Weekend Campaign Gist: Doldrums and the end of the world

Weekend Campaign Gist: Doldrums and the end of the world

As it’s a weekend, Campaign Gist takes a slightly different format.

The election campaign seems to be running in some distant, sealed part of the country. This isn’t necessarily from any lack of local effort by candidates. Doubtless, doors are being knocked on, hands shaken at shopping centres and poster-related ire has reached record levels in the political classes. Though difficulties mustering volunteer efforts in the dark and bitter gloom of January may explain some of the lack of boots on the ground.

Perhaps it’s a sense of disengagement from the whole process. The Irish voting system lets voters express their wildest electoral desires at No. 1, while still letting them fall back to 2nd and 3rd etc choices. It should result in a fantastically plural campaign, with every preference potentially the one that will get the last TD elected.

And yet we’ve been treated to a campaign- and this is hardly the fault of the parties- which has been presented as FG v FG, with everyone else an afterthought.

This is a a return to a model of viewing public discussion from the 1980s. Except the two big parties used to capture nearly 80% of the first preference votes and now account for hardly half. That a state of affairs that hasn’t been in place for 30 years is still considered a return to normalcy is a reflection of the mental ages of those thinking about it.

The result is a campaign where half the voters (the half not represented by the Old Firm) are ignored while the parties themselves seem to talk past them, at each other’s supporters.

FG, a party whose identity is bound up with beef farming, has proved ineffective in acting on the many flashing red lights about Ireland’s need to cut carbon output. At last count it was going to pay €150m in fines, to compensate for its indifference to saving the world from mass extinction and social breakdown by missing Ireland’s quite mild EU target reductions.

Today, it set out its stall for more of the same, with the Taoiseach making his lead policy an attack on the Green Party for actually proposing to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by the amount recommended to meet our targets before 2030.

Here, as elsewhere, FG may be misreading the nation, by mistaking their own priorities for everyone else’s. Earlier in the week it was banging on about Brexit, a slice of eaten and forgotten bread if ever there was one. Now it is offering itself as the party to refuse to act on climate change.

Agriculture is Ireland’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, making up more than 30% of the total, while representing less than 10% of GNI or employment. Farmers are being squeezed for their beef by the processors, but the rest of us are paying a very heavy price too.

We pay some now, to change how we generate and use power and how agriculture manages its environmental costs, or we pay later, when we’ve no choice, and the bill is Everything.

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