Sunday 19 August 2007

Phoenix Magazine on Tara

THE densest plume of green smoke has clouded the whole issue of the Lismullen site and the manner in which the Greens sacrificed the henge site along the M3 motorway in order to get into coalition government with FF. In recent weeks, newly appointed Minister for the environment and Green Party leader, John Gormley, has announced a series of initiatives on Lismullen and the M3 which have served to divert attention from his party’s abandonment of Lismullen during negotiations with Fianna Fail last month.

The fact is that the Green negotiators – Gormley, Dan Boyle and Green general secretary, Dan Geoghegan, were fully aware that the order was due to be signed by the then incumbent environment minister, Dick Roche, but they failed to even request that it be deferred, much less make it a serious issue for negotiation. However, the immediate political fall-out from the decision was reduced, with the bungling assistance of the Dail Opposition and to the immense relief of Gormley, to a question of whether or not Gormley had the legal power to reverse the decision. Since then, Gormley has announced a series of initiatives on Lismullen – release of the departmental file; a review of how the state can protect its heritage and landscape; discussions with transport minister, Noel Dempsey, on how to minimise the visual impact of the M3; possible review of the 2004 National Monuments Act and so on – all of which has covered over, like some heavy landfill operation, the Greens participation in the burial of Lismullen in the first place.
Gormley stated on June 14 that he had not been aware that Roche had intended to sign the order – signed on June 12, the same day that the Greens agreed a government programme with FF but not announced until after the party had voted to endorse the agreement – while coalition talks with FF were drawing to a close. Boyle was only slightly more forthcoming on RTE’s Prime Time programme, also on June 14, when he said that “ we were aware that the decision was likely to be made; we weren’t told when it was going to be made”.
The very best that can be said for the Green negotiators, therefore, is that they knew the decision was pending but that they did not bother to clarify when or to whom, ie, FF or the Greens, the decision would fall . However, in an apparently unnoticed aside during RTE’s Questions and Answers programme four days later, one of the FF coalition negotiators, Noel Dempsey, blew the Greens out of the water when queried by a Green member of the Save Tara Campaign in the audience who appeared to believe that not many people knew that the particular decision on Lismullen was imminent. Dempsey stated that any reader of The Irish Times would have known that the Lismullen issue was a live one to which the Green member said: “What I’m referring to is Minister Roche’s decision; the timing of that decision and whether it was known to the negotiators”. Dempsey replied “Yes”, and the visibly shocked Green stated that this was “most certainly not” relayed to the party membership when they discussed and voted on the coalition agreement a day later. Goldhawk has also established that Roche, badgered by his departmental officials to sign the order, was in constant touch with Dempsey during the coalition negotiations to remind him of this ticking bombshell and the urgency for clarification of the issue. Dempsey was able to tell Roche that both sides of the negotiations were aware of the matter and that there was no problem in signing the order.

© Phoenix Magazine

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