Minister Denis Naughton
Just how complex the whole issue of lobbying is with regard to our democracy was underlined to me in recent weeks with news of the difficulties faced by Minister Denis Naughten over the now famous phone call.
He was accused of speaking to someone he should not have about a proposed media merger.
In parts of Kildare, however, they just wish he had spoken to them.
In some respects, I have sympathy for the Minister. There is an increasing body of regulation and compliance, which, for all its useful aspects, will lead to law abiding people in deep trouble over very or, relatively, little.
The Minister took a phone call, which by most accounts will not make any difference to the process for which the call was made, a media merger.
Some have now argued that despite the fire he came under for the breach of protocol, he would have been forced to resign had not a lot of elected members in Dail Eireann decided that this was not a good time for an election.
How ethical is this decision by the election calling powers? But that is another story.
Back to the Minister.
On a personal level, the Minister is deemed to be a decent individual.
Irish Times columnist, Miriam Lord, put it thus. “People like him too. He is approachable and straight. He made his own luck there.”
I might agree with her.
But if others disagreed that he was approachable, you could not argue with them either.
Minister Naughten is the Minister responsible for the Bord na Mona Drehid waste facility.
Over the past two years or so, the Firmount Millicent Action group have tried to meet the Minister to discuss various issues at the site.
These include the performance of the EPA in monitoring the site and traffic safety issues.
They said the Minister declined to meet them for whatever reason.
You can argue that every Minister cannot meet every village lobby group in the State.
But what is at stake here is a national, not a local, waste site in the area.
The Minister told the Firmount Millicent group (FMG) in late December 2016 that he was “precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance, in specific cases, by the EPA but that the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE), supervises the implementation of waste licences and any complaint may be made to the OEE.”
The FMG made strenuous efforts to meet the Minister but to no avail. So it must have been with some irony, perhaps anger, that they followed the story of the phone call.