Without question the story of the elctions in Ireland is the “Green Comeback” as the Green Party emerges as a major player in the Local Elections and judging by tallies only the European Elections too. This comes almost 10 years after the party was completely wiped out at the polling booths follwoing their coalition with Fianna Fáil in the government that oversaw the collapse of the Irish economy. The two traditional major players in Irish politics and some would describe as “Government partners” (eventhough it is a confidence and supply arrangement) Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have, it appears an equal share of the spoils. This will certainly not be a welcome outcome for either party. The loss of a significant number of seats in the local councils by Sinn Fein, particularly in Dublin is a major talking point and has put Mary Lou McDonald’s leadership under scrutiny, again.
The Divorce Referendum has been passed by a huge majority. This means that the government can decide how long couples must be living apart before they can apply to the courts to diveorce. At present that time is four years out of the previous five years and now the likely outcome is that the time will be reduced to two years out of the previous three.
While the European Election figures will not be available until after all the polling stations across Europe close there is just a tally figure to work on but to date what is clear is that there could be as many a four by-elections in the offing in the coming months as sitting Dáil Deputies look set to head to Brussels.
There is no result from the Plebiscites in Limerick, Waterford, Galway and Cork but on Saturday the Fianna Fáil Leader, Micháel Martin was suggesting that they would be defeated. There is not as much national coverage of this story yet as it doesn’t involve Dublin and most of the rest of the country.
There is great speculation on what is now going to happen particularly since the Green Party has made such ground. As with all mid-term elections the inevitable “should there be a General Election” question has been raised. There is no appetite from the major parties to go to the voters in a General Election BUT what has been very clear in the past 24 hours is the noises coming from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in particular trying to “out-green” each other. What looks very likely is that all parties are now concerned that the Green agenda is very much on people’s minds. One would suggest that if those in Dáil Eireann were even remotely in touch with the feelings on the ground they would already know that. There is concern that as is the norm in Ireland, panic will set in across the political spectrum and rather than finding reasonable, tangible and effective programmes and initiatives to address climate action and support the environment we will just be landed with more taxes.
There is already talks of increased carbon taxes in the next budget in October. Should that be the case these taxes will most likely be “blamed” on the public’s desire to be greener and take decisive action in relation to the climate and the environment in general. However, if that is the case will there be an opportunity for a giveaway budget in preparation for a General Election in the comng 12 months?
In the coming days the counts will conclude and the true picture will emerge and when the dust settles we will see what exactly these votes mean for Ireland but for now it is interesting to watch the scramble.