“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet**”
With the week that’s in it, Roses appear an appropriate analogy to begin this post. The lines spoken by Juliet from the Capulet’s tower decry the labelling of Romeo, a Montague by name, a sweetheart still the same..
It’s something that often comes to mind in political discourse, rightly or wrongly different parties have been labelled in various ways over the years, with perhaps some justification at times, although I believe my own party, Fianna Fáil, is too broad a church to be conveniently stuck in a box with a definitive label on top.
To start with let me warmly welcome Minister Gormley’s publication this week of new proposals to enhance the building process. These mandate minimal requirements for future developments including green space, access to facilities, proper integrated planning and convenient location of amenities such as schools to be within walking or cycling distance. A utopian image one might say, yet an ideal I very much share (albeit augmented with some proposals of my own*).
In fact I placed a motion on the clár at the last Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis that “That this Ard-Fheis recognises the need for careful planning of residential areas, with provision made in high-density housing areas to ensure adequate parking facilities, sound-proofing, privacy and protection from anti-social behaviour. (Sallins Cumann, Kildare North)”
I proposed this at the Environment workshop and the motion was passed by a majority of delegates. These current guidelines, whilst emanating from the Green office, assume collective cabinet responsibility and by extension have the full backing of Fianna Fáil ministerial counsel.
Diverging briefly into the the area of Salmon conservation, another topic close to my own heart as a keen (but usually unsuccessful) angler, again I welcomed Minister Ryan’s announcements on the matter in recent months whole-heartedly. But it’s worth being aware this conservation initiative was instigated and championed by the previous Fianna Fáil incumbent in that department, and the policy was well underway when the new Minister took office.
Similarly the much feted carbon taxes announced during the budget, again while welcome, can be traced to documents produced by the Department of Finance in 2006, when Fianna Fáil very firmly held the reigns of power and the greens were on the opposition benches.
I like the Greens. I like much of what they stand for. The current proposals are a splendid statement of intent. With an interest in public transport, heritage, planning and local government reform, it could be said I have much common ground with the Greens myself. But I have even more common ground with my own party which has addressed all the above and more (including prudent economic policies, the pursuit of social justice and crossing a Republican rubicon in recent years catapulting Northern Ireland into a normalised state and laying the ground work for greater things in the not too distant future)
There are some aspects of Green party politics where I part ways. The hippy-dippy element would be a bridge too far, and as someone who spent many college years stuck, bus-bound, on the side of the N11 whilst the protesters at Glen-of-the-Downs delayed construction on what is now a fine motorway I appreciate how a more pragmatic approach is needed at times. I am also uncomfortable at the almost fascist stance sometimes adopted by (usually urban dwelling) green types who resist the movement of peoples, or at least seek to dictate how many generations of ones family must have worshiped at the local altar before conceding a space to live or allow ‘newcomers’ into the fold. Indeed some of Minister Gormley’s previous regulations contained an aspect of this, almost designed to prevent ‘blow-ins’ from taking up residence in our newer communities in a form of ethnic screening more akin to Deliverance type hill-billies, illustrating how extremes on both sides can meet on the date line at times.
The point is no one party has a monoply on good environmental husbandry. One can be ‘green’ in nature without being ‘green’ in name. There is nothing untoward about pursuing an environmental agenda within Fianna Fáil (or in any other party) but as part of a wider policy platform and that is the approach I take myself.
* There are some aspects of the guidelines I’d like to see developed further before implementation such as a deadline period to turn around objections and submissions, and a greater onus placed upon the other stakeholders in collaborative planning such as the Department of Education and HSE to ensure a timely engagement enables progressive planning. I would also like to see adequate provision of parking, stricter regulations on sound-proofing, privacy guidelines and more but this is a good start. If it is possible I will likely make a submission on these guidelines before they come into law, activating the policy aspects of my Ard Fheis motion. Also regarding the maximum number of units per development provision, whilst I have seen first hand what can happen when a village or town experiences over-accelerated growth without accompanying provision of services, I would wonder what supply/demand economics would have made of this housing cap during the boom just gone. It may well be that the idyllic hamlet effectively sees those same eulogized natives priced out of their own locality.
** A story, much favoured by tour guides is that in this line Shakespeare was also making a joke at the expense of the Rose Theatre. The Rose was a local rival to his Globe Theatre and is reputed to have had less than effective sanitary arrangements. The story goes that this was a coy joke about the smell. This certainly has the whiff of folk etymology about it, but it might just be true.