Green party member, Vincent P Martin who topped the poll in Naas
Smart political operators, the kind who make it to be taoiseach (regardless of whether they blue shirts, or mohair ones) have a knack for seeing the prevailing wind and going with it.
The smarter the operator, the sooner they see the prevailing wind.
Fine Gael are always the last to see it. That’s why Fianna Fáil always come back to beat them into long periods of genteel obsolescence.
So on Saturday, Leo Varadkar announced that the government had gotten what he called “a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action”.
There are some people who were taken by surprise by the success of the Green Party in the locals and Europeans, and there are some people who were taken completely by surprise. The Fine Gaelers are, I suspect, in the latter camp.
I don’t see how they could have missed the tsunami of events, discoveries and announcements over the past few months and years that suggested that we had finally reached the moment where it was time to do something or else we’re in big trouble. But Fine Gael managed to miss it somehow.
The Taoiseach’s next line was very telling: “That’s going to require lots of changes on an individual level, community level and Government level.”
Translation: “Dear genteel Fine Gael voter, comfortable in your large gas-guzzling SUV and equally comfortable in your wasteful plastic lifestyle, this could get a bit rough. It turns out there are way more crusties and vegans than we thought, but hang onto your underwear and stick with us.”
Varadkar is surely copped on enough to know that it’s science rather than sentiment that’s driving this, but he has this notion that the plain people of Ireland aren’t ready yet to be told to knit their own breakfasts.
The results of the election tells him otherwise. People are looking for leadership and innovation and an aggressive ambition when it comes to tackling the whole thing.
When I was following the Green Party’s Eoin Hallissey on the doorsteps in Clane it was instructive. The people on the doorsteps were engaged and knowledgeable about environmental issues and climate change. And most importantly, they understood that the emphasis of governments all over the world on telling the public to recycle their cotton buds is a cop out.
Governments need to be brave and do the right thing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Being brave ain’t really their thing. It’s seen as ‘radical’, and let’s face it, most Fine Gaelers are in that party because they opposed to the very core of their being the very notion of being radical.
Comfortable, seamless progress, steady growth going forward — that’s their thing.
Here in Kildare, it was worse than Leo thinks. The Social Democrats have also managed to get a few elected, and they are green with a small ‘g’.
As an aside, arguably, there could well have been a considerably larger Social Democrat success if it weren’t for the Green success.
There’s been an entire shift in the public, possibly but not uniquely on a generational level, to green policies.
It’s worse again — both parties infer, or indeed say out loud, that the market cannot be relied upon to steer the ship in the right direction. The market, as Bono says, is amoral — it doesn’t care. It only goes where it can make money.
People are looking for government action, government interference in our lives.
Both parties also talk about building communities. The Green party actually says so blatantly, and says it is at the heart of how we solve numerous problems that the nation and society favours.