Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Words on Wednesday...with Dan Boyle

Dan BoyleWelcome to this week's Words on Wednesday feature here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

Taking my questions this week is Green Party TD for Cork South Central Dan Boyle.

I'd like to thank Mr Boyle for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. With that being said, let's begin:

What initially attracted you to political life?

I have a Fianna Fáil family background which I reacted against, but my real entry to politics was through community and youth work.

You are a TD for Cork South Central. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

The only thing typical about my days is that no day is ever typical. There's many days that have elements that are similar, but no day is ever the same as another. I believe in accountability and on my web site I regularly update my diary and and have also recently introduced a blog. These give some sense of what my days are like.

You are the Green Party's spokesperson on Finance. How do you feel the Government has performed in this area?

This government has operated during very favourable circumstances, mainly due to international factors. That said the way public infrastructure spending has been allowed to go off the rails has been obscene. The real test of the economic credentials of a government is not how it performs during an economic boom but how it protects the economy during a recession. I have a fear that when the current economic indicators begin to go south, the policies this government has followed will mean that many in our society will be caught unprepared and will suffer needlessly because of the short sightedness of this government.

If you could change three things about Irish society, what would you change and why?

I would see myself more of a social green than an environmental green. I believe that how decisions are made, who gets to make decisions and who benefits from decisions that are made, are the essential questions that have to be asked and be repeatedly asked in a democracy.

The first thing I would work towards is a reform of local government to maximise participation and the number of decisions that can be made to allow people to have greater involvement in the making of decisions that affect their everyday lives.

The second area would be to devise a better system of reward and acknowledgement to those who volunteer and provide a level of social services that the State is unable or is unwilling to provide.

The third reform I would try to introduce is to include in legislation the index linking of social welfare payments and tax credits and bands, so that no future government can go play fast and loose with those without resources or living on low incomes.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

I would like to see it happening but it would have to be an Ireland that is united in hearts and minds as well as territory.

What should be done to improve the situation in NI?

Northern Ireland has no economic viability in its own right. The huge British subsidy and transfer cannot and will not be sustained into the future. If a United Ireland is to be achieved in the near future there may be some comeback in the South about similar subsidies being given and the effect that may have on public expenditure and taxation. What needs to be done and done now is the creation and development of an All Island economy. Synergies and economies of scale could be achieved that increase wealth in the North and sustain wealth in the South.

Recently you were involved in efforts to amend the Irish constitution and ensure that "those not resident in the State of Ireland but citizens of the State of Ireland" could vote in Irish Presidential elections. Could you tell us a bit more about this and whether or not this proposal would allow Irish citizens from NI to finally have the opportunity to vote in Irish Presidential elections?

The recent Italian election allowed Italian citizens to vote for the election of members of the Upper House, the Senate. The Green Party succeeded in having Senators elected under this system. In the US, American citizens living abroad can vote in their Presidential elections. In a recent Private Members Bill I've had published I've said that Irish citizens living abroad and living in Northern Ireland can and should vote in elections for the Irish Presidency. I also sit on the Seanad Reform committee where I am arguing that seats in Seanad should be set aside for election by Irish citizens living abroad and in Northern Ireland.

In relation to Green issues, what are your thoughts on cheap air travel as a major contributor to global warming? Do we need to radically reduce the number of people flying in your view?

There has been a huge increase in air travel in recent years and it cannot be argued that this has been a major contributor to the increase in international greenhouse gas emissions. To deal directly with this issue will involve a heavy political price. It would probably be best dealt with at an agreed international level with a cross boundary aviation tax. With ever rising fuel costs in any case this period of seemingly cheap, but environmentally expensive air travel may not last that long.

Recently the Irish state celebrated the Easter Rising with a military parade in Dublin. What were your thoughts on the parade and what is your own view of the Easter Rising?

I don't feel that a military parade was the best way of honouring what 1916 represented. Much of what exists in the Proclamation could have been celebrated in other ways. I'm a pacifist by inclination but I do realise that in the 19th century and early 20th century, social change could often only often be achieved violently. Later in the 20th century Gandhi and Martin Luther King showed there were other, better ways, of achieving the same goals.

You are a member of the Committee on Dáil reform. There was anger recently at the perceived backtracking of the Taoiseach in regard to MPs from NI speaking in the Oireachtas. What are your thoughts on that issue? A good or bad idea?

Speaking rights yes, involvement in Oireachtas committees yes, but voting rights no. There are some constitutional difficulties here. Members of the Dáil need to be elected on the same day representing electorates of similar size. The Westminister cycle is out of sync with Leinster House, with House of Commons constituencies being larger and Stormont constituencies being much smaller than Dáil constituencies. I have already stated that I favour the direct election of Northern Ireland representatives to the Seanad.

What are your thoughts on the current conflict in Iraq right now and Ireland's position?

Iraq is a mess, and through the government allowing the use of Shannon Airport for troop movements, and the probable illegal action of 'rendition' flights, Ireland has become inextricably linked with this mess. I would like to see the largely US/British led multi-national force being replaced with a UN force comprised largely of soldiers from other midlle eastern countries.

An issue that unionists in the North such as the DUP have taken seriously is an issue that presumably your party takes very seriously too - plans to build a 125-metre chimney stack at the site of the Battle of the Boyne in County Meath. What are your thoughts on this issue and what will this mean for such a historically important area?

We oppose incineration because it is the wrong policy option. That it's proposed for a historically and culturally significant area is another reason to opppose its construction, but not the central reason. If we have incineration we cannot have effective waste reduction or recycling policies.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now?

Going forward as a confident nation able to account for itself to all other nations, but also back to see if we can regain some of what we've lost - our sense of community and our sense of fairness. A more equal Ireland would be a more truly wealthy country.

On your site you mention how you were the first public representative in Cork to take to the Web and you take your site seriously. I have also interviewed your party colleague Ciarán Cuffe who has a website and blog that he takes seriously. Do you see websites and blogs playing an important role in politics here, as has happened in the US?

Yes I do. But only a minority of people still have access to computers in their homes, but it is becoming a significant minority. There are problems with the lack of broadband and the cost of internet use, but the Greens would work to overcome these difficulties.

What would you say to any Irish people reading now who aren't sure who to vote for in the next General Election?

I would encourage them to vote. If there is no party they can support then vote independent. If there is no independent that appeals then consider becoming a candidate. If becoming a candidate isn't feasible then spoil your vote, but at least participate.

Finally, I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following names:

Bertie Ahern - Inscrutable
Michael McDowell - Spiteful
George W. Bush - Dangerous
Gerry Adams - Capable
Brian Cowen - Skilled
Mary McAleese - Over-extended
Trevor Sargent - Cute
Roy Keane - Hard
Padraig Pearse - Educator
Dan Boyle - Unfulfilled

Next week, Irish Senator David Norris takes my questions. Be sure to keep clicking in to United Irelander for your firsthand look at Irish political life.

Previous interviews can be read here.


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