The Rural Independent Group has slammed the passing of the Climate Action Bill in the Dáil, and accused the government of “dancing to the green tune.”
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Deputy Mattie McGrath had some strong words for Climate Minister Eamon Ryan.
“The Minister should prove us wrong about our worries. We did not dream them up. EirGrid is telling us things and the people are living through these issues. I, therefore, appeal again to the Minister – and our amendments obviously are not going to be reached – to reflect on this, in the conciliatory tone he has had in the last several minutes.
“He must understand our frustration and that of the people we represent. That is our job as Teachtaí Dála, messengers of the people. We represent the people here. In Deputy Nolan’s constituency we have seen the damage of the so-called just transition which is an unjust imposition.
“Listen to the farmers, listen to the people who are out there. Listen to the people who are trying to get the warmer homes grant. Listen to the people trying to buy insulation. Listen to the people trying to build houses now when the prices have gone up 40%, mainly due to the carbon tax. Listen to the people who are buying briquettes imported from Germany and elsewhere because we cannot buy them at home.
“It is nonsense. In the same conciliatory tone, I appeal to the Minister, I beg of him to give us the latitude for a proper reasonable debate and time. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Following on from Deputy McGrath’s comments, Deputy Michael Collins continued in a similar vein.
“Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister to listen to the people and I am asking him to do the very same thing.
“He should listen to the people who have no public transport, the people who have no or poor school transport, the people who have poor rural transport. He should listen to young people who cannot get planning permission in their own farms at home. He should listen to the people who are subject to carbon tax and who are hit most by it; they are mostly from rural Ireland. He should listen to the farmers who are hurt the most.”
He proceeded to slam the government’s “dream schemes” as regards climate change.
“The Minister has schemes. We were talking about schemes here. I am worn out with eco schemes and dream schemes. We also have an organic scheme. The Minister has been in government twice and that organic scheme is an absolute disaster. To think the Government is looking at another dream scheme when it already has an existing good environmental scheme and it cannot further it beyond what it is. I am asking the Minister to look at this.”
Deputy Carol Nolan accused the government of hypocrisy and having “tunnel vision,” while Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asserted that the current climate policy would have been considered radical by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael just a few years ago.
“Does the Minister realise there are people in the countryside worried by the implications of what he and his party have proposed?” said Healy-Rae.
“It is not my job to speak about other parties but I must be a political realist. A number of years ago Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would have been outraged at even the suggestion of what the Minister is pushing through tonight.
“As a result of the political reality that is the make-up of the current Government, those parties are now quite willing to bow to this and agree to dance to the green tune, no matter the decibel level to which the music is raised.
“They are quite willing to row in very obediently behind the Minister and support him, no matter how hurtful some of what he proposes will be to the Irish people and future generations.”
He added: “Please do not ever try to paint us as people who are not concerned about the countryside. It is the exact opposite. We want to be custodians of the countryside and the environment in the same way as everybody else and perhaps much more.”
Subsequently, Deputy Danny Healy-Rae slammed what he called the “undemocratic” nature of the bill.
“This Bill is totally undemocratic in that it gives the Minister the right to push through a carbon budget without a vote in Dáil Éireann,” he said.
“This Bill will hurt the people who get up early in the morning who must go to work. It will hurt hardest the people who create jobs and employ people. It will hurt farmers and there is no recognition of what farmers can do with carbon sequestration. In France, farmers are allowed to sell gas that is created from animals, which provides income for the farmers. The Government does not want to mention that.”
The Bill passed by a significant margin, with only 10 TDs in total voting against it.