OPINION: Greens need to change message to grow in Kildare

Stop targeting one-off housing in rural areas

Conor McHugh


Conor McHugh



OPINION: Greens need to change message to grow in Kildare

Stop targeting one-off rural housing

The Green Party is doomed to restrict itself to the well-heeled confines of South County Dublin unless it changes its attitude to the rest of the country.

Some moons ago, the party entered government with Bertie Ahern and, while they did much that was good, they got an ass whoopin’ at the 2011 election which left them with zero seats.

They lost all TDs and Senators. They even lost their deposits — the electorate just fell out of love with the hippies.

So they did what everyone does when faced with massive rejection, they looked inward and gazed at their navels. That is to say, their irredeemably southside Dublin-based navels.

Unfortunately it all got quite myopic from there. In the past, the Green Party was either directly involved in, or a major influencer of numerous really good and innovative measures, like the Cycle to Work Scheme and basing the tax system on the emissions of cars, to name but two.

It had members from both the city and from outside the city, but these days, we can’t escape get the strong sense that rural Ireland is a foreign country to them.

They have a major image and credibility problem everywhere outside the city. That which they call rural Ireland (everywhere outside the M50) is not as monolithic as they seem to think.

It has communities which are rural, some which are urban and some which are a bit of both.

They can even happily exist in that grey world between between being a part-time farmer and working in an office.

While some might like to change that, for some that is exactly how they like it.

However, all they hear from the Green Party is that they’re terrible people for living in one-off houses.

There are logical reasons why one-off houses are not the most efficient and should be discouraged. But that ignores so much of what is fundamental and frankly, unchanging in Irish life.

Countryside living is a way of life for many, who would rather pluck their eyes out with a blunt spoon than live in an urban setting.

There are numerous long-standing historical, family, agricultural, community, even — God help us — GAA reasons why people want to live in the countryside, and those reasons are unlikely to suddenly go away or change.

The Green Party will rightly respond to this by saying that I’m cherry picking just one item from their policies, and that’s absolutely true.

The problem is that it colours everything else they say. In some parts of the country that is all they are known, and greatly disliked for, because it cuts so deep.

When they attack one-off rural housing, they’re attacking people’s families and communities and a way of life. Worse, they’re making it clear they just don’t get rural Ireland.

There are many ‘green’ initiatives and measures that rural Ireland embraces wholeheartedly. We have several generations of people, young and not so young, who are genuinely excited by and engaged in the fast approaching revolutions in the production of our energy or with growing their own clean and wholeseome food and who want to live the life envisaged by the Greens.

And some of the biggest evangelists for the green agenda live in one-off houses!

That’s what the Greens should be concentrating on. Drop all the talk of the one-off houses and instead concentrate on making our rural towns and villages pleasant places to live in. That would go a long way towards enticing people to move there from the countryside.

Athe very least they should realise that you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.