Green Party general election candidate Saoirse McHugh has said that she would respect the decisions of her party regarding the Carbon Tax or going into a coalition government post-election.
Ms McHugh, who is running in the Mayo constituency, recently stated on Prime Time that she disagrees with her party’s position on the recently-introduced carbon tax. However, the Achill islander played down the extent of the disagreement.
Speaking outside of McHale Park in Castlebar Ms McHugh said: “The carbon tax is such a minor aspect in terms of climate action and overall Green Party policy that it doesn’t really matter so much if we disagree. It was just one tiny part of the overall systematic change that we need. We can make life better for ourselves. it doesn’t have to be seen through this prism of a carbon tax which is so narrow-minded and doesn’t address the real problems upstream”.
She insisted that other measures such as public transport, renewable energy and the re-structuring of agricultural payments would form part of a much broader climate strategy. Ms McHugh also highlighted the need to rejuvenate rural town centres and support small and medium enterprises, which she said: “have a much lower carbon footprint”.
Ms McHugh also insisted that carbon tax was “Fine Gael’s carbon tax” which didn’t match up with the Green’s proposed a “fee and dividend model” which would help poorer households offset increased fuel and energy prices.
Ms McHugh recently stated in a video with Joe.ie that she wouldn’t like the Green Party to prop up either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil as coalition partners.
While modestly pointing out that she “hadn’t even been elected”, she said: “I will not decide what the Green Party does. That will be down to the membership. I personally would only go into coalition based on a programme for government that I felt that I could stand over. One that would address climate action, end homelessness, end direct provision and deliver a proper single-tier health system”.
When asked about why some notable prior climate predictions hadn’t come to pass, she maintained that climate change still needed to be addressed and that the worst effects will be felt gradually rather than all at once. She cited the 2018 heatwave, poor water quality and above-average emissions among the reasons for Ireland to undertake climate action.
Appetite for change
Having canvassed all over Mayo over the past month, the Achill island native insists that there is an appetite for change among voters in the county.
“Across the board, I’ve been hearing people say; ‘For the first time ever I’m not voting for Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael’. Maybe they always say that, but it’s notable the amount of people that say they’re not voting for either party.”
She also that there is an increased awareness among voters of the importance of climate and environmental issues.
“There’s definitely a big section of people who realise that environmental policies for somewhere like Mayo could be a huge opportunity for us. Climate action is not a separate policy area. It will be embedded in every other policy area that we have. It will be embedded in our transport, housing, town-planning, agriculture.”
Saoirse McHugh finished seventh in the Ireland North West constituency in last year’s European elections, securing over 50,000 first preference votes.