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Monday, May 13, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Teaching to Making Sustainable Development Constitutional


In the last blog entry, Vincent had just begun explaining how he started teaching at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Question: How did things go after you taught that first class?

Then they offered me a second class in planning and risk assessment, which is a bit more specific and more into the area of impact assessment. I was nervous teaching my first class up there, never having teaching experience. It was at the end of this first class I was teaching that this Slane Bypass issue sprang up. I was able to use the issue as a class project which showed how these things work in the real world. It worked out really well in both directions. Some of the students got involved in some of the campaign issues and certainly some of their research and work came in handy. I think they enjoyed having the opportunity to deal with some real world issues. I sort of carried on that tradition. The north-south connection and the larger issues to do with the road made it an ideal topic to deal with because, when I first went up to Queens University, of the 30 students, 15 would have been from the south and 15 would have been from the north. It was a good coming together type of issue.  Although the southern end of that road has come to a grinding halt as a result of the An Bord Planela decision, and the south also withdrew the 500 million euro commitment to building the northern end, the northern authorities have pushed ahead with the A5 upgrade up there. A group of local residents I’ve had into my class at Queens called the A5 Alternative Alliance just went into court before Christmas 2012 and initiated judicial review with the high court for the planning approval of the A5 up there.  Everybody is waiting to see what will happen to that up there with the north.

Question: What is your next act?

During the course of all this, I had to ask myself some of the bigger questions such as why am I doing all this stuff? What does it all mean? What is the bigger picture here?

During the course of my studies along with campaigning, I learned more about this concept of sustainable development and how it fits in with indigenous rights and indigenous culture, which are obviously Brehon law concepts, and how it fits in with environmental protection and heritage protection. I also learned to look at where does economics come into this?

Sustainable development is a way that ties it all together in a positive way.

During these earlier campaigns, we were operating in this property bubble and development frenzy that ended up collapsing here in Ireland, quite dramatically, and showing we had been the absolute definition of unsustainable development here in Ireland.
What I’ve done in terms of academia is I enrolled in a PhD program in Trinity College. I enrolled about three years ago and I’m working on it right now. I got a bit distracted but I’m back on the case. I’ve come up with a theory. My thesis will be that sustainable development should be constitutionalized here in Ireland.

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