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European and local elections: Hypocrisy on environment exacts its toll

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan speaks to the media at the RDS in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The results of the elections are, in a quiet way if that is possible, seismic. 

They pitch Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in conflict with their power bases of farming, relentless industrial development and the transport growth those activities generate. 

The results, though not finalised, show that the traditional parties of power face unprecedented generational challenges. This distancing, this deafness to the zeitgeist, seems particularly sharp for Fianna Fáil. 

Their failure in Midlands North West European constituency, a repeat of their 2014 humiliation, epitomises that self-destructive cultural stasis.

Fine Gael face those accusations, and others too but maybe on a different plane. In power for almost a decade, they have paid a price for dismissing often patronisingly, the issue of our age. 

Despite repeated warnings — even one from their man in Brussels, EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan — they press ahead with the unsustainable Food Wise 2025. 

Ironically, the very constituency that hopes to benefit from the plan’s target of a 65% increase in primary farm production may fall victim to it. 

Should Ireland’s green vote be echoed across the EU it would require Herculean optimism to imagine the current system of farm supports, like the €100m dig out given to beef farmers last week, has much of a future.

The failure to evolve transport policy and process — we’re still buying diesel buses to hem in and choke cyclists — is another example how we try to relive the past, as was the capitulation on water provision. 

There are many other examples, some of which may be discussed at today’s meeting where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will lead a cabinet sub-committee preparing a draft — Draft? In 2019? — climate action plan. 

Whether those issues dominate Mr Varadkar’s day or whether he begins to focus on as many as four by-elections before Christmas remains to be seen. 

The issues when those by-elections arrive, or the inevitable general election, will be the same as those this weekend and, through no-one’s fault but their own, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil, have huge ground to make up on environmental issues. 

Their credibility is, like the ozone layer protecting us all, shot full of holes.

Sadly, Labour’s slide into the shadows continued. There are many reasons for this but one must be the decision, organic or deliberate, to become an adjunct to public sector unions rather than a voice for all workers. 

Candidate selection confirms this misstep as does the resignation of former TD Michael McNamara because it had become “irrelevant”.

Though it would reject that charge, Sinn Féin must face it too. MEP Lynn Boylan may hold on but that is far from certain. 

SF local candidates were widely rejected signalling the second disaster for Mary Lou McDonald since she was appointed leader last year. 

Ms McDonald may not be the sole issue as SF tribalism is an affront to today’s tolerance.

The elections throw up many lessons but the take-home one must be that those prepared to fight for environmental responsibility have won huge support. 

They must keep the pot boiling until the general election and so put themselves in a position to win real national influence. 

An old slogan, appropriately, can be recycled: a lot done, a lot more to do.

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