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18th Apr 2023

Opinion: The not-so-green Green Party Leader

Rory Fleming

Green Party Eamon Ryan

Amidst all the talk surrounding the housing crisis, the issue of transportation in the nation’s capital has fallen by the wayside.

Dublin, Ireland. A city so rich in history and culture, but one that has also managed to seamlessly transition into a burgeoning tech hub for some of the globe’s most well-recognised corporations.

Surely then, Ireland’s Capital is the embodiment of a contemporary European City? Breaking free of the shackles of austerity and boldly advancing into a new utopian age of prosperity?

Dublin is one of the few major cities in Western Europe without a rail link to its airport. (Credit: Rolling News)

Well, not quite. Let’s park the hotly-discussed housing crisis to one side for a fleeting moment, and instead take a look at one of the other principal issues which is holding this magnificent city back from taking its’ rightful place amongst Europe’s elite urban centres.

The issue of course, is that of transportation. Anyone who has been to any major European city will be aware of the quite incredulous drop in standards Dublin endures when compared to its continental neighbours, despite the Irish capital’s supposed status as a sprawling beacon of 21st century progressivism.

From city-wide cycle lanes, to free public transportation, and even the hedonistic notion of a railway line to the city’s airport (a never-before heard of infrastructural concept on these shores), Europe’s urban centres are leaving Dublin behind in a trail of eco-friendly dust.

Now, given the presence of the Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, in the role of Minister for Transport, many might have thought that these issues would be rectified for commuters in the nation’s Capital. But as it turns out, political ineptitude is a plight which doesn’t organise itself along party lines- but rather appears to infect anyone who steps foot inside the coalition’s cabinet.

In the first half of 2022 alone, Dublin Bus was fined a sum of €1.5 million due to high rates of absenteeism and delays. (Credit: Rolling News)

Dublin’s public transport woes:

For many years now, the Irish public have long been fed the rhetoric from environmental campaigners and even the Green Party themselves, that embracing public transport is the way of the future.

Cost effective and better for the environment, what’s not to love? Apart from the exorbitant pricing and far too frequent absenteeism which plagues the capital’s public transport infrastructure.

Just last year, Eamon Ryan remarked how “decarbonising transport presents an enormous challenge, one which requires a fundamental change in how we travel including a shift in our mindset and choices”.

All well and good, however the Minister for Transport’s comments regarding “a fundamental change in how we travel” appear to not have extended to Dublin’s public transport system.

In the first half of 2022 alone, Dublin Bus was fined a sum of €1.5 million, Go-Ahead Ireland an additional €850,000 and the Luas a staggering €2.67 million, due to their frequent no-shows and all-too-often delays.

And in the unfortunate event that your chosen mode of public transportation fails to turn up, Dublin’s dearth of taxis will attempt to compound the misery of your elongated commute, with hailing a cab about as likely as a Dublin Bus appearing on time.

Under the stewardship of Mr. Ryan, the Green Party has been plagued by inconsistencies in policy. (Credit: Rolling News)

Inconsistencies in policy:

“I long for a city where the car can truly be the last option people consider”, were the remarks of Green Party councillor Carolyn Moore last September, another glaring contradiction to the actions of her party leader.

With the cost of living crisis spiralling, a movement was born across social media which sought to introduce free public transport across Dublin, with many noting its successful trialling in places such as Luxembourg and Estonia, or even Germany’s monthly rail pass with unlimited access for the miserly fee of €49.

In response to this campaign, the government instead adopted a compromise of sorts last May, when it introduced a blanket reduction of 20% to all public transport fares in the greater Dublin region, with a further 30% reduction for those aged under 25.

Speaking to the concerted push for free public transport, a cause one might assume a Green Party leader would be championing, Minister Ryan instead labelled the movement as “ridiculous”, citing his belief that it would only lead to “an increase in the level of unnecessary trips”.

The introduction of free transport is backed by the argument that it would aid in the removal of financial barriers, create more equal access to transport, lower rates of harmful emissions and incentivise the use of the services to the fullest extent.

Those who wish to detract from the argument though, can only cite its cost to the taxpayer as the central tenet of their opposition, one which falls flat on its face in the wake of the €5 billion surplus experienced by the Exchequer in 2022.

With the elimination of all fares costing a little over 10% of this budgetary surplus, at €550 million, the financial clout to implement such a policy is certainly available should Minister Ryan see fit.

The Luas service is set to be expanded under new plans. (Credit: Rolling News)

Where does the city’s transport infrastructure go from here?:

Eamon Ryan believes that the way of the future is to “walk or cycle instead of using public transportation”, but for those of us who don’t fancy a 12km round hike from Terenure to Stephens Green and back, how will the public transport situation improve?

Well, in a welcome move by the National Transport Authority of Ireland, a new guide to the improvement of the city’s public transport infrastructure was laid out to the public in February.

Included in the framework is a €25 billion investment fund, which will finance the plan for the next two decades. This money will be primarily funnelled into projects such as the long-awaited Metrolink and also additional Luas lines.

Dublin Bus are also currently in the process of undertaking a sweeping recruitment drive, as the organisation seeks to mitigate the effects which pandemic-induced staff shortages have had on the rates of absenteeism and delays.

As for the Minister for Transport’s plans other than promoting the benefits of cycling and walking, there remains a cloud of uncertainty as to how the Capital’s short-to-medium term public transport issues will be dealt with.

The aforementioned price reductions in fares expire at the end of this year, and as of writing this piece, no indication has been provided that this provision will be extended.

However, with a muted November General Election in the offing, and the Green Party stagnating at just 5% in the latest voters’ intentions poll, it appears that Mr. Ryan’s days at the helm of Dublin’s public transport fiasco may be numbered.

The not-so-green Green Party leader, irony personified.

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