Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Cynicism about NI politicians is fed by #Stormont’s unwillingness to openly engage…

Mon 2 July 2012, 9:45am

Some of the recent actions of our Executive Ministers have betrayed an attitude of defensive paranoia when it comes to interventions from civil society.

It was revealed earlier this month, for instance, that Arlene Foster wrote a haughty letter to the Co-op, reprimanding them for organising a screening of the anti-fracking documentary Gaslands in Belfast.

Meanwhile, her party colleague Nelson McCauseland has killed off the Green New Deal, relying on the advice of in-house “economists,” instead of the detailed research of a coalition of business leaders, unions, and green NGOs.

On the subject of green NGOs, Alex Attwood has been publically bemoaning some environmental charities for adding to his difficulties in implementing his agenda of sustainability, because we had the audacity to point out that it’s not very sustainable to dump a golf course on a national treasure.

Add to all of this the roping off of the media during the infamous Girdwood photo shoot, and you build up a picture of an Executive and Assembly in siege mode, viewing civil society and the fourth estate as at least nuisances, if not malign threats.

This is an inefficient and ineffective way to govern.  Alex Attwood is now facing an expensive legal challenge, and public condemnation from UNESCO, when he’d rather work on a legacy of climate change legislation and environmental protection.

Arlene has become public enemy number one for many residents of north Antrim and west Fermanagh, and rumours of her personal interests in the Fermanagh project are rife.

Malachi O’Doherty pointed out in the last ever Hearts and Minds that there is a general sense that politicians are “coining it,” which has little or no evidence to back it up.  This public perception of “corruption” has arisen out of two main causes.

The first is the baffling, and often very unpopular decisions made by our Ministers, which are generally only ever put out to public consultation as faits accomplis.

The second is the lack of transparency around party funding in Northern Ireland.  As long as the register of major donors held by the Electoral Commission is kept secret, we are free to conclude that our democracy is being sold to the highest bidder.

The results are very dangerous for our society and economy.

Voter turnout is at a record low and could drop below 50% in 2015.  Resentment and disengagement will find increasingly destructive outlets when people feel that they are not being listened to and that sinister forces control their politicians.

There are many changes that need to happen soon to stop the rot setting in, but Friends of the Earth is going to focus on party funding.

Our Who Pulls the Strings? campaign, which we launched last Thursday, will seek to demonstrate the public hunger for access to the donor register.  We’re not worried about the short-term embarrassment that revelations or scandals may cause, even if that means heads will roll.

 We want to begin the process whereby civil society is respected as a legitimate contributor to the formation of policy and legislation, rather than an inconvenient after-thought to be patronised or shooed away.

Being able to shine a light on what financial forces are influencing decision makers at present is a good start.

When it comes to this subject, politicians have been even more brittle than usual.  I recently brought up the subject informally with an MLA who is usually sympathetic to the environmental justice cause, and received an expletive strewn mauling in response.

We’re prepared for a lot more defences to go up. But, if we must, we’re happy to help tear them down.

If you’d like to get more information about the campaign, please email me at [email protected].

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Comments (55)

  1. alex gray (profile) says:

    I often wonder that a ratepayers party does not emerge even locally which is totally non-sectarian and is dedicated to getting some value for money out of the creaking overweight bureaucracy which has successfully house trained our local Ministers from all parties. It would be the first thing to shake things up here.

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  2. wild turkey (profile) says:

    Niall, an interesting post.

    a few questions and observations, ok?

    1. since the inception the stormont executive, i would hard pressed to name any individual minister(s), regardless of party affiliation, who impressed me as someone who had a real handle on their brief/department. perhaps i’ve missed something. can anyone name a few, any, impressive ministers?

    2. following from the above, what expertise, experience and excellence from their non-political life, ie their ‘day jobs’ in the private, public or voluntary sectors, did any past or current ministers bring to the table?

    3. the underlying themes in the post include secretiveness and arrogance, yeah? to what extent might these characteristics be encouraged and enhanced by the senior civil servants who advise ministers?

    4. you have a child in secondary education. he/she comes home after a schools career talk and says “mom/dad. forget my plans to go Las Vegas. i wanna be an MLA when i grow up !!! ” your reaction is?

    5. the executive and assembly does not provide for any effect opposition. in effect, departments are the fiefdoms of their ministers, and senior civil servants. and fiefdoms tend to be little diddly shit political entities that abhor transparency, accountability etc etc as they tend towards despotism.

    good luck with the campaign niall. i’ll be in touch.

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  3. PaulT (profile) says:

    Alex, why bother with a ratepayers party, HMG borrows £100-150 billion per year and divvies it up with NI getting about 10 billion. Any savings won’t get reinvested just returned to London, and anyway unionism is opposed to any additional freedom on taxes as they fear it’s a step towards a united Ireland, so as soon as a new party favours a unionist ideal or a nationalist one (such as tax raising powers) they are than labelled as such.

    But would it make much difference anyway, Wales and Scotland have some freedom to do these things and many would claim that they spend their education and NHS budgets more wisely than England, but it’s all just playing around with the household budget.

    So there isn’t a great deal more for MLAs to do, SF focus on nudging NI into a UI and the DUP focus on keeping NI in the UK.

    So, where the money comes from is important when it comes to the Tories or Labour party but thats about it. NI parties have no influence on society or democracy in the UK except at a local level, and at that level the voters thrump the donors (usually)

    However, what FoE is doing is no bad thing, so good luck with it.

    PS
    Can you edit your OP to include something negative about SF it just doesn’t seem normal on Slugger to have such an evenhanded post.

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  4. Accountability works two ways. Let’s also open the ‘funding’ accounts of NGOs etc, many of whom are recipients of support from Stormont. Who’s lobbying who? Seems like we are all paying either way.

    What is civil society anyway?
    http://sluggerotoole.com/2012/03/05/is-northern-irelands-government-funded-tail-wagging-the-media-dog/

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  5. And Mick, again, a post by an individual acting for a ‘group’, this time Friends of the Earth and easy to identify. Delarations of interest ought to be made ref groups, in the interest of accountability.

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Don’t disagree TD…

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  7. declan_allison (profile) says:

    thedissenter, Friends of the Earth’s accounts and the names of our major donors can be found here – http://www.foe.co.uk/what_we_do/about_us/friends_earth_funded.html. We receive no money from Government.

    I suggest the ‘interests’ of Friends of the Earth are well known, and can easily be discovered by checking our website, or any material we produce. Niall has declared an interest by writing on behalf of Friends of the Earth. I can’t see what the problem is.

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  8. NOT NOW JOHN (profile) says:

    It is always worth remembering that if we do not like the decisions of those in government, we can always vote them out. And there is no shortage of elections to give those in charge a bloody nose. That said it also does well to remember that self interest abounds. And the politicians on the hill do not necessarily have a monopoly on this. Ministers, Senior Civil Servants, Political Parties, Funders of Political Parties, Local Councillors and, yes, even NGO’s often have their own self interests. It is about accountability, transparency, procedure that the argument needs to be about, not about decisions which we might not like or agree with. That is the prerogative of those charged with responsibility for decision making.

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  9. Lionel Hutz (profile) says:

    Absolute nonsense with reference to Alex Attwood. He didn’t even defend the leave application for the National Trusts JR application. He said he welcomed a full hearing. This is one of the rare examples of a Minister welcoming, publicly at least, scrutiny of his decision but because this author apparently has his own agenda, he singles it out.

    There was a potential for a good point in this article too

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  10. articles (profile) says:

    Quotes

    general sense that politicians are “coining it,”

    public perception of “corruption”

    baffling, and often very unpopular decisions made by our Ministers, which are generally only ever put out to public consultation as faits accomplis.

    we are free to conclude that our democracy is being sold to the highest bidder.

    End Quotes.

    FOE present evidence based reports on the environment, why not apply similar standards here.

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  11. Carsons Cat (profile) says:

    Perhaps Friends of the Earth or their representatives should put themselves up for election and see how they get on…..

    Imagine the horror – Government Ministers taking decisions and not dancing to the every call of some special interest group.

    After thirty years where Civil Servants and Direct Rule Ministers jumped to the ‘great and good’ who seem to populate these groups perhaps they just can’t get used to the fact that perhaps these Ministers are actually much more in touch with public opinion than the interest groups are.

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  12. NOT NOW JOHN (profile) says:

    It is good thing that Ministers are in touch with public opinion just as it is a good thing that Ministers are in touch with the views of relevant interest goups. However neither should have a disproportionate influence on decision making. Promising to deliver what public opinion demands may get you elected but it doesn’t necessarily lead to sound policy making.

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  13. Carsons Cat (profile) says:

    “We want to begin the process whereby civil society is respected as a legitimate contributor to the formation of policy and legislation, rather than an inconvenient after-thought to be patronised or shooed away.”

    Which leaves me just one question, who exactly *is* civil society?

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  14. PaulT (profile) says:

    As it’s Slugger…..

    I notice that FoE split themselves into 3 for these islands, there’s Scottish FoE, there’s Irish FoE and then there is England, Wales, and NI FoE.

    Which is a bit baffling as surely a single FoE makes most sense or at least one GB and one island of Ireland.

    For instant how does FoE see Fracking in Fermanagh as have more impact on say Hertfordshire than Letrim

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  15. PaulT (profile) says:

    And don’t get me started that Welsh is the only other UK language apart from English, although I’m not sure what FoE is in Ulster-Scots

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  16. pauluk (profile) says:

    Arlene was absolutely right about exposing the pseudo-documentary Gasland movie. It is full of half-truths, wild exaggerations and blatant falsehoods.

    For example, the phenomenon of being able to light water coming from a tap ostensibly because of fracking is used in the movie as a reason for condemning fracking, yet the same phenomenon occurs naturally in areas where fracking has never taken place.

    Interestingly, the Obama-appointed EPA chief Lisa Jackson has said: In no case have we made a definitive determination that fracking has affected ground water.

    Watch this 35 minute video to get the real story:Truthland: Dispatches from the Real Gasland.

    Niall, your premise that Arlene has ‘an attitude of defensive paranoia’ is seriously flawed.

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  17. articles (profile) says:

    PaulT

    FoE in Ulster Scots? I’m guessing

    Freeend o’ the clart as in Clart (mud. soil).

    Simple enough really. The beauty of it is, is that there’s no right answer.

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  18. 11.46

    “Friends of the Earth’s accounts and the names of our major donors can be found here – http://www.foe.co.uk/what_we_do/about_us/friends_earth_funded.html. We receive no money from Government.”

    From the link and the accounts it wasn’t possible to find a list of all donations over £5,000 (political standards) or perhaps that was missed in a quick perusal.

    “I suggest the ‘interests’ of Friends of the Earth are well known, and can easily be discovered by checking our website, or any material we produce. Niall has declared an interest by writing on behalf of Friends of the Earth. I can’t see what the problem is.”

    No idea who Niall Bakewell is, and the campaign link goes to a page created by Niall Bakewell. If this is a post in support of a Friends of the Earth Campaign it should be declared as such. Email address would only tell me that if it is obvious to who the ‘we’ refers, or what FOE in the email address might stand for, and it is not from this post. So the problem is that if Niall Bakewell is writing on behalf of Friends of the Earth, and not as a general Slugger blogger writing from an ‘individual’ perspective, then that should be made obvious at the outset or as a note at the end of the post.

    My point to Mick was not specific to this particular post, but more generally (as before) where a post is made on behalf of an organisation but either the organisation is obscure or the source of the post is obscured by using a person without crediting the organisation.

    Accountability is a two way street.

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  19. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Carson’s Cat, this from wiki:

    For Tocqueville as for Hegel and Marx, civil society was a sphere of private entrepreneurship and civilian affairs regulated by civil code.[20] As a critic of individualism, Tocqueville thought that through associating, the coming together of people for mutual purpose, both in public and private, Americans are able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning independently from the state.

    According to political scientist Joshua Kaplan, Tocqueville did not originate the concept of individualism but changed its meaning, and saw it as a “calm and considered feeling which deposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and to withdraw into the circle of family and friends … with this little society formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look for itself.”

    While Tocqueville saw egotism and selfishness as vices, he saw individualism as not a failure of feeling but as a way of thinking about things which could have either positive consequences such as a willingness to work together, or negative consequences such as isolation, and that individualism could be remedied by improved understanding.

    When individualism was a positive force and prompted people to work together for common purposes, and seen as “self interest properly understood”, then it helped to counterbalance the danger of the tyranny of the majority, since people could “take control over their own lives” without government aid.

    According to Kaplan, Americans have a difficult time accepting Tocqueville’s criticism of the stifling intellectual effect of the “omnipotence of the majority,” and that Americans tend to deny that there is a problem in this regard.

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  20. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    TD,

    I take your point about the need for greater clarity in the labelling of different types of content.

    We used to have different categories of bloggers with differential labels like politicos, core team and specialists.

    Will see what can be done in future to flag such at the top of such posts rather than in the body of the text..

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  21. Thanks for the comments so far.

    Just to clarify, my complaint about the behaviour of the named politicians wasn’t about the decisions they made, but about their attitudes to contributions/interventions from non-state organisations and individuals.

    Arlene’s reaction to the Co-op was just one example of her impatience with dissent from her viewpoint on the issue of fracking. Her behaviour in the Assembly during the debate on the moratorium, which took place last December, betrayed angry impatience with those who disagreed with her.

    Nelson refused to meet with the Green New Deal group, or to address the arguments they made in favour of the project, and instead said that if his “economists” disagreed, that was all that mattered. It was his casual dismissal of the proposal, and his refusal to merit it with a detailed response, that was the problem.

    And Alex twice complained in front of delegations of green NGOs that his job was being made harder by public condemnation of the Runkerry decision, implying that those who criticised him were contributing towards his difficulties in pushing forward climate change legislation and environmental governance reform. He also said that we were “on the wrong side of the decision” which is arrogant and superior.

    As for our donor transparency, let’s have that conversation after Northern Ireland citizens have got the same rights as the rest of the UK and Ireland when it comes to the transparency of those who make the decisions and spend billions of pounds of our taxes. We go beyond our legal requirements as an NGO, while three of the Big Five parties are lobbying to extend the period where they are not meeting their basic requirements under PPERA.

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  22. Was at one of those ‘peace’ chitchat things when a trade unionist claimed civic society was the Trade Union movement. One of those generalist terms that people claim to make themselves the credibility to speak for ‘everyone’ when in fact they speak only for their particular interest group. Again, the propensity of public funding for some many in NI makes the notion of civil society a bit dodgy. Again, http://sluggerotoole.com/2012/03/05/is-northern-irelands-government-funded-tail-wagging-the-media-dog/

    On the labels, if someone is writing on behalf of an organisation (the use of the word ‘we’ is a tell) then a simple profile note on the individual + org at the end is fine. Not sure core team/politicos designation matters (they’re all pretty well known or pre-announced), just where there is a third party lurking, unannounced, or a third party where the individuals demand anonymity. Keeps things simple.

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  23. “As for our donor transparency, let’s have that conversation after Northern Ireland citizens have got the same rights as the rest of the UK and Ireland when it comes to the transparency of those who make the decisions and spend billions of pounds of our taxes.”

    The documents to which you referred were national, and please correct if wrong, but entirely possible to make that info available if really believing in accountability as an organisation. The old ‘we do what’s legal’ defence is a bit worn – MPs for the most part worked within the ‘rules’ if I recall. Where’s the NGO leadership? Sounds defensive and frankly like Friends of the Earth have something to hide?

    If you want to demand accountability, be accountable yourself. Otherwise, you haven’t got much of an argument. That campaign being run, and to which this post is a clarion call, looks a bit hypocritical all of a sudden.

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  24. declan_allison (profile) says:

    thedissenter, Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland is not a seperate organisation. We have no distinct income stream or reporting arrangements. If you want to volunteer to disaggregate the Northern Ireland accounts we’d be happy for those to be published.

    We go beyond what is required by law. We are already showing leadership in the NGO sector, and will continue to do so. The current situation for political parties in Northern Ireland is a suspension of the law. We are merely calling for parity – for the law to be applied equally.

    PaulT, if you would like to volunteer to translate and maintain our website for Irish and Ulster-Scots then please do get in touch. We were offered a multilingual site by our web team in London, but we are a small team and none of us speak anything other than English. The Cymru team have the luxury of having several fluent Welsh speakers.

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  25. “Friends of the Earth’s accounts and the names of our major donors can be found here…” Where? Couldn’t see that info on these national accounts, not even to minimum national standard. So if you go beyond law requirements already, then go ahead on funders over £,5,000, nationally – OK for parity, all those donors not in Northern Ireland – there that would be equal application of the law. Feel free to post here once you have the info from your head office, in the interests of open accountability.

    How many on the mailing list provide funds on a voluntary basis to NI and how much is given in total? How does that relate to your office budget – do you spend more than the local income garnered in the national fund-raising campaigns. So many questions.

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  26. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Friends of the Earth is going to focus on party funding”

    Funnily enough, I’ve just published a blog that refers to all three ministers. I suspect the governance problems owe more to incompetence than to corruption and the politicians may only be playing minor roles eg standing around looking awkward.

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  27. declan_allison (profile) says:

    thedissenter, I don’t understand what your issue is. Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland not only complies with Charity and Company law, but we go beyond it. Compare that with donations to political parties where the law is suspended to keep parties happy.

    Are you really claiming it is more important that we go further beyond our legal requirements, and provide you with a region-by-region breakdown of our supporters, than to know who is funding political parties?

    We already do more than our political parties, but we aren’t the ones making the big decisions that effect the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland.

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  28. Evolve (profile) says:

    The central request here seems reasonable, that there should be transparency in relation to the register of major donors to local political parties.

    Most people vote on the constitutional position and this could leave quite a bit of room for politicians to act against the economic interests of their voters, especially in the absence of an official opposition. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of public support for the proposed business tax rate cut for example.

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  29. Reader (profile) says:

    Niall Bakewell: Just to clarify, my complaint about the behaviour of the named politicians wasn’t about the decisions they made, but about their attitudes to contributions/interventions from non-state organisations and individuals.
    So how much time should a minister allocate for meetings with lobby groups? And, assuming time is limited, how should the time (and influence) be divided up between lobby groups?

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  30. pauluk (profile) says:

    Niall, I have been using solar power for over 25 years, religiously recycle my rubbish, and am generally concerned for the environment, but I believe that gross exaggeration and scare-mongering by FOE and other environmentalist groups have undermined and almost discredited genuine environmentalism. Misinformation concerning fracking is an example of this.

    One of the problems many people have with Friends of the Earth is that they want to put an end to new fossil fuels and nuclear energy production and seem to want a slow-down or halt to industrial progress. They want to impose draconian restrictions, particularly on western nations, that, more recently at least, are based on the dubious claims of global warming.

    Their goals may be noble but their tactics do severe damage to their credibility. I mean, according to Al Gore all the ice should be melted in the Arctic Ocean by 2014. It just ain’t gonna happen.

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  31. “Are you really claiming it is more important that we go further beyond our legal requirements, and provide you with a region-by-region breakdown of our supporters, than to know who is funding political parties?”

    Up to you really. You want us to believe you have a place in civil society, so how many people do you speak for? Whether or not you breakdown by region is up to you, but does not detract from the fact that in calling for large donors to be named, Friends of the Earth do not do the same. You offered a place to see large donors, nationally, but that info is not there. Still waiting. Reserved funding tells me people are paying for a specific topic to be promoted. So who is paying what?

    “We already do more than our political parties, but we aren’t the ones making the big decisions that effect the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

    Not clear you do more than political parties. In what way? You have offered no evidence of that, and in fact fall back on the old ‘we do everything we are required legally’ position, at the drop of a hat. We know the total income and expediture of local parties, but don”t know that information about the local Friends of the Earth. While the local Friends of the Earth do not *make* the big decisions, Friends of the Earth certainly want to influence those decisions and it is therefore only right, equally right, that the source of the funds that is provided to make lobbying possible is declared. Not really a big ask, and all in the interests of accountability.

    It is Friends of the Earth who raised the matter of accountability in the first instance, so what is Friends of the Earth problem in being open and accountable? Go on, show the politicians how it’s done.

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  32. Michael (profile) says:

    PaulUK you are really funny.

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  33. Reader – politicians should grace criticism and analysis from voices beyond their inner circles of officials and advisors with respect and a fair hearing. The examples I gave were of politicians reacting in a brittle and/or aloof fashion when confronted with public dissent or policy proposals.

    The Dissenter – this isn’t about political parties vs NGOs, this is about giving Northern Ireland citizens the same rights as everyone else in the UK. If English, Scottish and Welsh citizens can see who is giving their ruling politicians the money to get re-elected, then so should we. If you want to start a campaign about making the rules the same for NGOs, give me a call and I’ll advise on how to get started.

    Pauluk – why not respond to any of the points I made in my blog?

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  34. The issue of accountability is out there (you raised it) and is as relevant to those making decisions as to those trying to influence those decisions. Not even clear where this fits into Friends of the Earth’s brief, unless you are fishing for political ‘interests’ paid for by funding? Otherwise it is not an environmental issue, but a clear political one.

    This is not about political parties v NGOs it is about trasparency and accountability, a matter which you raised, and which clearly Friends of the Earth are in no position to preach to anyone about or you wouldn’t have to hide behind the ‘we do everything legally necessary’ line.

    Finally, Pauluk makes a perfectly good point in respect of the credibility of the organisation wishing to engage others in a campaign, which this post intended to do.

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  35. Michael (profile) says:

    thedissenter:
    Finally, Pauluk makes a perfectly good point in respect of the credibility of the organisation wishing to engage others in a campaign, which this post intended to do.

    this from PaulUK (in the one post):
    “I have been using solar power for over 25 years, religiously recycle my rubbish, and am generally concerned for the environment” and later in the post refers to “the dubious claims of global warming.”

    Credibility is not the first word that springs to mind

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  36. Reader (profile) says:

    Niall Bakewell: Reader – politicians should grace criticism and analysis from voices beyond their inner circles of officials and advisors with respect and a fair hearing. The examples I gave were of politicians reacting in a brittle and/or aloof fashion when confronted with public dissent or policy proposals.
    Is it OK if they go aloof when dealing with developers and multinationals?
    Actually, your examples looked like politicians fending off several special interest pressure groups. For instance, while it wasn’t really any business of Arlene Foster to tell off a private company for putting on a show; neither has the Co-op any special authority in this area – or lost what credibility they may have had by showing Gaslands.
    Same with Nelson McCausland – except he looked like he was fending off lobbyists with a financial interest in the Green New Deal.
    In fact, though it’s difficult to make the DUP look good in public, especially the zealous, ignorant, wing – some of these pressure groups have achieved just that.

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  37. pauluk (profile) says:

    What’s the point in spending time answering your petty insinuations and subtle whispers against the elected leaders of our community? You are working off a baseless premise. Politicians in NI are working for the good and welfare of the people of NI. Organisations like yours are working against progress and development and higher standards of living.

    If any one has ‘an attitude of defensive paranoia‘ it’s members of the enviro-fundamentalist movement which, because of its extreme and oftentimes baseless rhetoric has in recent times become the object of scepticism, and, indeed, cynicism.

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  38. 10.32 Michael.

    What’s your point? Not sure what you are saying.

    Pauluk seems a practical sort of person who walks the walk consistently rather than jumping on latest eco bandwagon or trying to earn a living from reinforcing a preceived concensus. Actions speak louder than words and all that. He seems to have an genuine desire to look after the planet rather then self-interest at heart. Or does his particular view on global warming somehow undermine his personal environmental credibility?

    Just want you to be unambiguous on the point you’re endeavouring to make.

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  39. Michael (profile) says:

    the dissenter
    Your’s and Paul’s posts are loaded with stereotypes, archetypes, and assumptions, to the extent where I can’t follow a thread. It reads like text book trolling – attacking an organisation, not for what it does itself, but for what it stands for. There is a clear vitriol against environmentalism.I am not sure here why because here is what I see:

    1. The entire planetary system is in a form of collapse right now – a mass extinction not seen since the dinosaurs. No indicator about life supporting systems is improving (at a global level)
    2. Northern Ireland is very very far behind the curve in either acknowledging this fact or in doing anything about it. The only environmental legislation it has enacted has been enforced from Europe. It is a compliance led culture that is bereft of innovation.
    3. Northern Ireland is being economically harmed by this Governmental and erstwhile sympathiser recalcitrance as other economies have moved firmly onto the sustainability agenda and are investing to deal with the facts of environmental pressure that is here and which is predicted. Many corporations and municipalities are reaping the benefits. Meanwhile we still think recycling is cutting edge environmental practice.
    4. Climate change is no longer in the realm of “dubious claims” and hasn’t been for a long time. While I agree it has wrongly dominated the “eco” headlines for too long, that doesn’t stop it from being real and present. People are dying from climate changing impacts (in Sudan, Chad and Niger) and the impacts of climate driven people migration are only just being thought of. Northern Ireland will have a big bill in Climate Change mitigation measures (reacting to extreme weather) but this bill will be considerably more if denial keeps it from even being thought of and we will still keep on explaining away 100 year floods that are happening every year.

    These points are just the start of dismantling the prejudices that lie behind the points being made by yourself and PaulUK. It offers little pleasure to anyone to have to accept the reality of what is ahead for the people of this planet,especially with the Casandra warnings that are being given by many organisations, including the independently funded FOE of which I am not a member but definitely an admirer. And yes I think it is a moral outrage that our elected leaders fiddle while Rome and the rest of the planet burns.

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  40. The Raven (profile) says:

    “…rather than jumping on latest eco bandwagon…”

    A little off-topic, but this broad subject is hardly “latest”. I’m heading for 40 – much of what is being argued over here was being taught to us at GCSE…in the late 1980s.

    Just a point.

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  41. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    It is a little surprising to see the determined attack here on the blogger instead of simply addressing the issues raised.
    Should we all simply accept that;
    ” Politicians in NI are working for the good and welfare of the people of NI.”
    Despite what we know about Politicians?
    A call for openness about donors should be welcomed, or at the very least debated.
    Attacking FoE is just deflection.

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  42. NOT NOW JOHN (profile) says:

    I don’t think we should accept that politicians in NI are working for the good and welfare of the people of NI at all. They certainly want to be seen to be working for the good and welfare of the people of NI but whether they are or not is a different matter. I’d say first and foremost they are working to get themselves re-elected and secondly they are working to promote the party. There appears to me to be far too much emphasis on spin rather than sound policy making; too much focus on politics at the expense of good government. Like Roy Keane said of life as a Sky Sports pundit – too often they are trying to get you to sell something that isn’t there.

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  43. 12.43.

    Well, Michael. That is a fine bit of moral outrage, but doesn’t actually address the point. Nor does it make you more right than any other opinion on the page.

    Others should note too that it is the Friends of the Earth that wanted to talk here about accountability. They even offered links to show how accountable the organisation is, but then those links did not back the point being made. Then we had the old ‘we’re doing all that is legally necessary’ line, which sounds like a MP with an expense account.

    If someone from Friends of the Earth wants to come on to Slugger and peddle a campaign, great. It is not deflection to engage in the principle that underlines the post. This is an open forum, and if there is a principle proffered it is to be expected that Friends of the Earth should be able to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

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  44. raftonpounder (profile) says:

    I think to accept that NI politicians are working for the “good of the people” is tremendously naive. Their primary focus is on the good of the party in pursuit of their particular view on the constitutional question. They constantly scrabble for what they can get as part of our shared out future.
    This need to protect & promote the party is reflected in their unwillingness to let the public know who is supporting them financially. I would be delighted to know the source of funding for the parties for the last 5-6 years since this security concern was first used to shield funders from the light. I would venture that these revelations would be embarrassing for all involved. I am also confident embarrassment is not an argument that would stand up to any public or media scrutiny.
    The current situation leaves the entire political system open to whispering, conjecture and suspicion. This will not engender any public support or faith in the institutions. If we truly are a “normal” society able to host golf tournaments and intercontinental yacht races, let our politicians treat us like one. If we get to see the people Martin shakes hands with in public then why can we not find out who is he pressing the flesh with behind closed doors?

    I think that comparing FOE activities with the governing parties and the £9billion budget they have to spend is comparing apples and road infrastructure.

    As for Friends of the Earths transparency, if I admitted that I gave them £10 once two years ago that would be more transparency than the four main parties combined have managed in the previous five years.

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  45. declan_allison (profile) says:

    thedissenter, our campaign is specifically about the anonymity of donors to political parties in Northern Ireland. Are you going to engage with that argument? Do you have a coherent argument for why voters in GB should know who gives money to parties, but voters in Northern Ireland should not?

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  46. The post provides quite a number of possible threads including the one you suggest.

    As this is an open forum, anyone is entitled to pick up on any thread.
    You say the thread was about opening the electoral office files on Party donations. Actually, the impression is that this is not what the Friends of the Earth campaign is about. After throwing up broad aspersions the post continues:

    “Our Who Pulls the Strings? campaign, which we launched last Thursday, will seek to demonstrate the public hunger for access to the donor register. We’re not worried about the short-term embarrassment that revelations or scandals may cause, even if that means heads will roll.”

    A tad paranoid yourselves. Appears as though you believe that the closed books hide donations that somehow explain political decisions through placed funds. This post has entirely ‘self-interest’ written through it. It is all about Friends of the Earth, not the public.

    What interested thedissenter most in the thread was the overall theme of accountability. In fact, throughout thedissenter has been consistent in supporting openness, transparency and accountability. Yes, the political parties who put forward candidates for election, who the people vote for to make decisions on their behalf should be open about funding sources. So too should organisations who seek to influence the policy and other decisions made by politicians.

    You offered links to show how open Friends of the Earth is, only to be found wanting in that regard. Your ‘legal’ reposte sounded like politician justifying a new yurt in his garden (not cheap by the way)
    http://www.yurtsdirect.com/catalogue_sizes_and_prices.html

    If you want to come on Slugger and talk the talk, then be ready to walk the walk.

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  47. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Why does thedissenter refer to itself in the3rd person?
    Does the dissenter believe FoE has some hidden agenda, or are engaged in some kind of profit making scam?
    It seems that way. I would be interested in any evidence.
    Otherwise I don’t understand why thedissenter is having a go at FoE for a perfectly reasonable proposal.
    Is thedissenter just dissenting for the sake of dissent?

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  48. The post isn’t about thedissenter.

    Perhaps Friends of the Earth would like to take up the challenge of this campaign https://www.facebook.com/#!/WhoFundsYou

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  49. Michael (profile) says:

    Oi Dissenter: If you want to come on Slugger and talk the talk, then be ready to walk the walk.

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  50. raftonpounder (profile) says:

    Pauluk
    May I suggest you were a little hasty endorsing Truthland as the “real story”
    It appears to be nothing more than a Fracking Infomercial

    “Activists Attack Truthland, State That it is Simply an Industry Infomercial”
    http://the-daily-digger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/activists-attack-truthland-state-that.html

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  51. Well Michael and babyface, Slugger has policy on playing the man rather than commenting on the subject at hand. Not sure how it works, but there are yellow cards and things – Mick will be able to inform you more precisely. Mostly though, readers of Slugger recognise that when people leave the topic and get personal it suggests they have little to contibute. So, just trying to keep to topic of openness, transparency and accountability; the https://www.facebook.com/#!/WhoFundsYou seems a fine project and one where Friends of the Earth, given its interest in ‘open engagement’, will surely be keen to engage.

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  52. Michael (profile) says:

    Do you get points for irony on this blog?

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  53. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Attwood has no problem with openly engaging with Unesco …

    It stated that if Unesco wished to come to assess the World Heritage site, I would welcome them, meet them, and visit the site with them,” Mr Attwood said.

    “I welcome the opportunity to show Unesco what I am doing to safeguard the site, and hope that the visit will happen soon.

    “I will also take the opportunity to outline to UNESCO the decision I have taken in respect of the Runkerry development and to detail the environmental impact, economic benefit and planning reasons that have informed my decision.

    “I believe that the WHC of Unesco will very much appreciate how my decision was reached, how I took into full account environmental and heritage issues in addition to planning and economic ones.”

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  54. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    the dissenter
    Apart from a mild dig about your self reference, I don’t think I was guilty of man playing. By the way can we call you ‘the’?
    I am genuinely interested in why you are not addressing the issue of disclosure on donations by political parties. As our elected representatives, I would have thought it was slightly more important than who donates to this or that pressure group.
    But you really seem to dislike FoE, to which I have no connection by the way.
    So address the issue.

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  55. pauluk (profile) says:

    For those who are interested in some facts about fracking, here’s a recent interview with Phelim McAleer talking about FrackNation, a documentary being released on Tuesday.

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