Election 2020: Left unity vital to green new deal for Ireland

January 24th, 2020

You see them everywhere. They are on our radios, in our timelines and sitting across from us at the dinner table.

They give you that “oh my sweet summer child” look as you bring up the latest homelessness statistics. They use phrases like “But Venezuela…” if you tweet about the need to implement Sláintecare. And they really don’t like Saoirse McHugh and her guillotine.

These are the Incremental Fundamentalists and they are the foot soldiers of Economic Colonialism. And they don’t realise that they are, in the long run, arguing against their own best interests. 

In the last General Election they made up barely half of the electorate and on the 8th of February, for the first time in the history of this State, they might become a minority.

At least, they will if the Progressive Left presents a vision compelling enough to appeal to the large cohort – 75 per cent according to the latest Irish Times poll – who want change but might not yet feel compelled to vote for it.

School strike Cork November 2019 Photo: Shamim Malekmian

A Green New Deal for Ireland

Post-election, a Green Alliance could hold the balance of power. Green plans, targets and schemes are widely agreed across the Progressive Left. Only Fine Gael has referred to the climate targets set by the scientific community as “extreme”.

A Green New Deal (GND) and a Just Transition can form the basis for a cross party programme for government. But before we get to what a GND is, we need to agree on what it must do.

It won’t be enough to say that the Deal will help us hit our emission reduction targets. In fact, that’s probably its least compelling selling point.

I’m reminded of what Naomi Klein told me on the Reboot Republic podcast – any form of climate action that is an attack on workers will not work. We need a Deal that first and foremost tackles poverty.

Ireland has one of the highest income inequalities in the EU so why not use the Deal as a platform to re-balance this gap and how we run our economy.

Housing, health, employment, transport, quality of living and climate action are, in my opinion, the fundamental pillars of any Green New Deal worth fighting for. But Incremental Fundamentalists won’t like this, of course.

Flooding in Athlone in January 2016 Photo: Niall Sargent

Courage to change must come fast

Change requires courage and it must come fast as another change in the form of climate breakdown is barreling down on us whether we like it or not. The cost of sticking with failed policies of ‘slowly, slowly’ have only increased the need for us to act faster and faster. 

My call is a simple one for those on the progressive left. Be honest with voters that we need a fundamental change in the way we live today. Tell them that, yes, change can be scary but that the cost of inaction (hello, climate chaos) will be far in excess of the cost of acting now.

Stress that the key pillar of the Green New Deal is the eradication of poverty, the improvement of  housing, health, employment and of course to stave off the worst effects of manmade chaos. 

And appeal to voters to adhere to a progressive transfer deal and encourage Labour and Green voters in particular to list others on the Progressive Left prominently on their ballot paper.

Most importantly, post-election, the Progressive Left must come together and talk to one another before talking to the Incremental Fundamentalists.

Change this one thing and we can change everything. 

By Tony Groves

Tony is the co-founder of the Tortoise Shack independent media hub for some of Ireland’s most creative and curious minds. He also co-hosts the Echo Chamber and Reboot Republic podcasts.

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