Much of the analysis of the May 24th local elections has focused on the ‘green surge’ that saw 49 Green Party Councillors elected to councils across the Twenty-Six Counties. Far less public attention has been paid to the Fianna Fail performance, which saw that party win 279 seats to retain its position as the largest party at local government level.
Between them Fianna Fail and The Green Party secured almost one in three first preference votes, an impressive electoral performance for two parties that were deemed by many to be politically dead just eight years ago.
The fortnight following the local elections saw the usual horsetrading between the various parties and independents over the positions of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Committee Chairs. In Dublin the results of these backroom deals showed just how far Fianna Fail and The Green Party have come.
Three out of Dublin’s four local councils now have Fianna Fail Mayors, while the fourth council elected a Fianna Fail Deputy Mayor.
In all four councils the Fianna Fail candidates were voted into office with the support of Green Party Councillors. The decision of both parties to enter into a local government coalition across the capital must be seen in the context of the upcoming general election and the coalition discussions that will follow. These local coalitions may well turn out to be a dry run for the real thing.
It appears that many young people voted for The Green Party as a vote for change in general and action on climate change in particular. The alarm bells should now be ringing loudly in the heads of these young people.
At the very first hurdle after the local elections, The Green Party blinked. Instead of demanding and holding out for a radical, detailed, watertight, cross-city environmental action plan, they jumped into bed with their old coalition partners with nothing but vague, minimalist promises in return.
Despite all the talk of a climate emergency and a housing crisis, it was business as usual when it came to the backroom deals and the divvying up of the spoils of war . Anyone who thinks it will be any different in the aftermath of the next general election is living in a fantasy world.
The last Fianna Fail and Green Party coalition had to make a series of major individual, but connected, decisions between 2007 and 2011. At a fundamental level each decision was actually a choice between protecting the interests of the elites or protecting the interests of the people.
The decision to guarantee the debts of the private banks, the decision to establish NAMA, the decision to pay the senior bondholders, the decision to keep corporation tax low while personal taxes sky-rocketed, the decision to take on crippling inter-generational public debt, the decision to seek the help of the Troika and many other decision must be seen through the filter of making that fundamental choice between protecting the interests of the elite and protecting the interests of the people.
At every single juncture Fianna Fail and The Green Party chose to protect the elite and punish the people. No amount of revisionism can change that absolute fact.
The Fianna Fail and Green Party of 2019 are organically and ideologically unchanged from 2011. The leaders of both parties, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan, were both ministers in that disastrous coalition government. Neither they, nor their wider parties, have ever expressed any meaningful remorse or regret for the decisions that they took between 2007 and 2011.
Logically this can lead a sensible person to only one conclusion. If both parties were again asked to make that fundamental choice, they would once again chose to protect the elites.
As the clock ticks down to the next general election The Green Party, and quite possibly Fianna Fail, will be telling the electorate that they alone are willing to do whatever it takes to avert a climate and environmental catastrophe. That no other party can be trusted to stand up for the environment and humanity.
But standing up for the environment and humanity will, by absolute necessity, mean standing up to the very same economic and political elites that these two parties protected when last in government.
The Green Party and Fianna Fail are no more likely to stand up to big energy now than they were to big banking in 2008. They had their chance and they blew it.
Real change will never come from Fianna Fail, The Green Party or any section of the political establishment. Their interests and the interests of the wider private-profit-driven economic system are one and the same.
Real change, the type worth fighting for, will only come through the sustained political education, organisation and mobilisation of ordinary working people. In the Irish context that means the replacement of the two failed states that now exist in this country with a New Republic, with new institutions and a new economy that are structurally designed to protect the interests of the many and not the few.
If you want to join the fight for the New Republic, get in touch today.