Somebody said to me yesterday that living in Ireland at the moment had pushed them to the point where they were wondering if they were the ones who had gone mad, and everybody else was still perfectly sane. “You start to ask yourself that”, this person said, “when nothing makes sense any more”. They were mildly reassured by my insistence that they were not alone, and that at least one other person felt the same way.
Ireland’s lockdown has now endured for twelve almost continuous months. Our unemployment numbers have hit record highs. The other night, there was open gang warfare on the streets of the capital between competing gangs of youths, which left a young man with a knife wound. Just yesterday, a video was circulating on social media of a young boy, no more than fourteen or fifteen at the most, proudly wielding a knife in the centre of Dublin in broad daylight. Thousands of people cannot find homes. Our health service announced yesterday that cancer services would be suspended until the end of the year.
And what of the people running the country? Yesterday, they could be said to have had three major concerns: The first, we covered in the previous article: A rise in racism, based on entirely unscientific figures. The second was related to the first: A new bill, introduced in the Dáil, to expand Irish citizenship in contravention to the referendum on the matter voted on in 2004. The third: A new climate change bill.
In the past week, Government politicians have wanted to solve other problems, too: The names of Newspapers being sexist. People drinking too much on St. Patrick’s day. Thankfully the opposition occasionally chimes in, too, to stand up for the people: Labour’s dose-in-chief, Aodhán O’Riordáin, wants us to know that there are not enough women on television discussing sports.
It is striking, before we even discuss the climate bill, to observe how divorced the priorities of the political class are from the reality of life in Ireland today. Our problems are not racism, or the citizenship laws, or our climate legislation, or the number of women on television, or the names of newspapers. No, our problems are much more fundamental than that. But politicians cannot fix – cannot even muster the effort to pretend to be able to fix – the health service, or the housing market, or the crime problems. So they’re focusing on what they can do, which is introduce horrendously bad policies to appease the last people who still support them: Progressive activists in the media, universities, and NGOs. That’s the only constituency the political class have, these days, and it’s lucky for them that it’s also the only constituency allowed to have its opinion broadcast every single day, in every single newspaper, and on every single radio station.
But there are the rest of us, too, shaking our heads in mild amazement and complete astonishment at the policy failures, and the sheer detachment of these people from the reality that we live in.
The Climate Change Bill is terrible policy. Let’s start with the obvious reason why it is bad policy: It is a Climate Change Bill that will not, and can not, change the climate. Obliterating Ireland from the face of the map tomorrow would not impact the global climate by as much as one tenth of one degree Celsius. This is not a problem that Ireland can solve. It is not even a problem that the United States can solve. China cannot solve it by itself. The only way – if you take the scientists at face value – that it can be solved is by every country going much further than Ireland is even going in this Climate Change Bill.
But there is no chance of that happening. None.
Some fantasists – and they are fantasists – insist that Ireland is “leading by example”. But if you listen to the science, it’s far too late for leading by example. By the time the Indians wake up one morning and say “we should be more like Ireland”, it will be too late. As a country, we’re like one of those WW2 Japanese Generals who, having lost a battle, committed Hari-Kiri. Everybody looks at us for five minutes in a mixture of horror and admiration, thinking “wow, those guys really have principles”, and then vows never to do anything that mad themselves.
Our Climate Bill will hobble our economy and cost jobs by design. It is fundamentally designed to make you poorer. That is because the only way to reduce carbon emissions is to reduce the activities which produce carbon dioxide: Less driving. Less shopping. Fewer foreign holidays. Using less home heating. If you want to produce less carbon dioxide, you must by definition be colder, use less electricity, travel fewer miles, and eat fewer imported foods. The only way it works is if your life becomes a bit less fun.
This, by the way, is the example that the Greens think the rest of the world will be lining up to follow.
The Greens, of course, draw most of their support from the comfortably off middle classes. Voting Green is, and always has been, a luxury. You have to be able to afford it. The problem is that it’s not only Green voters who the party wants to make poorer. Those who are most afflicted by these priorities are, generally speaking, those who can afford them less. Middle class people in Green voting constituencies are not known, for example, for burning turf fires to heat their homes. No, that’s something poor, rural people do. Green voters don’t drive 1998 Peugeot 405’s to take their kids to school – that’s something poorer people do. It’s not just poor, rural voters either. Lots of normal people, in the midst of the great pandemic recession, simply can’t afford to replace two diesel cars with their electric cousins, or install a new home heating system. The Government isn’t even proposing grants that would cover most of the costs, let alone all of the costs. Green voters are the kinds of people who can afford triple glazing, electric cars, and paying some pacific islander to plant a few trees to offset their skiing trip to Switzerland. The rest of us live in a different world.
The Irish Government embarked on a course yesterday which is the functional equivalent of declaring a war on their own people. Over the next 20 years, if it has its way, all of us will have to suffer so that Ireland can hit entirely meaningless and pointless climate targets, while other countries ignore us in public, and laugh at our folly in private. We will continue to spend millions investing in “Green Technologies” which, if they were any good, wouldn’t require Government investment in the first place.
All of this, of course, was greeted by the rest of the media yesterday as if it was history’s greatest achievement. Few, if any, hard questions were asked, and those that were asked were all of the plaintive, progressive variety – but Minister, are we doing enough?
The opposition, too, all lined up to criticise the plan – for not going far enough.
As usual, in Ireland, nobody spoke up for the rest of us. The people who look at this country, look at the absolute mess the political class has delivered us into, and begin to wonder are we the ones going mad.
We’re not, you know. And if you feel like you are, then know that you are not on your own. We’re right here with you, waiting for the insanity to pass.