basis. The battle to close Sellafield is as relevant to the people of County Down as to those in my own constituency of Louth. We will continue to pursue both governments in relation to their commitment under the Common chapter on environmental issues - particularly the commitment to the identification of strategies and activities which would contribute to a coherent all Ireland approach to the achievement of sustainable development. Cooperation on environmental issues needs to be considerably increased. We will be demanding that such increased cooperation be reflected in the forthcoming new development plans.
Amendment to motion 98
I want to move the amendment to motion 98 on behalf of the Ard Comhairle. This amendment is a reassertion of the position adopted at last years Ard Fheis.
This restatement of the policy adopted last year sets out the new context in which the campaign against the bin charges must be fought. It makes clear that local councillors no longer have the power to abolish bin charges, that these charges are imposed by central government in conjunction with city and county managers. It reiterates our determination to oppose bin charges and take that campaign to those who have the power to remove the charges.
Let there be no misunderstanding - this amendment does not advocate that SF councillors should vote in favour of estimates.
It seeks to adapt our campaign to the changed circumstances, which have arisen since powers were removed from elected members of local authorities. It seeks to re-direct our opposition to services charges at those who have the power to abolish them i.e. central government.
Adoption of motion 98 as it stands would actually dis-empower our councillors. Do we want to throw away the ability of our councillors to achieve actual gains for the communities they represent? If by voting against estimates meant we could prevent the introduction of bin charges, then I would support motion 98. But this is not the case. If Sinn Féin had a majority on every council in the state we still could not abolish bin charges. The amendment from the Ard Comhairle seeks to put an end to the myth that by voting against estimates we have the ability to abolish bin charges.
Last year's Ard Fheis accepted, when it supported the position being reiterated by this amendment from the AC, that it would be a tactical mistake to tie the hands of all our councillors in relation to decisions on whether to vote for or against estimates. This decision must be made on a case by case basis in conjunction with the party leadership. We cannot allow all decisions to be taken based on the false premise that by voting against estimates we can bring about the abolition of bin charges. I strongly urge delegates to stand by the sensible position adopted at last year's Ard Fheis and support the amendment from the Ard Comhairle.
I would like to briefly speak in favour of motion 112 on climate change.
Climate change and global warming is now a reality that affects the lives of a large proportion of the world's population. The Dublin and London Government are failing to take effective action to address the causes of climate change. Sinn Féin is calling for long term targets to cut emissions and for the achievements of these targets through a multifaceted approach which including the possibility of carbon taxes, investment in renewable resources, supporting public transport over private transport, the introduction of progressive building regulation to ensure the highest possible standard of energy efficiency of buildings and by promoting and incentivising the development and use of energy saving technologies.
Climate change policy should not be about doing as little as possible to comply with Kyoto. Ireland should be showing leadership in global terms. Government policy must be driven by a commitment to actually deliver significant decreases in emissions output. Kyoto is merely a minimum requirement.