Tag Archives: Dan Boyle

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

RollingNews


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

From top: Last week’s High Court ruling over a proposed €160 million incinerator at Ringaskiddy is the latest twist in a 20-year campaign; Dan Boyle

It has been an interesting seven days. On Friday we learned that the High Court had set aside a planning permission for an incinerator in Ringaskiddy, County Cork.

The Judge accepted as valid grounds that a then member of An Bord Pleanala worked for a company providing advice for the incineration company.

While it may seem obvious that such grounds should invalidate, in Ireland we seem to have clung to the belief that Chinese Walls have protected us from these compromising situations in the past.

A further judgement is awaited as to whether the planning permission should be fully squashed. It’s anticipated that the decision will be re-inserted into process at Bord Pleanala level.

For twenty years those of us living in and around Cork Harbour have lived with this nonsense. Multiple oral hearings on previous planning applications with Bord Pleanala. Waste licence applications with the EPA. Other court hearings for judicial review.

Families have been reared during the time that this campaign has been ongoing. And still the incineration company, with those in state agencies supporting their proposals, persist.

Five days later I am attending a webinar. A representative of the incineration company is making a presentation. He is well versed in greenspeak. Why this isn’t an incineration company at all. This is all about waste to energy.

We should put aside any misgivings we might have about this being a combustive process adding to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Or that any energy produced by this process, quite expensively, is totally dependent on the constant creation of waste.

This isn’t incineration. This is combined heat and power. This is the circular economy, we are being told.

In the week that we now have a strengthened Climate Action Bill, the biggest challenge that lies ahead is that those who need to change won’t change. Instead they will indulge in greenspeak and engage in green washing.

We can’t afford to wrap the unsustainable in a green cloak. To meet the challenge of reducing our carbon emissions it has to be about changing, much more than adapting.

There will be many who won’t change. Enough of us need to. The argument at least seems at least being won. Changing the culture will prove more difficult.

Pursuing the politics of it may even more difficult. There is a school of thought that the climate emergency is a war where the righteous should overcome the ignorant and the unwilling.

I believe the opposite. We don’t have a hope if we can’t being as wide a cross section of society to along with us on the belief, that unless we can act collectively in understanding the problems we have, and agree the actions needed to overcome them.

It won’t involve everyone but it does need to involve most of us. I’m glad the pre legislative process has brought about a stronger Climate Bill. It came about by involving an entire Oireachtas committee in a way that is sadly rarely seen.

Because of that I’m optimistic that the necessary change can be achieved. There are more than enough issues on which we can and should divide. The Greens on our own supply more than enough divisions on such issues.

On the Climate Change we really can’t afford maintaining the status quo. We really should be promoting a different type of burning desire.

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: Taoiseach Micheál Martin (left) greeting Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien (right), whose Land Development Agency Bill will strip powers from local authorities; Dan Boyle

One of my motivations in contesting the 2019 local elections, was the possibility that there might soon be a following election for an executive Mayor for Cork.

If it were to happen I felt I could offer myself as a candidate with experience who could meet the challenge of the position.

A referendum on that issue was narrowly defeated in Cork, but was approved in Limerick. That city will get to implement the first, and only, real advance in local democracy in the history of the State.

As regards local government in Ireland, its history has been extremely poor. That history has been a catalogue of diminishing functions and powers since the inception of the State.

Sadly that ball started in Cork City with the application of the Cork City Management Act, 1929, which separated the executive functions of a local authority away from its elected members.

Since I was first elected to what was then Cork Corporation in 1991, that diminution of functions has continued unabated.

The Council to which I was elected was a housing authority which had a self build capacity. It was a planning authority of first instance, not by passed as with strategic housing developments.

It was a waste management authority. It was a water authority.

When the various functions of local authorities were not being moved to newly established, ever more distant quangos, the remaining decision making powers were being shifted from elected councillors to appointed officials within the councils themselves.

This is a process that is now being repeated with legislation giving powers to the Land Development Agency.

Within this bill is a provision to remove the power from elected councillors to vote on the disposal of property to the Agency. This is wrong on a number of levels.

Not only does it remove one of the few, important and necessary powers of elected councillors, it virtually gifts land to the Agency where it may be developed without cognisance of the wider development goals of an area.

This is being proposed because of a mistaken belief that local oversight is inconvenient to the development of housing, and may be subject to political abuse.

Oversight should never be seen as inconvenient. Failing to politically convince is hardly an abuse. Too often we have had legislation that has used an administrative machete to achieve desired goals.

The proposed legislation has had the surprise effect of uniting councillors, from all political parties and none, in their opposition to the bill.

Whether this will be enough to stop its progress is hard to see. After all years of emasculating Irish local government has gone unhindered due to the acquiescence of generations of councillors.

The other significant difference between 1991 and now was that the Council I was elected to then contained ten members of the Oireachtas, nine TDs and a Senator. The ending of the dual mandate has accelerated the weakening of local government.

Central government has only been too happy to weaken local government. All the while allowing back bench TDs operate as if they were still councillors.

The parish pump remains a flood risk to real reform in our political system. Change in any sense remains inconvenient.

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

From top: Green Party’s Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform in the Housing Department, after his election to the Dáil in the Carlow–Kilkenny constituency last year; Dan Boyle

There are many policy/legislative milestones I would like to see Greens in government achieving. One particular bill I would be invested in, is a bill I know will bring no particular political advantage, but has the capacity of bringing about a better politics.

The Electoral Reform Bill, being piloted by Green Minister of State Malcolm Noonan and currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny, will help establish an independent electoral commission in Ireland.

Why is that important? A permanent, ongoing independent electoral commission would become a fail safe for democratic norms here.

It would be responsible for the upkeep and regular updating of the voter register, making it easier and less mysterious for voters to register.

It would act as an honest arbiter in ensuring that voters are kept properly informed, less subjected to propaganda and untruths.

The McKenna and Coughlan judgements have seen temporary commissions established to oversee the conduct of individual constitutional referenda, as and when they have occurred.

The fitful nature of these commissions has undermined their effectiveness. The temporary nature of each has meant the ability to properly police those advocating in each referendum has been undermined through the knowledge that each commission was a passing entity.

This could be best seen during the 2012 Children’s Rights referendum, when then Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald flagrantly abused the McKenna Judgement in using State resources in an overwhelmingly biased way.

An permanent commission could seek information on the scale and use of resources, in all elections, prior to their being expended.

By continuing to exist after each election or referendum it would acquire the ability to directly take on malfeasance.

A third role, and equally important function, of an electoral commission would be to review and fairly define constituency boundaries.

On the surface this has largely been independent for a number of decades. However the review process has been ad hoc, with government ministers setting out the terms of reference, as and when such review groups were formed. A permanent electoral commission would bring continuity and better objectivity to this.

A new area a permanent electoral commission would have responsibility for is the regulation of online political advertising. The effect of disinformation in recent elections, throughout the world, has obviously been malign. The powers given and the ability to use such powers will be key. Undoubtedly disinformation with the intent of subverting democracy needs to be taken seriously.

The most interesting aspect of the bill are the measures to allow for an increase in postal voting, and for the holding of elections on more than one day.

The pandemic is influencing the physical way we might vote in the future. It also will probably influence the who we might vote for as well.

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 KCR