Green New Deal

With a Green New Deal and a fresh approach, the city council elected this June can draw down millions for public transport. Better city centre access and significant employment will result from a more innovative approach. The new Limerick City Council, due to be elected this June, can draw down the €20 million that has been set aside to enhance public transport, according to James Nix, candidate on the northside for the Green Party. Despite cutbacks, there is €20 million Limerick has not availed of in the past because of an impasse over public transport plans. Drawing down this funding rests on a more innovative city council being returned in the June elections.

The Green Party has put forward a solution to the impasse that has dogged public transport for the past five years and the first proposal has already been accepted. First proposed by James Nix and his colleagues in March 2008, the key to the new approach is city centre priority, enabling public transport to take the space of vehicles drawn out of the city with the opening of the new tunnel under the Shannon next year.

Approval is already in place for the first part of the Green Party plan – an enhancement programme to reduce journey times for public transport between the Regional Maternity Hospital on the Ennis Road and Brown Thomas on O’Connell Street. Traffic light priority over Sarsfield Bridge together with better lane use on Sarsfield Street are central to the proposal. This approach can be replicated on a number of streets, making access easier to the city centre, boosting footfall and helping our urban core. James says he looks forward to making further progress but is relying on voters in the city’s North Ward. If new vision comes with a newly-elected council, William Street, Gerald Griffin Street, Roches Street, and Henry Street can all benefit. New shelters are required with better timetable information. We also need to design a network with high-frequency, well-known, routes in parallel with smaller buses providing more dedicated services (see map).

The benefits of €4 million spent in the local economy in each of the next five years are significant. And the opportunity offered by the opening of the new tunnel under the Shannon next year cannot be wasted, says James. With vehicles drawn out of the city street enhancements can be coupled with bus improvements. While the city councils of Cork and Dublin were able to find the innovation solutions to draw down funding for their cities over the last five years, the impasse in Limerick saw public transport suffer, a situation we need to turn around. Turning away a multi-million euro sum year after year for failing to agree a plan is not a situation we can allow to continue. With many families shedding second cars and coming to rely more and more on public transport, as well as an ageing population, workable public transport is needed more every day.

Electric Cars

“Electric cars will be on Limerick streets within two years, and will lead to significant changes in the Irish Transport system,” according to Green Party election candidate for the Castleconnell Area, Trish Forde-Brennan. Thanks to an historic deal, the Memorandum of Understanding, signed between Energy Minister, Eamon Ryan and by Padraig Ryan (for the ESB) favourable conditions have been created for the distribution of electric vehicles to the Irish market by Renault-Nissan. “This will save us money and protect us from the unpredictable costs of imported oil. Added to this is an equally important outcome, electric vehicles will help cut carbon emissions, and place Ireland to the forefront of developments in this technological field with consequent opportunities for business and for researchers. It is a development which is good news in the anxious time we live in. We can lead in this field as Ireland is a suitable location for electric vehicles for a number of reasons:

  • Size: The battery range suits the size of the country ( for example Dublin City toLimerick is only a 195 km journey)
  • Car Neutral: No indigenous car manufacturing base
  • Private Homes: There will be less need for charging points on street for overnight trickle charge as individual homes can use their domestic electricity supply and Ireland has a high level of home ownership.
  • Electricity network: This is owned and operated by a single entity, ESB Networks and the regulatory framework exists to allow multiple suppliers to provide electricity to their EV (electric vehicle) customers.
  • Committed Government: The government is actively promoting the use of electricity in transport and is committed to reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector.
  • High Levels of wind energy: this renewable energy source can be used to charge electric vehicles which effectively provides storage facilities for the wind generated at non peak load times.

It is estimated that the annual cost of driving an electric car equates to one month’s petrol bill for a regularly fuelled vehicle and it certainly seems to be an option for city and suburban driving.The technology is advancing all the time and the BBC’s Top Gear recently did an encouraging review of what is available in electric cars I urge people to at least check out the possibility of going electric for the next purchase if they wish to save money and protect our environment. It’s a “Think Green, save with Green scenario,” she concluded.

Funding for Care of the Aged

Green Party candidate for the Castleconnell Electoral Area, Trish Forde-Brennan, welcomed the good news that funding of €2,21700 for the Castleconnell Ahane Care of the Aged as good news for older people wishing to access socially monitored alarm systems, and small items of security equipment such as sensor lighting, window and door locks, door chains and smoke alarms. This funding comes under the Scheme of Community Support for Older People and is given by the Department of Community, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs.

“The scheme is open throughout the year and applications can be made as needs arise. In times when anti-social behaviour, break-ins and isolation are situations facing people it is particularly reassuring to know that there is funding available to enhance the security of the older members of our communities. Without it and the invaluable work of locally based community and voluntary groups many would live in anxiety and distress.”

Cut city rates for start-ups

James Nix, the local election candidate on the city’s northside for the Green Party, has called on Limerick city council to halve rates for new occupiers of premises.

Under his proposal, any business taking new office or retail space would pay half-rates for the first year of operation. This has huge potential to kickstart enterprise, he said. As a city we can foster new ideas and expanding enterprises – and this is a key initiative to help deliver on our potential.

Defeatism will do nothing for very high unemployment. The time has come to focus on the solutions. The reality is that if 100,000 start-ups get off the ground, and go on to employ two or three people each, we can turn the unemployment situation around across Ireland, he said. Yes, we need to be more self-reliant, but this is a recession we can lift ourselves from, he said.

The City council has its part to play. Leaving city rates unchanged will see, at best, a handful of new premises opening. By halving rates [for new occupiers] the city will see more than a doubling of new premises opening their doors.

New occupations are the first step in tackling the long sections of empty shopfronts that have become all too common on some of our streets, he said. By attracting new occupiers we can ease unemployment, solve security problems along empty sections of streets and support jobs in neighbouring shops, he said.

And there’s all the positive publicity for the city in taking an innovative step to encourage start-ups. This is a win-win for city hall to grasp, he said

Salute Grand Slam in completing riverside city walk

Limerick’s riverside should be enhanced to draw people to the city, including a feature saluting Ireland’s Grand Slam winners, according to James Nix, the local election candidate on the northside for the Green Party.

Calling for the completion of pedestrian route on Limerick’s waterfront, he said continuous walkway should run from the Shannon Bridge along the quays to Arthur’s Quay Park to King John’s Castle. Highlighting the project as vital to battling the recession, he said riverside walkway will bring residents and visitors alike into the city. We need to complete the work on both sides of the Shannon, he says, creating a unique 20 – 30 minute walk along the riverfront.

This will ensure visitors stay to enjoy our city, strolling at their leisure beside Limerick’s major attractions, rather than just getting on and off a bus at the Treaty stone. But, more importantly, with Irish people set to make fewer trips abroad, we need to look at providing attractive spaces to enjoy in our own city. The work on Clancy and O’Callaghan Strands has shown what can be done. Now we need to complete the job and complete the riverside walk.

Art should feature along the route. One idea which has been put forward is to a have a freeze of one of our winning rugby teams making the vital score to clinch a game. There is room for interactive art by the river. Imagine a freeze of all the Irish players as O’Gara launches the winning drop goal against the Welsh, said James. Players would be positioned in exactly the same position, with the same expressions, as they held the moment O’Gara’s boot struck the ball in the Millennium stadium to secure Ireland’s first grand slam in 61 years. This is the kind of attraction that pays tribute to Limerick’s sporting achievements. It will bring visitors from all over Ireland, redressing the tourism shortfall here, and take advantage of Limerick’s status as Ireland’s sporting capital.

Vital employment will be provided in enhancing the waterfront. Public works need not come at high cost. We can and should find a way that allows public works to be undertaken by construction workers who are also in receipt of unemployment assistance, so that the city can complete the riverside walk at reasonable cost. Such a scheme is already in place in Germany.

Tourism and shopping interests will also be supportive given the spin offs in their sectors, he said. James paid tribute to the work that has already been done on the riverfront, and thanked the people behind www.riverchance.com for highlighting the city’s potential and to artist Joe McNicholas for the idea of freeze-framing a team as it secures the match-winning score.

Greens call for Negotiations for Government of National Unity

Green Party election candidate, Trish Forde-Brennan, has called for the Green party to enter into negotiations with all other parties with a view to establishing a Government of National Unity. This follows on from a motion debated at the Green Party Convention which took place at the weekend in White’s Hotel, Wexford.

At first glance one might say that such a proposal is naive and that it could never work. Certainly, it is true that political parties enjoy taking verbal swipes at one another and in particular Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. In the last eighteen months or so this has intensified to such a degree that ordinary people are tiring of all political parties and see politics as bad business. Certainly, it is said by many that they do not want to have anything to do with politicians and question why we have them. There is widespread cynicism of politics which is in itself worrying for we do need people who are prepared to lead and manage the country. Without governance we will have anarchy and mayhem. This would happen whether the economy is thriving or failing.

In the present recession it is more important than ever before that politicians see beyond the now and lead us out of the financial situation which we are in. But can this happen when individual parties and politicians are wasting valuable energy and time verbally duelling one another? An alternative government is not the solution as opposition politics would still apply. Such a solution” would lose the country valuable time and ironically waste more money in election campaigns with posters, photo opportunities, election vans and loudspeakers. Is that really what we want? Is that really what we need? I don’t believe it is the solution. What we want and need is for all politicians to work together for us. To do so does not show a lack of confidence from government parties nor does it demonstrate a lack of talent from opposition parties. It would however show political solidarity at a time of national crisis.

Critically, a government of National Unity would have the best talent available and it could serve for a specified period of time. This would ensure that there would be no disconnect from the people and no indefinite loss of democratic debate from the Dail. Indeed, a general election could be called for once the time for unity government had ceased and this could be done by prior agreement. We are in a national emergency but we can recover and be stronger. What it takes is vision and thinking outside the box. That is why the Green Party brought this motion to convention, for as a political party we are prepared to take the first step.

New deal on district heating, hydro, solar, wind power

James Nix the Green Party’s candidate in the city’s North Ward, says new rules allowing electricity to be sold back to the ESB will cut costs, boost jobs and help meet our environmental commitments.

James Nix said we send 6 billion euro abroad every year to buy fossil fuels, and this new initiative is a major step in keeping this money in Ireland to been spent on wind, solar, hydro and district heating schemes.

Highlighting the new incentives, James Nix said that local producers of energy will now be paid for spare power they generate. “Until now we have lived with an electricity network designed to accommodate the flow of electricity from large centralised plants to customers spread throughout the country. We to to change to deal with the challenges ahead and micro-generation at local level now introduces two-way flows to the electricity system. Local generators will be paid by the ESB for electricity that is surplus to their own requirements and the energy can be sold on to where it’s needed.”

District heating offers great promise in Limerick, according to James Nix. We’re lucky in having a steady supply of wood reasonably close to the city; burning timber in district heating plants generates electricity as well as heat for local homes, according to James.

The first 4,000 people to sign up to the scheme with the ESB will get a guaranteed price of 19 cents per kWh. Non ESB customers will get 10c per kWh. “This initiative paves the way for local power generation, whether it’s harnessing the tide of the Shannon or district heating schemes using local wood. Green policy will help people to lower their energy costs and to fight climate change.

“The rules have changed. Before, you received your power from a central source and paid for it. Now you can generate for yourself and be paid for the excess you don’t use. We can use our abundant natural resources to bolster the economy, create skilled, lasting, green-collar jobs and reduce carbon emissions at the same time.

“This type of long-term investment with a guaranteed return, represents the best value for spending and lending. “By generating power at home from clean, renewable sources, we will improve our
energy independence and keep more money in Ireland. We do not want to be dependent on Russia, Saudi Arabia or even England for our energy needs; we can supply our own.”

Further information – A leaflet for consumers is available at: http://www.sei.ie/Publications/Renewables_Publications/connecting_RE_and_chp_to_network.pdf

The new support price is being introduced along with a number of other measures in the Government’s micro-generation programme including:

  • Connection: An “Inform and Fit” connection policy to be introduced by ESB Networks to reduce the length of time and complexity of the connection process. Sustainable Energy Ireland also has clear information explaining the connection process
  • Grant assistance for R & D: This pilot study includes grant assistance for 40% of the cost of 50 trial units (of up to 50kW) countrywide. Applications are being accepted by Sustainable Energy Ireland
  • Planning exemptions: The Department of Environment has made small scale generation from low-carbon sources exempt from planning permission. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will continue to work with the Department of Environment on planning issues surrounding renewable energy installations.

Announcing the programme Minister Ryan said, “We are changing the rules and changing the nature of electricity generation in Ireland. Before, you received your power from a central source and paid for it. Now you can generate for yourself and be paid for the excess you don’t use.

On-site electricity generation will put more money into consumers’ pockets. This type of long-term investment with a guaranteed return, represents the best value for spending and lending.

We can use our abundant natural resources to bolster the economy, create green-collar jobs and reduce carbon emissions at the same time. Customers interested in installing microgeneration technologies and with technical queries contact ESB Networks at 1850 372 757.

Further detail will be available from ESB Customer Supply https://www.esb.ie/esbcustomersupply/residential/ shortly Those interested in the small and micro-scale pilot field trials, contact:
SEI at 01 8369080; www.sei.ie/grants/microgenpilot or email microgen@sei.ie

Customer Connection guide for micro generation are available at http://www.sei.ie/Publications/Renewables_Publications/consumer_microgen_brochure.pdf and www.esb.ie/esbnetworks

A full guide to connecting renewable and Combined Heat and Power (District Heating) electricity generators of all sizes to the network is available at: http://www.sei.ie/Publications/Renewables_Publications/connecting_RE_and_chp_to_network.pdf

Note for editors: The export price will be available for up to 4000 micro generation units for a period three years. This suite of measures will then inform the development of a long-term micro
generation programme. ESB Customer Supply and ESB Networks will contribute 9 cents and 10 cents respectively towards this tariff. Domestic electricity users registered with ESB will receive a full tariff of 19c/kWh within limits set out above. Non-ESB customers will receive a 10c/kWh tariff for any excess electricity sold back to the grid.

Opportunity to save on cost of electricity

Green Party’s Trish Forde-Brennan welcomes the news that the public can now avail of a scheme to produce and sell electricity back to the ESB for distribution to the National Grid. This has real potential for us to reduce our electricity bills and to provide extra monies to both individual homes and farms.It is a scheme worth applying for with the added bonus that the first 4,000 applicants will be guaranteed a price of 19 cent per kWH hour of electricity produced.

This competitive feed-in tariff will apply to the first 4,000 micro-generation installations countrywide over the next three years. Eligible installations include small scale wind, photovoltaic, hydro and combined heat and power.

Traditionally, the electricity network was designed to accommodate the flow of electricity from large centralised plants to customers dispersed throughout the country. Micro-generation at local level now introduces two-way flows to the electricity system. Local generators will have the ability to be paid by the ESB for electricity that is surplus to their own requirements and export it back to the national grid.

The new support price is being introduced along with a number of other measures in the Government’s micro-generation programme including:

  • Connection: An “Inform and Fit” connection policy to be introduced by ESB Networks to reduce the length of time and complexity of the connection process. Sustainable Energy Ireland also has clear information explaining the connection process.
  • Grant assistance for R & D: This pilot study includes grant assistance for 40% of the cost of 50 trial units (of up to 50kW) countrywide. Applications are being accepted by Sustainable Energy Ireland.
  • Planning exemptions: The Department of Environment has made small scale generation from low-carbon sources exempt from planning permission. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will continue to work with the Department of Environment on planning issues surrounding renewable energy installations.

Incredible Edibles campaign launched to encourage kids to eat their greens

Green Party election candidate, Trish Forde-Brennan has welcomed the launch of a campaign today by Food Minister Trevor Sargent to encourage school children to grow five Irish fruit and vegetable crops in the classroom. The Incredible Edible packs, prepared by Agri Aware, are being sent to schools nationwide this week.

 Ms. Forde-Brennan said: “This is a great scheme with a wide range of benefits. As well as learning about healthy eating and local Irish produce, school children will be encouraged to get involved with growing their own food at home as well as in the classroom. In an era, when we are encouraging the consumption and purchase of locally produced food, we need as much education as possible on the issues involved, and there’s no better place to start, than in the classroom.”

 The programme has received exceptional cross-industry support, allowing over 200,000 school children to participate, at no cost to the schools involved. In total 360,000 seeds and plants and 60 tonnes of compost will be divided and sent to every school in the country.

 Green Party Minister for Food Trevor Sargent said the potential educational benefits of this campaign are immense. “Developing the food growing skills and encouraging good eating habits of the next generation will help make Ireland become a more resourceful and healthier society in the years to come,” he said.

 The Incredible Edibles programme is a follow on to Agri Aware’s Meet the Spuds, Potato Growing Challenge in 2008. Each pack contains strawberries, potato, onions, cabbage and lettuce and will be accompanied by a DVD. Students will create a growing diary and document their agricultural adventure from sowing and planting in February to harvesting in June.  

“Many of us may remember generations before us growing their own food and I hope this scheme will highlight the nutritional and cultural significance of Irish fruit and vegetables to those, who may never have seen a row of spuds or a strawberry bed in anyone’s garden or vegetable patch,” said Ms.Forde-Brennan

Green Candidate welcomes election spend curb

Green Party Election candidate for the Castleconnell Electoral Area, Trish Forde-Brennan, today welcomed Minister’s Gormley’s approved drafting of a Bill limiting spending on June’s Local Election.” As someone who has always been uneasy about the large sums of money spent by some candidates and political parties in the run-up to elections, I believe that curbing spending is both good for democracy and is necessary in the present economic circumstances.The changes will be significant in terms of monies spent and importantly, the spend period to be declared.This will be the first time a spending limit will apply to Local Elections and it is proof that government is serious about electoral reform. From now on County and City Councils will have a sliding scale of limits based on population numbers.Limits will apply to individual candidates but where a candidate is nominated by a political party, he or she, will be ” deemed to automatically allocate 10% of their limit for use by the party’s National Agent.” There will be scope to vary this figure by written agreement. There will not be however,any additional administrative burden placed on candidates as the legislation will build on the existing requirements for candidates to declare their spending to the local authority. Significantly,the declared time of spending will be 60 days instead of the previous 3 to 4 weeks.It is a good step forward.

“For those of us running in the Castleconnell Electoral Area our effective limit will now be 13,500 euros if we are affiliated to a political party.Otherwise, the limit will be 15,000 euros. Some people have criticised Minister Gormley and government for not having published a Bill dealing with reform of the electoral system before now.There are many who believe comprehensive reform is not alone necessary but critical. But, it should be remembered that the law in the area is both complex and extensive with over 20 seperate Acts of the Oireactas dealing directly and solely with electoral matters. Minister Gormley is now publishing the report from a commissioned team of academics from UCD charged with identifying how an Independent Electoral Commission can be delivered. Included will be recommendations on the modernisation and consolidation of legislation required to establish the Electoral Commission. Public Consultation will be received until Friday, 26 th June 2009 and I URGE anyone who has an opinion on how to improve our electoral system and make it more accessible to participate in this process.