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The Greens might be unpopular, but don’t count on them losing

The Green Party has never been a mass movement in Ireland.

Since the group’s creation in 1981, it has typically had one to two Dáil seats at any given moment, and sometimes zero. It has been a fringe micro party hovering around the periphery of politics for the vast majority of the time it has existed, with little ability to steer national policy one way or the other. They were never a political powerhouse.

The group did see a brief bump in their Dáil numbers in the 2000s, acquiring 6 TDs for a while, and even managing to go into government coalition with Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats in 2007. They seemed to be building momentum.

However, the very next year the financial crash hit, and all three government parties were trounced, with the Greens being wiped out entirely, losing all of their 6 seats and being sent back to absolute zero.

The norm for this party then, for most of its 40-year lifetime, has been to make up one of the many small Leftwing micro parties in Ireland, like the Workers Party or People Before Profit, that goes absolutely nowhere. For the most part, they have been screaming from the sidelines to be heard, while bigger, more serious groups drive the national agenda (for better or worse).

So how did they go from this lowly state, to the position they’re in currently, with 12 sitting TDs leading the government around on a leash?

From carbon tax hikes (despite mass public opposition), to blocking gas terminals (during an energy crisis), to banning turf (which other members of government opposed), it seems like the Greens have gotten their way at virtually every turn within this coalition. They drive the program, despite being the smallest party in government, and are by far the most effective of the three at achieving their priorities. Love it or hate it, you have to hand it to them; they’ve made off like bandits in this whole arrangement. They have their government colleagues firmly by the balls.

One could credit Eamon Ryan’s leadership with this success, taking his party from zero seats to twelve within just two election cycles. This is no doubt an achievement; even if you don’t support someone, you have to admit that kind of bounce back is fairly impressive.

But I’m not sure Ryan can take full credit for it either. Regardless of who was party leader, the Greens benefited greatly from an advantage that no other party had: 24-hour a day news coverage of their pet issue, climate change.

With the media buying wholesale into the climate hysteria narrative, the environmentalist drum was beaten constantly for years, and pounded into the minds of the general public, convincing many of them that the most important issue was the supposed impending doom of humanity.

For example, in 2018, two years before the election, we saw the highly media-managed rise of Greta Thunberg.

The Swedish girl was even named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in December 2019, just a month before the Irish general election.

During these years we saw large climate protests organised by groups like Extinction Rebellion in Dublin, drawing significant crowds of young people, and article after article about the climate message.

And it was against this backdrop that the Greens snatched victory in 2020. They essentially rode the unrelenting wave of climate propaganda the media had unleashed, until they crash-landed squarely through the doors of Leinster House. The press, in effect, served as their personal PR department, whether the journalists themselves knew it or not.

Smash cut to several years later, now that the public has had a taste of the green policies in action, and the party’s popularity is through the floor according to all polling, hovering between 2-4% on a good day.

Because of this, many assume that the party is “finished,” and that their political demise will be assured at the next election. After all, how could a group driving such woefully unpopular ideas survive electorally?

But the fact of the matter is, while the Greens are unpopular, they’re not necessarily unpopular with the people who can change their electoral fate.

It’s no secret that the groups who are most enraged at the Greens are rural communities like farmers and so on. But most of the Greens’ support base comes from cities – not the countryside.

For example, of the Green Party’s 12 TDs, 8 of them – the majority – are in Dublin.

1 of the TDs is in Limerick, 1 is in Waterford, 1 in Carlow-Kilkenny and 1 in Laois-Offaly.

In other words, while they do have some rural TDs, rural people generally don’t vote for the Greens anyway. It makes up a relatively small part of their support. So while losing rural areas would of course have some kind of impact on the party, it will not constitute an absolute blow-out like was seen after 2008.

What you would need to see for the Greens to be totally blown out of the water, would be for affluent city people to abandon them. And I wouldn’t be at all confident that people in D4 or Dun Laoghaire have lost their appetite for carbon tax and wind turbines yet.

This is to say nothing of the way the media has ramped up their climate propaganda since 2020, with the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill mandating that groups like RTÉ produce programmes about climate change and “sustainability” by law, indoctrinating a new generation of teenage voters.

Plus if Sinn Féin does as well as they’re expected to, the government won’t have the luxury of being too choosy in who they form a coalition with.

Now, there are other reasons the Greens might lose out. After all, not all parts of Dublin are wealthy, and if the energy crisis really starts to bite, and people are crippled financially by an inflation-induced recession, it won’t just be farmers and Bord na Mona workers in the midlands who are fed up.

It’s also possible that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael could decide that government with the Greens is too much of a poisoned chalice, and basically amounts to political suicide. They might try and scrape something together with a different group – maybe even the Rural Independents, who knows.

There are many factors at play, and the future is impossible to predict with any precision. All I’m saying is, don’t take it as a given that Eamon Ryan’s goose is cooked. Look at what he’s done with only 7% of the vote nationally in 2020. He doesn’t need much to get his foot in the door, and with a few leafy suburbs on his side, he can do a lot.

Don’t be surprised if this guy returns like Lazarus and lands himself a role in government next time again, even despite it all.

 

 

 

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