Stop blaming Brussels for our own failures

Official Ireland’s failure to deal with EU directives hurts rural communities in Galway

The EU is often criticised for bureaucracy, red tape, and difficult directives, but the failure of Irish politicians to implement such directives is the real cause of harm.

The EU is often criticised for bureaucracy, red tape, and difficult directives, but the failure of Irish politicians to implement such directives is the real cause of harm.

The rise of the alt.right across Europe, the election of Donald J Trump as US president, Britain triggering Article 50 and Brexit really getting under way - all of which must be particularly exciting from Vladimir Putin’s perspective - has led Insider to ask, what really is the case with the European Union and Ireland?

What strikes Insider most is the continuous blame game, where Irish authorities blame the EU for their own failures, but take credit for the EU's successes. For example, do you see any politicians taking credit for the Natura directives, which protects a wide range of rare, threatened, or endemic species, and areas of natural beauty in Galway? There were a few, and at least two of them are still active.

These days, one of them is singing the chorus of Euroscepticism in private, and another well-known Galway TD is also partaking in the same opportunistic Euroscepticism, yet doubtless sent many a press release when Europe was paying Ireland billions upon billions back when the EU had a blank chequebook.

The EU is not without fault for its own predicament. Austerity was a chaotic and mindless exercise of only kicking the can of wider economic problems down the road as far as Italy and Greece were concerned. The EU did itself little favour going into hyperdrive in the production of regulations and directives, which only tightened the pressures of both citizens and their businesses.

However, it is important to remember that when the EU issues directives, they are implemented by Irish officials, and in the end we can hardly blame Europe for the clumsy, self-serving way, in which Irish officials decided they would implement such directives.

Take the issues for which the EU most gets grievance in Galway - the lack of dredging causing flooding in east Galway, and the denial of decent road infrastructure to the citizens of Connemara. When Irish politicians tried to blame Europe for the lack of action on flooding and dredging, the EU Commission firmly placed the ball back in our court, stating it was completely without foundation that the EU was stopping Ireland from dredging.

Connemara mountains

EU directives asking for areas of special conservation did not specify that the National Parks and Wildlife Service could vastly expand protected areas through additional Irish-only designations, such as the natural heritage areas, and the special protection areas. The EU did not decide that the west coast, traditionally neglected as admitted in the Government's recent national planning framework, should shoulder the majority of the burden as happened.

The EU Commissioners did not decide that such designations should be laid down cutting up the west coast as if they were colonial bureaucrats drawing disastrous lines on maps of Africa and the Middle East. No, it was Irish officials based out of cosseted offices in Dublin who decided how they alone would place the burden on citizens already suffering from a tradition of emigration, poor infrastructure, and underdevelopment.

The politicians who were responsible for ensuring that local interests were represented, failed in their responsibilities and were cheaply bought off with promises of extra subsidies and supports that never materialised. As a result, places like Connemara are expected to live with infrastructure that has not been upgraded, in some cases since the 1970s, while the east coast and urban areas power ahead towards prosperity and modernity.

Citizens in Connemara consigned to this second class status must use the third class N52 to transport their children, elderly, and sick across a road beyond dangerous in Health and Safety terms, at the same time being told they must protect the environment through the State's inability to deal with EU rules.

It is often asked why the emergency IROPI clause cannot be used where situations of “over-riding public interest”, that might damage natural sites, but are “necessary for human welfare”, are not used. What the Government is not telling the public is that it is because the State’s departments do not have the ability to co-ordinate with each other, unlike, say, Germany and other states which have used IROPI. It is much easier to blame Europe instead.

Another aspect to Official Ireland’s failure in dealing with the tasks set by EU directives is covered with a healthy dollop of “cover your ass” - when in doubt, do nothing and blame Europe. When ecologists from the NPWS cannot handle an engineering project - presumably due to ecologists not being engineers in the first place - the easiest approach is simply decide the risks are too high, even though they do not have the means to access risk in engineering terms.

A burden of proof is then placed upon the project by which no risk is acceptable “beyond reasonable doubt” - beyond reasonable doubt interestingly being the same standard of certainty in murder cases, but in no way practical for the application of engineering. Raw fear of being prosecuted by Europe for failures to understand the ability to mitigate risks in engineering projects means those tasked with protecting the environment do so to the detriment of the citizens, who are also part of the environment which is to be protected.

Citizens in affected areas are denied equal access to economic growth, infrastructure, and the ability to sustain their communities. At a minimum, young people do not even have the option to commute to the city for work while getting the choice of getting to live in the area where they were born - a choice most other citizens in the State enjoy at a minimum.

Nigel Farage

People in these areas have co-existed with the environment for thousands of years, their innate knowledge of their environment has grown from generations of experience, yet they are cast as ignorants upon the reserve, too stupid to protect what they love most. Someone in a city, most likely Dublin, knows best. As communities age, with the loss of their young, policy makers fiddle, extremely insulated on their decisions. Insider notes that most environmentalists do not abstain from modern polluting conveniences. Let someone else carry the burden of the Green man’s guilt.

It is time for citizens affected by this bumbling bureaucracy to stand up against this needless discrimination for the shortcomings of those in politics and government departments. Rather than be distracted by blame games pointing at the EU, citizens need to take a long hard look at their local politicians and ask them what they were doing when the EU directives were being brought in.

When citizens hear politicians and officials blame the EU, they should be asking what the underlying agenda is. Britain will now suffer the consequences of a political culture that used the EU as nothing more than eternal point of blame abroad, where lazy slogans and fear were profited from by tabloid rags, and where Britain itself failed to make use of its own weight and influence within the EU.

Had Britain engaged instead of complained, we might have had a better balance against France and Germany, but it took the lazy option, choosing to blame others for its own faults. Now Ireland too will suffer the consequences of Brexit. It makes no sense to give the same behaviour credence here.

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