Wednesday 29 January 2020

Tree protest unearthed root of our ills

WHILST recently watching 'Tunnel Vision' -- a very good Irish documentary on the Glen of the Downs Nature Reserve tree protest -- it dawned on me that we are now 10 years on from the end of that campaign.

How fascinating it is to look back on the "hippies", "wasters" and "blow-ins" (as they were called by some back then) who spent the late '90s living in the trees at the nature reserve in Co Wicklow, and doing what 'eco warriors' do to protect the planet from council chainsaws.

Wicklow County Council needed to widen the N11 for the sake of ... progress? But these pesky hippies from all over the place ("a lot of them aren't even Irish you know!") were wasting taxpayers' money by not doing the "right thing" and vacating a protected nature reserve so that part of it could be destroyed in order to widen a road. In other words, they wasted our money by delaying an even bigger waste of our money.

Apart from the fact that the road widening there has proved -- as they suggested -- something of a waste of time (no traffic jams lately!) a lot of the other observations were similarly compelling. During the documentary, for example, several participants cited the Celtic Tiger rush to sell one's soul for economic 'progress'. We now know how bogus that promise was.

One of the best quotes from the documentary followed the imprisonment of several protesters -- based on technicalities and abuse of the law -- to keep them out of the way while Wicklow County Council went in to the nature reserve to fell the trees. One of the protesters remarked: "They can't afford to let us win. If they did that, it would mean people power worked, and people would ask what they need a government for?"

In 2010 that rings very true, as does just about everything else the protesters said and did all those years ago. I have renewed respect for "hippies", "wasters" and "blow-ins", not to mention "new-age crap". This documentary should be shown on RTE on a regular basis as a warning about greed and the abuse of power over common sense and ordinary people. The only problem is, 10 years on, it might vie for space among all the other examples which have since come to pass.

Anthony Halpin


Irish Independent

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