Parties that suffered the electoral wipe-outs that the Green’s did, at both the locals in 2009 and the general in 2011, sometimes do not ever recover. But there are still around, and I’m sure the John Gormley era is something that they are desperate for the electorate to forget. New election, new candidates.
Your Kildare North Green candidate is Maebh Ní Fhallúin, a health policy specialist at the Royal College of Physicians with no electoral history that I can find.
Ní Fhallúin’s website contains a decent policy section for you to peruse. An obvious environmental focus, but God knows Ireland needs a party that will actually do that. There’s nothing in here that I would find objectionable at all really, and plenty to agree with: investment in renewable energy, refocusing of resources for mental health and suicide risks, water charge reform, capping of public transport fares, just a few that I was able to pick out. On the other hand, it’s all a bit pie in the sky, with no acknowledgement that the Greens will be a tiny party should they ever get into the Dail, and what the red-lines are, something I find essential for candidates of smaller parties to elaborate on. There’s also little elaboration on her tax views, beyond promising a fairer model. She’s consistent on the likes of WhichCandidate and The Journal too, always coming back to jobs in clean industries, carers allowance and housing. She’s also the only candidate in Kildare North that I can see that has more than the usual pleasantries to say about the Irish language, though I am personally ambivalent about all of that.
Will it matter at all though? Kildare has never been fertile ground for the Green Party. The first election they contested there, in 1989, they picked up less than 3% of the vote, then 2% in the next, then finished last in the next two. Shane FitzGerald led a brief resurgence during the time of the party’s greatest national popularity, finishing middle of the pack in 2007 before dropping over half his votes in 2011, before falling short as the Green’s sole Kildare candidate in the last locals (he quit the party to join Renua recently, and is running for them this year: more on him later).
All of this would seem to indicate that Ní Fhallúin has little chance, and that’s basically it. Much like AAA-PBP, but to an even harsher extent post-2011, the Greens like to make a show of being a truly national party by running in as many constituencies as they can: in fact, I think they are running in all of them. But the Greens are well aware that it is with their leader, Eamon Ryan in Dublin Bay South, that their best, and really only, chance for winning a seat lies, and will surely be prioritising much of their limited resources there. The last locals saw the beginning of a national recovery with a decent gain in seats, and that needs to be continued with the winning of even the smallest Dail representation. It’s a long game, and people like Ní Fhallúin aren’t capable of accelerating that process, with small, underfunded campaigns in constituencies where they have little public presence and a tiny base of support.
And that really is a shame, because notwithstanding the disaster that was their time in government, Ireland needs a functioning Green Party, to be a voice for environmental issues at a time when other parties are content to relegate this critical subject to the backseat, and as a credible centre-left choice now that Labour has become so tarnished. The Greens won’t forget what happened before, and I like that they have refused to vanish into the night over the last five years. They’re weak on topics like law and order policies, but much stronger than other parties when it comes to housing, homelessness and healthcare. Moreover, Ní Fhallúin has impressed me with her confident attitude in interviews and positive campaigning. I’ll happily give her a high preference – I’m thinking #2 as it stands – but I’m well aware that this a mostly symbolic gesture.
Barring an electoral shock of unprecedented proportions, Ní Fhallúin will not win a seat. Aside from getting a spotlight of some kind on her key issues and potentially garnering attention for a serious local run, a victory would be to get over the 5% mark in terms of first preference share, and to be reasonably well-placed in the likely mid-pack of Merriman, Young, O’Rourke and FitzGerald. Failure would be to maintain the Greens’ low fortunes and to be an also ran at the bottom of the pile.
Next up, Independents.