An absolutely astonishing report in the Irish Times this morning.
No, scratch that. A report in the Irish Times that really should be astonishing, but of course, isn’t:
Senior figures in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil believe they can progress to negotiations on a coalition government with the Green Party on the basis of the party’s 17 demands, published on Thursday.
The Greens confirmed that a challenging commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 7 per cent every year was the primary “red line” in its list of 17 demands to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
While Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politely welcomed the Greens’ document and said they would study its contents before replying, senior figures in both parties who spoke on condition of anonymity believe they can now move towards forming a coalition.
“They are all doable,” said one senior source of the Greens’ demands, though both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil sources said the requirement to reduce carbon emissions by 7 per cent annually would be hard to implement.
One of the very strange things about Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is that they’ve never quite managed to grasp the distinction between things that are “doable” and “things that should be done”. They are not one and the same thing.
The Green letter, with all their demands, can be read in full here. But since it’s a public document, let’s take a closer look at what it contains. You’ve all probably heard the 7% a year reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions already, so we’ll skip that for now. The other stuff will get much less attention by comparison, but it’s very important. This is what FF and FG think is “doable”:
Let’s start with demand number 13:
- Will you commit to establishing a trial of Universal Basic Income (UBI) within the lifetime of the next Government?
First off, a question that should be asked, but won’t be, is this: How do you trial a universal basic income? The key to it is in the word “universal” – everybody gets it. The idea is fairly simple. The Government gives everyone in the country a couple of thousand euros a month, no questions asked. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Michael O’Leary or a homeless person living in a hostel – you get your monthly cheque for a few grand and you can spend it on whatever you like. You can’t “trial” a universal basic income. You either give a universal basic income, or you don’t. If a trial is not “universal”, then you’re basically experimenting with the government giving free money to some people, and not others. How do FF and FG think that will go over with the public?
Now, this will be obvious to everyone, but it’s worth saying anyway: In the midst of a recession, this will be horrendously expensive. According to the Central Statistics Office, there are about 3.8 million adults in Ireland. If you give us a basic income of €1,000 a month – far below minimum wage, incidentally – then that equates to almost €4billion a year in additional spending. That’s more than twice what we spend on Justice at the moment – the police, the courts, asylum seekers, prisons, the lot.
Given that the budget deficit this year is heading for €22billion, how is that affordable? And how is it remotely sane? Bear in mind, this money isn’t going to poor people. Ben Dunne and Denis O’Brien will be getting cheques as well. It’s universal, remember.
No problem, say FF and FG.
- Will you commit to setting us on a clear and certain path to meeting our UN obligation to
spend 0.7% of our national income on Overseas Development Aid?
To be fair, this is adorably watery, even for the Greens. “Setting us on a path to spending 0.7%” is a lot different to “spending 0.7%”. And who knows, it might become much easier to achieve shortly, given that Irish national income is about to contract massively. We might actually surpass 0.7% just by cutting nothing, because it becomes a bigger slice of a smaller pie.
But still, it’s worth noting: At a time of national crisis, one of the Greens top priorities is that we spend a bigger share of our limited funds on overseas aid. Noble? Maybe. Popular? We’ll see.
- Will you commit to publishing and implementing a Green Procurement Policy?
“A Green Procurement policy” is different from our usual procurement policy in that the present procurement policy seeks to achieve value for money for the taxpayer. Now obviously, it does not always achieve that, but that’s the objective. So what does a Green Procurement policy do? Well it means spending more money than obviously necessary to secure a service in the name of protecting the environment.
One thing this policy does, incidentally, is that it allows “green profiteering”. If the choice, for example, is between buying Diesel busses and electric busses, the state is mandated to buy the electric busses, regardless of cost. Which means, if you’re an electric bus provider, you can name your price – because the state cannot put price first as its criteria for deciding who gets the contract. It’s a good job none of these green companies donate to the Green Party, or else you might get the impression that there was some cronyism at play here.
More abortion, hate speech laws, and less power for parents if their child is transgender
(Here’s the relevant section: “Stronger measures are also
needed for the advancement of gender equality, expanding access to women’s healthcare and
valuing caring work in our society which will see real financial, employment and social supports for
carers. Added protection is essential for the LGBTQ+ community through improved access to
appropriate healthcare and more autonomy for transpeople in terms of healthcare decision-making.
A commitment to enact robust hate–crime legislation is similarly essential.”)
“Women’s Healthcare” is, and always has been, Green code for abortion. What they mean there is “relaxing the laws people were told would be put in place just two years ago”. And of course we have hate speech thrown in there, right beside a commitment to “more autonomy for transpeople”, which is code for making it harder for parents to object if their child decides they want medical interventions to change their gender. Criticising such measures, of course, would be hate speech.
Not a problem, say the two “centre right” parties.
- Will you commit to the exclusive provision of public housing, social housing and cost
rental housing on public lands?
This is one of those policies that, to FF and FG ears, unused to actually thinking about anything, probably sounds inoffensive. But when you think about it, it’s mad. What it says is that if the State has land available to build homes on, it can only build those homes if it ends up owning them. Which means that if the State cannot afford to build homes on that land, they don’t get built. A scheme where the land is sold or leased to provide private housing would be illegal under this policy.
Ultimately, what this means is that fewer homes will be built, unless the state invests masses of cash into housing. And what cash is that, exactly? We’ve already spent it all on electric busses and giving a grand a month to millionaires, remember.
- Will you commit to ending the issue of exploration licences for offshore gas exploration?
- Will you commit to ceasing the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly LNG import terminals that could allow the entry of unconventional liquefied natural gas into the Irish energy mix?
This is the “we don’t like cheap fuel”, policy. It’s as simple as that. These measures will ban Ireland from importing cheap gas, or better yet, from exploiting our own natural resources. Better yet, they’re accompanied by this:
- Will you commit to an ambitious programme of development of, and investment where necessary in, renewable energy infrastructure including off-shore wind, grid and interconnector upgrades and community energy projects?
So it’s a double whammy: On the one hand, we’re not allowed to access cheap and affordable energy. On the other hand, we’re actually going to spend millions and millions, during a recession, investing (by which they mean subsidising) energy that is more expensive and less efficient. It’s the energy equivalent of banning Lidl and Aldi and telling poor people that they have to shop in Marks and Spencer, if that policy also included giving millions in subsidies to Marks and Spencer.
In any other field of public life, it would be considered absurd. In any other field of public life, people would be asking what connections existed between the party proposing the policy and those companies that stand to benefit by having their competition banned, and their own businesses receive massive grants. But not in this area, for some reason.
There’s vastly more in the document, but we’re now at 1,500 words, and the limits of your tolerance have probably been reached.
But it’s worth noting that the FF and FG response to all of these things is that they’re “doable”.
Yes, they are. But jumping off a tall building is also “doable”. It just rarely ends well for anybody. Especially those who take the decision.