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#Elections2019: Government can no longer bluff and ‘greenwash’ on environment

The Green Party’s European candidate in Ireland South has hit out at other political parties for attempting to ‘bluff’ their way through environmental issues during the local and European campaign.

Senator Grace O’Sullivan said that the general public saw through the cynical tactics and instead backed the Green Party in a call for urgent action on climate matters.

She accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other parties of ‘electioneering’ by voting to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency in recent weeks, and said that the public won’t be won over by empty promises but instead wants urgent action to arrest the slide. 

She said the Greens are “the party of change” and that the public has recognised this at the polls.

The Green surge has become the story of the local and European elections, with the party primed for its best ever results. 

As well as reclaiming seats on councils nationwide, it could claim as many as three seats in Europe.

Ms O’Sullivan is expected to be elected in Ireland South but is likely to face a lengthy wait before it is confirmed. 

Some 200 counters are still working in Nemo Rangers GAA Club to get through the ballot papers from 12 counties, with the length of the paper, which is more than 2ft long, causing the process to run slowly.

Some 7.5 tonnes of paper have been sifted through, with many at the count centre predicting that the process of transfers and eliminations could take several days.

In the exit poll released after the polls closed on Friday night, Ms O’Sullivan was on 12% which should give her enough to secure a seat. 

It put her fourth, behind Seán Kelly, Liadh Ní Riada, and Billy Kelleher.

However, she was refusing to take anything for granted.

“I’m one of the new wave of Greens. I came into the party just five years ago,” she said.

“We have worked extremely hard with small resources but, because of the hard work, we are seeing the results. Moreover, the message of climate change and biodiversity decline is really resonating among people, old and young.

“People see that the Greens are the party who have talked about these issues and we are seeing the return. I am hoping that the surge that we are seeing around the country will bring me home but it is still early days.

“I’m hoping that I am lucky enough to be elected.”

As the extent of the green surge became clear over the weekend, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald have all publicly congratulated the party for its performance.

The Taoiseach said that the significant vote signalled the need to escalate plans to implement new climate change policies.

He said that the public has sent a message to accelerate progress in the area.

Ms O’Sullivan said that the Green Party’s performance in the local and European elections is evidence of the appetite for change.

“I would say the writing is on the wall,” she said.

“The Taoiseach is recognising that there will have to be significant action.

“He is obviously looking to the next government to see where he can get support.

“He is a very experienced politician so he knows where he has to go and forge alliances.

“The Greens would be a party that would be seen to work with the Government on the issues that we believe will be important into the future. He is trying to prepare for the future.”

Ms O’Sullivan said that the other parties have been trailing behind when it comes to climate action and that the public saw through recent promises as electioneering.

She was particularly critical of the declaration of a climate emergency by the Dáil in recent weeks.

When the Taoiseach said that the climate emergency declaration was symbolic, I think people really reacted.

“It wasn’t good enough; that wasn’t the language they wanted to hear. It’s not symbolic, it means the red flag is raised, it is all hands on deck,” she said.

“The green wave, the swell, the surge; the Government have to hear the message.

“They cannot bluff anymore, Leo Varadkar cannot greenwash anymore. The public will be holding him to account.

“The evidence is there and now we want the plan. I think they were electioneering, they were looking for votes.” 

She added that there are no excuses for the Government not to take action immediately on the back of the results.

“I don’t like using the word greenwashing but there was a lot of greenwashing going on and it upset me.

“There was a lot of people talking about things they didn’t understand just to get votes, and voters saw through it,” she said.

“The Government has the evidence from the Citizens’ Assembly and the Joint Oireachtas Committee.

“We have had experts from Ireland and Europe advising us on what we should be doing so it is timely that they come forward with something really serious.”

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