Threat of nuclear war looms but Irish politics transfixed by turf

Good morning,

As the Russian foreign minister warns of the danger of a nuclear war and Nato chiefs meet to plan further shipments of arms and ammunition to the embattled defenders of Ukraine, as millions of refugees flock westwards to safety and Poland sees gas supplies from Russia cut off, Irish politics is transfixed by … turf.

Turf dominated Leaders’ Questions yesterday and afterwards Green leader Eamon Ryan met with angry backbenchers from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, at which latter engagement he was subjected to a full-on Michael Ring special. Depending on which account you prefer, Ryan was either sent away with a scalded tail, or he stood his ground while indicating a willingness to compromise.

Our reports are here while Miriam Lord casts a withering eye on the whole circus. Over in the Indo, they are warning that the turf wars could bring down the Government. This is unlikely. But what is probably inevitable is that the Government will water down its proposals – but it won’t set them aside completely. Although the Greens have latterly framed their position as one which is built on the need to improve air quality and prevent premature deaths from respiratory illnesses, preventing the strip-mining of the bogs is equally important to them. This is the sort of thing they are in government to do.

The furore – part genuine, part contrived, part proxy for the opposition in some quarters to the whole Green agenda – will no doubt continue today. There’s a Sinn Féin motion to be voted on tonight. But leave all the guff (and there’s plenty of it) aside, and it is a sign of how difficult the decarbonisation agenda is going to be for every government in the coming decade.

The row over the abandoned appointment of Dr Tony Holohan to a post in Trinity College rumbled on yesterday, with the health committee deciding to invite some of the dramatis personae to give an account of the controversial events.And they will rumble on further today, when the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser gives evidence on the same issue to the finance and public expenditure committee. But judging by the exchanges in the Dáil yesterday, it isn’t Fraser that opposition TDs have in their sights: it’s Robert Watt, the top civil servant in the Department of Health. Watt hasn’t gone out of his way to be deferential to politicians in the past, so his eventual appearance at an Oireachtas committee – whichever one it is, and whenever it happens – will be standing room only.

Yesterday the Taoiseach was asked in the Dáil who was running the country – the Government or the “Permanent Government”. Silly question. The Government runs the country. Er, right?

One of the principal tasks faced by the Government right now is finding accommodation for the 25,000 or so Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Ireland. Most are in hotels and B&Bs, but that supply is exhausted and a lot of those rooms will be needed for already-booked guests over the summer. So the Cabinet discussed emergency measures yesterday, while officials told a private meeting of the Oireachtas housing committee that temporary accommodation – such as the prefabs that the Government is now desperately seeking to build – will be needed for up to three years. You can’t help feeling that maybe a little more urgency a few weeks ago might have been warranted.

Our lead story on the subject is here.

There is much comment this morning on the libel action launched by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald against RTÉ, reported here yesterday. Word is that RTÉ will vigorously defend the action.

It’s certainly highly unusual for a party leader to issue a libel action against anyone in the media – for the leader of the opposition to sue RTÉ is unprecedented. But McDonald’s claim for damages because her reputation – as she sees it – has been injured is the latest in a series of libel actions by Sinn Féin politicians. More on that here. But you’d wonder what Maria Bailey thinks of it all.

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The news from on the ground in Ukraine, meanwhile, suggests escalation and a long war while Martin Wolf considers the economic fallout.

Jennifer Bray has a strange and worrying story about arson attacks at the children’s hospital.Meanwhile, the EU has warned Elon Musk about moderating Twitter.

Michael McDowell has a warning about future energy crises if we rely too much on wind*.


Dáil business opens at 9am with topical issues, and Leaders’ Questions are at 12pm . There are several pieces of Government legislation before the House, including the final stages of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill, while the weekly votes are scheduled for 10.20pm tonight.

Lots of committee action, with representatives from the Irish Family Planning Association and the National Women’s Council in at the health committee to press for a liberalisation of the laws on abortion, part of the three-year review of the legislation. Cormac McQuinn has a preview here.

The Romanian and Moldovan ambassadors are in at the EU affairs committee to discuss the refugee situation, while Tom Parlon and some construction industry honchos will discuss major building projects at the transport committee. The aforementioned Mr Fraser is at the finance committee at 1.30pm.

We’ll keep you up to date on this and much else onirishtimes.com throughout the day.

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