Strange times in­deed...

Bray People - - Colm Lambert -

WELL, slap me with a sock and call me Ju­lia. There are strange times afoot, as last week yours truly found him­self agree­ing not only with the lat­est pol­icy of the Green Party, but also with one of the lead­ing fig­ures of the DUP in the North.

Nor­mally, the eco-men­tal­ists, the Nordie Brits, and I are like Wladislav in Poz­nan and his brother Zarek sign­ing on in Gal­way - we’re Poles apart. But in the past few days, our minds have met on cer­tain is­sues. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Per­haps I should lie down.

The strange­ness be­gan with John Gorm­ley and Ea­mon Ryan of the Greens call­ing for the Gov­ern­ment jet to be put into cold stor­age, with the Taoiseach and Min­is­ters be­ing made use or­di­nary passenger flights in­stead when go­ing abroad on busi­ness. A per­fectly rea­son­able de­sire - par­tic­u­larly as it’s be­ing made on fi­nan­cial grounds, rather than the usual car­bon emis­sions clap­trap you’d ex­pect from them (al­though Gorm­ley could hardly go on about that one too much, since he used the jet him­self to fly all the way to Bali in De­cem­ber ’07. That one must have had a foot­print the size of King Kong). Ap­par­ently it costs an av­er­age €8,000 per hour to use the Gov­ern­ment jet, and it’s used most of­ten to fly to

Brus­sels or other places around Europe that are well served by reg­u­lar flights. So let’s just take a re­turn trip to Brus­sels as an ex­am­ple - 90 min­utes get­ting there and the same com­ing back works out at a re­turn fare of €24,000. But if you booked flights last Thurs­day for a re­turn trip to be at a meet­ing there to­day, it would only have cost €96 with Aer Lin­gus or €82 with Ryanair (and that’s even in­clud­ing Ryanair’s €30 charge for bring­ing one piece of check-in lug­gage with you). And be­tween both air­lines, you’d have had a choice of five flights to get there, and six to get back - so there’s surely some­thing there to suit any sched­ule.

Re­mem­ber that Ryanair was good enough for Tony Blair on short-hop flights on more than one oc­ca­sion - it should be good enough for our folks too.

Then you have the wastage on other, longer, flights. For in­stance, just a few weeks back it cost €164,000 to send Mary Cough­lan and Wil­lie O’Dea on a fruit­less mis­sion to Austin in Texas to try con­vince bosses at Dell not to close down their Lim­er­ick op­er­a­tion. They could have got there on a reg­u­lar flight for less than €1,000. Or even if you ac­cept that the Min­is­ters are en­ti­tled to some lux­ury on their travel, busi­ness class would still be less than €10,000 - a huge sav­ing ei­ther way.

Don’t for­get ei­ther that the in­fa­mous FAS jun­ket to Co­coa Beach in Florida used the Gov­ern­ment jet too, at a cost of €80,000. For a frac­tion of the cost, Mary Har­ney and the oth­ers on that trip could in­stead have flown on a reg­u­lar flight, along with all the other boozedup hol­i­day­mak­ers head­ing there.

Yup, the Greens are spot on in want­ing that plane grounded. But agree­ing so doesn’t mean I’ve gone all green my­self - as I’m also agree­ing with the DUP’s Sammy Wil­son say­ing that TV ads pro­mot­ing mea­sures to try com­bat cli­mate change are ‘patent non­sense’.

Ian Pais­ley’s for­mer right-hand man may be En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter in Stor­mont, but he’s a far cry from Gorm­ley in the stance he’s tak­ing on the is­sue. While Gorm­ley wants to ban 100-watt light­bulbs and put us in smaller cars, Wil­son says it’s ‘in­sid­i­ous pro­pa­ganda’ to for such ads to give ‘the im­pres­sion that by turn­ing off the standby light on their TV, peo­ple could save the world from melt­ing glaciers and be­ing sub­sumed in 40ft of wa­ter.’

And he’s dead right too. Such to­ken ef­forts in small coun­tries make next to no dif­fer­ence what­so­ever on a global scale, not so long as un­der­de­vel­oped coun­tries with much much larger pop­u­la­tions are still belch­ing out smoke from power sta­tions and en­gines on ve­hi­cles that wouldn’t even be let near an NCT cen­tre here.

Fi­nally - an En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter who tells it like it is. He’s to be ad­mired for it. Even if he is from the DUP.

The Greens want the Gov­ern­ment jet scrapped in favour of Ryanair and Aer Lin­gus.

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