Photo credit: Green Party Ireland Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0 https://bit.ly/3pRIgKM)

Eamon Ryan has kept his promises – so why are we upset?

On the face of it, there was nothing especially wrong with the advice which Eamon Ryan issued to a struggling public, yesterday morning. Taking shorter showers and cutting out car journeys and only half filling the kettle are, indeed, all energy saving measures which, if implemented, might have a marginal impact on a person’s monthly energy bills.

To him, the advice probably just sounds like common sense. The problem is that to many people, it sounds like an admission of the truth: That Eamon Ryan’s Ireland is and will ever be an Ireland of decreasing living standards. He might as well be saying “the climate is more important than your standard of living”.

Because that, after all, is what he believes. And it’s not even his fault: It is what people voted for, knowing that this is what he believes.

For some reason, though, the public have always been unwilling to draw a line directly from their votes to the consequences of their votes. The Green Party has always been upfront about what it wants: To save the planet, we must all use, and consume, less. Less energy. Fewer plastics. Fewer journeys.

To accomplish this, the Green Party has always wanted to make things more expensive, because while a few noble souls like Eamon Ryan are content to use less voluntarily, many more people have to be encouraged to use less by making things more expensive.

And so, here in 2022, the situation is that inflation is very high, prices are soaring, and the Green Party appears to be making its continuation in Government conditional on another increase in the carbon tax in the next few weeks. And why would they not? This is what their voters voted for.

And the Greens should get credit: After all, Fine Gael voters voted for a reduction in the Universal Social Charge, and other tax cuts. Their representatives, though more numerous, have been much less successful at implementing their promises.

Perhaps that is because Eamon Ryan is something that Irish people are not used to: A politician who keeps his promises.

That the Green agenda dominates this Government cannot really be disputed. In almost every area of policy, the Green Party’s hand can be seen. Even the new leaving cert curriculum is making the study of climate change an exam subject. Ireland has adopted some of the most aggressive carbon reduction targets in the world.

The unpopularity of the Greens, then – they are on 3% in the most recent opinion poll – cannot really be explained by them breaking their promises.

It can only be explained by the fact that some large section of their voters voted for them either not understanding their promises, or not expecting them to be kept.

Indeed, much of Irish politics can be explained that way. We get very angry at our politicians, but in part that is because we do not listen to them. Are you outraged by, say, the prioritisation of housing for migrants over housing for Irish people? Well, that was in the manifesto of almost every party represented in the Dáil. Most people voted for it.

And nor should disgruntled Green voters think for one moment that there is some alternative way to meet Ireland’s climate goals. There is not. The problem is not really what the Greens are doing – it is the climate goals themselves. But every single party agrees with those goals, mainly because most voters profess to agree with them too.

We cannot have “net zero”, or whatever the target is, without a significant reduction in living standards. We are presently seeing that reduction at work. This is not a conspiracy to make anybody poorer: It is the result of a democratic election in which we gave political parties a mandate to make us all poorer.

That was an immensely silly thing to do. But Irish voters did it. There is no point raging at Eamon Ryan for whatever nonsense comes out of his mouth on a given day because, after all, he’s only there because we all tell opinion pollsters that we approve of the Green agenda.

As it turns out, when it’s being implemented, many of us don’t. Oh well.

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