WHAT a sucker punch Francis Clauson delivered to RTÉ and TV3! Aghast at the fact that the Irish Wind Energy Association should use President John F Kennedy’s historic address to the Oireachtas as part of a politically-motivated advertising campaign, he complained to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
The Irish Wind Energy Association represents the companies active in the Irish wind industry and, to everyone’s surprise, the Broadcasting Authority upheld Mr Clauson’s complaint. It ruled that the advertising campaign, initiated just before the 2016 general election, was intended to influence government policy in respect of energy. The objective was to bring about changes in the laws of the land or of ‘procuring a reversal of government policy or of particular decisions of governmental authorities.’
Mr Clauson had argued that the debate surrounding wind energy engendered considerable political interest at a time that public campaigns were under way to oppose any further development of wind energy within the country.
His victory was a blow to the companies that had backed the advert campaign to the tune of half a million euros.
What’s more it was a double whammy for RTÉ and TV3, which now must apologise at peak viewing times for their lack of impartiality.
In other words, the stopping point for the wind that sweeps from the Urals and blows across Coachford, Knockduff, the Boggeragh Mountains and Ballydehob, was RTÉ and TV3. As the poet TS Eliot might have said, ‘the wind within the wind, should not have been speaking for the wind turbines’!
That aside, as far as the anti-wind farm lobby was concerned, the success (small and all as it was) of those who resent the destruction of our mountains, the industrial spoliation of miles of open landscape and wildlife, was sweet.
The man in the street had spoken and, for once, the ‘powers that be’ were obliged to take notice if for no other reason than because the heavily-subsidised wind farm business was publicly caught with its pants down in its attempt to manipulate public opinion.
The result was that the industry came across as just another exploitative outfit peddling unsubstantiated claims in the run-up to a general election. In this case, the emphasis was on the assertion that wind energy could make an important contribution to tackling climate change.
Indeed, when eventually RTÉ and TV3 apologise to the nation for having breached the broadcasting code, it is to be hoped their expression of regret will lead to an examination of the negative impact of wind farms on local communities; especially in relation to the adverse health effects they can have on people whose unlucky fate is to live near the damn things.
Decent or indecent?
Last week, Forest Ireland launched a campaign to oppose the Department of Health’s proposed legislation to ban the sale of tobacco from vending machines.
As a lobby group that purports to speak on behalf of smokers, it claims that the new law would serve only to redirect ‘decent smokers’ to cheaper, smuggled tobacco.
The concept of a ‘decent smoker’ as opposed to an ‘indecent smoker’ was rather charming. It conjured up the image of a chap with high moral standards, an all-right person, whereas an ‘indecent smoker’ suggested someone who failed to conform to the proper conventions of social behaviour, such as smoking contraband ciggies.
We were most impressed by Forest Ireland’s deontological ethics and the implied distinction it made between the decent and the indecent, although we wondered if the outfit unfairly emphasised Kant’s ‘principles of conduct’ to the detriment of Aristotle’s separation of moral considerations from other practical considerations –a paradoxical dilemma on which to cogitate, but par for the course for the typical coffin nail smoker!
Happily, all was resolved when we discovered that Forest Ireland was nothing more than a branch of the British-based organisation called ‘Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco’ (FOREST), which is substantially funded by the tobacco industry. As simple as that!
The row over Norwegian Air International’s plans to begin transatlantic operations out of Cork Airport trundles on with no sign of solution. Cork Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune has emerged as the leading proponent of the Cork-Boston link, a position that has put her on collision course with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, IALPA (the pilots’ branch of IMPACT) and powerful US labour unions.
The ICTU takes the line that the Norwegian operation ‘appears to be driven by a desire to drive down pay and standards in the aviation sector ... that it will undermine quality jobs and standards ... and that it will not create a single new job in Ireland, the European Union or the United States.’
And, while MEP Clune’s indifference to the concerns of Irish trade unions is remarkable, her enthusiasm for the way Ryanair conducts its business is extraordinary. She points out that Ryanair also faced ‘opposition and negativity’ when it sought a licence to fly to the UK in 1986. She advised people to look at the beneficial impact Ryanair has had on the EU aviation market, ‘opening up air travel to millions of Europeans.’
Yet when it comes to the matter of Ryanair’s relations with its workers, the company is unique for the manner in which it provokes the anger of trade unions all across Europe.
No role model
In Norway, Ryanair has had a very bad press. In 2013 the parliament described the company’s terms of employment as ‘slave contracts’ and a coalition of Norwegian trade unions opposed Ryanair’s plans to provide domestic routes as long as wages and working conditions remained abysmal. A serious bone of contention has been the company’s attitude to collective bargaining and trade union membership.
It’s a similar story in Denmark. Last year, Ryanair pulled out of its Copenhagen base, moving it to Lithuania after a dispute with Danish trade unions. The unions claimed that Ryanair cabin crew earned less than half the wages of rival local low-cost airlines.
To use Ryanair as a model with which to promote Norwegian Air International’s Cork-Boston link might not have been Ms Clune’s best idea and it certainly didn’t impress US trade unions!
They contend that the Norwegian airline will be able to bypass strict US labour laws by registering in Ireland rather than the United States. In Ireland, they say, labour laws permit the airline to hire its pilots and flight attendants on individual employment contracts under non-European law in order to cut costs.
The unions also point to a statement from the US Department of Transportation, which claims that ‘Norwegian Air International (NAI) is headquartered in Ireland and employs contract crews based in Thailand to circumvent Norway’s fair and strong labour standards. NAI is a virtual airline set up to undercut competition by exploiting cheap labour.’ The dispute is hotting up!