Author Archives: Dan Boyle

The Cabinet yesterday approved the general scheme of a Circular Economy Bill 2021 that will drastically change production and consumption; Dan Boyle

It is probably one of the less highlighted pieces of promised legislation coming from the agreed programme for government, but it may yet be one of the most significant to be approved in this Dáil.

The Circular Economy Bill seeks to give a statutory basis to those areas that have only been given lip service to in recent decades.

If we are to make any dent into the amounts of carbon we produce, how we create and ultimately dispose of waste, is key to how we can reduce and hopefully then eliminate many of these problems.

In my first incarnation as a city councillor I had an ongoing argument with the City Engineer over the council’s landfill site.

My campaigning on the existence and management of this landfill had been one the key issues in my first election campaign. Then and on being elected I argued for what were still novel concepts of reducing and recycling waste.

He argued that to seek to reduce waste would have a negative economic impact. He spoke proudly that statistics showed increases in economic growth were directly linked to the rate of increase in the amount of waste being produced.

Damn statistics. Similar reasons dominated official thinking for years, that to reduce carbon emissions would be to also affect economic progress. A collective official stupidity that has stymied action on climate for many years.

My argument with the City Engineer, along with the campaign to close the City’s landfill site went on for too many years. Eventually it was closed. It has since been converted into a public park. I like to think that this conversion is a nice metaphor that can be used to encourage other positive policy change.

Despite movement in a better direction which has seen some stabilisation, Ireland still remains back of the class in Europe with the highest rate of waste per capita in the EU.To date there has been a lack of political will in Ireland to effectively regulate the production process of goods, to seek the measure the life cycle of goods.

We have been, and continue to be, in thrall to an approach to consumption that seeks immediate gratification and an ask no questions approach to disposal.

Food for thought in all of this is how we consume food. We produce so much meat, much of which we export. Yet we import 40% of the vegetables we consume. Added to this mismatch in how we produce food is what happens when we prepare food to eat. One third of food prepared in Ireland doesn’t get eaten and is thrown away.

It requires major cultural changes to alter this approach. There needs to be a greater emphasis on repairing goods rather than replacing them. If there are by products that come from consuming goods, greater effort needs to be made to repurpose them as raw materials for other production processes.

Most needed are statutory requirements to bring us to where we need to get to. That is why this bill is so important.

It gets the balance right. It defines what we need to leave behind, fossil fuels in particular. It rewards positive behaviour, such as in bottle deposit schemes. It incentivises innovation.
It is important that positive messages outweigh any perceived negative ones.

There are still hearts and minds to be won. Still deep seated prejudice to be overcome. Although on many of these issues the general public is already ahead of official Ireland. Many opening doors can be pushed further with this bill.

Not to do so would be such a waste.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: aerial view of the 16-storey office tower block planned for Albert Quay, Cork at the grounds of the old Sextant Bar; Dan Boyle

I should have seen this coming. It’s a tactic that has been used far too frequently by greedy developers out to maximise profit. Nevertheless, the audacity of proposing this has shocked me. I had hoped we had left this kind of behaviour behind us.

Nine months ago, The Sextant Bar in Cork was unnecessarily demolished. Ostensibly this was done to allow the construction of a large apartment development, whose planning was obtained under the Strategic Housing Development process.

This week the developer has announced that the building of apartments there was not financially viable, and a new application would be made to construct an office development instead.

The great switcheroo has been beloved of Irish developers in the past. In all probability there was never any intention to build housing. All that was ever seen here was a space interrupted by the inconvenience of The Sextant Bar being there.

The hollow excuse of lack of viability is but a euphemism. Possible profit from apartments was not seen as being sufficient, the rental price per square metre being seen as being far higher from offices than from apartments.

Developers, we’re told, are risk takers. In this case an innate conservatism seems to have taken hold instead. Because in the past offices have brought a greater return than housing, any risk is thought lessened by seeking the supposed easier return.

This thinking is further embedded by government policies on tax and tax expenditures which promote construction activity for its own sake, rather than help incentivise needed buildings in the most appropriate places.

This has resulted in an imbalance, with a consequent over supply, of particular building developments. Along side the glut of office space that has been developed, there has been a similar pump priming of student accommodation and of hotels.

Many of these developments have been cheaper to build and when built offer the prospect of quicker and higher returns. Meanwhile necessary infrastructure, such as the provision of residential housing, continue to be under supplied, inflating prices which creates further obstacles for those who wish to be housed.

However the market has delivered before, as it is currently structured what it is delivering is the limiting the capacity for the construction of housing, creating other buildings that are not particularly needed.

New office development is in danger of becoming the whitest of elephants. Office buildings already are the most under utilised of buildings. Many being unused during night time hours and during weekends.

In a post COVID world, with a greater level of people working from home, what is the basis for believing that will be a need for greater office capacity? Is it not more likely that there will be greater vacancies in existing office developments?

The Sextant saga highlights so many ways in which our planning and development systems are not fit for purpose. There is the unwillingness to acknowledge the importance of maintaining existing streetscapes. Of being able to work with what exists, to enhance and augment, which should be the approach.

Instead we identify as ‘developers’ those so lacking in imagination, that to plot to remove then replace with what is soulless and is utterly unsustainable, makes them those who determine the future City we live in. We deserve so much better than that.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: JCD

From top: Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien addressing media at Government Buildings on measures to curb the activities of cuckoo funds last Tuesday; Dan Boyle

During my life I’ve had experience of every type of housing tenure. I’ve been an owner occupier. While in the Oireachtas I also acquired an apartment in Dublin, a home from home as I worked there.

The owning of either property was something of a self delusion. Large mortgages existed on both properties. What existed was a promise to acquire if agreed payments were met at required times.

The purchase of the house in Cork wasn’t easy. We qualified for a Housing Finance Agency loan through Cork Corporation of £17,500 (punts) at an interest rate of 13.5%. The house we purchased cost £24,500 equivalent to €35,000 in new money.

We met the shortfall through a £5,000 sterling loan from an English relative paid back at commercial rates, as well as £3,000 loan from our local credit union, given as being for ‘house furnishing’. A first time buyers grant either didn’t exist then or it didn’t apply (it wasn’t a newly built house).

Our collateral against this was a collective income of less than £100 a week. In fact it was lower than that again, as the Teamwork employment scheme I was on came to an end, making me unemployed as the conveyancing was being completed.

This type of juggling has held a similar relativity across the generations throughout the history of this State. The formula has always been access to a mortgage provider giving rates of interest that could be sustained at an average level of income.

Not anymore. Once Ireland, along with the UK and New Zealand, had at 80% among the highest rates of home ownership in the world. Now we are below the European Union average.

The dependence on owner occupier housing has skewered the choice that has historically been available. The private rented sector has been been small, with local authority social housing being the main alternative for many.

The post-Celtic Tiger period saw government policy encourage a larger rental sector. The sector has practically been given carte blanche to establish dominance in the housing market.

The growing affordability gap and the virtual ending of building new social housing, has helped affirm the new found dominance of the rental sector.

In acquiring property, my generation, and those before mine we’re lucky. My daughter’s generation and that of her children won’t be.

What we need is a national coherent housing policy. One that offers real choice in housing tenure. One that has security of tenure and fair housing costs as its core.

We can’t go back to the way things were. We can’t allow the pernicious influence of the Construction Industry Federation to continue to hold sway.

Voluntary housing bodies, community housing and cost rental schemes offer the opportunity that widens the diversity needed to deepen and improve housing supply. This is where policy should lead.

I sold the properties I ‘owned’. The mortgages were repaid. There was no cash profit nor was that something that bothered me. The payments over the years I made I saw as the equivalent of rent.

For the past decade I have rented. I will rent for the rest of my life. Once that rent is affordable and my tenure is secure I will be happy to do so.

Would that everyone had that choice.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle



Dan Boyle (above) joins An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland, an environmental non-governmental organisation, yesterday

This week I became a member of An Taisce. Outside of my being a part of the Green Party I have never been much of a joiner.

While I would be a supporter of environmental non-governmental agencies (NGOs), I’ve tended to offer that support from the outside. I’m likely to change that approach now.

The professional distance between environmental NGOs and The Green Party hasn’t been mutually beneficial. I have long argued that the relationship should be similar to that historically the Labour Party has enjoyed with trade unions.

Environmental NGOs have argued that they need to treat all political parties equally and equidistantly. While political neutrality is important for campaigning organisations, when it comes to environmental NGOs I believe its application can counterproductive.

Other political parties believe these NGOs are entwined with the Green Party. The reality is very different. In order to not be perceived as some sort of military wing of The Greens, the NGOs tend to over compensate by often being hyper-critical of The Greens, based on expectations that don’t get applied to other political parties.

I believe that these NGOs and The Greens should become more comfortable that we come from the same place, and that we are perceived by the rest of the political world for having done so.

This isn’t to say that NGOs shouldn’t criticise The Greens. Exerting external pressure keeps every political party on its toes, especially when in government. What I would be asking for is that that the scope and context of such, often justified, criticism be more measured.

The frustrations of seeking to achieve through campaigning gets further amplified by the obstacles subsequently experienced through the political system.

Focus gets emphasised upon these frustrations. The differences on strategic approaches get exaggerated. The expectations of what can be achieved by when and how become the heart of disagreement. What gets forgotten is all involved are committed to going in the same direction. All which to achieve the same things.

It was in this spirit of lost solidarity that I have decided to join An Taisce. As traditional politics and politicians revealed a barely concealed contempt for the idea that environmental campaigning is valid and valuable, I’ve decided that these were my brothers and sisters and together we do the same work.

There are other environmental NGOs that I should, can and probably will join. The membership fees will be drain on my finances but I reckon it will be a price worth paying.

Within those groups will be members and supporters of other political parties, just as there are in trade unions. Within such groups I will argue that the relationship between them and The Greens is, and should be, more symbiotic.

Nevertheless a valuable role NGOs do play is that of being open to different perspectives, in a more broad way than can be found in political parties whose approach can be closeted.

Another valuable role campaigning organisations can play is both lead and better reflect public opinion in its demand for change. Something that politics, politicians and political parties are not particularly good at.

I supposed I’ll be going to even more meetings now.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Join An Taisce here

Dan Boyle

One of the most dispiriting aspects I find of public debate is the use of proxy arguments. Those with the most vested of interests resort too regularly to such polemic.

To justify something that impacts you, which you don’t like and you don’t want to see happen, you shun arguments that relate to you lest you come across as the selfish actor you are.

Arguments become more convincing, it is believed, when they are applied to the disadvantaged, the put upon or the neglected.

Shamelessly done, white, middle aged middle class men become most comfortable in claiming to be protecting the interests of others, when it is the status quo they really want to protect.

Any group will do. Older people, children, people with disabilities, even cuddly animals are not immune from this abuse. It can be defensive as in “hit me now with a child in my arms”. More likely it’s about creating a fear than will discourage change and allow for business as usual.

I fear that as we distance ourselves from COVID this type of behaviour might become more pervasive again.

The only bright spot that living through a pandemic has provided us has been the opportunity of thinking how things could be different, and we might be able to bring such change about.

Life has we had lived it suited some people just fine. It may have been unbalanced, unequal and unfair, but life has been peachy for the I’m All Right Jacks.

Prepare to hear plenty of appeals on behalf of the less fortunate made by the most fortunate. The problem is that recent history has shown us that this works. It brought us Trump. It created and sustained Brexit.

How can it be countered? It would be better if we questioned those argument makers as to what are their motivations. What are their vested interests?

Of course it is in failing, by us all, to safeguard minorities and the unprotected that provides oxygen to these arguments. That deepens the disrespect allowing those who don’t give a damn appear as if they do.

It allows for the creation of alternative villains to play to the myths created. Thus the threat to pedestrians are not most posed by one and half tonne machines travelling many times faster than walkers, it is from those rampaging cyclists dressed in lycra – a velopedian Ku Klux Klan.

In this context everything that is said should be taken to mean the opposite. Will someone please think of the children should be more properly read don’t you realise how this affects me.

When the false enemy doesn’t prove effective, watch out for the evil twins of exaggeration and diminution. Thus little Ireland can do little about climate change and if we did it would send us back to the Stone Age.

When distortion doesn’t work the final card in the deck of mishappenchance is that of denial. Having created uncertainty and distrust and when ignoring those identified as the enemy doesn’t work, denying anything they say as being approximate to the truth might work.

Sadly it usually does. Truth becomes the Mandy Rice-Davies dictum of ‘They would say that wouldn’t they’. It Isn’t the news that is fake, it’s the way we choose to tell it.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: Killarney National Park on April 26; Dan Boyle

It has been pitiful this week to watch fires raging at Killarney National Park, across Slieve Donard, and in several other locations.

Even more pitiful has been the howls of outrage that have accompanied these events. That these fires are happening isn’t a surprise. They are occurring every year with astonishing consistency.

The why and the likely who are behind these fires is also well known. They aren’t being caused by members of the Irish Society for Mountain Barbecues. Nor are they being caused by fans of that illusive punk group, Disaffected Youth.

These fires are being started overwhelmingly by land owners who see these natural habitats as a massive inconvenience against their commercial enterprises.

The system, as it exists, not only fails to prosecute those who engage in what on paper is an illegal activity, it financially rewards those who help bring about this ecological damage.

Agricultural payments get made on the percentage of a farm’s land area that is deemed productive. Lands covered in gorse have plants growing that aren’t given an economic value. They consume space that could be more valuable if used for grazing animals. In the perverse logic of agri economics burning this land gives it a greater value.

Outside of the willingness to prosecute has been the capacity to do so. One of the less acknowledged provisions of the current programme for government was the commitment to review the operations of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This is currently underway. The hope is that we can a wildlife and nature agency that has greater sense of purpose and a stronger ability to achieve.

As a response to this week’s necklace of fires Minister for State with responsibility for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, has promised to vastly increase the number of NPWS rangers, quickening any training to allow for earliest deployment.

More bodies on the ground can only be a good thing. More powers would be better. Having a legislatively weak NPWS has helped create a culture of impotence that has to be stemmed.

Environmental law breaking in Ireland, in being seen as serious and in being prosecuted, is treated as seriously as white collar is, which of course is not very seriously at all.

To stop the horrendous practice of gorse fires we should develop a turp(entine) walk. Identifiable perpetrators being dealt with by the judicial process in the most public way possible. Shame should inspire an end to the practice.

While farmers are most responsible for these files, they are not representative of all or even most farmers. There are encouraging signs that farmers organisations are acknowledging that this fire setting is a problem and needs to be called out.

Until we can to get to a place where anti-environment is seen as anti-social there will always be those whose self interest will always be valued more than the common good.

The challenge is of how to stop the burning desire of those ingrates from being a desire to burn.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic via Patrick O’Connor

From top: A Curlew chick is rescued from Lough Neagh last September. More birds like the curlew than ever before are now Red-listed on the island of Ireland, indicating the highest status of concern for their populations; Dan Boyle

Last week a report was published. Yet another report. A report on compromised biodiversity. A report on species loss to the point of extinction.

The report was jointly published by BirdWatch Ireland and the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (Northern Ireland).

It showed an almost 50% increase in the number of bird species now threatened in the eight years since the last survey. Almost two thirds of all bird species on the island of Ireland are now thought to be at risk.

Among these are birds such as the Kestral, the Puffin and the poster bird for threatened extinction, the Curlew.

Over a fifty year period the Curlew has reduced from eight thousand breeding pairs to a current level of one hundred and thirty five pairs.

A belated protection programme has been put in place but at best this will restore numbers from impossibly small to small.

There can be no doubt that the main contributor to this decline has been agricultural and fishing practices. Both areas have been guilty of a relentlessness to eke out maximum yield.

To achieve these close on diabolical goals has seen the widespread removal of habitats, a literal killing field of wild life.

These biodiversity indicators should invoke panic as to what type of World we are encouraging. At the very least they should invoke an important and prioritised debate.

Our national broadcaster seems to have decided otherwise. Its news division has stuck to its tried and tested practice of largely ignoring reports of this nature (deliberate pun).

RTÉ after all is a broadcaster who seems to think that Michael Healy Rae is a valid counterpoint on matters environmental.

The equivalent broadcaster in Northern Ireland, the BBC, chose to highlight the report, an obvious different set of priorities.

What RTÉ, and other august Irish media organisations don’t seem to accept is that climate/environmental issues are as much life and death as any perceived bread and butter issue.

The quality of habitats, the standard of biodiversity, are the very variants of life. If they are not healthy life itself cannot healthy.

These are issues that deserve more than specialist programmes. They must be core elements in news and current affairs.

Because they are issues that result from long term decline, and there is a collective responsibility, editors deem that these issues are not sufficiently ‘sexy’.

What is found with our national broadcaster is also lacking with major newspapers. These are issues that should figure more predominantly on the front pages rather than be hidden inside most publications.

These are deliberate editorial decisions. There are many journalists, particularly younger journalists, who want to ask these questions and write these stories.

There is an audience for such stories but more importantly there is a public that needs to know.

Habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, threatened species extinction, air and water quality are significant parts of an extensive agenda. Not a fringe agenda, a quality of life agenda.

It isn’t just for the birds you know.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic via Country Living

From top: a new cycle lanes taking one lane of the road from Blackrock Village through to Sandycove, county Dublin; Dan Boyle

The twentieth century, without much debate, can be considered the century of the motor car. It was probably the invention that had greatest impact on people’s lives. It undoubtedly was the most significant contributor towards greater personal autonomy for many people.

It’s greater use certainly made life easier for horses. The greater prevalence of the motor car soon challenged the transport story of the nineteenth century – the railways.

Its greater effect was on the then preferred runaround – the bicycle. In Ireland, a more slowly industrialising country, it effects for most of the twentieth century were less marked.

Flann O’Brien chronicled this relationship in The Third Policeman in developing his molecular theory positing that the molecules of cyclists became interchangeable with those of the bicycles they were riding.

As the country inched towards greater economic prosperity, the bike developed a reputation as being the poor man’s car. It was seen as something to be cast aside to achieve the status car ownership would confer.

The coming of the millennium brought the first questioning of our collective love affair with the motor car. Part has been the belated realisation that surface space is not infinite, that constant and continuing congestion is the obvious result of a growing car fleets.

The environmental effects of too many journeys in too many motor cars has also become better understood. One third of all carbon emissions come from transport, mainly from cars.

It is the economics of car usage and car ownership that is becoming focused. Our cars are parked 92% of the time. The 8% of time they are being used by us is funded by one of the biggest capital outlays many will experience in their lifetime.

The great car rethink has created an opportunity for a bike comeback. That is though more imagined than real. A back to the future revolution was bound to invite reaction

A what we have we hold attitude has developed regarding road space. Car dominance has been such, that no understanding has been fostered that there are different categories of transport users who can, and should, share the available space.

Strange alliances have been formed where the car lobby has got some pedestrians to buy into the demonisation of cyclists as kamikaze inspired mowers down of the innocent.

This urban myth is easier for some to believe due to the fact that there are some bad cyclists. They exist in a smaller proportion than bad drivers, but the fact that they do exist helps feed the myth.

Another factor that may hinder a smoother transition is battling a perception that the cycling renaissance is seen as a largely middle class activity. Something of an irony when large scale bicycle use once had been the transport of choice of the plain people of Ireland.

Encouraging less car journeys and greater use of bicycles should be a win win situation. Better use of space, better health outcomes and a much better quality of life.

It should be easier but the reluctance to change is understandable. The pop up infrastructure that has appeared over the last number of months, across the country, may help to convince.

To misquote George Orwell – Two wheels good four wheels not so good.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


From top: tress felled on the former rail line at The Marina, Cork; Dan Boyle

Over the past month environmental issues/controversies in Cork have involved all the elements: air (incineration), water (culverting rivers) and earth.

Our earth story involves removing trees and vegetation on the Blackrock/Passage greenway as part of an enhancement programme.

I’m aware my last sentence reads as an oxymoron. How is it possible to have an enhancing removal of trees and vegetation? There really isn’t. What it shows is that even with the best intentions considerable ecological damage can be caused.

The Blackrock/Passage greenway had until the 1930s been a working railway line. In the 1980s it was among the first former railways lines to be converted into an amenity walk.

Over the years it has acquired a popularity among many Cork people as a place to escape to, to exercise in, to commune with nature within.

Over time it has been determined that amenity walks should conform to designated standards. These standards are now deemed to be a walkway width of no less than five metres, with a need to ensure that access paths onto the walkway are accessible especially to those with mobility needs.

Before any action was taken a public consultation did take place. Often what is written on paper seems anodyne than what becomes physically experienced. No consultation process can avoid such a lack of nuance. So it proved when works began a number of weeks ago.

When the scale of the work was done it evoked a huge horror among the public. The number of trees taken down, the amount of vegetation removed was nothing like what was imagined.

Some of this should have been anticipated. Making omelettes and breaking eggs is a cliche that comes to mind. Even if the appearance of of a denuded area could have been expected, so should the negative public reaction that followed have been.

Part of the sadness of the reaction is as much about the methods used as it is about the devastation caused.

The tree removal began at the start of nesting season, applying a derogation to this work that in all other circumstances would be illegal.

Too much material and too many trees were removed far more than was necessary. It spoke to a ‘to be sure to be sure’ engineering perspective of having enough room.

The widespread use of mechanical diggers seemed to underpin this however the cards might fall attitude. How we do this work should matter as much as what is done. Sensitivity should be the sensibility.

Mitigation was factored into how the desertification would be addressed. New trees and growth would be planted subsequently.

Again good intentions can’t replace the damage that has been caused. Saplings and semi mature trees will take years of growth to replace the biodiversity that has been lost.

That loss includes insect life that fed birds and other wildlife. It will take years before what has been there will be restored.

This saddens rather than angers me. I don’t attach any blame onto officials whose motivation has been to improve an amenity. It’s the traditional approach to these works that is flawed and badly needs to change.

Cork City Council will be hiring a Trees Officer, something we Green councillors have campaigned for. Too late for this event but hopefully future events will be dealt with differently.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic via Dr Eoin Lettice

From top:  River Bride at Blackpool, Cork; Dan Boyle

It was about 18 years ago. I had secured a Dáil adjournment debate because of serious flooding that had occurred throughout Cork City. Extensive damage had been caused, less so from the River Lee and more from the tributaries of the river. The then Minister for Health, Mícheál Martin (who had something of a local interest) responded on behalf of the government.

While I was most concerned with flooding that occurred in the constituency I (and Mícheál Martin) represented, I also cited serious flooding that had happened on the northside of the city, from the River Bride in Blackpool.

The response given was that the culvert that existed on the river had exceeded its capacity resulting in the flooding. This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Cork had become a city of culverts. The Venetian network of waterways and had over the centuries been covered over to reclaim and create road space.

From this the modern Cork was created. It was not without a price. Hiding the waterways removed the observational knowledge of how and when flooding might occur. The out of sight out of mind policy created surprise each time serious flooding happened.

Blackpool has been victim to it more than once. When I raised the issue in 2002 the response I received was that the culverts should be made longer, wider, deeper. And they were. It resulted in further flooding in 2010 and 2013.

Fast forward to 2021 to the proposals of the Office of Public Works, the agency responsible for flood protection in Ireland. Also an institution that more than lives up to Einstein’s definition of insanity by repeating the same behaviour then achieving the same failed responses.

The motto of the OPW seems to be that if it isn’t entombed in concrete it ain’t worth it. Its current proposals are that the River Bride needs further culverting. It wants to culvert a 350 metre section of what is left open in Blackpool, removing what had once been the central feature of the village for once and for all.

This is to include both sides of the embankment completely sanitising the area from the notion that nature ever has existed there.

This discommodes one particular set of residents. The Bride has been home to a significant population of otters, a protected species. Not that the OPW gives a damn. The legislation it operates under, the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act, makes the OPW believe that it can act with impunity when it comes to the environmental impacts of its work.

Up until now the agency has been unchallenged in this. This is despite the fact that since 1945, European Union environmental laws, such as the Habitats and Water directives have had precedence in Irish law.

This will now change. Last week, at a well attended virtual meeting, a group was set up ‘Save Our Bride Otters’, along side a crowdfunding campaign. In a few short days a legal fund of close on €7000 has been built up.

A lot more will be required. Given the support shown to date I would be confident that further support would be forthcoming. Perhaps it could help change how we see the OPW. Otters Please Wallow has a much nicer ring to it.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic via Save Our Bride Otters