Thursday, 1 October 2009

Comhar report - Towards a Green New Deal for Ireland

The report published today by Comhar - Towards a Green New Deal for Ireland - is now available for download here. John Gibbons' piece in today's Irish Times previewing many of the report's recommendations is available here.


John Barry said...

The timing of this is interesting in that the Green party has begun negotiations with Fianna Fail about reviewing the Programme for Government and its clear the junior coalition party is going to push for greater 'greening' of that programme and has a list of radical policy demands that may, given the weakened state of FF, be delivered upon.

I'd like to think that there was some synchronisation involved....and good luck to the Green negotiating team in pushing the FFers as far as possible to implement some radical policy changes.

Proposition Joe said...

@John Barry

If the Greens get their pet policies through as the price for supporting NAMA, it would represent the most imbalanced imposition in our history of a tiny minority's views on rest of the nation.

We'd have a few hundred home-spun outliers selling out our childrens' future to protect hares and circus animals, for crying out loud! If the IMF's predictions on the likely property bubble losses turn out to be in the right ballpark, this would represent what, 1 billion per circus elephant saved? Several million euros per non-coursed hare?

John Barry said...

Oh dear Joe - criticise the Greens if you like but please don't fall into the lazy characterisation of their agenda as being about animal welfare alone! Why pick on this element of what they want at the expense of leaving out their demands for stops in education cuts, social welfare protection.

As Stephen Collins put it in his article in yesterday's Irish Times "What the Greens are looking for is a comprehensive set of changes that cover climate change, the economy, taxation, the electoral system, planning, transport, the equality agenda, as well as key elements of the forthcoming budget."

And of course NAMA can and ought to be ruthlessly criticised and analysed (and of course the Greens have been lobbying on the 'risk-sharing' etc) - but please at least allow the full range of the policies Greens want to get implemented as the price for their support for NAMA

Proposition Joe said...


The problem is that most of the items on the Green shopping list are either:

(a) completely aspirational, in the motherhood-apple-pie-&-world-peace line, such as the single-tier health system

(b) so constraining in budgetary terms as to guarantee rejection by FF, such as the three year gaurantee on welfare rates

(c) so opposite to the policies already accepted by the Green ministers, and on which their FF cabinet colleagure have absorbed considerable flak, that it would be politically impossible to roll-back on ... such as the education cuts


(d) utterly delusional on the chances of being accepted by electorate, such as the switch to a list-based electoral system (fortunately Bunreacht na hÉireann can't be overridden by a Green Party convention, yet ...)

So we're left with the plight of Dumbo the elephant, which is exactly the kind of thing that FF will happily concede.

Its the inevitable result of projecting the politics of the junior common room onto the national stage.

John Barry said...

Joe, its clear you've strong antipathy to the Green Party- fair enough, each to their own.

On the 'delusional' aspects of what the Greens wants - so its less 'delusional' than the 'mainstream' quasi-consensus that what we need to do is take some pain and, give it a year or two and he presto we'll be back to 2007 - happy days! This is quite apart from the argument that we OUGHT to be seeking to go back to 2007 etc. 'Delusional' just like 'pragmatic' and 'realistic' is in the eye of the beholdder as well as contingent on cicumstances. Who would have thunk it 18 months ago that European countries would be part-nationalising the banks? That the great self-correcting market economy would require political bailouts and support? The point I'm making is that what we're witnessing is a re-politicisation of the economy (and economics) - or a least, given my position on the inevitable political nature of ANY economics - the public re-politicisation of debates about the economy.

So, in other words what is politically feasible is not simply 'given' by the parameters of 'the economy' (in some abstract, naturalised sense as if the economy as its currently organised is like the weather i.e there is little we can do about it - it just 'is') but now is explictly based on political decisions. The economy is too important to be left to economists.

Now, none of this means the Greens get their way, but it does confirm that its politics that sets the perameters of the possible, and to simply adopt a passive view that, in La Thatcher's terms 'there is no alternative' is not only wrong - there are alternatives - but disempowering and offers no sense that civil society, citizens can - through various political means - . The Greens at least are using political power (the little of it they have, but democratically-based) to maximum effect - fair play to them. To call the repoliticisation of the economy the politics of the junior common room is a cheap shot as if parties such as the Greens, or indeed 'ordinary citizens' who after all elected them should leave 'the economy' etc. to 'the big boys', 'serious, grown up, responsible people' i.e those promoting the economic status quo. This line of thought has be touted down the centuries by every paternalistic and anti-democratic regime intent on keeping power to itself - and the most effective way of doing this is for the 'authoritive' to set the agenda and decide how we are to even speak about such matters.

Of course you are absolutely correct about the FFers as (even in their weakened state) being determined (as the dominant party in power) to resist, water down, coopt etc any Green proposals. But this is always the case with any coalition government. But this negotiation-based politics is also an inevitable outcome of political pluralism i.e. people /groups having different agendas and goals. So, good luck to them in trying to get a good deal from the FFers.

Proposition Joe said...


Its not so much the dreaming-of-the-dream by the Greens that I object to, its their clear misunderstanding of their constitutional position as members of Dáil Éireann. They are elected to represent their constituents, those being the electors in the constituencies returning them the Oireachtas. I suppose there's an implied duty to act in the wider national interest also.

But it seems completely alien to our system of government that a tiny clique of unelected party insiders can dictate to the duely elected representatives of the people. This bestows some kind of weird quasi-constitutional status on the Green Party convention, which as a group is out there on the fringe ... but even if they were as mainstream and representative as could be, it would still stick in my graw that such a tiny group has assumed such massive power over our financial future.

John Barry said...

So its the fact a) that the Greens are a small party - wielding disproportionate influence over government. Does that mean you are/were as critical of the PDs for the length of the PD/FF coalition when it was clear much economic policy was created or influenced by them? I strangely can't recall much outrage about this at the time (could the fact that during this period we were - or at least enough of us were- on the pig's back and enjoying the Celtic Tiger ride?). In hindsight (wonderful of course) could we not say that the financial future of country WAS dictated by this small clique aka the PDs given the mess we're now in?

b)each party in a democracy seeks to represent its own ideological and constituency interests (i.e the people who voted for them and their party members) as well as (while in govt) looking out for the interest of the wider community - as they see it. This last point is the real issue - Greens simply see the national interest in a different way - energy security, low carbon economy, green jobs etc. etc. Others seek to return to the mythic time of 2007 economics. So in my view, I don't see that what the Greens are doing is simply representing a small minority of people, but acting as they see it (from their Green ideological and policy perspective) in how they view the National interest.

I seriously doubt that what the Greens are doing is "dictating to the elected representatives of the people" (the Dail), they're going toe-to-toe with FF, the majority coalition partner in government (not the same).

Proposition Joe said...


I would have just the same issue if the PDs allowed themselves to be dictated to by the local masonic lodge or the committee of their golf club. Similarly if FG handed a veto to the IFA, or FF were under the sway of the CIF.

OK, scratch that last example :)

Its one thing to consult some unelected nobodies before making your own decision as a parliamentary party, its another thing altogether to effectively devolve power to some group external to Oireachtas.

The point is not the smallness of the party, nor even the content of their policies, but the fact that they've made their elected representatives completely subservient to self-selecting party members. The words "repugnant" and "consitution" pop into my head, regardless of how high-falutin' that sounds.

John Barry said...

Thanks for that. So the issue is not the Green Party per se (or at least the Green parliamentary party) but that ordinary members of the party.

And with the greatest of respect - that Green Party members are the decision-makers in this instance is NOT the same as the FFers taking bribes from developers!

well, of course one person's 'completely subservient' is another one's 'democratic'. Its an old condundrum of representative democracy the fact that we have undemocratic organisations (i.e. hierarchically and centralised organised political parties competiting for votes) that organise/mediate our democratic system. Perhaops all parties should become more internally democratic like the Greens?

Slí Eile said...

Thank goodness the Greens do have such an arrangement. May be, after all, they can save the country from further deflationary vandalism. Except one should be careful about one wishes for.

Proposition Joe said...

Dream on, Slí, dream on.

Any minor budgetary concessions they manage to wring from FF will have be paid for a thousand-fold via the fall-out from NAMA.

Our children and grand-children will suffer much-reduced public services due to the servicing costs of our mountainous debt. But at least the Green membership will get to feel important for a few minutes.