Green Party in government in Ireland showing true colours


For the first time in their history, the Irish Green party is in government. The deal that they struck with Fianna Fail has been criticised in many quarters as a “sell-out” – and with some justification, since the Greens have changed sides on the issue of Shannon airport’s use by the US military, the conflict between Shell and the residents of Rossport and the decision to route the M3 motorway through the lucratively re-zoned lands of Fianna Fail supporters, who happen to live near Tara. On these, and other issues, the Greens switched, overnight, from a position of opposition, to jobs in a government that is implementing them - with force when necessary.

But, it can’t be ignored that many of the cries of sell-out are coming from members of Fine Gael and Labour, whose politics are virtually indistinguishable from those of Fianna Fail – parties who would be praising the Greens for their “maturity” if they had agreed the same deal with them. The Green decision also wasn’t a case of an undemocratic leadership being dazzled by the power and prestige of government and doing a deal to get themselves ministries and Mercs against the wishes of their members - the deal was endorsed by 86% of their voting membership.

In reality, rather than being a sell-out, the Green entry into government, where they will inevitably be used as a green “mud-guard” by Fianna Fail, is quite consistent with the party’s politics. Although the media never tires of mocking the wacky left-wing environmentalism and campaigning zeal of the Greens, that is simply a stereotype which long ago ceased to be remotely accurate. Although the Greens started in the environmental and pacifist protest movements of the 1970’s, their politics steadily drifted towards working within the system. This meant accepting the broad outlines of our social, political and economic system and limiting their ambitions to achieving reforms that could be accommodated without major changes.

The Greens have had to drop huge areas of their policy which would have been deemed “business unfriendly”. Now, with a couple of ministries and coalition partners who will immediately veto any proposals which harm ‘competitivity’, they will be limited to imposing environmentally-linked consumer taxes

and offering subsidies for eco- friendly home-upgrades, that are realistically available only to the affluent. This sort of consumer environmentalism is entirely acceptable to both capitalism and the parties of the right.

The trouble is that capitalism depends on a profit-driven economy. It’s always more expensive to produce things in an environ- mentally friendly manner. It is a system that is based upon inequality – most people don’t have enough time or money to make meaningful consumer choices. Such solutions are bound to fail but the obvious solution of applying environmental regulation and taxation to production is political suicide in a capitalist ‘democracy’. By adapting to the logic of the system, the Greens have become fully integrated into it.

This article is from Workers Solidarity 98, July/August 2007

PDF file of Workers Solidarity 98