Saturday, 17 May 2014

FROM THE MEP ELECTION CAMPAIGN TRAIL



From the campaign trail, a number of major issues that have come up repeatedly. This is my position on them. I want to make clear; everyone working with me on this campaign doesn't agree with me 100% on everything I say and do. We have our differences of opinion on policies and on approach; mine is to be blunt and as honest as I can in answering every question put to me. I'm told it doesn't get people elected. Fine. I'd prefer NOT to be elected than to be elected and have people accuse me afterwards of having misled them.


WIND TURBINES AND OVERHEAD POWER LINES
Not another inch of overhead power lines, nor indeed even one other major commercial wind-turbine forest, nor any more ‘planting’. They are a blight on the landscape, an eyesore. 

When the power-lines are being costed, and as with so much else in this country over the decades, it’s always done on the most short-sighted basis – money. Not included in that costing is the long-term effect on tourism but just as important – perhaps even more important – the long-term effect on those who live in the area. I'm not talking just about the health effect, and there are arguments to and fro over that; I'm talking about the spiritual effect. Those of us of a certain age were brought up enjoying one kind of countryside, those growing up with these monstrosities on their horizon are growing up gazing on quite another. What price the difference?

Then there are the wind-turbine forests. We have enough of them. We do need to meet our 2020 renewable energy targets – indeed we should be looking to far exceed them, and not because the EU have said so but because it’s the right thing to do. But there are other ways, less intrusive ways, more reliable ways, all developing in a fast-changing world.

We need also to look at saving energy, in the transport area and in the heating area. Passive homes, retrofitting on a major scale – this is all long-term thinking, should be done now.

ABORTION
The ugliest word in the dictionary, leads to the ugliest arguments, the most vile and vitriolic of exchanges. In the recent debate leading to changed legislation following the X-case I stayed out of that debate. I had and have my opinions but they were nobody’s business but my own. I accept however that is no longer the case, that many people have a genuine concern about how I might vote should the subject arise in an EU context. Herewith then, my thinking, and undoubtedly a host of lost votes!

The only occasion on which I can foresee abortion arising in the EU is as an equal rights/civil right issue. I would vigorously oppose any such imposition on Ireland. 

We have been too slow as a nation to introduce and implement equal rights and civil rights legislation over the decades in this country and in that respect our membership of the EEC/EU has been a benefit – they haven’t so much shown us the way as dragged us kicking and screaming into becoming a truly equal society. However, I believe there are already far too many areas in which the EU is now dictating policy that properly belongs to a sovereign government, far too many diktats coming down from on high on issues minor and major. 

Abortion is an area in which we should remain sovereign; this is an issue for Ireland to decide, on its own.

I have further been asked if I would work to reverse that recent legislation on the above-mentioned X-case. This could happen only if I stood for the Dáil – that won’t happen, now or ever. I'm giving politics this one shot; win or lose, that’s it.

Again, however, I can see why people would want to know where I stand on this, even if there IS nothing I can do about that legislation in an official capacity (if elected as an MEP) one way or the other. 

Over the years I've argued many an issue with my family – my mother, my four sisters, my wife, my daughter, my father, my four brothers, my son, all strong-minded strong-willed independent people – and with my many friends. Abortion has figured occasionally in those discussions. We’ve agreed on various topics, we’ve disagreed, but we’ve always got on, respected each other’s thinking and each other’s decisions. 

To sum up my thoughts on such a complex issue is difficult but has to be done.

There are lots of things I don’t know for certain, which is why dogmatism has never appealed to me. I don’t know if there is a concerned God who watches over everything we do, I don’t know if there’s not; I had all religion battered out of me by the Christian Brothers by the age of 14 (they weren’t too keen on the kind of questions I was asking, not in the 60s) so content myself now with my own spiritualism, my own wonder at and appreciation of the world around us.

I don’t know when life begins. I do know I don’t like to see it deliberately ended. There is life in a foetus, helpless life that needs nourishing and protection. Everything possible should be done to bring that life to the birth stage. 

I believe in the equal right to life of the mother and child. If there is a threat to the life of the mother there should be timely medical intervention to save her life. Every effort should also be made to save the life of the child; if this fails, it fails. Life hurls such tragedies at us and in this family, we haven’t been immune.

I can see why many people believe that such a threat to a mother’s life should include suicide. I don’t agree. I believe this then makes the life of the unborn foetus subservient to the life of the mother. 

Even for the most stable, mentally strong woman, abortion is surely a highly emotive decision. A suicidal prospective mother is already suffering serious emotional stress. An abortion will add to that stress.

In the situation where a suicide threat is deemed real (and I can’t imagine a situation where a professional is going to put her/his entire career on the line by saying ‘Ah, I don’t believe you’), the unborn foetus is aborted, its life ended. But how do we know the threat was real?

On the other hand, if the suicide clause is removed there will certainly be cases where a suicidal prospective mother will take her own life, in which case – even allowing for the fact that very often no-one really knows what triggers such a drastic decision – those of us who would push to have that clause removed stand accused of helping to cause this death.

It’s a lose/lose scenario, a most divisive argument and for very obvious reasons. But there it is. I know that in a situation where I'm going to need every vote I can get this will cost me but given that I'm coming out of nowhere I believe it’s only right people should know who I am.

GAY MARRIAGE
Another thorny issue and another divisive argument, one in which again I'm going to lose votes, maybe even votes I might have gained in the above argument. Again though this has to be said, brought into the open.

I don’t believe in levels of equal rights – either we’re all equal or we’re not. I believe we are. Not all the same, which is why there are different sexual orientations, but all equal. This includes the right to marriage and the right to adopt  for all.

I strongly believe that alongside this legislation, the rights of the father should be made equal to the rights of the mother in the case of their own children.

So there we are. If those are your do-or-die issues for your favoured MEP candidate I'm probably dead in the water and either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael will take a second seat in the Ireland South constituency, or Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour will take one each. If you take a wider view and prioritise the issues on my manifesto, the issues I see as critical to a new and better Europe and a new and better world, I have a chance. 

But I won’t hide, and I won’t pretend. It was never my way, never will be. If I'm going to be elected, it will be on an honest platform.

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