I got 2% of the vote. Full results here:
The RTÉ campaign video is here
There is an Irish Times article about my campaign here
About me: I've lived by the shores of Lough Lene, near Collinstown, Co Westmeath since 1997, and my father's family has farmed in Killashee, Co Longford (and before that Edgeworthstown) since the 18th century. In 2000 I planted a 6-acre oak & larch forest and built the first straw bale house in Ireland. The larch now provide all my home-heating needs. The straw bale house was a temporary research building, which Westmeath County Council kindly tolerated. My current house has block walls and a grass roof.
Seeing the transformation of my under-grazed field into a woodland that now supports 5 free-range pigs and shelters a 40 fruit tree orchard and a colony of honey bees, brings home to me the potential of our temperate, midland landscape to offer a phenomenally rich and sustainable quality of life at little cost.
In Westmeath, I’ve been chairman of Co-motion Youth Film Festival, an advisor to Shawbrook Dance School, Longford and board member of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre Company, Longford. I also contributed to (and occasionally edited) the Midlands Arts and Culture Magazine for 7 years, as well as writing for the Guardian, LA Times and the Washington Post.
Abroad, I’ve been a medical supervisor to an Indian leper colony and managed an Ecuadorian organic fruit farm and guesthouse. I’ve written books on my travels in Africa, India and South America, as well as two novels, and have made dozens of documentaries on issues of world culture for TG4, RTÉ & Travel Channel. I write occasionally for The Irish Times and report weekly on travel for The Right Hook.
This campaign seeks simply to highlight paths towards healthy, meaningful lives and to focus attention on some of the more realisable positive possibilities. Our confidence is somewhat battered right now, our communities are unaligned. We neglect our bodies, our mental health and our heritage through unsustainable practises and an ever-increasing disassociation from the land that has nurtured us for eons. But there appears to be a genuine desire for change.
In Jan/Feb 2016 I ran as a general election candidate for the Green Party in Longford/Westmeath, purely, as a way of offering fresh perspectives on the potential of this region. There is a desire for living creative, fulfilling and sustainable lives in this area, and yet rarely are alternative positive proposals brought forth. By uniting as a community we can become a vibrant and prosperous Eden... a return to our former role where the Midlands were considered the core of Ireland: Mide, the place from where all life and energy radiated.
We live in an area rich in resources and ripe for small-scale, sustainable development. All we lack is the impetus to reshape our lives – to choose and implement innovative local solutions that will attract innovators & creatives, and ensure a vibrant future for our children
My goal was to provide a platform whereby communities can explore novel solutions to our current challenges:
community-owned renewable energy: solar, wind & biogas;
sustainable farming: fruit/ vegetable horticulture alongside livestock and forestry;
developing the tourism potential of our lakes, rivers and peatland wildernesses through small-scale local initiatives linked to international networks;
community-supported farm enterprises incorporating Men’s Shed with nature-based childcare/ elder-care facilities… and offering programmes for mental & physical health.
enlightened, outdoor-focused, preschool and primary education;
flood prevention through planting bands of community-owned woodland and integrated constructed wetlands - in combination with, or instead of sewage-treatment plants;
intensive, home retrofitting schemes with grants that cover at least 75% of insulation, damp-proofing and double-glazing costs;
cohousing initiatives, where families share heating, laundry and recreational features in carbon-neutral, green buildings.
TOURISM, the Midlands are gradually becoming an alluring tourism destination for those keen to engage with Real Ireland. Waterways Ireland’s tourism infrastructural developments along the Shannon River, the Royal Canal and our numerous lakes, along with the construction of the Mullingar to Athlone cycleway on a disused railway line are diverting tourists to our area. We can either allow impersonal, corporate hotel chains to capitalise on this, or else come together as community to create small-scale personalised services offering outdoor activities, affordable boutique accommodation, the finest locally-sourced food and opportunities to engage with communities in a genuine way. We have such rich traditions, stories and customs in this region that would be an irresistible allure to discerning tourists who would be happy to pay a premium for locally-sourced, artisan food products, services and community engagement. The pristine unsullied landscape and infrastructure already exists, all we need do is allow cycle and walking tracks across our land, and permit camping and access routes to rivers, lakes and the Canal.
FUNDING: With the European Central Bank currently eager to flood the EU with quantatitive easing, there is no shortage of funding for sustainable, environmental projects that will help boost business and the viability of rural areas. All we need to do is draw up sensible, feasible projects that we ourselves are willing to invest in and we can draw down substantial funding. (With deposit interest rates now less than 1%, it makes sense to invest in the future of our locality than the vagaries of disfunctional banking system.)
Already the EU had distributed €3.4 billion through its Life Programme, and we in Ireland have hardly ever applied for this fund. There is also the EU Rural Development Programme which is specifically aimed at promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas.