The Green Party Conference last weekend gained huge coverage from the national media. Given their recent success in the local elections, the direction they take now is of considerable interest to the public, particularly among those who are trying to build the movement to tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis.
It was encouraging to see Green Party representatives like Lorna Bogue and Saoirse McHugh arguing against coalition with the Right-Wing parties and urging the Green Party to take an anti-capitalist stance. However, it is a great disappointment that the Green Party voted overwhelmingly to keep all options open to potential government coalition partners after the next General Election. This, in effect, means they are open to repeating the mistakes of the past, which resulted in brutal austerity being inflicted on ordinary people, a blow to the environmental movement, and the electoral wipe-out of the Green Party itself.
A look at the Green Party’s prospective coalition partners, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, should be enough to dissuade anybody from the notion that an alliance with the Right-Wing parties can lead to anything other than disaster. Fine Gael continue to block People Before Profit’s Climate Emergency Measures Bill which would ban any further oil and gas exploration and drilling in Irish waters, despite majority support in the Dáil. They continue to support the development of the Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal in Shannon, which will bring in fracked gas from North America and lock us into using fossil fuels for a generation. They support the EU-Mercosur deal, which will encourage the Far-Right president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, to destroy the remainder of the Amazon rainforest – a major carbon sink whose effectiveness has already been severely diminished.
All of this is in addition to presiding over the worst housing and homelessness crisis in the history of the state, the National Children’s Hospital and Rural Broadband overspend scandals, and the near collapse of the health service.
While Fine Gael railroad through this environmental destruction, they are being propped up all the way by Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil could pull the plug on this government at any time but refuse to do so because they broadly support the Fine Gael policies. Moreover, many people will still remember the Green Party’s experience of entering coalition with Fianna Fáil. During this disastrous period, the two parties combined to force through austerity, made severe cuts to public transport and brutally crushed the Shell to Sea protestors.
Media pundits and establishment politicians will attempt to paint coalition with the Right as the only pragmatic option for bringing about change. The Irish Times’ Harry McGee yesterday called the question a “reheating of the eternal debate between the “realos” (realists) and the “fundies”.
But given the recent experiences in coalition of the Labour Party and the Green Party, how on earth could a coalition with those who are actively working against us be pragmatic? True realism and pragmatism lie in recognising that going into coalition with the Right cannot yield anything positive for ordinary people.
If we are serious about tackling the Climate Emergency, we must continue to build the grass roots movements that can challenge the status quo, not capitulate to it. Historical evidence reveals this to be a far more effective way of bringing about positive social change. Whether it is the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the Suffragette Movement, the Trade Union struggles for a minimum wage and the 8-hour day, or the recent campaigns for Marriage Equality and Repeal in Ireland, history shows us that when ordinary people get organised and active through strikes, protests and direct actions, we have a chance of winning.
In movements like Extinction Rebellion and the School Strikes 4 Climate, we are seeing the beginnings of these kinds of movements in Ireland and around the world. It is these movements that People Before Profit will support and help build, in opposition to Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the fossil fuel industry and other major polluters.
We urge the Green Party to do the same.