Wednesday 24 July 2019

We need debate on energy - not a row

Energy Minister Alex White
Energy Minister Alex White


Irish energy policy has been bedevilled in recent years by what Energy Minister Alex White has called a "disconnect" between official Ireland and the people it seeks to serve.

It is, of course, a disconnect that cuts both ways. People living in the shadow of pylons and wind turbines see themselves as "victims" on the one hand, while on the other there is a pervasive attitude of 'not in my back yard' to almost every new development. Local communities are often suspicious of bureaucrats' consultations and only tend to object to major schemes, but leave it until the 11th hour do to so. We have seen a procession of such schemes fall foul of almost endless objections and legal blockades. You only have to look at the marathon dispute over bringing Corrib gas to one of the remotest places in Ireland and the more recent debate over Eirgrid's plans to erect what are undoubtedly ugly pylons.

It is worth pointing out that while we seem to admire the way others get things done, the Irish way is often to become mired in futile and endless arguments, which often bear no relation to the issue at stake.

The minister plans to publish a White Paper on Energy in 2015, which will focus on the need for energy security and yet take into account the concerns of local communities. While such a paper is to be welcomed, one must have a certain amount of sympathy with any minister who attempts to square this vicious circle.

Mr White also holds the commendable view that any serious debate about future energy needs must include the nuclear option. But therein lies the danger. There can be little doubt that this unlikely scenario will become the focus of any subsequent debate.

Various interests will become polarised on the nuclear issue, rather than focusing on the real and more pressing issues of delivering safe and efficient electricity and gas supplies and ensuring that we do not have a second-class energy network to go with our well-recognised second-class water network.

While there is always a place for 'Nimbyism', there is also a pressing need for Irish people to recognise that the common good should, in certain circumstances, prevail over individual and vested interests.

Cead mile failte still crucial to our tourism

Tourism has always been an important industry here.

Recently, there has been more of a focus on luring new visitors to experience the many attractions of Ireland - as illustrated by new figures showing tourist numbers for 2014 were up by 9pc.

And while we Irish might not fully appreciate the dollar of the returning American, the fact is that US and Canadian visitors still play a very important part in boosting Irish revenues. That is why 'The Gathering' was, despite much sneering from some commentators, such a success.

Tourism is evolving, but the one constant is the people and the landscape of Ireland.

The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation has rightly highlighted the importance of the Wild Atlantic Way, but the fact remains that such innovations, combined with the people who populate the route, are what attract visitors.

People won't come to Ireland for the weather, but they will come for the welcome. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that they get just that - after all, it is not as if we have to try hard to be friendly, talkative and welcoming.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss