Groupthink – “a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group by setting aside their own personal beliefs. Those opposed to the decisions or overriding opinion of the group as a whole frequently remain quiet, preferring to keeping the peace rather than disrupt the uniformity of the crowd.”
An example of groupthink was our Celtic Tiger boom and bust where the combination of light touch regulation, tax breaks and a cosy relationship between government and developers created a building boom that was totally unsustainable. This resulted in major financial, environmental and social crises still affecting our country. Parallels can be drawn to the current renwable energy plans:
- The close relationships and ties between charismatic characters such as Mainstream Renewable’s Eddie O’Connor and SEAI’s Brendan Halligan.
- The dismissal by Pat Rabbitte of opposition to renewable energy plans.
- The ‘revolving door’ whereby executives from Eirgrid and wind developers leave one organisation in to take up office in another.
- The ‘revolving door’ whereby officers from An Bord Pleanála bring their inside experience of planning to Eirgrid and wind developers.
- Chairman of SEAI, Brendan Halligan, straddling both camps, owning shares in, and sitting on the board of Mainstream Renewables- a blatant conflict of interest.
- Many executives of Eirgrid and wind developers have worked together in the ESB, Airtricity, Bord Na Móna and other semi states, and also have strong political links to parties currently in government.
The National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP ) and Grid 25 are plans hatched at the very height of our Celtic Tiger boom and are indicative of the type of thinking of that time. Huge sums of money are now being gambled for speculative profit without any prudent financial or environmental analysis. Not only is our money being gambled, so too are our beautiful landscape and precious environment.
Have we learned from the past?
Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over?
We need to show maturity as a country. Our decision makers, our semi states, and our captains of industry must subject their plans to the three pillars of sustainable development; environmental, economic and social.This must be done in an open and transparent way.
No more destructive “groupthink”.