Friday, June 21, 2013
The Sale of Coillte Harvesting Rights - Kudos to Simon Harris TD
When it comes to politics and politicians in Ireland, I am as disillusioned as anyone out there. The post-election performance of the occupants of Leinster House - most of whom very quickly forget who put them there and who pays their wages and outrageously inflated expenses - typically leaves a lot to be desired. However, I am a strong believer in credit where credit is due.
Some months ago I wrote via email to one of my local representatives, Simon Harris TD, to express my concern at the proposed sale by the Government of the harvesting rights in Coillte. My letter was prompted by a video I had seen on Facebook (where, of course, everything you see and hear is true) which told of the impending sell-off by the current Government of the harvesting rights in our national forests to overseas interests. I asked Simon is this was true. If so, then I wanted to object in the strongest possible terms. "As a nation", I went on, "we are being bled dry by Fine Gael and Labour and the time has come to say enough is enough."
At this stage, I was just warming to my task. It had taken me many decades to find the passion in me to write a letter to a politician so I was bally-well going to make the most of the opportunity. "For the record", I added, "I voted Fine Gael in the last general election and I have rarely regretted anything as much as I regret that vote. The lack of true leadership from Enda Kenny is astounding. Our country and it's citizens have been hung out to dry. Now it looks like our treasured forestry and the wildlife it supports is next on the list to be sacrificed."
There. That told him. And for my grand finale I decided to add a cameo mention for the decimated Fianna Failers. "While I accept that Fianna Fail landed the country in the financial scenario it faced, the way that Fine Gael and Labour have chosen to sell out the citizens of this country to right the wrongs of the past is nothing short of criminal and will be judged by history as such."
Satisfied that I had gotten it all off my chest, I hit 'send'. I had heard several stories of people who had taken the time and trouble to write to their local TDs on issues of concern to them, only to have their efforts disappear apparently into black holes. So I wasn't holding my breath.
Fast forward three hours and an email arrives in my inbox - from Simon Harris TD. While I held out a glimmer of hope for a reply at some distant time in the future, the fact that one arrived so swiftly certainly caught me unawares. But is was not the swiftness of the response, impressive though it was, that grabbed my attention the most. Simon responded on all my points, in a level-headed, clear and respectful way. He outlined that he had met with many people who shared my concern on harvesting rights and reassured me that he was raising these concerns, which he himself shared, through Parliamentary Questions.
He could easily have stopped there. But to his great credit he did not shy away from my attack on his Government's performance. He was not defensive about it - which so many of our politicians are when it comes to both their personal and party performances. Rather, he urged patience and asked that the government be judged at the end of their term. He briefly outlined some of the focus areas for the next 3 years.
So, all in all, a very decent reply from Simon Harris TD. That was that, as far as I was concerned. Or so I thought.
Fast forward to today. A letter awaited me on my return from work. Not an email - a proper letter, from Simon Harris TD. Yesterday, the Government took a decision not to proceed with the sale of Coillte harvesting rights. The letter was to inform me (and presumably others who had expressed their concerns to Simon) about the Government's decision. The letter included the full statement on the matter by Minister Coveney. Now, I am impressed at this level of follow-up, not only by Simon but by his office - someone had to take the time to look up my mail address as I had not provided it in my email to him.
I am delighted at the Government's decision. But I am probably even more delighted at the performance of Simon Harris. I remain very angry and very critical of both this and the previous Government for what they have done to our country in the cack-handed way they dealt with the financial crisis and for the corresponding financial punishment they have meted out to the innocent citizens of Ireland. However, criticism is only valid if we are also prepared to recognise when the Government and individual politicians actually get it right.
Well done to the Government on what I believe to be the right decision on harvesting rights. Let's hope that remains the situation for the long term. But even more so, congratulations to Simon Harris for the way he conducts his business. If you are not careful, Simon, you will end up giving politicians a good name.