Irish Times view on the elections: Green light for climate action

Fianna Fáil had a notably strong showing in its old working-class heartland in Dublin

Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party at the Dublin count centre for the European elections at the RDS in Dublin at the weekend. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party at the Dublin count centre for the European elections at the RDS in Dublin at the weekend. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The clear message from the impressive showing by the Green Party in the European and local elections is that voters are now ready for decisive action on climate change, and that includes carbon taxes.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was quick to accept the implications of the result, saying the Government had got the message, but he did make the point that it would require difficult decisions.

It is not only the Government but all of the political parties who now need to face up to their responsibilities to deliver a national action plan on climate change and put an end foot-dragging on the issue. The result also suggests a desire for action on the sort of quality-of-life issues the Greens advocate for so well, including better cycling infrastructure, improved planning and a smarter approach to urban living. The Greens are the most obvious winners from both sets of elections with a strong showing in the three European constituencies allied to a significant recovery in local government. Just five years ago the party had no Dáil seats and was down to a handful of councillors nationwide but now it has a platform to influence the direction of public policy in the years ahead.

The turnaround in the economy since the financial crisis has clearly filtered through to the political system and that has helped the Greens. The anger that fuelled the rise of Sinn Féin, smaller left wing parties and Independents has dissipated to a considerable extent and that has prompted voters to think about big issues like saving the planet.

The serious setback suffered by Sinn Féin and the hard left in both elections has something to do with their failure to adapt their rhetoric and policies to new circumstances. A noteworthy feature of the local election results was the strong showing by Fianna Fáil in its old working-class heartland in Dublin, particularly on the north side. There has been a dramatic recovery from its near-wipeout in the elections to the city council five years ago. The same is true in the border areas where the Fianna Fáil resurgence has come at the expense of Sinn Féin.

Fine Gael performed well in the European elections but will be very disappointed with its national share of the vote in the locals. The party performed well in middle class areas of Dublin and in many parts of the country so the result represents more of a wake-up call than a bloody nose after eight continuous years in government.

The Labour Party’s hoped-for recovery was dented by the surge for the Greens but it managed to recover ground in some former working-class strongholds in Dublin and has made limited gains across the country. The message for all of the parties is that the politics of anger is no longer good enough. Voters are looking for positive and workable solutions to the very real problems that continue to beset our society and will respond those who best reflect that mood.

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