Saturday 18 November 2017

Senator Ronan Mullen: Our political system makes liars and cynics of us

The party whip forces politicians to vote against conscience and break promises, writes Senator Ronan Mullen

During the week I tabled a motion in the Seanad calling for high voltage lines to be placed underground 'wherever physically possible'. Eirgrid's plans to erect 4,000 massive electricity pylons nationwide are causing widespread disquiet. Everyone supports strengthening our national grid and securing the power supply to business. But rural Ireland is understandably alarmed over the potential impact on land prices, tourism and rural and community life.

There has been a welcome show of people power. Ordinary folk are banding together to protest and insist that high voltage lines go underground. A recent meeting in Trim at which I spoke attracted more than 1,000 people.

Politicians often attend these events to express solidarity with beleaguered communities. But it can be a different story when they reach Dublin. My Seanad motion was defeated by 26 votes to 25. Frustratingly, some of the most vocal opponents of pylons went missing when actually needed. Only two out of three Sinn Fein senators were present. Three Labour senators chose to abstain from the vote, but were not there to vote for my motion. A golden opportunity to put the Government on the defensive was missed.

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