The Programme For Government 2020

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My past week has been consumed by the proposed Programme for Government in which the Green Party, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael lay out their shared “Vision For Change”. I have been directly involved in the writing of four press releases, three of them welcoming the PFG and one rejecting it. Having had the time to explore the content, weigh up the science, listen to lots and lots of opinions, engaged in many conversations I hope my insight is helpful.

Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations and groups are very keen on this proposed policy being accepted. Many of the proposals are well received having been central to campaigns for a long time. For example, if the PFG is implemented, the end could be in sight for Shannon LNG, a project that has consumed opposition groups around the world as well as Ireland, including Futureproof Clare.

Here are some press releases

  • Programme for Government offers promise of faster and fairer climate action, says Climate Coalition, Stop Climate Chaos
  • Our best chance of faster and fairer climate action over the next 5 years says Friends of the Earth
  • Programme for Government: A timely boost for climate action in Ireland from An Taisce
  • Scrapping Shannon LNG will mean we can focus on futureproofing Clare – response to proposed Programme for Government 2020 says Futureproof Clare
  • Environmental Pillar response to the published Programme for Government

There are also fears that all environmental promises won’t be fully implemented or that some issues may not make the cut when the budgets come around. Then there’s the fact that many of the proposals are not new having been on the national Climate Action Plan since it’s launch in 2019 or the proposed Climate Action Bill amendment . That’s something I kept thinking while the details were coming out. Some comparisons are laid out by Ronan Fitzpatrick on Twitter.

However, having them front and centre of the PFG is a whole other focus. One where they will be harder to ignore or shelve, as with so many climate and environmental policies to date.

I was also involved with the Extinction Rebellion press release as one of many people in XR who watched the process evolve, compared the facts, checked the feasibility, weighed up the science and focused on whether this PFG could deliver on adequate Climate Action and a Just Transition. In its present form it is just not good enough to do either for many reasons. Here is the XR press release.

The very fact that we have a movement called Extinction Rebellion identifies the fact that government after government has failed to address the climate and biodiversity crises. Some members of XR have watched our environment worsen, campaigned for it’s protection, proposed policy to prevent disaster and basically trusted the system to do the right thing.  Others in XR have watched their parents and grand parents do so. Many have become aware and are shocked that generations have failed to act. Policy has not worked. Politicians have not sorted it. Society is mostly oblivious to the consequences of inaction. The urgency of the situation is lost in compromising to get one of many asks delivered and we have run out to time for compromise.

The bottom line with government is that people trust that their representatives will fulfil on their promises and do what’s right. That representatives will have the guts to go in and steer the civil service in the direction it needs to go, in order to implement policy that has been agreed by the people of the country.

Now these three political parties must consult their members on whether or not they agree with the proposed Programme for Government. Green Party members have to vote on the proposal and because some of them have asked for my opinion I have written this blog. The party is divided because the deal is not everything we need to ensure a Just Transition. None of the press releases I was involved in called for party members to vote either way and I believe that is the way it should be. However, based on the feedback I’m getting, XR rejecting it has impacted GP members most in my opinion. Having considered that here are my thoughts.

I firmly believe that XR being honest about the PFG, independent and critical is better for all parties going into government. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party will be under pressure from XR and all environmental organisations to perform.

XR rejected the PFG but didn’t advise anything or call on anyone else to reject it. They merely laid out the truth as they see it having analysed it for hours. Everybody knows this policy is totally inadequate to prevent runaway climate change and XR is obliged to tell the truth. The PFG is completely devoid of a plan to ensure that agriculture and biodiversity can live side by side in a way that regenerates nature and values farmers, the stewards of our land.

This shows that XR is not in the pocket of any political party and aren’t willing to compromise. The Green Party is not the environmental movement in Ireland. I’m personally a member of People Before Profit. Either way when this deal is decided and if the GP go into government that distinction puts everyone, especially the GP in a better position because XR is committed to a Just Transition. If XR were influenced by the GP then this PFG would be a win across the board for potential inaction by the other partners in government. Not all of the green movement is in this coalition and the rest of us will be watching very closely! I would not like to be voting on this PFG in these circumstances. It’s easy dismiss it as it stands alone.

Going into government demonstrates a willingness to try. Walking out having tried could be heroic so long as it doesn’t mean tolerating time wasting. The politicians have to do their job, NGOs have a role to play and activists must own their part.

Theresa O’Donohoe

June 20th 2020


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