Irish Examiner view: One more crisis could end Helen McEntee's tenure

Irish Examiner view: One more crisis could end Helen McEntee's tenure

Justice Minister Helen McEntee speaks to the media about the riots in Dublin after a Cabinet meeting at Government Buildings. 

The unprecedented scenes on the streets of Dublin last week heaped pressure on Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Since the rioting in the centre of the capital, both have been criticised — for the response of the authorities on the night and for not being cognisant of the potential for trouble beforehand.

Harris may be able to point to the presence of gardaí on the streets of Dublin in recent days as a deterrent to further unrest, but McEntee is facing criticism on another front.

As reported by this newspaper, she has decided to remove a significant element of new legislation proposed to reform the laws dealing with rape

Originally the legislation proposed that those accused of rape would have to convince a jury that they had taken steps to get consent, but that section has now been dropped. The Department of Justice said it hoped a separate piece of legislation addressing those matters would be progressed next year.

The move has been sharply criticised by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, whose CEO Rachel Morrogh said: “The news today that this will be dealt with in later legislation will deny victims of sexual violence the protection provided in the original bill until a second piece of legislation is passed.”

Morrogh’s comments pinpoint the obvious problem with omitting this provision from the current bill: The decision kicks the can down the road, which is wrong in itself, but it is doubly unfair as cases may have to be pursued under what is now acknowledged as incomplete legislation.

That is the inherent problem with such piecemeal lawmaking.

Taken in conjunction with last week’s riots, is McEntee’s position as minister secure? It was hardly aided by her cabinet colleague Eamon Ryan’s comments on Tuesday that Dublin is not safe enough, but the Irish Examiner’s Paul Hosford pointed to other realities when quoting an unnamed Fianna Fail TD who said: “The reality is that if we vote against Helen McEntee, we likely cause an unnecessary election in the first two weeks of January.”

Such considerations are always weighed carefully by politicians, and McEntee’s ministerial career may benefit as a result — in the short term. Another crisis, in either policing or legislating, may be one too many.

Cop28: A new satire is born

We seem to have reached a new point of crisis when it comes to climate change, but not one that relates directly to rising temperatures or carbon emissions. Instead we are now at the stage at which the seriousness of the situation is somehow undercut by also embodying the broadest of satires.

How else to explain the necessity for Ireland to state that it is not one of the countries that has been secretly negotiating with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on oil and gas deals ahead of the UN climate change summit, the Cop28 event, in Dubai this week?

A BBC report has stated that the UAE was planning to speak with 27 foreign governments over possible oil and gas deals, and the Emirates did not deny the report, saying that “private meetings are private”.

Who is the person seeking to broker these deals? Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the minister of industry who is also the president of Cop28.

Satire may not be a strong enough description for this. A new form, dystopian nightmare-farce, might be more accurate.

At UCC’s sustainability forum last weekend Mary Robinson, chair of The Elders global group, did not spare Mr al-Jaber: “It’s not right that the president of Cop would use the office for private deals. It’s not correct or appropriate.”

It is dispiriting enough to realise that the world is on course to surpass the 1.5C temperature rise limit agreed at previous summits. The revelation that the person heading the summit is busily undermining its work at the event itself is almost enough to make one throw up one’s hands.

That is not an option. Despite the actions of al-Jaber, it is incumbent on those attending the summit — Ireland included — to agree on ways to combat climate change as a matter of urgency.

If those attendees are raising global temperatures by boosting fossil fuel consumption at the event they can make one boast in good faith. They are already doing more for the planet than the president of the summit himself — which shows the size of the task ahead.

GAA demographics

It has long been a cliché that GAA clubs offer a key insight into Irish demographics — that they function as a canary in the coal mine when it comes to population patterns, employment levels, even family size.

Padraig Dalton of the Central Statistics Office underlined that in these pages on Tuesday. The pressure rural GAA clubs face in fielding teams becomes clearer when Dalton instanced the 54% of the population which lived in rural areas in 1961: that is now 36%.

He also pointed to the eastward drift in population, which is having an impact on counties such as Mayo and Kerry — neither are growing as fast as other counties in population terms, while Mayo is the oldest county, and Kerry second oldest, by average age.

That is the result of decades of imbalanced development and is unlikely to change any time soon. But when presented in this form those statistics become far easier to grasp and we see what demographics means in real terms.


Check out our Sustainability and Climate Change Hub where you will find the latest news, features, opinions and analysis on this topic from across the various Irish Examiner topic desks and their team of specialist writers and columnists.

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