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Minister hits out at rural TDs for heckling during Climate Action Bill speech

TDs from the Rural Independent Group have criticised the bill, accusing the government of ignoring the people of rural Ireland. / YouTube

MINISTER FOR CHILDREN Roderic O’Gorman has criticised members of the Rural Independent Group of TDs for their repeated interruptions of Minister Eamon Ryan’s speech on the Climate Action Bill in the Dáil earlier today.

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications today opened the Dáil debate on the bill, which commits to Ireland becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Ryan was interrupted a number of times by TDs from the Rural Independent Group, who complained that they had not been given a copy of the minister’s speech, which they were hearing live at the time.

Danny Healy-Rae accused the minister of “trying to hide from the people of Ireland what you’re doing” and claimed he was attempting to “finish off” the people of rural Ireland. Michael Healy Rae also accused the minister of attempting to conceal something by not providing a written copy of his speech ahead of delivering it live in the Dáil.

“What are they trying to cover up and hide in this bill?” he asked.

The minister was eventually allowed to continue, but the heckling was later condemned by party colleague Minister O’Gorman.

“Deputies come in here and say they’re fighting for rural Ireland and say that they are the sole voice of rural Ireland but when the hard work was being done on bringing this legislation forward in the joint Oireachtas committee, I have to ask again: Where were those deputies?” he said.

Because it’s very easy to be in here today when the cameras are on and when you know you’re going to get a snippet on [RTÉ] Six One or you know you’re going to get a nice little video for Twitter and Facebook, but when the difficult work is being done, the boring, long hours going through section by section, that’s when the real changes happen and that’s when deputies who are so irate today could have made an input, but they didn’t.

Speaking to The Journal this evening about the interjections, Minister Ryan said he was “used to it”. He said despite suggestions from some TDs in the Dáil today, this legislation will be good for rural Ireland.

“It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t,” he said.

In his speech earlier Ryan said there is hope now in relation to the pandemic, that brighter days are ahead, but the issue of our health and our treatment of our climate are “inexplicably linked”.

“Listen to what Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization says. From his extensive experience, these pandemics are coming because we have not, in our time, protected the natural world,” he said.

“And the destruction of the biome, as he puts it, is the reason we’re seeing these pandemics  coming at us in a way that is destroying our lives.”

He said there are benefits for people’s health in the legislation’s provisions, such as more active transport systems, cleaner air from not burning fossil fuels and “building on a connection to nature”. 

“It’s clearly time for us to act because the natural world is in crisis, it’s being destroyed before our eyes. We are witnessing it within my lifetime and we have to stop that.”

The minister acknowledged that climate policy needs to move away from placing “blame and shame and pressure” on the consumer to do the right thing, and instead change the system so it is easier for people to do it. 

The bill commits Ireland to carbon neutrality by 2050 by cutting its emissions by 51% between 2018 and 2030 and to net zero no later than 2050. It’s hoped this reduction will be achieved through targeting the transport sector and industry, as well as an increased reliance on renewable energy.

All forms of greenhouse gas emissions will be included in future carbon budgets and governments will be required to adopt sectoral ‘emission ceilings’ within the limits of each budget.

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