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The Left Archive: The Green Party Election Manifesto 1989 September 1, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Green Party, Irish Left Online Document Archive.

A guest post from Pidge who is developing a parallel resource to the Irish Left Archive at the Irish Election Manifesto Archive.


I always used to think that the Green Party was crazy. It was one of
those lazy, cheap stereotypes that helps mask a gap in your knowledge,
and acts as a simple way to dismiss a group. Thanks to a few friendly
arguments (largely on Politics.ie – from its current state you’d never
guess that anything constructive ever comes of it), I came to see the
error of my ways, and decided to get involved in the party. I went to
my first meeting with a friend towards the end of 2006, and I’ve been
fairly active since. One of the main things I like about the party is
the sense (whether justified or not) that it’s simply the initial
drizzle of a coming downpour. I often get the impression that the
widespread adoption of the broader Green agenda is inevitable
(although, I can’t help but wonder if the Labour Party in the late
sixties thought the same about their own agenda).

Reading through the 1989 Green Party manifesto, I can find
justification for both views I’ve held about the party. There’s
certainly a healthy dash of oddness in the document, but there’s a
surprising amount of foresight too.

Take, for example, the half page discussion of climate change. In
1989, I can’t imagine that many people were talking about climate
change, on any part of the political spectrum. Yet, there’s a half
page which outlines the primary causes of anthropogenic climate
change, the basic mechanisms involved and loose solution. There’s also
stuff about recycling, cycle lanes, CFCs/Ozone, acid rain and urban
conservation. Issues which have, by and large, entered into the
standard political lexicon in Ireland. For example, every manifesto in
the last general election mentioned climate change, recycling and
renewable energy. That’s quite a shift.

The more interesting and zany parts of the manifesto can be found
mainly on page 8 in the section entitled “Work”, which doesn’t really
acknowledge any of the pitfalls of removing all disincentives to not
working. The tone of the section “Women & Society” seems out of place
and over-aggressive. The line at the end of the section reads “This
section is being reviewed by the Women’s Group”, which strikes me as
one of the compromises which were apparently typical of the early

I won’t keep prattling on, but it’s an interesting document to read.
Many of the issues have been taken into the political mainstream
(albeit in a watered-down way), and some have fallen by the wayside.
All the same, it provides an interesting backdrop to where the Greens
currently are, and how much the party has changed since those days.

On an aside, I scanned this document as part of the Irish Election
Manifesto Archive, a project I started working on out of sheer
boredom. I’m attempting to create a single site where you can access
digital copies of party political manifestos from throughout Irish
history. If anyone has any documents which they think might be
suitable (either on paper or digital), I’d really appreciate a copy.
All contributors will, of course, be credited fully.


1. Wednesday - September 1, 2008

The tone of the section “Women & Society” seems out of place
and over-aggressive.

Heh, I had the exact opposite reaction to it. I found it at the same time cynical and bland, as though the authors were trying to use the language of women’s liberation without actually saying anything. I have no idea what “We call for adequate alternatives to be developed to medical and technocratic control of reproduction” actually means, and why were they “particularly” opposed to porn and sexist advertising? Were those really their idea of the most pressing women’s issues?


2. WorldbyStorm - September 1, 2008

Yeah, I’d tend to agree Wednesday. That’s a mighty odd statement they make there… although I’m presuming that it has some reference to ‘natural’ childbirth (see the Health section further on). I don’t want to get on my high horse about such things, but I experienced similar approaches from student based womens groups who were sometimes overly exercised about marginal issues of advertising sexism and pornography (and indeed language although as I’ve mentioned before I’m a bit of a fan of Mary Daly, in the abstract at least) – which in an Irish context in 1988 when the former wasn’t quite as bad say as in the North and the latter was underground for all intents and purposes – (bar reproductive rights, which they tended to be spot on about) and had little practical interest in childcare, parity of pay, support structures for actual breathing working class women. The social composition of such groups might have been part of the problem. It’s not that they were wrong, just that they were focusing on areas that were high profile for the wrong reasons. Then again, I could easily make the same statement about many many student activist/political groups of all stripes. I’m wondering what the GPs excuse was.


3. Pidge - September 1, 2008

I don’t really know what was going on then. The tone of that section (rather than the content) just struck me as fairly different from the rest of the manifesto. The little bit which suggests that it’s under review is probably the result of a compromise, since that always appears to be the kind of trick people use to get around actually reaching a consensus viewpoint.

Oh, WBS, I forgot to include the link to the archive itself.



4. Joe - September 1, 2008

Ah the Greens. Never to be forgiven for the local election in Dublin Nth East in 90/91(?). The WP candidate, a sound local woman, walked the streets for 4 weeks knocking on doors with a loyal but small bunch of canvassers including me (and you WBS?). Result – about 700 hard-won votes, most of which came from respect for said local candidate and for the work of the WP on the ground in the area. The Greens also fielded a candidate – a student who worked in their Head Office and spent the campaign working in San Francisco on a J1 visa (as far as I know they didn’t knock on a single door). Result – election to the City Council of course with 1000+ votes. Her name was Sadhbh something or other and she had the good sense to step down from the City Council when she realized the nature of the job. Yes, the Green victory of 90/91: NEVER FORGET, NEVER FORGIVE!


5. ejh - September 1, 2008

Not sure what point Joe is making here. If the Greens were able to top the WP vote with an absentee candidate, might it have been because what they said was more appealing to the electorate than what the WP said, regardless of the latter group’s fielding of an admirable candidate?


6. Conor McCabe - September 1, 2008

From what I can gather, the “sadhbh” in question refers to Siabh O´Neill, who stood in the Donaghmede area for the Greens in 1991. She received 809 first preference votes but was not elected. The candidates who won were: Liam Fitzgerald (FF), Martin Brady (FF), Sean Kenny (LAB), and Pat McCartan (WP). The WP candidate Joe seems to be referring to was Angela Loscher, who received 704 first preference votes. For more on this, see the Irish Times, 29 June 1991, page 13.


7. Joe - September 1, 2008

Indeed it might EJH. Absolutely, it might. I wasn’t really making any point, just reminiscing – at my age, reminiscing often beats making points!
Being a good democrat, my reaction should have been: “The people have spoken (the bastards).”
Now that I think of it, the WP ran two candidates and one was elected (Pat McCartan) so they outpolled the Greens by about two to one iirc. That might mean that what the WP said was more appealing to the electorate than what the Greens said.
But I still reserve the right to begrudge the f***ers!


8. Conor McCabe - September 1, 2008

All that knocking on doors, Joe, didn’t go to waste. Pat McCartan only got in on the final (12th) count. Were it not for Angela’s transfers, he wouldn’t have gotten the council seat.


9. WorldbyStorm - September 1, 2008

I wasn’t Joe. I was in London until latish 1991. But I recall the irritation at Siabh O’Neill getting the seat (and later giving it up). Worse though was what happened to McCartan’s local seat sometime later, if you recall…


10. soubresauts - September 1, 2008

Sadhbh O’Neill of the Green Party did get elected to the City Council for Donaghmede. Conor is mistaken.

While I must thank Pidge for his work on manifestos, I find some of his opinions odd, and even wrong-headed.

The more interesting and zany parts of the manifesto can be found mainly on page 8 in the section entitled “Work”, which doesn’t really acknowledge any of the pitfalls of removing all disincentives to not working.
Pitfalls? The 1989 Greens believed that everyone wants to do useful work, and we should remove obstacles to following your inclination and using your talents. Have the 2008 Greens lost faith in human nature?

In any case, all those arguments are closely linked to the Guaranteed Basic Income policy, which still remains at the heart of the Greens’ economic policy. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

The line at the end of the section reads “This section is being reviewed by the Women’s Group”, which strikes me as one of the compromises which were apparently typical of the early Greens.
Of course the 2008 Greens don’t compromise. Oh no. Not with Fianna Fáil, not with anybody. Compare the Planet Bertie speech… I suppose it depends on what you mean by “compromise”. Apparently for the 2008 Greens it means “caving in”.

Consensus decision-making was enormously important to the Greens in the early years. I believe it was a mistake to abandon it.

All the same, it provides an interesting backdrop to where the Greens currently are, and how much the party has changed since those days.

Certainly the party has changed a lot, but the policies and principles haven’t changed that much. It seems to me that the Greens these days have little regard for those policies and principles.

Would you not agree, Pidge, that the Greens now don’t care a whit about 80% of what’s in that 1989 manifesto?


11. Forrestreid - September 1, 2008

The fact that the manifesto had a bibliography was impressive!

What struck me is how much they had to say about agriculture, it seemed to be quite a priority for them then, or perhaps (like the minimum income) they just have less of a chance talk about it now.

The bit about being firmly opposed to coursing and blood sports raised a wry smile, I must admit. Ah, the realities of being in government!


12. Starkadder - September 1, 2008

The section in the manifesto about big cities like Dublin
lacking a sense of community-that struck me as being
in the vein of Irish Nationalism’s ruralist tradition
(Dev’s dancing at crossroads speech, etc.). Not sure
about some of the “neither Left nor Right nor Centre” stuff
either-that’s a fallacy that blighted early
Green movements. You have to pick one
of the three.


13. Pidge - September 1, 2008

I think soubresauts is taking some of my points and running with them. My criticism of the section “Work” wasn’t of the aspirational idea that work should be interesting to the person, but rather that the section neglected to look at what happens with jobs which just aren’t interesting to some people. I’ve got a job in a newsagent, which isn’t by any means bad work, but I’d drop it fairly quickly if there weren’t consequences to me stopping.

As for the comment on compromises, soubresauts assumes a criticism which just isn’t there. I wasn’t claiming that the Greens used to compromise but don’t any more, just that the nature of that paragraph seems characteristic of the kind of compromise engaged in. Instead of actually tackling an issue, a bland, pointless statement is included to point out that the position is under review, which, to me, says more about the way in which the policy was formed, as opposed to the policy itself.

As for the final question soubresauts poses, I’d say that a large, large majority of that text is still a big priority for the Greens. The style and tone has changed, and the GBI has dropped into the background, but it all remains much the same. Outside of the economics section, I don’t see much of a change in policy.


14. joemomma - September 1, 2008

By all accounts nobody was more surprised by her election than Sadhbh herself. It’s a bit much to blame your lack of electoral success on another candidate who didn’t specifically campaign against you – in this case she didn’t campaign at all!

Conor, your reference to the Irish Times is quite exact, although the result you quoted isn’t correct. What’s the story?


15. Sadhbh O Neill - October 27, 2009

Hello there guys. Funny to read about all that now! My name is Sadhbh O Neill (congrats to 2/3rds of you who got spelling correct) and let me confirm that yes I did get elected to Dublin City Council in 1991 but failed to win a Dail seat in 1992. I beat the FG candidate not the WP candidate to win the council seat, which I held for 5 years before retiring. My election was facilitated though not engineered by the WP and Labour guys at the count, who were about to leave when they realised I was giving FG a big challenge. They stayed back to fight over spoilt ballots and I won by 8 votes thanks to Pat McCartan and Sean Kenny. Was I surprised to win? Most definitely. It was actually a huge shock. I had been persuaded to stand on the basis that there was no hope of me winning, and that the absence of a campaign was not a problem – the greens just wanted to field a candidate to see what kind of baseline support might exist. Anything else you need to know?


16. Joe - October 27, 2009

Hi Sadhbh, I think I kind of started this with comment no.4. It’s time to move on so I forgive you for winning that seat! Since you ask is there anything else we need to know, I’ve a question. What was it like being a councillor on Dublin City Council for those 5 years? Did you feel like you were making a difference on anything?


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The Left Archive: The Green Party Election Manifesto 1989 | The Cedar Lounge Revolution


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