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COLM TOBIN: We’re seeing red over Green chief’s ‘have shorter showers’ eco advice

April 10th, 2022 5:05 PM

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POOR old Eamon Ryan was in a spot of trouble in the court of public opinion again this week. During an interview on Morning Ireland, he outlined a range of easy-to-do measures to help people reduce their energy usage and save money immediately. It didn’t go down well.

SUVs all over Ireland pulled into grass verges so listeners could text in their fury. Homeworkers from Mizen to Malin dropped what they were doing and turned on their kettles out of spite.

People better get used to it. A government awareness campaign will soon follow to encourage citizens to improve their behaviour.

After two years of ‘wash your hands’ adverts, it’ll be a year of ‘wear a jumper’ adverts with the inevitable ‘wipe your bum’ campaign to follow.

You’d be wrecked from all the awareness.

Ryan is serious, though. By following his advice, he claims, individuals can really do damage to Putin and his fossil fuel-dependent regime.

If we take shorter showers and only boil enough water as required and not a full kettle, we will surely drive the Russians back over the border into Siberia.

This is war! War in a small, nice, middle-class kind of way.

Ryan is completely right, of course. Transforming our energy sector and our personal behaviour around energy is going to be central in the battle to save our precious planet, not to mind dealing with the psychopath-in-chief in Moscow.

But good politicians can read a room. And poor old Eamon has a habit of putting his footprint in his own mouth at times.

The public is blue in the face from crises at this stage. Two years of Covid, a possible World War, astronomical energy price rises, food bills off the charts, the Cork footballers threatening more strikes ….

People just want a bit of respite and someone to tell them ‘it’s all going to be ok’. And they also want a few more quid seeing as the €200 contributed by the government thus far has already disappeared into the small print of our energy bills.

And I really believe that people will follow public advice on energy improvement measures if it’s communicated in the right way.

But when you’re struggling to put food on the table, Eamon Ryan’s advice must ring fairly hollow, however well-intentioned and practical. Don’t they have really well paid special advisors to help them navigate these kinds of things?

Pining for the Pina Coladas

HOW do you imagine your golden years? Cruising around the Mediterranean for months on end, sipping Pina Coladas on the deck as your Tesla stocks continue to boom? Perhaps you picture long warm evenings spent al fresco dining in Spanish vineyards, regaling your grandchildren with tales about the Celtic Tiger and how you first met their grandmother, recalling that heart-stopping moment your eyes locked across the outdoor heating equipment department in Woodies?

Or maybe you take a more glass-half-empty approach and you expect to be waist-high in seawater, battling off mutant sharks, forest fires and Russian oligarchs with your bare hands?    

Either way, it’s important to have a pension plan because, and I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but there is a PENSIONS TIMEBOMB approaching, accompanied by an EXPLOSION IN THE ELDERLY POPULATION which will be followed by the inevitable RETIREMENT TSUNAMI APOCALYPSE.

I often wonder if the reason people don’t plan for their pensions is because of the terrifying way people talk about them, usually in capital letters in the media?

With all that in mind, Cabinet has approved an auto-enrolment plan which will see anyone earning over €20,000 automatically signed up to make contributions to their retirement fund. Under the scheme, for every €3 invested in a private pension by workers, an additional €1 is added by the government.

It is modelled on the old SSIA (Special Saving Incentive Accounts) scheme which ran during the Celtic Tiger and was designed to encourage Irish people to save. It basically worked like this. For every euro you invested in a ridiculously lavish foreign holiday or shiny new car, the State would make a further contribution of 25%. It was basically robbing Peter to pay Paul and then topping up what you gave to Paul by a quarter so he could pay it back to Peter with an outdoor heater thrown into the mix … or something like that.

So here’s hoping the auto-enrolment plan works a bit better. God knows they’ve had time to get it right. In 2007, Seamus Brennan tabled a White Paper on it but, in reality, ministers have been finding excuses to put it off since the time of Cú Chulainn. So hats off to the government that attempts to make pass it into law. You know they won’t be liked for it.

Time to take a Capsule?

I HOPE you filled in your Census form on Sunday and spent time filling in the Time Capsule section for your relatives in 100 years’ time. I sketched in my daily Wordle attempt, to give them a sense of how I passed most of my days in the Ireland of 2022.

I wonder if they’ll even have Wordle in 2122?

And how that pensions plan we set up is going? At the very least, I hope we’ve given them is a world that’s at peace and not on fire.

And with that, I’m knocking off the gas and popping on a jumper for the night.

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