Tag Archives: Dan Boyle

From top: Significant cuts to services are on the cards at Cork City Council; Dan Boyle

There is no public manifestation yet, but the effect of the necessary additional Covid payments will most readily be felt in the level of public services being provided in the coming year.

It isn’t being acknowledged that among the largest levels of cross subsidisation has been in the amount of income foregone by local authorities, mostly on the basis of decisions made by the government.

The deferral of business rates has been an appropriate response. It has, though, brought about a huge hole in the finances of local councils. There is promised government compensation, but no one believes this will come anywhere close towards meeting the income gap that has been created.

Consideration of the estimates of local councils, difficult enough at most times, will this year become near impossible to make the figures add up.

Budget preparations in most councils tend to be farcical in any year. Elected members want neither to increase income or decrease expenditure. Sometimes this is due to political posturing, most times it’s an unwillingness to assume any type of responsibility at all.

The ability to run away from these responsibilities will be less available this year. One of few direct powers of elected councillors, that of producing a fair balanced budget is about to be tested.

The likely result in most cities and counties will be unwanted and unloved half way house of both increasing charges and instigating severe cuts. This will please no one.

The income base of local government is unsustainable. It has been since 1977 with the election promise of the last single party majority government (Fianna Fáil), when domestic rates were abolished.

Every single attempt since then to ‘reform’ local government finance has spectacularly failed. The main effect of each initiative has been to further weaken local government, making it ever more reliant on national government.

A second outcome has been the willingness of many local councils to outsource the provision of their services and the management of many of their facilities.

This has created an unnecessary distance between the public and their local councils. It has also produced more than a few false economies.

This will be a persistent and perennial problem until we have real local government reform.

This should mean a system of local government that has actual autonomy. The system of local government that exists in every developed democracy.

I don’t have much hope that this will happen. The organ of the State that should be providing the most necessary public services is most incapable of doing so.

The funding mechanism for most countries centre around property. For us in Ireland we have never had the stomach for a proper property tax to fund our local government services. It seems a particular bugbear for our ‘socialist’ parties.

It’s an ideological pincer movement. An administrative system that doesn’t want change and will obstruct its happening, helped by student politics that exist to avoid anything that resembles responsibility.

Bring back the Limerick Soviet I say.

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: 96FM

From top: A ‘Parklet’ in Douglas Street, Cork. Cork City Council is seeking to provide up to 10 more parklets in the city centre and wider city; Dan Boyle

Douglas Street is in the heart of my electoral area. As a child I played there. Growing up it was part of my etched out route in and out of town.

One of its spokes, Nicholas Street, was our Alpe d’Huez that I conquered on a tiny Triumph bike. These days the breathlessness kicks in a quarter the way up when I am walking.

For fifteen years I ran an office there as a councillor, a TD and senator. It was a good location, close to the city centre. It was a microcosm of city life where people lived and businesses sought to prosper.

As someone who grew up in the inner city, my choice of office was deliberate. Not only did I want it to reflect what I believed I was, I saw it as undermining a perception by some of who The Greens were seen to be.

Once there were twice as many pubs as are there now. Those that remain, Coughlans and Fionnbarras, are iconic. The space that once was the trend setting gay bar, Loafers, stays sadly empty waiting its next social challenge.

The imposing convent and girls secondary school that bookends one end of the street, has been spectacularly reimagined as Nano Nagle Place. What once had been inward in its structure and its approach, has now been made into a public space of myriad use.

Douglas Street has at times been neglected. It struggles with rat run traffic due to its closeness to the city centre. Despite this, for those who live and work on the street, there is tremendous pride and spirit.

Every year a street festival is organised, where the traffic is removed, showing the fantastic potential of the area.

Last year into this evolving community an art project was mooted. The support of Cork City Council was necessary to progress the idea. Initially that support would not have been total.

Some local councillors bemoaned the loss of parking spaces to facilitate the project. To meet these objections the installation was defined as a pilot project, meant to have a short shelf life.

The project was the creation of a parklet. This was an elaborate wooden bench strewn with compartments to allow for the growing of plants.

It was meant to be in place for a number of months. Affection for the parklet, and what it represented, soon grew. A petition was gathered to argue that it be made permanent. As a local councillor I tabled a motion to the City Council to the same effect.

A nearby flower shop cum coffee emporium gave value to the parklet. It became extremely adaptable in how it was seen and being used. It was a place to go to meet people. It was place to be on your own. A place to literally smell the roses. Perhaps read a book.

The sense of community that has been built up by skillfully putting together a few pieces of wood, has been a wonder to behold.

The parklet has become part of the furniture of Douglas Street, in the very deepest sense. It is no longer thought of as being ephemeral. It has become a pioneering piece of social infrastructure that many other places want to emulate.

This week Cork City Council is responding to this demand by offering to construct ten new parklets throughout the city.

Soon the parklet on Douglas Street will no longer be unique. But it will always be special. It will be so much better having parklet problems in the city than having parking problems.

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: Clare Keogh


From top: The demolition of the historic Sextant Bar in Cork last Friday; Dan Boyle

Last weekend a landmark building was demolished in Cork. Its demolition was met with some surprise and a great deal of unhappiness by many people.

Not by me. I had anticipated its demise despite being vehemently opposed to its inevitability.

Its destruction is indicative as to why, and to whom, laws on development benefit for what purposes.

The Sextant Bar was not a protected structure. It was listed on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Within the existing Cork City Development Plan it was included as being part of an Architectural Conservation Area. It formed part of a significant streetscape.

The legislation that has allowed this vandalism is that which allows for Strategic Housing Development. This sees developments, which are for one hundred or more units, go directly to Bord Pleanala for decision. The role of the local authority being circumvented in this process.

That said, in relation to the Sextant Bar, Cork City Council has not been discouraging in allowing the destruction of this building.

With previous developments the Council had encouraged a practice of facadism, where the front elevation features of previous significant stand alone buildings were incorporated into new buildings. They have been horrible.

Instead of encouraging to build around rather than build upon, we see instead a policy of building without.

The economic foundation of encouraging any development for any reason has always been shakey. In a post COVID World it has become even more so.

Development at what was once was the Cork Docklands has been stop start. Recent years have seen a flurry of activity. This has been mainly office development, which lately has been followed by high end apartment accommodation.

Where this strategy is becoming undone is through anticipated office tenants not being available to the extent that was thought possible. An immediate uncertain economic outlook, joined with the emergence of working from home as a viable option for many, has undermined these projections.

Less companies occupying the provided office space means less well paid employees seeking nearby accommodation. We may be, and most probably are, disregarding buildings of interest being replaced by mausoleums of steel and glass, for no actual purpose.

At what price to the character of our city? The destruction of The Sextant Bar has come at a price, but perhaps it might also be a down payment towards a more sane policy of better integrating new development with existing built heritage.

In 2022 there will be a newly agreed Cork City Development Plan. As we work towards its drafting this plan, the challenge is to achieve the type of public engagement where demolitions like this not only do not surprise, they do and should not happen.

One way around this unacceptable approach to town planning would be to introduce a site value tax, that would help inhibit the incentive to remove or replace.

What we are losing is not being improved by is being proposed in its place. In terms of learning from our architectural history we seem intent to reduce it to rubble. Damned if I can see the value in 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

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Pics: Twitter/Larry Cummins

From top: Phil Hogan (right) with Michael Noonan at the Fine Gael ard fheis in 1999; Dan Boyle

I try not to let personal feelings sway me too much when making political assessments. Character is important, so is competency. So is achieving.

The motivation of most in politics is to try make a difference, bring about change, make the world a better place.

Few get the opportunity to make that difference. Of the few who do many of us will fail miserably. If honestly attempted there should no shame in that. We dream that change can be revolutionary when circumstances often show us otherwise.

As a counterpoint to constant failure, achievement for some in politics has been to equate success with position.

I see Phil Hogan as an exemplar of that sort of politics. He has achieved significant positions in his political life. That is up until now.

I take no pleasure in anyone’s resignation but many will be relieved that this resignation has been eked out eventually.

It was only a number of weeks ago that Phil Hogan went on a career fishing expedition, announcing he was investigating the possibility of putting himself forward, for consideration, as head of the World Trade Organisation. Could he have been more coy?

Now he will not be able to hold onto his current exalted status. The argument that he be allowed to remain centred around his apparent importance.

Not his ability, not his capability, his importance. Being in a position makes you important. Any analysis of what you have done gets deemed superfluous when you are The Man, it seems.

Phil Hogan’s career path has been relentless – a councillor, a Senator, a TD, a Junior Minister, a Cabinet Minister, before becoming an EU Commissioner first at Agriculture latterly at Trade.

I know that it is subjective but I can’t think of a single policy achievement he has had. He was a particular disaster as Minister for the Environment.

His handling of water charges was appalling. He helped rid local government in Ireland of many of its democratic elements. He interrupted and reversed our responsibility as a country in addressing climate change.

His particular skills seem to be having been in the right place supporting the right people at the right time.

He seemed to assume the position of Fine Gael’s fixer, that was once held by Michael Lowry. He managed to keep Enda Kenny in post as Fine Gael leader mere months before he became Taoiseach.

This was despite, it was thought, most Fine Gael TDs wanting Enda to step down.

Success came with a reputation of being ‘hard’. An example of his hardness was a crude, sexist comment to an older women he made at an Oireachtas Golfing Society in 2011. He has also been recorded making bigoted comments on travellers.

He decided if he was to become an European Commissioner. Ruairi Quinn made an attempt to highlight his willingness. Phil wasn’t having any of that.

The two roles he has held could have been utilised to achieve great change. In both portfolios he could have argued for better environmental standards making the European Union the standard bearer it claims to be.

That hasn’t happened nor with Phil in charge was it ever likely to. It’s likely he doesn’t believe in change, except to change back to what was before. For him position and prestige is gained by defending and protecting the status quo. There are still too many Big Phils in our politics.

Neither Ireland nor the EU needs Phil Hogan. None of us need his attitude.

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

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From top: Taoiseach, Micheál Martin flanked by Minister for Education, Norma Foley (left) and Minister of State Josepha Madigan (right) launching the Roadmap for Reopening Schools; Dan Boyle

We’re being told that over recent weeks that Ireland has the fourth fastest rising percentage in Europe in new developing COVID cases. On first exposure this appears a worrying statistic but ultimately it is a pretty meaningless one.

As a comparison between countries, when countries are operating from different bases, it does not tell us a whole lot.

The seven day and fourteen day averages are more telling. From these we can see that things are going in a wrong direction and that we do need to act differently.

The figures remain far short of the peaks we had seen in April/May, but who of us wants to go back there?

What seems to fraying is the idea of an us. For this political responsibility has to be accepted.

We are now eight months into a global health crisis. We know a lot more about this virus than we did, though not yet nearly enough. The governments of many countries have adopted different strategies, some more successful than others.

Some of the more successful governments, such as New Zealand, have had certain geographic advantages. Failures have occurred, and they have been many, in many countries.

In Ireland we have fought hard but find ourselves at the wrong end of the World table with statistics such as COVID deaths per million population.

These failures, while above the World average, have not been of Trumpian proportions. But failures there have been.

It may be that some time will pass before we learn the extent of these failures. How we have handled nursing homes reflects badly on us. The dangers that existed were not responded to quickly enough. The resources that were needed were not provided sufficiently or in time.

We are in danger of repeating these mistakes with Direct Provision centres. The level of risk we are exposing those in these centres, in a type of provision that should not exist, is unacceptable.

And then we have the meat factories, which seem to be evolving into something of a metaphor for a more meek, bleaker Ireland. Poorly paid workers with even worse working conditions, exposed to maximum risk so that the rest of us have cheaper food.

Post COVID Ireland has to be about more than the elimination of the virus. It has to also be about the elimination of the social and economic viruses these practices represent.

Other problems have arisen because of our reactive response to this virus. Those with other health conditions have been made wait, creating a back log to be cleared that may take a considerable time, causing even greater stress to those suffering.

It is in this context that government is so anxious to see schools re-opening, that some may see as being in haste while not being properly thought out.

There is valid reason in seeking a resumption of education. Learning is an essential and overriding purpose of schools. So is socialisation.

It could be the cruelest irony of all that while for children the health impacts of COVID may be marginal, the mental health effects could be devastating.

I see it with my granddaughter. She hungers for other kids to interact with. The longer we avoid making that happen the harder it will be to catch up.

It won’t be easy. Some openings will be postponed. Some will open then close in response to local outbreaks. It will be infuriating. Despite this it is something that needs to happen. Something we need to make happen.

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

RollingNews

Earlier: “Most Of Our Homes Are Not Controlled Environments But Schools Are”

Green Party Cork City Councillor Dan Boyle

It is midweek in the middle of August. Instinct would indicate that not a lot should be happening, and certainly a lot less.

I’m calling to a number of residents at their request. One has a planning concern. They physically want me to see the nature of that concern. The other has an issue with housing maintenance.

Between visits I engage in an email correspondence with a Director of Service on why there is seeming reluctance and unnecessary delay, in opening a gate that would allow pedestrian and cyclist access to an amenity park.

I’m also making contact with another official trying to organise a speaker on biodiversity for an imminent meeting.

A local journalist phones to ask for comment on footpath renewals and on the purchase by the City Council of bollards to install along cycleways.

A migrant rings to ask for help in relation to a number of difficulties he is experiencing.

It’s just another day in the life of a local councillor. Always interesting, often frustrating, knowingly and gladly entered into.

The last government commissioned a report to discover what was the workload of elected local representatives, and if that work was being appropriately remunerated. A member of the judiciary was appointed to examine this task.

The Moorehead Report has worked out that, on average, councillors work 33 hours a week. Some more, some obviously less.

Most combine being a public representative with paid employment/self employment. Up to a quarter though act as full time public representatives.

I am one such councillor myself. My circumstances allow me to be so. As someone older and without a need to directly support dependents, my income is adequate, my needs are sufficient.

For others though, first time younger councillors, the expectation of the workload is not matched by income.

Base salary for local councillors in Ireland is about €17000. With expenses this can rise to €25000. The Moorhead Report suggests these should be converted into salary. This has been presented in the media as an €8000 increase, which of course it isn’t.

This week a Green Party colleague has justifiably cited this as a factor as to why he has decided to resign as a councillor, to take up a position in the civil service.

There is no shortage of obstacles that restrict local government in Ireland from being the most effective it can be.

Proportionately, and against the prevailing myth, Ireland has less local public representatives than any other country in Europe. Too few decisions affecting local communities get made by local councillors.

Too many get made in Dublin, too many b unelected officials.

The local councillor gets to interact more with the general public than any council official does; more than many members of the Dáil get to do.

They are more likely to be the first and frequently only recipient of public anger and frustration. As a result they are also more likely to be aware of discontent, its sources and how it best might be responded to.

I like the work. It gives me a sense of purpose. It allows me to believe I can contribute positively.

But it is work
, socially useful work I hope. It is work that could be more effective if allowed to operate under the circumstances that prevail elsewhere.

I’m off now to leaflet a few houses.

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: Princes Street, Cork last week; Dan Boyle

It remains a cursed virus. Adjusting to a new normal frustrates and infuriates in equal measure. It is difficult to look for positives in what seems to be a negatively evolving situation.

Yet, perversely, positives there are. We are being asked to reconsider how we interact with each other, how we use the public space we share.

In Cork what had been long talked about as aspirations to fulfill, but had remained unfulfilled because the nature of change was too difficult, has become not only possible but has been elevated to becoming a necessity.

It hasn’t been a natural response. The first instinct within the City Council was to depedestrianise some streets to allow motor vehicles back to where they had once been restricted.

Someone had bent ears and whispered distinctly the wrong thoughts into them. I suppose the logic was, as sadly the logic has long seemed to be, that even with lower traffic volumes allowing motor vehicles use more streets would be ‘good for business’.

It took some weeks to realise how flawed this thinking was. The initiative came from those for whom the rationale ‘good for business’ was meant to apply to.

Restaurateurs and cafe owners on Princes Street pressed the City Council to allow al fresco dining onto the street. I was glad to see the Council respond positively.

Soon other streets followed – Pembroke St., Caroline St., Tuckey St., even Oliver Plunkett St. (the street that had been depedestrianised in March!).

The character of Cork City’s Centre has been transformed. While nominally this remains a trial operation, there surely can be no going back.

There is an irony in this. Next year will see the 50th anniversary of the pedestrianisation of the Patrick’s St. end of Princes Street. The first street in Ireland to have been pedestrianised.

There quickly followed the pedestrianising of Carey’s Lane and Frenchchurch St. The eighties saw Paul St. become pedestrian only. There were also a handful of partially pedestrianised streets.

Other than an Owen O’Callaghan commercial development, which in 2009 saw what once was Faulkner’s Lane become Opera Lane, pedestrianisation came to a halt in the city some thirty years ago.

This latest flowering, however unanticipated, represents the greatest level of pedestrianisation ever taken in the city. We are the richer for the potential it has shown us.

These are steps in the right direction, jigsaw pieces of a Cork that can be. Other initiatives need to follow. We need to become to become a more cycle friendly city. We need to make public tranport our prime method of commuting throughout the city.

One proposal that can only enhance is the imminent construction of a cycle lane along the South Mall, necessitating the removal of some more car parking spaces.

Having an island City Centre gives Cork so many potential advantages we have barely chosen to scratch. It is an itch we should be scratching with relish.

Wind and rain may dampen our spirits but it won’t make us lose sight of what our city can be.

This is working out so well we may become even more insufferable.

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: Clare Keogh/Cork Beo

From top; The shuttered Gaiety Theatre, Dublin; Dan Boyle

“Intermittent du spectacle” it is known as in France. A monthly COVID support payment given to artists, actors, musicians and technicians working in the Arts to be able to somewhat maintain an income in these difficult times.

I’ve long been a supporter of the introduction of a Universal Basic Income for all citizens, a policy initially promoted by The Greens.

It remains a radical idea. That each citizen in the State is guaranteed a regular income that would not be justified in terms of need or be means tested.

It challenges established ways of operating. The twin silos of government – taxation and social protection – immediately become intertwined.

That likelihood on its own has created much official antipathy to the concept. I learned this when I floated the idea of refundable tax credits when The Greens were last in government. The most resistance then came from within the civil service.

Outside of this the main obstacle has been over the cost of introducing UBI in one fell swoop. Rather than rejecting the policy perhaps the best method of bringing UBI about is by phased introduction.

Who better than artists to be identified as a pilot to be the initiation group in the phased introduction of UBI.

Few other groups of people could be said to live with precarious employment, as the pre-eminent mode of their careers.

As someone who has the most casual brush with rock and roll stardom, I especially feel for musicians in particular. For those with far more ability and talent than I’ve had, so much self worth is wrapped up in the thrill of performance.

This is now a platform that is denied and may be so for a considerable period of time. The virtual platforms seem incapable of being monetised.

This is true not only for performance but with music streaming, the virtual was already proving an appalling vista for artists.

The click to play culture has deprived many musicians, especially songwriters, of the type of income traditional ways of consuming music would have done.

There are two main reasons why we should help artists achieve income maintenance. The first is to foster creativity. The more creative our culture is, the more creative our society is. Ultimately the most creative an economy can be.

The second reason is that our artists are our best means our society has of speaking truth to power. Like the bards of medieval Irish history, well nourished artists hold mirrors towards those who have invested power in themselves.

Initially there will be a need to define and thus limit those who can considered artists. This need not be stringent. Having performed, having exhibited, having created are all the criteria that would be necessary.

When Basic Income becomes universal being an artist would become a matter of self definition. As would many other activities and occupations, that are not currently being economically acknowledged through tired and testing market determinants.

On the first records I bought may not have been a rock and roll classic, but it did contain this couplet that more succinctly sums up my argument.

‘Art for Art’s sake
Money for God’s sake’

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

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From top: Barry Cowen (left) in Dublin Castle last Tuesday; Dan Boyle

A dismissal rather than a resignation is rare in Irish political life. After Barry Cowen’s brief ministerial sojourn, we need to go back thirty years to have had a similar instance.

Hugh Coveney (father of our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon) could be said to have been constructively dismissed in 1995 when he was thought to have had inappropriate contact with a businessman.

It was thought a red card offence, although he was part compensated by being offered a Minister of State position.

Jim McDaid could have pursued a breach of promise action when he was offered a cabinet appointment in 1991, but was never appointed.

Being seen outside the Four Courts in the aftermath of an extradition hearing of a constituent, Fianna Fáil’s then partners in government, the Progressive Democrats, did not want him sitting at the cabinet table.

The last direct dismissal from an Irish cabinet was that of Brian Lenihan Senior in 1990. In the midst of a presidential campaign Lenihan was shown to have difficulties with his ‘mature recollection’.

The notoriously difficult to please PDs told then Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, that this was something with which they would not put up with.

Lenihan also held the office of Tánaiste at the time. It created the surreal situation that the Fianna Fáil candidate to be the nation’s first citizen, was simultaneously thought unsuitable to be a member of government.

The most famous cabinet dismissals occurred in 1970 on foot of the Arms Crisis. Then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, sought but did not receive the resignations of Charlie Haughey and Neil Blaney. They were told to leave cabinet.

Otherwise, outside of cabinet reshuffles, ministerial resignations have been the order of the day. Often such resignations have been encouraged.

More often than not the reasons behind enforced cabinet changes have been about character issues rather than issues of governance.

These reasons have tended be placed on failed attempts to cover up what, otherwise, may have been more explainable indiscretions.

We have been fortunate that foibles of a personal nature have not played so largely in our politics, nor have we had a media who have seen fit to delve in such areas.

Unfortunately there never seems to have been an occasion that someone has lost ministerial office solely on the basis that they weren’t very good at their job.

Effective accountability should be the ability of measuring the competence of any office holder. There has been too little of that in the Irish political system.

Geography should never be a factor in making up a cabinet. Gender has to be. A century into independence it is a balance we are continuing not to get right.

Experience has a role but not an overriding one. It constantly needs to be blended with new thinking and approaches.

Everything else is a lottery. Any government is amalgam. Coalition government particularly is so. What coalition governments are not is a marriage.

The three does not become one. A programme for government is the basis for a government to act as a single entity. Otherwise it is the sum of its component parts.

At times those component parts will act independently of each other, often returning to type. Otherwise known as politics.

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

Rollingnews

Yesterday: Heber Rowan: A Turning Point

From top Green Party’s Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration; Dan Boyle

Ten years ago, this week, I spoke in the Seanad on the Civil Partnership Bill (the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill, to give it its full title).

I argued that, as was the approach taken by dozens of other countries, it was stepping stone legislation that would see, within a number of years, the recognition and introduction of same sex marriage

I said it was another in a series of reforming pieces of legislation, that sought to redress the often backwards and repressive societal attitude in Ireland towards sex and sexuality, which itself sought to shame and discriminate against so many of our citizens.

Attitudes that were far different than those that existed on our island at the time of the Brehon laws.

Some Senators (led by Rónán Mullen) wanted to insert a conscience clause into the legislation, seeking to preserve the right to discriminate under the veil of religious belief. Having done Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ as part of my Leaving Cert, I thought it opportune to quote: “Thus Conscience does make cowards of us all.”

I also quoted John F. Kennedy who, in the course of his 1960 US presidential campaign, made a speech on how legislators should determine the common good outside of personal religious belief.

In that speech he said:

“I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair … and whose fulfilment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation … Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”.

Outside of this small clique the Seanad was greatly in favour of the proposed bill. As I spoke David Norris and Ivana Bacik added their support. I was followed in the debate by the current Minister of Finance, Paschal Donohoe, who said some kind things about my speech.

In the public gallery was the person from the Green Party who had done the most work in bringing Civil Partnership to where it was. Yet to be elected to anything, his commitment and his mastery of detail was vital to bringing Civil Partnership into being.

He is now a member of cabinet. Roderic O’Gorman has become Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration. There, I am certain, he will bring an adherence to social justice that will deliver ever more reforming pieces of legislation.

It will undoubtedly be a challenging brief. Nor will it be without controversy. But in Roderic O’Gorman we will have as Minister someone who can point to having already contributed to significant social change in this country.

Within the Green Party his ability, his competence and commitment to social justice has long been known. In recent days he has endured something of a baptism of fire, but he will become stronger for that.

Those of us who know him have an in joke in relation to the affection in which he is held. Perhaps others will get to understand its meaning. It is “In Rod We Trust”.

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

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