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Kevin Myers: Labour's contemptible offering on nuclear facilities is either cynical deceit or egregious folly

This little area of the newspaper has sworn to steer clear of the election, both for reasons of my own sanity and also to give readers a little oasis from its inanities, complete with columnar figs, dates, sweet-water and dancing houris.

Only when I see clear party political insanity will I venture from the shade of these balmy palms: hence what follows, provoked by the Labour Party's manifesto: "Labour will not establish any nuclear facility in the State. We will continue to oppose the Sellafield plant and other installations in the UK which pose a risk to our people."

Now, that's an electoral promise, which is either binding or it's not. If it's not binding, if it's unprincipled crowd-pleasing piety, then the ghost of Charles Haughey is alive and well, but now spouting Larkin and Connolly. If it's binding, then what we have is a true example of unprincipled sanctimony becoming policy. And whichever it is, Labour is offering us either cynical deceit or egregious folly at the very time that the State faces financial ruin, with another generation of young Irish people contemplating a future of oppressive taxes, beggary and despair. It's hard to imagine anything more contemptible.

Inasmuch as any thought whatever went into this, it probably was on the lines that no political party would dare attack Labour for its anti-nuclear stance, because all discussion on energy in the State has been reduced to a morality-competition, stripped of all realism or fact, such as that which might grace the debating chamber of the Lower Sixth, Holy Child Convent for Ladies. Yet it is only a month since the Labour Party proposed a fresh look at all its policies (and gave an unintended insight into its thinking): "We will open our minds to ideas such as nuclear energy and casinos. A closed mind on such issues is tolerable during a boom, but it is redundant as we enter the fourth year of domestic recession."

That anyone should ever airily proclaim that closed minds are ever tolerable merely indicates the blinkered and ideological mentality of the Labour mindset. In essence it is a proclamation: "We only change our minds when forced to by economic catastrophe."

This isn't a mentality which seeks to foresee and forestall disaster: no indeed, the socialist look-out is drinking at the bar and the crow's nest is unmanned. Why? Because it's a boom-time, and so we'll only open our minds after the side is ripped off, the bulkheads are holed and we're shipping water on the port-side.

As it happened, not even that hypothetical post-cataclysmic response was forthcoming from Labour. Instead, we've a got a retreat to the unscientific and schoolgirlish anti-nuclear pose. No doubt Labour was too busily posturing on this issue to give much thought to the words that it was choosing. Because the only possible legal interpretation of its manifesto is that any existing hospital or university radioisotope laboratories (which are nuclear facilities) would be made illegal. This would put the HSE, already marching gallantly towards leeches and laudanum, right back in the 18th century, where it perhaps belongs. Worldwide, there are some 40 million radioisotope procedures annually, and growing at over 10pc per year. Save in Ireland, that is, where these operations will have to be banned outright by a Labour Party in power, if it sticks to its election promises, or they won't be, if it doesn't. If the former, count the bodies.

Counting bodies is of course what nuclear-scaremongers like doing: the problem being that in terms of safety, nuclear kills almost no-one. Take the famous Three Mile Island incident, which occurred 32 years ago next month and which caused mass panic around the world. Fatalities? None. Terminal illnesses? None. Shortened life expectancies? None detected. Or consider Sellafield. Known deaths in the past decade? One. Man fell off chimney. Even in the catastrophe of Chernobyl, the greatest death-toll came from the firemen fighting the fire.

Conversely, the gas-oil extraction business in the US alone has an annual fatality rate of over 400 -- which is 30.5 per 100,000 workers, or seven times the average rate. I'm sorry: am I embarrassing you with some facts here? Or would you prefer some good old unscientific Labourite emoting? Such a preference surely must be the underlying reason for our outright ban on nuclear power, which co-exists with our deal to buy nuclear power from Britain, signed by a minister of the very same Green Party that had outlawed nuclear power. Yes, we're buying abroad what we've outlawed at home. And now the new Labour Party manifesto condemns the British for even having the very thing that we're going to buy more of from them: nuclear power. The hypocrisy, though nauseating, is not untypical. It resembles the "ban" on condoms, which continued to be "sold" through "voluntary contributions" at Irish "family-planning clinics". Only now it's not Durex we're secretly importing but thermonuclear megawatts, even as tens of thousands of young unemployed Irish vanish once more to the land that is producing this most immoral and unIrish form of energy.

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