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No, it’s not the economy, stupid. Only one issue matters now

Global temperatures have breached what is regarded as the red line of calamity - 1.5 degrees. So why are we still focused on narrow interests?

It is now 35 years since Roger Garland was elected the first Green Party TD. It was the third time Garland had run in the Dublin South constituency and he had learned the lesson about the importance of transfers, which he sought and received from all parties. Under the proportional representation system, many voters could afford a bite of the green diet without having to make it their main course.

During Garland’s first contribution to Dáil proceedings, despite constant interruptions, he got to impart his central message: “None of the other parties will provide us with anything approaching a Green-type Government, as they all pursue consumerist policies which cause many of the world’s most serious environmental problems.” Garland was not returned to the Dáil, and while the Green Party subsequently grew, joined governments, sought to imbue the body politic with a green consciousness, and has pushed hard to stitch a climate change agenda into the fabric of policy, Garland’s observation remains sadly relevant.

For decades now, the assertion “It’s the economy, stupid” has been aired in coverage of politics. The phrase is attributed to James Carville in 1992 as one of the key campaign messages of Bill Clinton in his successful bid to become US president. That same message is being propounded by defenders of the expansion of Dublin Airport. Despite global temperatures breaching what is regarded as the red line of calamity – 1.5 degrees – in the past year, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) wants the cap on passengers through Dublin Airport increased by eight million people annually, notwithstanding acknowledgment in its own reports that this will increase the airport’s emissions by 22 per cent. The DAA insists it can combine “environmental sustainability” with expansion. Kenny Jacobs, the DAA’s chief executive, has said in relation to this controversy: “I’m not rejecting science. I’m supporting the economy.”

Last week, Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher accused the Green Party of holding “Ireland’s future progress to ransom” by opposing expansion of Dublin Airport. “For business and leisure,” he told the Sunday Independent, “The Irish people deserve more routes and cheaper routes at that.”


It’s about freedom and pleasure, stupid.

In relation to what voters considered most important to them, The Irish Times exit polls for the general election in 2020 revealed that only 6 per cent opted for climate change. There is much political mileage in framing climate change policies as destructive. TDs from the rural independent group, including those now heading the new political party, Independent Ireland, have long complained that green policies involve an attack on rural Ireland. Cork Southwest Independent TD Michael Collins suggested in 2022 that net zero emission targets were “suicidal”. He declared “I’m as green as anyone, but I’m also a realist”.

It’s the agricultural economy and the future of rural Ireland, stupid.

Responding last year to a draft scientific report on land use and carbon emissions compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who has now also joined the new political party, suggested if its recommendations were implemented, they would amount to “ethnic cleansing of the agricultural community.

It’s the land of our forebears and we have a right to defend our way of life, stupid.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the final instalment of its assessment report last year, containing the findings of hundreds of climate change scientists over eight years. Its weight boiled down to one message: it is “now or never” to take drastic action to avoid catastrophe. This week, a UN report highlighted that more than a fifth of migratory species under international protection are threatened with extinction because of pollution, climate crisis and invasive species.

There is much appetite to connect Ireland to the world on terms that are agreeable and profitable. There has also been pride expressed in the contribution Irish people have made to devising solutions to urgent global issues. Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation received plaudits for his work during the Covid pandemic. We should consider how he framed that pandemic in 2021: “We are pushing nature to its limit ... We’re stressing the environment. We are creating the conditions in which epidemics flourish. We’re forcing and pushing people to migrate away from their homes because of climate stress. We’re doing so much and we’re doing it in the name of globalisation and some sense of chasing that wonderful thing that people call economic growth. In my view, that’s becoming a malignancy, not growth, because what it’s doing is driving unsustainable practices in terms of how we manage communities, how we manage development, how we manage prosperity. We are writing cheques that we cannot cash as a civilisation and they’re going to bounce.”

It’s the economy, stupid. It’s freedom of choice, stupid. It’s rural Ireland, stupid. When will we accept that it’s climate change, stupid?