The Advertiser debate: Should the Greens enter Government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael?

A major choice faces the Green Party. We consider the arguments for and against the party entering coalition government

Which wing of the Green Party will win out in this debate? Those who follow leader, Eamon Ryan, or those who support the more radicle Saoirse McHugh?

Which wing of the Green Party will win out in this debate? Those who follow leader, Eamon Ryan, or those who support the more radicle Saoirse McHugh?

'Yes' - Peter Butler

Peter Butler.

Decision making is always better when as many people as possible are involved in making decisions which affect people’s lives. That is important, because Ireland has many important decisions to make as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis - decisions that will impact hugely on this and future generations.

A Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Green Party coalition could (in my opinion ) bring together a combined set of knowledge and skills that can build an economically sustainable and ecologically sustainable society. To claim that one party, or two parties, should decide what is best for Ireland is unwise, even foolhardy. If we have learnt anything from boom and bust economics (led by a small cohort of people making all the important decisions ) let us at least acknowledge that.

A national government incorporating all political parties and independents would of course be a better form of government to get us through the Covid-19 crisis. The Green Party sought that, but the option was not on offer.

Some talk about the demise of the Greens when the last coalition Government that the Green Party were in left office. The outcome however was undeserved - the Green Party were not the real decision makers in that administration.

'Greens do not seek electoral office for personal gain or status. It is about core principles for them - speaking out for future generations and being a voice for the planet'

It should be acknowledged that genuine respect has been shown by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail TDs in Dail Eireann when Green Party TDs have spoken out about climate change, energy sustainability, public transport, ecological biodiversity, income inequality, fairness, etc. I see no reason why that respect would not continue and should be formalised by way of a coalition government.

Hopefully an agreed programme for government will be concluded soon. As Eamon Ryan TD said, an agreed programme for government “must be transformative on climate action and commit to strong progress towards a more sustainable and fairer society”.

Some key issues for the Green Party are: a new circular economy which is more sustainable than the existing system; a new social contract that addresses inequality; a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (fairly spread across society ) as per the Paris Agreement; two-thirds of the overall transport budget spent on public transport; a fifth of all transport capital spending ring-fenced for cycling and walking; an end to direct provision; a universal basic income for all; ending fossil fuel infrastructure. Yes, these changes would impact on people who today live without such limitations, but yes, the changes are needed for the sake of future generations and our planet.

The Green Party is neither innocent nor naïve about the reality of politics. In the absence of an agreed programme for government it would be left to each cabinet meeting to decide everything on a simple majority basis. Green Party TDs cannot be expected to agree to a “trust us” arrangement, however well meant the intentions of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs.

My great respect for Green Party TDs, senators, and councillors is that they do not seek electoral office for personal gain or status. It is about core principles for them - speaking out for future generations and being a voice for the planet that we share with so many species that have no voice. I would therefore be happy and proud if the proposed Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Green Party coalition happens.

Peter Butler is a local Green Party member and is writing in a personal capacity. He is also a member of Conservation Volunteers Galway, Oranmore Tidy Towns, and the Galway Branch of An Taisce.

'No' - Kevin Higgins

Political commentators who want the Green Party to join a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition typically start by furrowing their brows to make themselves appear to be very serious people indeed, and then describe the decision now facing the Greens as “difficult”.

They swiftly move on to use the word “idealistic” to dismiss opponents of the ‘let’s resurrect Micheál Martin strategy’, such as the Young Greens and Saoirse McHugh, without engaging with any of their arguments.

But let us start with the use of that word “difficult”. The decision may not be an easy one for the Greens to carry out, given the ignoble cries of the madding media crowd, which will be greatly amplified over the next month as they endeavour to deliver a government to which rich developers, and all who sail in them, can safely raise a glass of Taittinger. However, the decision facing progressive Greens is in fact a simple one.

Ozark Marty and Wendy Byrde

During the Covid – 19 lockdown I’ve been watching the Netflix series Ozark. The main characters are Marty and Wendy Byrde. Marty is a financial advisor; before taking time out to raise their two children Wendy was involved in Obama’s first election campaign when he was starting out in local politics in Chicago. They get involved in laundering money for one of the Mexican drug cartels because they think they can play said people to their own advantage.

In one scene Wendy talks about how they could use the money they are making to transform the politics of the state of Missouri, to which they are forced to move, and “champion all the [liberal] causes we believe in”.

'A Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led coalition will make sure the price of the transition to a low carbon tax economy is paid by the same people who paid for the banking crash'

If Wendy and Marty lived in Ireland and were members of the Green Party, they would agree with Eamon Ryan, and the political correspondents of the Irish Independent and The Irish Times, that coalition with FG and FF is the only thing to do.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not Mexican drug cartels. They are localised expressions of the system called capitalism, whose failings are currently the root of pretty much all the problems we face. And, just as nobody plays the Mexican drug cartels, nobody plays FG and FF. If you are foolish enough to get involved with them, you get played. Then played some more. After his experience in the disastrous 2007-11 austerity coalition with Fianna Fáil, Eamon Ryan should know this.

There is little to no prospect that a Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led coalition will bring about a just transition to a low carbon economy – the central plank in the Green’s programme. Such a government will make sure the price of the transition is paid by the same people who paid for the banking crash, for it is Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s job to ensure such an outcome, and they always do.

The alternative for the Greens is not protest politics: it is to allow Fine Fail/Fianna Gael to form a shaky, short term, coalition with the Ballygobackwards independents who will be happy to prop them, and then be part of the Sinn Féin led progressive coalition which will win the next General Election and might just usher in a new era, which could see the proper provision of enough public housing, the necessary death of the two tier health system, and the big companies responsible for 70 per cent of carbon emissions carrying the cost of the transition.

Kevin Higgins is a poet, critic, creative writing teacher, and political activist.

 

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