21 February 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Aficionados of speculative fiction of a certain vintage will undoubtedly recall with affection the first series of the American television fantasy drama Heroes, and will be familiar with one of its catchphrase lines: “Save the cheerleader, save the world!”

It’s a slogan that offers irresistible adaption to the plight of the humble bumblebee, and the vital importance to the plant’s ecosystem of halting the reduction in numbers of this and other pollinator insect species in order to avoid a catastrophic imbalancing of the complex weave of nature that preserves the wellbeing of the world.

The current battering of our own and neighbouring island by a succession of storms, and shifts in weather patterns across Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia, confronts us daily with the evidence of climate change and must surely make all but the most zealous of naysayers think more often about the impact that mankind’s avaricious and heedless consumption of natural resources is having on the planet we live upon.

Although the cause of climate action has been taken up with anger, vigour and insistence by the younger population of the plant in particular in recent times, the response to probably the most important issue confronting us as a species is often at individual level one of helplessness.

It is an oft-expressed view that what Ireland does to reduce its carbon footprint is futile when huge nations like the USA and China lack the will and courage to stand up to vested economic interests and address their own much larger contribution to the problem. And it is an increasingly encountered extension of this fallacious mindset to let the idea take root that what we can do as individuals to address the various challenges to the ecosystem will make little or any difference.

So it was timely and encouraging to hear the presentation made by horticulturalist Michael Carroll to Monday’s meeting of the Monaghan Municipal District on the practical steps being taken at local authority level in our county to implement sound biodiversity policies and help make the local environment a more nourishing and sustaining one for our imperilled pollinator species.

The good example of the local authority in establishing Pollinator-Friendly Zones on open green spaces to encourage natural grass growth and the emergence of some of the wild plants that provide nectar, and initiating a bulb-planting programme that will produce nectarbearing flowers, is one that is easily followed at a more localised community and even individual level, and should inspire Tidy Towns groupings, residents’ bodies, men’s sheds and individual householders to follow suit and fortify the public sector contribution with replicating activisation of the biodiversity precepts that underpin these plans.

It is a commentary on some of the less beneficial offshoots of the economic and technological progress of the last halfcentury or so to realise that what now present as radical and innovative measures to help address the ecosystem threat are actually a return to principles and practices that were commonplace and taken for granted a generation or too ago.

The generation from which our parents and grandparents came undoubtedly had an instinctive and deep-rooted appreciation of the importance of tending and enhancing our natural environment and the plants and living things populating it which has somehow become diluted and undermined by the globalising forces that have come to shape our modern world, a world in which we are increasingly invited to step out of the reality we inhabit and navigate our days along virtual highways and byways.

The impulse to tame and trim and shape nature to suit the diktats of industrial production or landscape aesthetic was not so developed or insistent back then, and any manifestation of these modern trends was certainly subsumed by the realisation of the importance of sometimes just letting nature be, and go about its business of providing the growth to sustain the diversity of life contributing to the harmony and balance of the environment.

In our rush to progress, we have lost this connection to the substance of the world we move through each day. But Monaghan’s local authority sector are demonstrating that it is not beyond our reach to reclaim this connection, and that the steps to re-establish it are quite straightforward and easily implemented on a localised and even individualised basis.

We can all do our bit to save the bee, and, by extension, save the world.


Given the preoccupying uncertainty of the political realm in this jurisdiction at present, and the so-far half-hearted and self-interested endeavours to conjure a viable Government out of the General Election outcome, it is easy to lend insufficient attention to the implications of what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is getting up to across the water.

Mr Johnson used the guise of a Cabinet reshuffle last week to purge his Government of the unlikeminded, among them the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith who is generally regarding as having played a pivotal role along with our own Tanáiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in finding the formula that brought the dormant Northern Ireland political institutions back into functioning.

In his brief tenure in this difficult portfolio, Mr Smith had accomplished the rare feat of winning the confidence and respect of the vast majority of the North’s political players, and his abrupt removal was greeted with appropriate anger and disappointment by voices from across the spectrum of Northern opinion.

Any considered evaluation of Mr Smith’s contribution as Northern Ireland Secretary would have compelled a prudent Prime Minister to decide at the very least that the timing of his departure would not now be right. However, Mr Johnson’s application of the Stalinist approach to reshuffling his playing squad demonstrates that assembling a Cabinent of compliant cronies in order to push his Brexit agenda is of much more importance to him than the need to provide stability and continuity of approach at Government level to political and administrative structures in Northern Ireland still only finding their feet after a protracted and often bitter hiatus.

Mr Johnson’s contempt for Northern Ireland and its citizens is also demonstrated in the new immigration system he plans to introduce in the UK come January 1 2021 when current European Union regulations in this regard no longer apply.

Sectors of the Northern Ireland economy reliant on relatively unskilled labour would appear to be placed in a great deal of difficulty by the application of the planned new rules and points system-governed entry criteria being put in vogue, and there is no indication that there will be any special exemptions or reliefs made to accommodate the particular economic situation in the North of this island – despite this possible problem being long flagged up to the British Government by both the nationalist and unionist political leadership there.

If we manage to get a Government any time soon, whoever becomes Taoiseach needs to have an early word in Mr Johnson’s ear. Boorish Brexiteering and internecine bloodletting might play well among the British PM’s target audience, but they bode ill for the future economic and political integrity of Northern Ireland and the future relationship which the UK will enjoy with our own country and the wider EU.

Surely not even Mr Johnson can be this clueless.

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