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Green Wave: Taking action is not so simple

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD in the RDS, Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Eamon Ryan has an excellent way of communicating to people what needs to be done on climate action, be it at the corporate and Government level, or the personal one, writes Alison O'Connor

So you’ve made your Green bed but are you willing to lie on it?

Was it enough to make yourself purer with a virtue signalling vote for a Green candidate last Friday? 

Are you now content to allow those sincere ecotypes simply get on with sorting out our over-heating planet?

Oh no you don’t — that was the non-too-subtle response from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to the non too subtle message from voters at ballot boxes all over the country. 

He described it as a “very clear message” from the public that they want the Government to do more on climate action.

“We’ve got that,” he said, but added. “That’s going to require lots of changes on individual level, community and government level.”

He’s absolutely correct and there are a hell of a lot of us out there who have not really quite faced that reality, and all the personal changes it will entail. 

What remains interesting though, is the Taoiseach’s sequencing — in other words he puts the individual first, the community second and bringing up the rear, the Government.

As individuals we do need to be real about all this, not living in some la la land where we think that simply avoiding plastic bags and using keep cups for our take-out lattes will suffice as eco friendly measures.

On the day before voting, a seasoned Fianna Fáil campaigner from rural Ireland spoke of campaigning in a leafy Dublin suburb. 

After introducing himself and his party affiliation to the couple the couple immediately told him: “Oh we’re voting Green”. 

The FF’er said that he simply couldn’t help his gaze going towards the huge SUV standing in the driveway. 

Clocking this the couple said: “We know, we know. We’re going to change it to an electric vehicle.”

As he walked out of the driveway he noticed registration was a 19D. 

“Ha. They won’t be changing that any time soon,” he said chuckling in memory at the exchange, but all too aware even then that these people and far more would all be voting Green.

In her response to the results, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the Government now had the support of the “mindset of Irish people” and it was “a public message of acceptance”.

She had a political take on the FG losses which would have raised eyes everywhere when she expressed it. 

These weren’t really losses at all, she explained, if they instead went to Greens.

This was immediately, and quite rightly, described as a “new level of spin” by her director of elections counterpart Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers.

Lisa Chambers. Picture: RollingNews
Lisa Chambers. Picture: RollingNews

Minister Doherty indicated that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe would have acted on increasing carbon taxes in last year’s budget but he felt “you couldn’t take money out of people’s pockets without having a conversation”.

She also widened out the responsibility from Fine Gael by saying there wasn’t cross-party support for it either with some parties setting their face against such increases.

You can be sure that Fine Gael has not forgotten that at the local election the last time around, five years ago, when the party got a real drubbing (as did their then coalition partners Labour), the issue that they were hammered on was water charges.

So they are dealing with voters who rejected the environmental case for such charges then, but have now pivoted full tilt towards a party that has environmental protection as their raison d’etre.

Still after eight years in Government you’d think Fine Gael might have moved on from the “slow learner” section of the climate change debate.

It’s only a wet week ago that we declared a national climate emergency. 

We’re currently awaiting what has been flagged as a radical “whole of Government plan” on decarbonising how we work and live from Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton.

The lack of momentum to date means that the task ahead is monumental in trying to cope with rising emissions, buildings that lack energy efficiency, buildings heated by fossil fuels and a far from impressive public transport system.

Green sensation Saoirse McHugh told the Sunday Business Post over the weekend she would quit the party if it jumped into bed with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

Saoirse McHugh
Saoirse McHugh

She does not believe the two big parties believe in the widescale system change needed now.

She added they’ve shown repeatedly with the groups they sit within in the Europe Parliament that they would prefer individual action over system change.

Her passion is understandable, but it is political pragmatism that will hopefully make this work for all of us in terms of the climate emergency being tackled.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who has fought an honourable political fight these last few years and held his party together through some very tough times, wisely refused to rule out coalition even though he acknowledged leading members of his party “do not trust them”.

They will be willing to work with whoever will implement their agenda.

Eamon Ryan has an excellent way of communicating to people what needs to be done on climate action, be it at the corporate and Government level, or the personal one. 

He does not make it appear an insurmountable or impossible task or one that will involve endless and awful suffering on the part of all of us individually. 

But he does make it clear that serious action has to be taken really quickly on all fronts.

The voters have backed his party big time, certainly at the local elections. 

We must all hope now that the bigger parties get over themselves enough to listen to that message and to help the Greens carry the voters further much along the road of what needs to be done.

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