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Irish Foreign Policy

It would be really nice and reassuring if we could know what Ireland’s foreign policy is on some important matters. Recently, I heard the minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on the radio; he asserted he was working very long hours and working hard. He said it was a privilege.

I was immediately concerned. The assessment of his work is not his to make; it is ours. He should, instead have reported on the issues, not on his workload.

With the exception of Finance, there is no other ministry like Foreign Affairs; there, departmental thinking must be conducted at the most fundamental level. Thinking like that tends to the abstract. So, it is only the exceptional case where it reveals sensitive State secrets. In short, it should be open and not secret.

Arguably, global warming is one of the most fundamental issue currently facing any state, not just Ireland. Global warming is also called “climate change”, but the idea that the globe is warming is a better idea. It more accurately describes the problem. It also hints at an underlying fact; humans have caused this warming. They are still doing so. We in Ireland are also doing it. Global warming is not a myth; it is real and so are its consequences.

It is a global issue, so it is an issue for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The department acknowledges this. It effectively describes Ireland’s policy as one where we favour collective action to reduce global warming (maybe even reverse it). We also favour aid to poor countries suffering from the effects and consequences of global warming. Finally, we favour taking the collective action through the EU and the UN.

That’s it. That’s Ireland’s “policy” on global warming. That policy is insufficient. Furthermore, it carries no indication that anybody has actually thought about it.

Does Eamon Gilmore have a policy on a carbon tax, for instance? We don’t know.

Does Eamon Gilmore have a policy on granting licences for fracking in Ireland? We don’t know.

This latter point is of critical importance, not just in making a judgment on the minister and his department, but on what Ireland must now do and say in international forums. France and Germany have in effect, banned fracking. It is essential to ensure that the elements of those decisions having a bearing on global warming be understood and supported and that Ireland act effectively to restrain and restrict actions or activities promoting or adding to global warming.

So, what does Eamon Gilmore say in the Council of Ministers to rein in Poland and the UK in their rush to frack their countries (and us)? We don’t know.

There is no evidence that minister Gilmore or his department actually understands “global warming”. The evidence for this lies in an EPA study of fracking. That study is leisurely awaited by Pat Rabbitte the minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources before he decides his policy on fracking. In short, Ireland’s policy on fracking and global warming is “wait and see”.

Is that what we are doing in the Council of Ministers and in the UN?

Clearly, Pat Rabbitte thinks shale gas is a natural resource. He is wrong about that if it adds to global warming. The EPA study actually claims to be addressing “climate change”, but that is not correct.

Anyway, that question, are we planning to add to global warming, is a question for minister Gilmore, not some technical expert hired by a government agency. The EPA study is the wrong response; it is an effort to find what is irrefutably wrong with fracking; we should be requesting conclusive proof from the proponents of fracking that it is harmless.

By the time some unprecedented storm hits the western seaboard, causing phenomenal losses, our actions will be irreversible and the minister will be retired.

We are in trouble.