Tag Archives: Dan Boyle


From top: Michael Lowry with former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and former Taniaste and Fine Gael Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald at the Passing Out Parade in Templemore Garda College, Tipperary in 2016l Dan Boyle

Corporal punishment was made illegal in Irish schools two years after I had completed my Leaving Certificate. Throughout my tenure in the Irish school system, along with tens of thousands of others, I ran the risk of being hit with some class of implement that would instantly be turned into a verb – a cane, a belt, or a leather. All in the name of the Irish educational system.

One particular teacher of mine (thought outside of the school as being quite an urbane man) would offer students their choice of punishment. They could either have a ‘Clocker’ or a ‘Lowry’, dependent on which side of his hand he would use. If I remember rightly the Lowry was the backhander.

This unwelcome memory popped into my head when I was recently driving through Tipperary. Flicking around on the radio I heard a local TD being interviewed on the TIPP FM morning show.

The political existence of Michael Lowry is a proverbial slap in the face of any urbane, Irish liberal. On this programme the interviewer was polite and deferential. Lowry gave the impression of being composed, almost statesman like.

On the surface at least it could be understood why a sufficient number of Tipperary voters want him to continue to be their Dáil representative.

He was arguing for a business as usual approach for a Bord na Mona bog in Littleton in the heart of his constituency. His tone of voice conveyed plausibility, even if the content of what he was saying was utter nonsense. When he mentioned ‘eco-tourism’ as part of the bog’s future, I just burst out laughing.

It is now almost a quarter of century since he had to resign as a government minister. Since then he has been pursued and prosecuted by several agencies of the State, all the while remaining as a member of our national parliament. This is both a tribute to his own resilience, but also an utter condemnation of the tortuous nature of our judicial process.

I believe we have long gone past a time when we need to create laws that restrict the right to be a political candidate, when certain conditions and circumstances exist.

I would go further and allow the public the right to convene recall elections, with the Houses of the Oireachtas also being able to permanently expel members after an appropriate but significant vote.

If such powers existed in the past people like Liam Lawlor and Ivan Callelly would not have been able to hang on.

It should be sufficient for the moving of a court action by the Director of Public Prosecution (an independent nonpartisan law officer) on the potential breach of law, to require any legislator to vacate their office.

There are others in the current Oireachtas whose application of tax and social insurance payments, would also be in the frame of having such legislation applied to them.

Of course this legislation could be abused by future governments, targeting individuals in order to strengthen their position. I would be confident that sufficient safeguards could be built into the process.

We might even call such a law ‘The Lowry Law’. It would allow me to remember the name positively, and for something other than the back of my less than urbane teacher’s hand.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.


From top: Nigel Farage arrives at Trinity College, Dublin ahead of last weekend’s Irexit conference; Dan Boyle

If ever a picture spoke a thousand words it was that photo of crombie wearing Nigel Farage, with his Wolf from the Three Little Pigs swagger, on his way to the recent Irexit meeting.

The demographics of those who attended there were as telling. Overwhelmingly male in its composition, the men in question seemed made up of a weird coalition of an embittered older cohort, nestling with an angry and disappointed group of younger men.

The unifying theme was a common desire to shake collective fists at a society that had let them down. A society, that all too slowly, has been leaving behind its domination by a male, monochrome, homogenous group, the residue of whom now see themselves as society’s new victims.

The liberal in me thinks we should listen more to these tormented souls; seek to understand the landscape they inhabit. The social realist in me feels that the more time we give to placate the hate filled and the small minded, the more they are likely to believe that their views have validity.

The illiberal me is winning this internal argument. I have spent most of my adult life wishing such people, and their distorted views, away. They have lingered, and have re-established themselves, through misappropriating the language of freedom and tolerance. They seek freedom for others to be less free than them. They seek tolerance to be intolerant of others.

They seek to explain way their inadequacies through the blaming of others. Those of different skin tones; of different cultural backgrounds; of different religious or political beliefs; of different gender.

They fear difference wishing only to celebrate sameness. Only the tools of their celebration are hate and anger.

They find a solace with being among their own kind. Being in a collective emboldens their belief they are among ‘right thinking’ people. They are transferred, instantly, into a rotisserie of racists, a harem of homophobes, a melange of misogynists. At their most dangerous they become a falange of fascists.

As with most bigots what they often most hate about others, is especially what they hate about themselves – a perverse form of self loathing.

I no longer have the patience to be nice to those who believe niceness to be a weakness. I don’t want to hold any truck with anyone who seeks to divide and compartmentalise.

I live in a community within a city, part of a region, part of a nation, part of a wider World. A planet. All of which is, and should be shared.

Ignorance needs to be challenged, confronted and faced down. We should never condone its existence or that of hate. We should never give succour to any discredited version of a mythical past, or plans for a hateful future.

With all due respect to the late Spike Milligan, this Goon Show has run for too long. If the Goons participating in this version insist on following the likes of Nigel Farage, then he and they should prepare for some walking backwards (for Christmas) across the Irish Sea.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: Reuters

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

From top: Pro-choice protesters challenge a Pro Life demonstration on O’Connell Street in 2016; Dan Boyle

The starter’s pistol is at the ready. We are close to another bout of our real national sport of moral breast beating.

The 2018 event may yet be seen as definitive, although we have been here before particularly during the two Divorce referenda of 1986 and 1995.

Those campaigns began fuelled by a liberal giddiness, informed by favourable opinion polls, that proved themselves totally divorced from the reality of the eventual results.

We live in a changed Ireland than that which existed in 1983. That was the time of my first vote in a constitutional referendum. I had already voted in three general elections. I was only 21 years old.

It was a dubious privilege to have voted in that first referendum. Almost 35 years later, where after changing demographics more than half of our existing electorate did not participate in that vote, the time has long since passed to revisit the question.

It reminds me of that couplet from Eric Bogle’s ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda‘, about the First World War, though applicable to any conflict situation.

“The young people ask what are they marching for?

And I ask myself the same question”

Along with most my friends I voted No in 1983. I couldn’t, and still can’t, grasp the concept of the equal value of life of a mother with developing life within her womb. It seemed to me, and to us, unbearably cruel that a woman who had been raped would be expected to carry a resultant pregnancy to full term.

Since then I’ve grown to despise the Eighth Amendment and what it represents.

It has been a piece of constitutional virtue signalling that has caused the State to turn its back on thousands upon thousands of Irish women, forced to flee to a neighbouring jurisdiction to deal with their crisis pregnancies. These women were often on their own and all lacked any type of appropriate support.

The lines are being drawn now for what must be a definitive battle in this war. As with previous battles the chief weapon will be fear.

For those on the Pro-Life/Anti-Choice side of the aisle, the fears seem to be of an extraneous bent, based on projecting a dystopian future of eugenics and euthanasia which beckons.

Those on the Pro-Choice/Anti-Life(?) side of the argument have not, either, been beyond pulling emotional heart strings.

The anniversaries of the Kerry Babies saga, as well as the horrendous death of Ann Lovett in Granard, have somewhat cynically been used to hammer home the choice angle.

That said the fear of what has definitely happened in the past will always supersede the fear of what might, but probably won’t occur in the future.

The role of a Referendum Commission will be vital in this campaign. To control emotional overspill, that risks the peeling of truth, a firm Commission needs to define the narrow confines in which the debate is being held.

It needs to be especially vigorous in ensuring that the arguments being made are truthful and are medically and scientifically based.

It would be nice to believe that the arguments about to be made, will be made in a calm and informed atmosphere. I wouldn’t be holding my breath though.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

From top: Dan Boyle and Micheál Martin, Christ the King Parish Hall, Turners Cross, Cork, 1986; Dan Boyle

Our family homes are little more than 100 metres from each other. The two year age difference between us might as well be a generation gap. We didn’t hang out and had different groups of friends. But we did similar things – played soccer in the cramped square in O’Connell Crescent; took part in Nemo Rangers street leagues.

We did serve simultaneously as altar boys at the iconic Christ the King Church in Turners Cross. For both of us, I suspect, it was less of a spiritual journey and more for the want of something to do.

My Dad was chair of the local ‘Joe Murphy’ cumann of Fianna Fáil. He nominated and supported Micheál, in his successful attempt to be elected, to what was then Cork Corporation. It was a political debt Micheáll has always been prepared to acknowledge.

While he became a city father I engaged in community activism. As a local councillor he told me I was brave to be challenging both church and state when suggesting that each had a role in providing facilities for the area.

After an unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Dáil Éireann in 1987, he eventually succeeded in 1989. Once elected he did what he had to do to get noticed, such as his befriending of the Haughey children.

I was elected, as a lone Green, to Cork Corporation in 1991. Within five months l found myself as a swing vote necessary to pass a budget and keep the council in existence. Michéal negotiated on behalf of Fianna Fáil.

He allowed himself a wry smile when the Fine Gael Lord Mayor of the time, Dino Cregan, sought to smoke me out by stating “We’ll have no Gregory deals deals here,”.

Micheáll ascended into cabinet in 1997. I thought the procession through Turners Cross, that evening, a bit redolent of another Ireland, but I did not begrudge him his success.

In Government he acquired a reputation for avoiding decisions. The principle seeming to be that firm decisions risk alienating those who disagree. His response, invariably, was to commission a report or to establish a committee.

History will be the judge of whether his ban on smoking in public places will outshine his setting up of the Health Service Executive.

In 2002 I succeeded, after several attempts, in being elected to Dáil Éireann. In sharing the constituency the unspoken convention was to co-operate rather challenge, even with Micheál being a Minister and my being an opposition TD.

In 2007 I found myself negotiating a programme for government with Fianna Fáil. Micheál would have rung me a number of times then. I’m still unsure whether the calls were for his personal benefit, or if he was meant to be something of back channel.

The arrival of the Trioka brought that government to an end. Micheál timed his exit well, just as Brian Cowen was seeking to pack the cabinet with cronies. The following morning’s Irish Times ran a picture of me talking to Micheál, just inside the gates of Leinster House, my arms outstretched in a WTF pose.

Micheál went on to lead FF into its worst ever election defeat. The way he has stuck to his task since has been admirable. This is despite collecting unwanted records along the way. Michéal remains the only FF leader never to have been Taoiseach, and he is the longest standing FF leader of the opposition.

With these epithets, along with naturally cautious nature, his statement on repeal of the Eighth amendment seemed surprising.

It may yet be the making of him. To seem to go against his parliamentary party and membership, undoubtedly he risks his position as leader. Paradoxically, in undertaking this decisive act of leadership, he may just have given his party a more sustainable future.

He must realise that as Ireland becomes more urbanised, it also becomes more liberal. Dragging his party into the 21st century could become his defining political act.

I wish him well on that endeavour, while continuing to disagree with him politically on many, many things.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

From top: Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff; Dan Boyle

One of the extra curricular activities I most enjoyed, while in Leinster House, was being a member of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. This brought together elected representatives not only from the Houses of the Oireachtas and Parliament, but also from the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Irish and Welsh assemblies, as well as representatives from The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

For many who took part it was seen as something of a jolly. Getting away to some nice location where the vicissitudes of normal politics could be hidden. Those appointed seemed an often curious mix of those on their last political lap, blended with many who would never likely achieve ministerial position. My sore thumb status was amplified by being the only Green from any of the parliamentary bodies.

I thought, and still think, that it has greater potential than it has shown. I took it seriously enough to involve myself in one of its sub-committees, which sought to compare and contrast the approach taken to social disadvantage in the various jurisdictions.

The sub-committee was chaired by an extraordinary man, Alf Dubs. Now Lord Dubs, he had been a junior minister at the Northern Ireland office, working with Mo Mowlam. He had a far better understanding of the situation there than most of those who were members of the assembly.

His personal story was even more incredible. An orphaned refugee at the end of the Second World War, he has in recent years, used his experience to embarrass the Tory government to address the fate of similar children now found in the Calais refugee camp. It was a privilege to have worked to have worked with a person of such calibre and dignity.

Barry McElduff, as an MLA, was also a member of the Assembly. I write that not to contrast Barry with Alf, only to illustrate the range of people who were involved. I found Barry to be friendly, jovial, if not particularly deep.

As with many Sinn Féin representatives he seemed wedded to an ideological version of history. To these there was to be no veering from the belief that a just war was waged in Northern Ireland over that horrible 30 year period.

To the many, so many, innocent victims of that violence, there hasn’t been a tinge of regret. Various mantras get repeated ‘Terrible things happen in wars’ or ‘We need to look forward not back’. When these trite cliches fail to convince, argument falls back into a seemingly endless well of whataboutery.

Black humour sustained many individuals and communities through those awful times. No amount humour can repackage those events into a guilt-free future.

This will be Mary Lou McDonald’s biggest obstacle. Sinn Féin’s glass ceiling will be double, if not triple, glazed. Until the party can present a worst critique of itself than its opponents do, it will always find itself carrying that wee bit more additional political baggage.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

Before Christmas, we ran a competition to win a copy of Dan Boyle’s new book Making Up The Numbers (History Press).

Unfortunately, we had some administrative difficulties which delayed us sending out the winning books,

The four winners will get their copies of Making Up The Numbers this week. Apologies for the delay.

Any excuse.

Previously: Making Up The Numbers

From top: Paddy Harte and Peter Sutherland; Dan Boyle

This week has seen the passing of two Fine Gael luminaries, Peter Sutherland and Paddy Harte. Much like Marc Antony’s speech in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ I write to praise them, because I feel they are deserving of respect for doing what they did, in the way in which they so did.

There are many, many things on which I would never be in agreement with Fine Gael about. The party’s general approach to economic and social issues brings about, to me, a more unequal society. It pays little more than lip service to environmental issues. Its attitude to policing and general justice issues ranges from the aggressive to the possessive.

The party, for some reason best known to itself, believes itself to be morally superior to Fianna Fáil. It isn’t.

These caveats I add in anticipation of those who are about to disagree with me, that to like someone, respect them or to acknowledge some of their achievements, is somehow to bend towards their political worldview.

It is a shared characteristic of both the Rabid Right and Rigid Left that any deviation from the standard orthodoxy must see the heretics challenged.

For my part I have no difficulty in saying that Peter Sutherland performed well as a European Commissioner. The Erasmus programme is a singular achievement. As a Attorney General he was right to state that inserting the Eight Amendment into The Constitution, would ultimately turn out to be self defeating.

Would I be a fan of his work at GATT/WTO? No I would not. The emphasis in these agreements sees the sustainable welfare of people, if at all, then as very much a distant afterthought. However, I do believe that his subsequent work on immigrants rights was formed on his belief for a more inter related, more inclusive World.

Was I impressed by his chairmanship of Goldman Sachs, or his board membership of several banking organisations? Again not really. He was a creature of his circumstance. I don’t believe there is any inconsistency in not liking what someone does, whilst admiring the ability they have in doing what they do.

Paddy Harte was a gruff conservative. He had left front line politics before I had entered it. I doubt there would many subjects of public policy on which we would have found ourselves in agreement.

He was implacably opposed to the murderous campaign of the IRA. As a TD for a border constituency that was a difficult opinion to hold. Nevertheless he succeeded in being elected time and time again, even if he never really troubled the higher echelons of national politics (he briefly was a junior minister in the early 1980s).

What I most admired him for was the work he did with Glenn Barr (once of the Ulster Defence Association) in bringing proper recognition to all the Irishmen who fought in the First World War.

History tells us that WW1 was a fruitless, unnecessary carnage brought about by the dying embers of empires. For many who participated they truly believed they were fighting for the rights of small nations, especially the right to become one.

Paddy Harte should be given enormous credit in helping bring the memory of these men back from the historical cold. As does Glenn Barr, whose own death in October 2017 seems to have gone largely gone unacknowledged.

I intend to continue my eccentric and eclectic approach to politics. I will still admire the skills, abilities and achievements of those with whom I vehemently disagree. Damn me.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pics: RTÉ/Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

From top: A Mini car driving through flood water in Salthill, Galway, as Storm Eleanor hit Ireland on January 2; Dan Boyle

Two days into the new year brings with them two storms. There is no novelty in recognising that the only predictable thing about the Irish weather is its very unpredictability.

Now is not the time for smugness. Sadness and justified anger should be the predominant emotions. Climate Change has been researched, recorded and its effects have been anticipated for more than forty years.

We can’t say we haven’t been warned. The antipathy of a vocal, ignorant and sadly far too powerful minority, hasn’t helped. When I see how Conor Skehan, retiring chair of the Housing Agency, views the issue he was supposed to working towards solving, then it isn’t surprising to realise that he is also a climate change sceptic.

We sadly still live in a world, where to oppose change, or to seek to maintain unfairness or injustice, is a better passport to seek position, and thus the ability to hinder progress, in what we dare call the ‘developed’ World.

If it hasn’t been outright opposition, it has been the push it down the road attitude, that has most permeated official responses to threats to the natural environment, and to the planet itself.

I have myself leaning, against my better instincts, more and more towards direct confrontation against those troglodytes, through whose antipathy or indifference, have helped bring us to where we are.

I am not going to listen to statements like “we’re too small a country to make a difference” anymore. Our carbon emissions per head of population is one of the highest in the World, and they are going in the wrong direction.

Nor do I want to hear that there are more important priorities. Every important economic and social priority can be and should be linked to how we deal with climate change.

We should be building new houses designed to prevent future fuel poverty. We should be creating energy through maximising our renewable resources, also enhancing community benefit, wherever possible through community ownership. We should be properly subventing our public transport systems to help prevent the number of single person vehicle traffic.

Each one of these policies initiatives would result in win win scenarios that would work towards meeting our climate change commitments, and improve the state of our economy. If done as part of a holistic suite of policy measures, we may even see better health outcomes.

It isn’t accidental that it is among right wingers where climate change denial is most prevalent. Conservatives want to maintain the status quo. They are most protective of the vested interests in whose interest the status quo is being maintained.They fear, rightly, the redistributive aspect of climate change policies.

The sharing of proportionate responsibility between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ nations, would see ‘developing’ World countries increase their capacity and thus improve global trade.

Within developed and developing nations redistribution of environmental responsibility must be used as a trigger to achieve better equality in society.

For those whose instant response will be why the Greens didn’t achieve this in three and a half years in government, consumed with dealing with an economic collapse, I can only say:

You might say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. If not, we might become a bit more than mildly agitated.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: Galway Latin Quarter

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s new book ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

From top, left to right: Taoiseach Leo Varadakar, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Josepha Madigan and new Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney at Government Buildings inin November; Dan Boyle
.

It says a lot for most people’s expectation for 2017, that the minimal hope was that it wouldn’t be an extension of 2016.

That was a year that will be seen as a ground zero for democracy, beaten by its biggest contradiction that the best decisions get made by the largest number of those who choose to participate on a given day.

Before I release a chorus of ‘you lost get over it’, I have to admit I still am unaware of any better system. Neither should it be seen that disgust at the triumph of reactionaries be is wholehearted, unquestioning support of any alternative. I’ve been on the losing sides of too many such decisions to believe that it is the system that is at fault.

Where it has fallen down in recent years, has been the strength that self interest has held over any sense of the common good. It has also been a time when so many chose not to inform themselves, relying on instinct in making their decisions. Ignorance has become the preserve of the alt realists.

2017 has seen something of a fight back by the alt. ignorant. Wilders in The Netherlands and Le Pen accumulated large amounts of votes, but nothing like the totals that had been feared.

Although by the end of the year we have the Freedom party in government in Austria, with the AfD (Alternative for Germany) winning one in every seven votes in the German general election.

In that election the immigration scare was played to its highest. The psephological graphs produced on that election showed, that just as with Brexit and Trump, those with least interaction with immigrants, were most likely to have that as the basis for making their votes.

In our neighbouring isle Brexit Britain has become a year long pantomime. Its surreal nature being enhanced by the Democratic Unionist Party who now seem to be providing the intellectual ballast for its future basis.

As a lily livered liberal, long committed to the idea that the notion of Irish unity cannot occur but through the winning the hearts and minds of the Unionist community in the North of Ireland, I find the notion of continuing to placate the DUP component of that community to be completely unrealistic and more than a little infuriating.

There is nothing whatsoever wrong with aspiring to the idea of an United Irish state being realised within my lifetime (I am ten years older than Simon Coveney!). It will never be done through coercion nor should it be ever be apologised for.

On the other side of the pond The Donald gave full vent to his anarcho-capitalist routine. The hope is that his incapacity to act in any way honestly or honourably, will eventually catch up with him. However he may yet survive his entire term, during which he will be able to cause untold havoc.

This year saw the transfer of power within Fine Gael and by extension within Government Buildings. Enda had been a somewhat lucky general. Despite an almost Trump like attachment to the truth, and a lack of willingness to initiate anything, he was there when things happened.

His successor, Leo Varadkar, would prefer if very little happens. He’s unlikely to be fooled by distracting opinion poll ratings. He should have learned the lesson of Theresa May’s bolt to the nation in the UK.

An Irish general election still seems likely sometime next year, as it seems unlikely that Fianna Fáil would want Fine Gael to go to the country on foot of what will be presented as a giveaway budget. When that election gets called it will be more about housing and healthcare than any curiosity with the novel.

Before that we will have again our national obsession over abortion. At this remove it looks like the 1983 insertion into the Constitution may finally have overstayed its questionable welcome. The campaign will, sadly, open many wounds. It may be ugly. One more bout of ugly might have to be endured, if we are ever have sanity on this issue.

At the very least in 2018 we should try to move further from the hate filled societies created by events in 2016. The movement will be slow and small, but should be in the right direction.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s new book ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

From top: Christmas shopping in Grafton Street, Dublin 2; Dan Boyle

Throughout my adult life I’ve moved house no more than half a dozen times. I’ve never enjoyed the experience. Outside of the effort involved there is something almost soul destroying in seeing your life reduced to a number of boxes. An occasional smile is given on finding a photo, a newspaper clipping or a well thumbed much read book, but mostly the content of the boxes often ask more questions than they answer.

The most obvious question is why? Why have I acquired so much along the way, so much that doesn’t seem to have any ongoing value? As I get older the longest and slowest lesson I’ve had to learn is that doing things is worth far more than owning things.

It’s a well worn and excessively used cliché that money doesn’t buy happiness. It sadly remains a philosophy that still informs how economies are structured and how they are seen as being successful.

At this supposed time of human achievement it seems we have been reduced to ‘we are what we buy’. A strong economy cannot exist, we are told, unless we consume and continue to consume. We are mere economic actors whose job it is to push economic activity further and higher.

All this results of in is clutter. We are the box fillers of the future. For as long as economic success is determined as how much we buy, then ultimately what satisfies us will be subject to diminishing returns.

In today’s global economy that only thing we can be certain that money buys us is other money, in other words debt. This is the ultimate paradox of modern life. We buy so much that we don’t need on the basis of wealth that we don’t properly define, wealth that in reality is borrowed from the future. Or as told to me over the years by several romantic co-conspirators of mine  – we can’t continue to go on like this. Like those conversations the reassuring statement that ‘it isn’t you’ sugarcoats the deceit. Except that it usually is us.

Minimal changes in our lifestyles could bring about a considerable impact without major changes in our collective quality of life. That’s the positive distillation of the Green message.

Some would argue that there is no real choice. To continue consuming as we are, means consuming resources that are becoming all too scarce on this all too finite planet we share. Soon we may no longer have the luxury of continuing to buy luxuries.

More are realising that the future, the short term future is a very uncertain thing. The Green movement has gathered to preach, preach the operable word, this message to a sparse number of believers. There is a danger has been that such a doom laden approach has also alienated many. I would like to think that a Green future can be, should be, must be a happy future.

Apocalyptic narratives don’t persuade. They push heads even further into the sand. There is a comfort in doing things as they’ve always been done. Persuading people to do otherwise in such circumstances is, and always be difficult. But in making do with less of much of what we never needed, we begin to do more with what can be shared between us, and then begin to own less.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Meanwhile…

Dan Boyle’s new book ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.