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The Green Party's Not so Green Manifesto

The compromise of The Green Party programme in government

In the programme for government, agreed by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens, the Green Party has made huge compromises in their already modest programme in keeping with their perspective on gaining influence.  At the present time the Greens, whose perspectives do not envisage the end of capitalist exploitation of the environment, can only expect to be a minor part of a coalition government and as an electoral party with a largely pro capitalist membership it is hardly surprising that a majority in the Party supports the compromised programme of policies which have made it in to the agreement document.  However some green window dressing must remain in order to avoid the instability of another election.

It will be up to the Parliamentary Green Party, when their policies are further diluted in their progress through the Dail whether they want to hold on to the coalition or leave it and there will be the threat of internal unrest in their ranks over how these policies have been watered down to vanishing point.  If the Green Party's electoral support base is damaged by their upcoming period in government it will surprise no one.  It has happened before.

As a bourgeois Party they are open to the pressures applied to them by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and the sectors these two parties represent, agriculture and business.  Pressure from these majority partners in government will further alienate the Green Party from their electoral base, part of which was a protest vote in the first place and is likely to dissipate very quickly.  With their coalition partners demanding that their agreement be adhered to, and the Green TD's stand firm and resist any radical demands, even the most modest demands on carbon reduction are already being kicked in to the long grass.

The Greens are the weakest partner in the National coalition government and their compromises reveal that there is no solution to the climate emergency when business and particularly agricultural profits come first.  In other words while the capitalist 'anarchy of production' in pursuit of profits rapes the planet this ineffectual version of their already very modest manifesto is far from the medicine required to address the severe climate emergency facing us.

The outline of the Green Party manifesto, already vague and modest in its demands, can be seen to  have been completely suffocated by the even more vague language and “affordability” caveats in the Programme for Government they latterly signed up to.

(1) Climate and Biodiversity

The proposed ending of the issue of oil and gas exploration licences and opposition to the importation of fracked gas from other territories comes as fracking is under threat from declining oil prices.  A ban single use plastic and set up a bottle deposit and return scheme is proposed a within the first 100 days in Government a Climate Action (Amendment) Bill. They promise an immediate ban of smoky coal and tightening of restrictions on the harmful use of pesticides and insecticides. An increase the area under forestry cover from 11% to 30% by 2050 and to undertake a major programme of peatland restoration and rewetting.  A 7% per year fall in emissions to reach the EU CO2 reduction target of a minimum 50% by 2030      (As pointed out in 'Programme for Government, Austerity with a Green Tinge' this has “been watered down to the extent that it is now a target for average annual reductions over a ten year period. It is possible that over the next five years no reductions will have been made.

(2) Transport

Only minor changes are proposed, to do with ticketing, traffic signalling, cycling, parking and pedestrial facilities, which would leave the overall budget intact.  20% of the transport budget is hoped to be spent on cycling and walking projects with the remainder split 2:1 in favour of public transport over road building and maintenance but the call for all new public buildings to have EV charge points and charging stations at every service station favours the car and fossil fuel industry as the type of vehicle being promoted is petrol hybrid.

A vague wish list is included, headlined by their “support” for development of light rail systems in Cork and Galway and a review of all derelict train lines around the country with “a view” to reopening them.  The call for all new urban buses to be 100% electric or low emission hybrid is an already noticable trend that does not take in to account the damage caused by the extraction industry both to people and the environment, and increased train speeds on all inter-city rail routes to compete better with car journeys has dissapeared.

(3) Housing

On housing the programme for government has made this aspect of the Green manifesto redundant by making it contingent on “affordability”.  The introduction of measures to allow for the deep retrofitting of 75,000 houses per annum at a cost of €50 billion has been envisaged as a two decade long project.  The call for the “majority” of the  1 million Irish homes with oil fired central heating systems to be replaced with heat pump or renewable alternatives over the next decade is again vague and unambitious.  In relation to rentals the all powerful Irish landlord has prevailed and has made contingent upon “affordability” the Green manifesto's pronounced desire for protection for renters and a form of rent review popular in Germany which is to base rents on the official rent guide for the areas.  Most obviously its call for the reform of the Housing Assistance Payment to drive investment in new social housing units rather than relying on the private sector and the taxing of vacant lands and buildings that could be used for housing has dissapeared without a trace. The call for a referendum on the right to housing has been shoehorned in to the programme for government as based on affordability.  (Again as pointed out in 'Programme for Government, Austerity with a Green Tinge' “Housing 'for all' is quickly scaled back to the notion that “everybody should have access to good quality housing to purchase or rent at an affordable price.”  Again the key word here is 'affordable' which, in the context of housing, refers not to income but to market value”).

(4) Social Protection

Also fudged is the manifesto's demands for social protection.  The current system of social welfare payments should be reformed and a system of universal basic income through gradual reform of the tax and welfare system brought in.  A restoration of the age limit for the One Parent Family Payment from 7 years to 18 years inclusive or until a child has left second level education.  Eliminate outdated mandatory retirement laws and push for a flexible approach to retirement options and retain the Free Travel Scheme for people aged over 66.  The vague nature of calls for “measures” to be implemented to counteract the negative impact on the availability of this scheme caused by the privatisation of routes renders it meaningless.

(5) Agriculture

Demands placed on Irish agricultural policy are again tinkering around the edges, including the usual vague language such as “support” for farmers to diversify away from an over reliance on dairy and beef production for commodity export markets, a shift away from an industry-led model to one which puts Irish farmers at the centre.  Rewards for farmers for sequestering carbon, restoring biodiversity and producing clean energy are called for through a reformed Common Agricultural Policy.  An increase in the land being farmed organically is promised to be increased to 20% by 2030 and a target of 30% tree coverage across the country by 2050 by developing a new afforestation programme beginning with the payment of a special planting grant to 120,000 farmers around the country for the planting of one hectare of woodland on their farm which will act as a carbon store, help promote wildlife corridors and provide a future fuel source for the household.  (Presumably releasing the carbon in to the environment again if their heat pump, proposed in article 3, hadn't been fitted yet?)  Again, the footdragging by profit conscious landowners would have dealt with that, while the heavily taxed working class paid their subsidies, even before it was whittled down in the programme for government and then in the Dail.

(6) Fisheries

On fisheries the manifesto claimed it will end unsustainable fisheries policies that have continued for decades. The party will designate 50% of Irish territorial waters as marine protected areas and will support an end to the licensing of offshore salmon farming and instead switch to closed loop on-shore salmon farms.  As with the rest of the manifesto nothing concrete issued from this claim.

(7) Water

On water they as bad as ever, seeking to pursue the excuse used for the installation of water meters.  They seek a constitutional amendment to insert a provision prohibiting the privatisation of public water supplies and reform Irish Water with much of the day to day operation of the water supply being run on a regional basis.  Continuation of the free allowance of water to every citizen to meet their basic everyday needs and provide an extra free allocation for people with specific health needs. There will continue to be a charge for excessive use.

(8) Education

None of the immediate issues in education are addressed in the manifesto, instead calling for a reduction of pupil - to - teacher ratios at first and second level with a particular focus on DEIS schools.  Reinstatement of the school capitalisation grant to pre 2010 levels for all schools and review primary and secondary curricula to meet the needs of the 21st century.  Look to the phasing out of homework in primary schools and provide one administrative day every week for teaching principals.

(9) Health

Health policy is worse, calling for cross party consensus and support of the Sláintecare privatisation plan.  Originally some of the most important features of the plan are the “single tier health system based on need rather than the ability to pay and increased numbers of advance paramedics who could treat patients in their own homes”.  By the time this has came out the other side of the programme for government negotiations it has again been lumbered with the caveat of “affordability”.

(10) Paying for their policies

According to the manifesto this will be paid for by a wealth tax for people with assets over €10 million and a Site Value Tax which is measured on the basis of the market value of the land under  property; a gradual increase of the carbon tax in each of the next ten years until it reaches €100 per tonne and an introduction of a mechanism to return all the revenues raised from further increases to citizens by increasing social welfare payments and tax credits, the reintroduction of a flight tax, equalised excise duty rates on diesel and petrol.  End of all fossil fuel subsidies. Progressive limitation of tax reliefs on pension contributions where a pension fund has already accumulated enough funds to provide a pension of €48,000 per annum.

On the latter point the Green's partners in government have no intention of allowing the propertied class or corporations to bear the burden of paying for environmental measures and they themselves have quietly accepted that by signing up to the programme for government.

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