THE FORMATION of Ireland’s new government on June 27th, after 140 days of haggling, brings to office a novel coalition. Not only will the old rivals of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael ally for the first time since the Irish civil war roughly a century ago, but the two parties of the centre-right will join forces with the 29-year-old Green Party. Under the new taoiseach, Micheal Martin, the coalition is promising a green new deal that would slash carbon emissions by 7% a year. Though still rare, once-improbable alliances of climate activists and conservatives are becoming increasingly fashionable in Europe. The covid-19 pandemic could well foster more such coalitions.
“Greencon” alliances are for now marriages of convenience, born of the fragmentation of European politics that is forcing parties of all stripes to contemplate new partnerships. There are areas on which greens and conservatives are unlikely ever to agree, notably defence and foreign policy. Nonetheless both sides have done a lot of evolving in recent years. And the pandemic is painting the political landscape an ever deeper shade of green, which politicians of the centre-right are as eager to exploit.
Traditionally, greens have been happier with partners to the left of centre. In Germany they joined a “red-green” government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) between 1998 and 2005. But in Germany and elsewhere, the greens have overtaken the old centre-left as the appeal of old-style socialism has faded and that of environmentalism has bloomed. Greens might once have been cranky idealists but have become eager to exercise power and accept the inevitable compromises that come with it.