Sunday 29 May 2016

New Report : The Reduction in Gas Savings Due to Wind Energy 2012 to 2015

MAY 2016


  • Ireland increased it’s wind generation by 11% between 2012 and 2013. This resulted in additional gas savings of 7%, a saving of 360 m3 of gas per MW of wind installed during 2013.
  • Between 2013 and 2015 wind generation increased by 44%. This resulted in additional gas savings of 16%, a saving of 160 m3 per MW of wind installed during 2014 and 15.  
  • This means that over double the wind farms had to be installed during 2014 and 2015 to achieve the same fossil fuel savings as in 2013.
  • The expected fossil fuel savings from high levels of wind energy do not materialize because back up plant are forced to run more inefficiently.
  • Without large levels of hydro to connect to as in Denmark, gas powered stations will be forced to run less efficiently negating most of the savings from wind.
  • At some point, the high costs associated with installing more wind energy will outweigh the increasingly diminished benefits (saturation point).
  • It is likely that we are approaching that point now.
  • The Irish Government needs to place a moratorium on wind energy until a full assessment is carried out on other options.


Most commentators in the energy debate here in Ireland assume that 1MW of wind energy displaces equivalent fossil fuels required to generate 1MW of conventional power in the electricity system. Last year, wind energy contributed 23% to the electricity generation fuel mix[1]. The conventional view is that this resulted in equivalent fossil fuels savings and associated CO2 emissions. The problem with this view is that it ignores back up plant having to run less efficiently during high penetrations of wind. Joe Wheatley was among the first to question the conventional view in his 2012 paper[2]. Up until 2014, this was the stated position of SEAI, the agency set up by the Irish government to advise them on renewable energy. Then in 2014, SEAI issued a report which claimed to include all of the inefficiencies in the grid from high penetrations of wind energy[3]. In 2016, a report prepared by Danish researchers showed quite clearly that back up gas plant (CCGT) ran more inefficiently during high penetrations of wind[4]. This resulted in increased specific CO2 emissions and fuel consumption during these periods.

This report now examines precisely what the gas savings were for the years 2012 to 2015. The EPA publish annual gas consumption figures for Ireland’s CCGT and OCGT. Due to omissions in the 2014 data, that year will be left out of this report and I will only look at 2012, 2013 and 2015. This omission does not have any bearing on the results.

No analysis like this has been carried out for Ireland’s electricity system since large scale wind energy was deployed. It is based on real data from the power stations rather than models. Most, if not all reports on wind energy use models which, while instructive, may not reflect all factors which this report will include such as reserves. The analysis refers to the Republic of Ireland only and does not include Northern Ireland as the two systems are not connected.


It is widely agreed that wind energy mainly replaces gas in Ireland’s electricity system.
Gas is consumed in either Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) power stations or in their less efficient relations Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT). There are eight CCGT power stations and nine OCGT in Ireland. Generally, CCGT run more frequently than OCGT which are mainly used for peaking. Some OCGT use oil instead of gas.

Gas consumption data for the CCGT in Aghada are not separated from the OCGT situated at the same site so it is not possible to show separate results for both CCGT and OCGT. Therefore, the figures for gas in this report are a combined OCGT / CCGT figure.  

No data was available for the two OCGT at Sealrock, however these run as baseload (they have priority dispatch) so again the omission of these gas power stations doesn’t have any bearing on the results as they will run similar each year. Likewise, there is no recent data available for the two OCGT at Edenderry but these run on oil anyway.

So this report will include the three OCGT at Aghada, Marina OCGT and North Wall OCGT. So does the inclusion of these not affect the overall conclusions as some will argue that it is CCGT which back up wind rather than OCGT ? Well, the answer is No. Bord Na Mona, who operate the two OCGT at Edenderry state the following [5] :
  • There is a need for flexible thermal units with fast response times to complement the increasing amount of wind capacity on the Irish electricity network

OCGT are far more flexible and respond much quicker than CCGT and therefore they are a necessity during high periods of stochastic wind penetration. For this reason OCGT are often used as reserve and replacement reserve. A report prepared by Eirgrid in 2007 stated the following [6] :

  • "Generally, the demand for replacement reserves increases with increasing wind power capacity installed.

  • The occurrence of high demands for replacement reserves is mainly driven by a high number of simultaneous forced outages that happens simultaneously to relatively high wind power or load forecast errors. The value of these peaks tends to increase with increasing wind power capacity installed."

So OCGT should be included in a study of this kind to get an accurate picture of actual gas savings due to wind. As it turns out, two of the OCGT (at Aghada) had increased running during 2015 while the other three had reduced running.

There was one new CCGT commissioned during this period - Great Island in the South East in 2014. This replaced an old heavy fuel oil power station. It’s important to note that the old station only ran between 4 and 6% of the time whereas the new station ran approx 50% of the time in 2015. Along with increased wind generation, this surely contributed to the lower running of neighbouring CCGT in the South Region and / or lower electricity imports. For the purposes of this report it is assumed that Great Island contributed to lower electricity imports in 2015.


Demand increased by about 1 TW during the period 2012 to 2015 (Figure 1) [7].
Imports increased in 2013 (from zero) and decreased in 2015 [8]. Coal output dropped slightly in 2013 but increased to it’s highest level since 2007 in 2015 [9].


Presumably, this was due to the flood of cheap American coal in the market, a consequence of the fracking boom.


During this period, wind energy grew from about 4,000 Gw to 6,500GW, an increase of 60%. Gas consumption in Ireland’s power stations fell from approx 2.2 billion m3 to 1.8 billion m3, a reduction of 20% (Figure 2).


The objective of this report is to calculate the year on year (or marginal) gas savings, taking all of the above factors from Figure 1 and 2 into account, from the additional wind added to the system each year.

THE YEARS 2012 TO 2013

To accurately calculate this, the East West Interconnector (EWIC) must be taken into account. The EWIC came into operation at the very end of 2012 and because of it’s location generally displaces generation in the Dublin region. Between 2012 and 2013, although demand did not fall, gas consumed in the four Dublin CCGT fell by 11%, about 166 million m3. However, it is assumed that for 2013 that Huntstown 2 reduces it’s output when EWIC is exporting to Ireland with the other reductions in Dublin due to wind energy [10]. Gas consumption in Huntstown 2 fell by 105 million m3 between 2012 and 2013.

Because the EWIC was running in 2013 and not in 2012, it means that an adjustment is required in 2013 for the reduced running of Huntstown in the system. This means that actual gas savings due to increased wind energy between 2012 and 2013 was not 267 million m3 as per Figure 2 but instead 162 million (267m less 105m). So a 446GW increase in wind output (or 11%) during 2013 resulted in additional gas savings of 162 million m3 or 7% [Figure 3].

So for each GW of additional wind, an additional 360,000 of gas was saved or in megawatt terms, 1MW of wind energy added during 2013 resulted in savings of 360 of gas.


Note: There was reduced coal output and increased demand in 2013 but there was more than sufficient surplus EWIC imports after accounting for the reduced Huntstown capacity factor to cover these.

THE YEARS 2013 TO 2015

We now proceed to the years 2013 and 2015. The first point to note is that the EWIC is now in operation for both years but an adjustment is still required for the reduced imports during 2015. Secondly, demand increased by approx 0.7TW but it was assumed that this was met by increased coal generation also of 0.7TW [Figure 1]. There was no increase in other renewables worth talking about [11].

Great Island came into operation during 2014 and it is assumed that this, along with higher levels of wind, resulted in the lower imports of 0.7TW [12]. Great Island had an increase in output and gas consumption of 1.2TW and 244 million m3 respectively. This meant that 1m3 of gas gave an output of 0.52MWh. I have decided to work on the conservative side and attribute all of the lower imports to the increased generation from Great Island. This means that 136 million m3 of the total gas for 2015 can be attributed to the lower imports [13].    

Without this adjustment gas savings for 2015 are 180m m3 compared to 162m m3 saving in 2013 for a 44% increase in wind generation. Quite clearly an adjustment is required for the lower imports which have been replaced by gas generation. Otherwise, I would be understating the gas savings due to wind.

Figure 4 shows the actual savings due to wind. After the above adjustment, gas savings are 316m m3 (180+136), about double the savings made in 2013 although for four times as much additional wind energy.


So we have gone from 1GW wind for Gas saving of 360,000 m3 to 1GW wind for Gas saving of 160,000 m3. We now have to install twice the amount of wind farms to achieve the same fossil fuel savings as achieved before. [Figure 5].


Clearly, the CCGT are frequently running on low loads, behind the high levels of wind, well below the rated output that they were designed to run at. They are also cycling more often. This has lead to significant inefficiencies and lower fossil fuel savings as more wind is added to the system.

Another contributing factor is the requirement for five large power stations to be on load at all times to maintain voltage control [14].  The majority of these are CCGT. So these power stations can’t be shut down during long periods of high wind. Also, it’s possible that reserves and replacement reserves have increased due to increased wind generation further reducing fossil fuel savings.

One can see from Figure 5 that we are soon reaching a saturation point of wind energy. This is the point at which installing an additional MW of wind will result in net gas savings of zero. At the same time, the costs of installing this extra wind will increase with additional grid requirements and increased maintenance costs of CCGT [15].

This report does not include changes in the generating mix since large scale deployment of wind energy. For example, off grid diesel generation capacity (known as Demand Side Units) now stands at 230MW, a 40% increase on the previous year [16]. There was a 6% increase in oil consumption at Ireland’s power stations between 2013 and 2015 [17].


Clearly, the CCGT have run more inefficiently since 2013 due to the large increase in wind generation.

Generating 23% of electricity from wind, whilst a good achievement on paper, does not result in equivalent fuel and associated CO2 savings of anywhere near that. Going from a wind penetration of 17% (2013) to 23% in 2015 has resulted in fossil fuel savings of 0.16 million m3 per GW of additional wind, yet when we moved from 15% (2012) to 17% (2013) there were savings of over twice as much (0.36 million m3 per GW of wind). Clearly, the fossil fuel savings are decreasing exponentially with each new MW of wind installed.

The Irish government’s commitment to wind energy needs to be re-assessed in light of the above findings. Most of the significant fossil fuel savings from wind energy have already been achieved. Without a hydro back-up system such as Norway to connect to, the savings from each new wind farm diminish until the costs clearly outweigh the negligible benefits. Running gas power stations behind high levels of wind does little to de-carbonise Ireland’s economy or reduce it’s dependence on fossil fuels in the long term.

If the job of the Irish wind energy industry is to put the fossil fuel industry out of business, then based on this analysis, it will ultimately fail.

A moratorium should be placed on all new wind energy installations until a full analysis of all options and alternatives is carried out.


Data taken from EPA Annual Environmental Reports for each power station

CCGT gas m3
Huntstown 1
Huntstown 2
Dublin Bay
Great Island


*Aghada includes 3 OCGT of 90MW each, 430MW CCGT and steam turbine of 260MW steam turbine all run on gas (just small amount of light fuel oil is used)

OCGT gas m3
North Wall



Source: SEAI


[6] Wind Variability Management Studies (P.Meibom et al) 2007
[9] All coal figures in this report come from Moneypoint Annual Environmental Reports
[11] There was 5MW increase in biomass which replaced peat and only 10MW of solar PV.
[12] EWIC had lower imports of 713,000 MW. Given the fuel / mw ratio of 0.52% for Great Island, 713,000 / 0.52% = 136 million m3 of equivalent gas attributable to EWIC
[13] Great Island is now the most efficient gas generator on the grid hence why it would make sense for it to run alongside lower imports
[17] From EPA  Annual Reports for each power station

Friday 27 May 2016

Brexit : What The Irish Media Don't Tell You

The Irish media have been forecasting imminent doom for Irish businesses in the event that the UK pull out of the European Union :
  • “You can track the Irish export-led recovery, moving in perfect lockstep with the fall in the euro/sterling exchange rate. What’s the first knee-jerk reaction on the UK leaving the EU? The pound weakens.
  • This would drive sterling’s value down against the euro, weakening the return to Irish exporters from their sales in the British market. There would be major implications for Irish food and drink companies.
While it's true there will be some short term weakness in the sterling,  had the UK joined the Euro project in the first place, Irish exports would never have been able to do as well as they did in the last few years as the current strong sterling would not exist. 

With the Irish media / establishment now getting hysterical about Brexit and a weaker sterling, what they don't tell you is that the sterling fell in value back in 2003 when Britain were poised to join the Euro : 

Thankfully, and to Gordon Brown's eternal credit, Britain never joined the Euro. But Ireland's political establishment were clamoring for them to join at the time. Fianna Fail, the party who the majority of Irish people voted for twice in the past decade, and who then proceeded to drive the economy over a cliff, were also pushing a policy back in 2003 that would have damaged Irish exports in the recent recovery by encouraging Britain to join the Euro : 

While some of the personnel have since changed, it's still the same clueless people in charge pushing crazy policies.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Sales of Diesel Generators expected to rise in Western Europe

It's an inconvenient fact that the more intermittent renewables you install, the more fast acting generators, like diesel generators, you need to keep the lights on. The rush for green energy will have lots of unintended consequences like this.

  • Global annual diesel genset capacity additions are expected to increase from 62.5 GW in 2015 to 103.7 GW in 2024, representing a 5.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Meanwhile, global revenue from the installation of diesel gensets is expected to grow from $41.6 billion in 2015 to $67.9 billion in 2024. Asia Pacific is forecast to be the largest market for diesel gensets, followed by Western Europe and then North America. Leading countries for diesel genset installations include the United States, China, and India, among others. 

Thursday 19 May 2016

An Interview with Peter Hitchens

There is currently much debate about Brexit in the Irish media, mostly from the Pro European Union side with scare stories about how Ireland's economy will fall off a precipice should Britain decide to exit the European Union on June 23rd.  The debate, this side of the water at any rate, seems to be devoid of any balance. 

Peter Hitchens is a columnist with the Mail on Sunday and has written several books including The Abolition of Britain and The War We Never Fought. He has kindly agreed to do an interview which includes discussion on Brexit, Energy and Climate and a host of other issues. Questions by Owen Martin.

Q:   I’m probably one of the few Irish people who voted Yes in the original Lisbon Treaty Referendum, but voted No in the second one. The Lisbon Treaty had reasonable stated aims :

•  It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.

The problem was that the European Union simply did not honour its pledge. Going back to the early days of the European Union, was its original intention to be a force for good, e.g. to prevent wars etc  ?

PH: You need to read Christopher Booker and Richard North’s ‘The Great Deception’, and also Hugo Young’s ‘This Blessed Plot’, for a discussion of the origins of the EU. There is no doubt that these are *political* not economic, born out of a desire to create a supranational body which will, slice by slice and generally very quietly,  remove power from national governments. This Utopian project claims to intend to end war. All Utopian projects have such claims. But given that one of the world’s worst wars, the American Civil War, was fought to maintain a supranational government against secession, one has to doubt its validity.

Q:  The Remainers will say that UK has a seat at the table and should be influencing EU policy not pulling out. That with perseverance, you can bring the changes in the EU that are for the better of everyone ?

PH: I have never found this persuasive. Outsiders have plenty of influence on bodies, especially if they have something to give, and something to take away. The old Leninist ‘Who Whom?’ test suggests that a single member of the EU has very little influence. The defence of specific national interests is not allowed for in the QMV system, nor is it meant to be.

Q.     Is there a breaking point for the EU ? A lot of people thought the Greek and Irish crises would spell the end of the Euro and/or EU, and then similarly the refugee crisis but instead it’s 2016 and we are talking about EU expansion.

PH: I think this is a ‘Eurosceptic’ fantasy. The founders and maintainers of the EU have always had a burning political purpose and are prepared , quite properly, to make sacrifices for it.  The EU may well decide to create a ‘Core Europe’ whose members will proceed to a much more complete integration, while second-class members remain much as they are, but that is just a sensible adaptation.

Q.     One of the arguments in favour of the EU is that it helped Eastern European countries such as Poland escape Communism. I also heard the same argument made about Portugal [Note: the Portugal argument was made on BBC Newsnight this week].

PH: I know of no evidence that the EU played any significant part in either process. Portugal, of course,  was never a Communist country.

Q.     Is the rise of the far right and left around Europe a natural reaction to EU’s plans for ever closer union ?

PH: No, it is largely a response to mass immigration. Most people couldn’t care less about ever-closer union..

Q.     In Ireland, we have the whip system. Those who fundamentally disagree with their Party on issues are forced to either conform, run as independent or form a new Party. In the event the Remain side wins, do you foresee a breakaway group formed by Brexitiers from different parties ?

PH: I doubt it. Tories are absurdly loyal to their party, more loyal to it than they are to their country. Why change now?  

Q.     Despite installing hundreds of billions of Euros worth of renewable infrastructure, carbon emissions are rising throughout the EU and the EU is more dependent on fuel imports than it was in the 1980s. Electricity Prices are skyrocketing resulting in industry jumping ship to America and Asia. The recent finding by UNECE Compliance Committee that the EU failed to ensure proper public participation in Ireland’s energy plans has been largely ignored by the European Commission. They now have backtracked on biofuel targets.  It’s environmental policies has been a mess from start to finish, yet as Colm McCarthy has said, when faced with a problem, the modern political solution is to repeat the same mistake double-fold. Even if Britain does stay in, won’t resentment grow throughout Europe anyway ? And isn’t this how Empires throughout history (if we can class European Union as one) collapsed in the end, rather than through plebiscites ?

PH: Possibly. As I don’t take the man-made climate change case very seriously, or regard these policies as being effective in dealing with it even if it is a genuine threat, I don’t much care. Dogma of all kinds drives nations and crowds mad.

Q.     Norway supplies something like a third of EU gas imports and 11% of its oil imports. Norway and Iceland are the third and fourth largest exporter of fish to the EU. Switzerland are one of the top exporters of goods to the EU. All three countries are outside the EU. Obviously, EU needs these countries more than they need EU. But these countries have another thing in common, namely they all have some form of direct democracy (granted Norway’s is only advisory rather than legal). Do you see direct democracy as a better system than plain vanilla democracy we have in Britain and Ireland ?

PH: No

Q.     The British media, and indeed in Ireland, portray Ireland as net beneficiaries of the EU. However, if you do the sums, we received about €9 billion in terms of farm subsidies and road funding but an ex IMF official has stated that the ECB forced Ireland to pay €8 bn to unsecured bondholders which we did not have to pay.  If you throw in EU Directives like Renewable and Water Directives, that have pushed taxes up further, it’s hard to see how Ireland is economically better off inside the EU ?

PH: I do not know enough to comment on this. I had the impression that Ireland, like Poland now, had been an EU favourite (as a pro EU ‘Anglo-Saxon’ state)  and was rewarded with huge infrastructure grants . But I have never looked into it. What a pity so much of it was spent on hideous motorways, and so little on railways and trams.

Q.  If UK do leave the EU in June, do you have any faith in the current British democratic system in solving the problems that you highlight ?

PH: I have no faith in the existing political parties. I have given up any sort of active politics, since the absurd survival of the Tory Party in 2010 when it ought to have collapsed and split. I merely write the national obituary.

Q.  In the event of Brexit, how do you see Irish and British relations ? Will we see borders in Northern Ireland again ?

PH: I hate the word ‘Brexit’, which conjures up in my mind the picture of a disgusting laxative breakfast cereal. I do not think Britain can leave the EU.

Q.  Quite a lot of the arguments made against Brexit both in UK and (particularly) in Ireland refer to the short term negative economic impacts that would result. Is this type of thinking a symptom of the wider culture of today that puts short term gain ahead of long term interests ?

PH: Yes. I am amazed that the fundamental question of independence barely arises. The level of the debate is woeful and tedious, bald men arguing over possession of a comb.

Q.  This week, a small community in Donegal found their local environment, one of the most scenic places in the British Isles, altered forever by a large industrial windfarm. This is a place where one could not get planning permission for a garden shed let alone something of this size.  There seems to be a total disconnect between laws made by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and the people that they eventually impact on.

PH: Indeed. This is what empires are like. It is a great paradox that the Irish struggle for freedom has ended with Ireland becoming a German province.  The only compensation for a nationalist is that England has become one too.

Q.  You are a vocal critic of the Tory Party in its current guise. One thing they have done though, which no other British Party apart from UKIP would have done is offered a referendum on EU Membership.

PH: This offer was not genuine, and made in the confident belief that the Tories would not win a majority in May 2015.
Q.  They have also abolished subsidies for wind energy which the SNP and Labour criticised them over. Are these signs that the Tories still have some capacity to reform in the future ?

PH: Not fundamentally, no.

Q.  Is part of the problem, especially in these times of social media and headline driven media, that a complex message is much harder to get across than a simpler one ? This would apply as much to Parties on the Left as on the Right ? 

PH: A complex message is almost impossible to get across. NB James Carville’s first rule of political survival ‘While you’re explaining, you’re losing’.

Q.  Is the climate change movement simply a new religion ?

PH: It is certainly a new public dogma, and it is a lot more risky to express doubts about it than it is to be a fashionable atheist. But as it does not require its devotees to improve their own selves, it is more of a cult than a religion.

Q.  When J.Corbyn took over as leader of Labour, his aims included renationalising railways and Royal Mail as well as setting up a National Investment Bank to revitalize British manufacturing. It could be argued that these are reasonably sound policies. However, European Competition law would likely not allow him to implement them. Mr Corbyn is now campaigning to remain in EU. Does this show lack of decisiveness on his part ?

PH: Alas, yes.

Q.  Mr Corbyn was once a defender of coal workers rights, but has now bought the Green Party / EU anti-coal climate change line.  Are the traditional Labour Party roots been torn apart and if so, can they ever achieve electoral success again ?

PH: I do not think it has anything to do with electoral success. A party genuinely committed to these aims which fought hard enough might win an election. But few have the nerve to take the risk. Real politics dies when a country is taken over by the EU. All parties are compelled to accept the EU position, or the media and the establishment culture shouts them down and declares that they are ‘extremist’. You know politics is dead when the media spend more time attacking the opposition than they do criticising the government.

Q.  The Greens get about 2-3% of the vote in both Britain and in Ireland but quite a lot of their policies get rammed through nonetheless. How can a minority movement with such little support wield such power ?

PH: Your guess is as good as mine. People want and need to believe in something. So they do.

Q.  I’m in my 30s and can just about remember as a child seeing “Made in England” on the back of spoons and knives. Now, steel factories are closing in Britain. Is it the death knell for British manufacturing ? What is the wider cultural impact from such closures ?

PH: They probably weren’t actually made in England, just finished there. Nicholas Comfort has written an interesting book on the death of British manufacturing industry, a 60-year process of bad luck, incompetence and bad decisions, finished off by the EU.

Q.  England is concerned understandably about the level of immigration into the country. But isn't a certain level of immigration required to maintain a growing economy ?

PH: No .We have a million young people doing precisely nothing, and abort 180,000 healthy babies every year.

Q.  Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Cameron were mainly responsible for the war in Libya which has created so much instability in the world. Yet all three are very popular with voters. Is the reason weak political opposition or just ineffective media ?

PH: Both, but add very poor levels of education, and the dreadful conformism which pervades a society in which TV is the main medium of instruction.

Q.  Are the modern economic ideals of continuous growth really realistic and/or sustainable ?

PH: I suspect not, but I have no expertise in the matter.

Q.  The polls are continuously being proven wrong- the British General Election and the rise of Trump for example. Credit Ratings Agencies have also proven to be completely wrong. Most, if not all, of the predictions made by “climate change experts” have failed to materialize. Are we living in a world where too much faith is placed in “experts” ?

PH: Undoubtedly

Q.  There is increasing discussion in Ireland about the growing rural/city divide, that people in towns and cities should not be subsidizing those who live in rural areas. But while taxpayers subsidize a lot of things they often don’t like, only certain things get singled out. The cost of prisons and foreign aid for example are not up for discussion. Why do you think this is ?

PH: Because such campaigns invariably have a sectional or political purpose, and seek to focus minds on the subject where they want to influence opinion. Huge amounts of money and time are spent on manipulating the public mind. It is one of the prices we pay for the absurd system of universal suffrage democracy. You have to get people to think they want the things they are going to get anyway.

Q.  You’ve written an excellent book “The Abolition of Liberty” which helps explain the rise of crime in the past century. There is also a problem with the massaging of official crime statistics, since proven to be the case here in Ireland too. Was crime more of an issue in elections in the past and why isn’t it an issue now ?

PH: I don’t believe it was. Almost nobody has read my book. If they did, the debate about crime and punishment in our societies would be wholly different, rather than the ignorant drivel we have now. I suspect most people have now got used to living in a more disorderly society than we had before, and one in which all freedom will have to be constrained to cope with this.

Q.  Quite a lot of Irish readers will probably wonder what the function of the Monarchy is in the 21st century although the visit by the Queen to Ireland in 2011 was warmly welcomed here (with few exceptions).  How do you see her role ?

PH: To occupy a space in  politics which politicians will otherwise seek, and should never have, that of respect and love. The constitutional monarchy is like the King on the chessboard, powerless, but also occupying space which no other can occupy. Nobody understands this any more, and the monarchy rests only on the personal popularity of Elizabeth II . I doubt it will long survive her.

Q.  Michael O’Leary (a fervent Remain campaigner) once said that the local newsagent would soon be a thing of the past and this was an example of sound free market economics winning out.  Would you agree ?

PH: Yes. This is why I do not support free market liberalism.

Q.  Would you say it’s harder growing up now than in the 1950s ?

PH: Undoubtedly. The children of today are far less safe, far less free, far less well-educated,  far less in touch with their roots and past, and presented with an economic and political landscape of terrifying uncertainty.

Q.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. Do you see technology as a great enabler or is there a cultural / social cost to relying too much technology ?

PH: I think technology should be our servant, not our master. I wince to see the transformation of humans into zombies by mobile telephones.