Miriam Lord: Feathers fly as Mattie McGrath rips into Coalition’s cushion

Roaring Independents blame ‘evil’ Green Party for rising fuel costs and carbon taxes

The Rural Independents have been trying for some time to warn against the Green Party and the malign spell it has cast on the Coalition. They know the ordinary god-fearing country people of Ireland will suffer horribly as a result of this hold that Eamon Ryan and his pernicious acolytes have over Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar.

But the Taoiseach continues to dance to the tune of the Greens, railed Mattie McGrath on Tuesday. "You want people to have no cars, you want people to have no services in rural Ireland and you want to herd them all into the cities."

Mattie's vision of the future looks bleak enough to bag a Netflix series.

It may be all bicycle clips and fermentation on the outside, but this conceals the dangerous zealot inside

“You don’t want to help the people. You want to let them perish and die in the ditches – that’s what you’re going to do. And that seems be your raison d’etre in politics, which is ‘to hell with the people. Once I am all right, Jack, I’m fine.’”


Perhaps he was being a bit harsh on Micheál.

But the Independent TD for Tipperary and his fellow believers are intensely suspicious of the Greens. It may be all bicycle clips and fermentation on the outside, but this conceals the dangerous zealot inside.

Just look at the stance the Taoiseach has adopted over the carbon tax. His refusal to contemplate reducing it, along with the cost of petrol and diesel, is further proof for the Roaring Independents that Micheál has been well and truly captured by the short and curly bean sprouts.

But he doesn’t agree.


Action must be taken by the Government if climate change is to be addressed and nothing will happen if the Opposition keeps objecting to measures such as carbon tax or a carbon budget. The Taoiseach was taking flak from all sides on the issues, including Jennifer Whitmore of the Soc Dems and Paul Murphy (Sol-PBP), both unhappy at what they saw as the carbon budget being rammed though by the Government without sufficient debate.

The Roaring Independents were, meanwhile, incensed by the rapidly rising cost of fuel.

“What I’m struck with by all of the debates to do with climate change is that everybody wants to delay the day of reckoning, it seems to me, on all fronts,” mused Micheál, adding that in the previous debate on the cost of living, people said his government should postpone the carbon tax.

“And the same will happen with the carbon budgets and everybody will say it’s not enough, but when actual specific measures are going to be put on the table in respect of realising these objectives, everybody will oppose them, ” he sighed.

“I mean, this is going to be the story of climate change for next number of years.”

If he was looking for sympathy he’d come to the wrong place.

“Join the Green Party,” scoffed Mattie.

You see? You see? Micheál pounced. The honour of Eamon Ryan was at stake.

“There you go again! All you seem to want to do is create a bogey, or the bogey [that] the Green Party is the greatest evil since time began.”

“It is,” said Mattie.

Danny Healy-Rae shouted his support. “He’s telling the truth.”


"But they're not, deputy McGrath," replied the Taoiseach with an exasperated smile. "They're not. And the younger generation in the country need us, need this Oireachtas to deal with climate change once and for all. We cannot keep on postponing climate change, we can't keep on delaying climate change."

But that’s exactly what is happening, said Paul Murphy.

Each time they try to do something “concrete” about the carbon budget they come up against objections, countered Micheál.

When some big world event comes along like “COP26 or whatever, everybody is all ado for about a week or two” and then the objections start again.

Mattie remained unconvinced. All the Taoiseach wants to do is "dance to the tune" played by the Greens. If he wanted to do something "immediate and meaningful" to help people struggling with the big increases in fuel costs, he could follow the lead of other countries in Europe and cut taxes and cap costs.

This would particularly help people in rural areas where the rising price of road and agricultural diesel is causing real hardship. But then, when it comes to the price of petrol, what would somebody like Micheál Martin know about this?

I don't know the last time you pulled up at a filling station and filled your own car, because you've a driver

The Taoiseach told him it was “very dishonest” to say the carbon tax is the main reason for fuel inflation when global factors are the key contributor. The Government is preparing targeted measures to “cushion the blow” for people worst hit by the rising costs.

Mattie went in for a low, uncushioned blow.

"It's you being dishonest with the people and they know it. I don't know the last time you pulled up at a filling station and filled your own car, because you've a driver. You had one when you were leader of Fianna Fáil and you have State drivers now and everything else. So you don't know, you're out of touch completely."

Dreadful clanger

The Taoiseach decided not to take the bait. He didn’t rise to it either when Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Labour’s Ged Nash reminded him of junior Minister Sean Fleming’s dreadful clanger on Monday’s Drivetime when he said people complaining about the cost of living should shop around for lower prices.

They would have been remiss in their duty if they hadn’t brought it up. There won’t be much cushioning the blow for Fleming in the weeks and months to come, when his radio faux pas will be waved around the Dáil chamber by Opposition spokespeople whenever the cost of living comes up.

Meanwhile, the Roaring Independents want a mini-budget as soon as possible even though they know the Taoiseach will shoot it down because he wants to let the people “perish and die in the ditches”. Mattie was incandescent.

No government wants people to perish, no government wants people to die in the ditches. For God's sake, let's have some common sense here

“And you accuse me of being dishonest when I’m telling you the basic naked truth and every dog in the street knows it. That it’s your policy that’s causing the inflation.”

Not to mention taking away people’s cars and services and herding them into all the cities.

“No government wants people to perish, no government wants people to die in the ditches. For God’s sake, let’s have some common sense here and some sense of perspective,” frowned Micheál, pointing to the further measures over and above what is already in the budget “to cushion the blow that this inflationary cycle is imposing on people”.

“It’s basic support and not a cushion they want.”

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have been meeting over the last few days to work on their cost of living bolster.

They will be unveiling the cushion they created at the end of the week.

What a very Green thing to do.

Mattie and the Roaring Independents can say “I told you so” then, but will it soften the blow?