Strange times indeed...
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.