By Maeve O’ Sullivan
Should we condone the government for the plans of the RIC and ‘Black and Tans’ commemoration and what lessons should be taken from this controversy? Lord County Mayor Christopher O’Sullivan talks with Deputy News editor Maeve O’Sullivan about the recent news backlash, while also sharing his environmental plans for Cork, and how Greta Thunberg might play a role.
Throughout his political career, the environment has played a key role in the manifestos and actions taken out by the Mayor. With the buzz word Climate Change very much on our horizon, I asked the Fianna Fáil man what were his plans for the environment and what he believes we should all be pushing.
‘’I’m looking as a local authority for major reforms in terms of using renewable energies, creating biodiversity and protecting habitats. However, as a local authority we are very much hampered by national guidelines. Therefore, I would like to get in there [Government] and introduced legislation and build policies that give the councils far more flexibility when it comes to implementing climate action initiative as they are too hamstrung at the moment and even the current climate plan isn’t going far enough and the targets aren’t ambitious enough.’’
Mr O’Sullivan went on to stress the need to tackle the issue as soon as possible. ’We need to streamline policies as we are running out of times. It needs to happen yesterday ‘We are all about carbon reduction, excellent. We are all about energy reduction, excellent. However, we need to be more about biodiversity and habitat creation and I’m all about that.’’
Just this past week, the County Mayor announced his plan to extend an invitation to Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to come and speak at County Hall or to address the council via video-link. ‘’Climate change is a real thing. If Greta does take up the invitation, we can’t just pay homage, we need to listen and take action.’’
With the announcement of the next general election to take place on the 8th of February and Christopher officially added to the Fianna Fail ticket for Cork South West, the Mayor expressed his wishes for the increased engagement of young voters.
‘’I wish a general election would engage the youth the way the recent referendums did. We had a massive turnout of young voters for the marriage equality and Repeal but general elections do not seem to engage young people. If you want to continue to see this social revolution and have an impact, it is just as important to vote in the elections as it is in a referendum. It is nearly more important in many ways’’.
Coming from the recent backlash that the government faced when they announced plans to commemorate the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police in Dublin Castle on January 17th, Christopher reflects on the thought process behind the Decade of Centenaries and what the government should learn from the public outcry.
‘’We should learn lessons from how 1916 was commemorated. There were several events, across the country and both sides remembered. It was probably done from a revolutionary standpoint but there were monuments erected for all the dead.’’
‘’I think the county isn’t ready for a stand-alone commemoration for the RIC or ‘Black and Tans’. The public opinion on this matter was uniform, not such extreme republicans who didn’t want this to happen. You had people from all walks of life, different religions, different ages, political views. It as a wide spread sentiment. Perhaps even an anti -British sentiment. We have come a long way in our Anglo-Irish relations, from the Good Friday agreement and the Queens’s visit. We are good at reconciliations. However, I think this was probably a step too fair. If we are to commemorate the dead, it should be in a more wholesome attempt or it won’t go down well.’’
Finally, with the announcement of the general election, Christopher spoke on where he believes rural Cork should be in the next 20 years. ‘’Even though I may be one of the younger side of candidates, I do see merit in protecting rural traditions and their way of life, so to prevent rural isolation.’’
‘’I believe there is a couple of ways this can be implemented. The roll out of national broadband needs to be done soon so people can have connectivity no matter where they live in West Cork. Therefore, people can live and work in West Cork and driving the local economy. That is something that is doable and inimitable if the will is there.’’
‘’You don’t need to tell how what a beautiful place West Cork is. Anyone who visits, loves it and returns. However, I don’t know are we selling it enough on the national and international stage, tourism for the most part is sustainable and creates jobs. It fills our streets with consumers and that is something that I think in terms of tackling investment, and getting it into rural Ireland is a big thing.’’
‘’There is also a place for sustainable farming. Small farmers and farm holders are not being supported. C.A.P is going to be reformed in the next year or two and I would love to be in a position in the Dáil to be a part of that. I want to make sure the small farmer, including the beef farmer is supported but also be encouraged to be sustainable through CAP reforms.’’
‘’We all eat food; we are all consumers of food. Yet the food producer is not being paid enough. That also needs to be reformed and rural Cork is a part of that.’’
The County Mayor will feature on the Fianna Fáil General Election ticket for Cork South West alongside Deputy Margaret Murphy O’ Mahony and aim to return two seats to the area.