Sunday, May 09, 2010

 

Packed out at The Snailbox

On Wednesday I attended a public meeting in The Snailbox Pub at Kilmoon Cross to discuss the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill and the forthcoming Wildlife Bill. The evening was arranged by RISE (Rural Ireland Says Enough) and a crowd of about 350 were present.

Apart from myself and the other local Oireachtas members there were several Councillors present. We listened to the views of speakers from the Ward Union Hunt, a vet, a representative from fishermen and a representative from a Gun Club, amongst others.

The key issue coming out of the meeting was the worry of many that these two pieces of legislation were just the thin edge of the wedge, and that further legislation would come in later, to ban things such as shooting, fishing and even sports such as horse-racing.

I spoke in relation to this. I explained that there is no appetite amongst any politician on our side of the house to ban fishing, or ban shooting. I also updated the audience on the position in relation to the Dog Breeders Bill, including the Labour Party’s tabling of amendments on the inspection regime and on trying to get rid of the dog microchipping proposal. In relation to the Wildlife Bill, the Party has yet to conclude our discussions on the matter and on how we will deal with the government’s proposals.

Despite the strongly-held views of the crowd, it was a pleasant, well-arranged and well-managed meeting. Everyone was very civil to each other, and the evening flew by. I left at about 11:20pm. Rather than eating dinner I went straight to bed, since I had a 6am start on Thursday.

I was already quite beat by the time I got home on Thursday evening, just in time to tune in to the exit polls from the UK. Straight away they were predicting a hung parliament. The Lib Dems spokespeople were all dissing the polls, trotting out the situation of 1992, where the exit polls were way out. I didn’t buy it. Polling has come on considerably since then. A sample of 18,000 people across the country was going to give a fairly accurate prediction of the result, and did, as we subsequently saw.

I was disappointed but not surprised by the result. It was a pity to see Dawn Butler lose her seat. I was glad to see John McDonnell get back in (I did a bit of work on his campaign) and also to see Stephen Twigg get elected after a five year absence. I was particularly pleased to see Yasmin Qureshi become one of the first two Muslim women in the parliament. I worked on Yasmin’s campaign in 2005 when she was narrowly defeated by the Lib Dems. In the north it was great to see Margaret Richie elected in South Down. She had taken time out of her campaign to come to our Galway conference. I was glad to see her absence didn’t impact on her chances.

The next few days and weeks promise to be interesting. For us in Ireland, the key issue is how the new UK government will deal with the economy there – the UK is hugely important to our own economy so we need to watch developments closely.

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