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McHugh denies Green Party rift


Edwin McGreal

Green Party candidate for Mayo Saoirse McHugh has denied there is a rift between her and party leader Éamon Ryan.
It comes after she admitted she is against party policy on the carbon tax on RTÉ’s Prime Time last week.
That was mere days after MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who has been canvassing with McHugh, slammed the Green Party leader on social media and said McHugh getting elected would be Ryan’s ‘worst nightmare’.
McHugh voiced her opposition last Tuesday night when quizzed about her stance by presenter Miriam O’Callaghan.
“I personally don’t support a carbon tax. I think this is why we need rural Greens because not everything can be transposed from Dublin and make sense in terms of climate action across Ireland,” she said.
Speaking to The Mayo News, McHugh said while she disagrees with Ryan and has made her views known before this point, the two are not at loggerheads over this.
“There is no rift between myself and Éamon. Do we agree on everything? No. We are all not robots who follow the party line on every single point. There are elements of policy I’m seeking to have reviewed and the carbon tax is one of them.
“It has to be pointed out that what we have in place currently is Fine Gael’s carbon tax and I certainly won’t be supporting that until I see evidence that alternatives would be made available.
“Éamon is more trusting of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to implement changes needed than I am. I’m looking at their track record and it seems that the government is open to climate action once it doesn’t involve taking actions on the largest of companies,” she said.
Rural perspective
McHugh said she is looking at the issue from a rural perspective.
“We are all products of our environment and Éamon is looking at carbon tax from a Dublin point of view where it is much more possible to have alternatives and cut down your carbon footprint. I’m from Achill and we are very limited in what we can do given our rural existence, remoteness and poor public transport. I simply could not live here without my car.
“It has to be added too that carbon tax is such a small part of climate action. We need a whole range of measures to implement the change needed but any change has to be cogniscent of the starting point of each person, each place. Putting in a blanket carbon tax is the very definition of an inequitable tax and I hope my party colleagues will see it that way,” said McHugh.

Car pooling
She also said comments made by Ryan about car pooling in rural areas were poorly made but not an indication of party policy.
“Éamon made comments about car pooling. It wasn’t and isn’t Green Party policy. He was talking about some of the things that might be discussed in the future, he was generating discussion, not suggesting policy,” she said.
McHugh, who had previously said she would not like to see the Greens go into Government with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, said she would now ‘decide depending on any programme for government’, if she was elected.
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan canvassed with McHugh on Sunday, January 26 in Castlebar and has canvassed with her on several occasions. He posted pictures from that canvass on his Facebook page on Sunday evening which drew criticism about him canvassing with a Green Party candidate because of Éamon Ryan’s comments about car pooling.
“Saoirse McHugh getting elected would be his (Ryan’s) worst nightmare. She knows what it’s like to live in rural Ireland. She does not share his daft opinion on one car for ten families,” replied Flanagan, adding he did not think McHugh would tow the party line.
Responding to those comments, McHugh said she disagreed with some of the criticisms.
“Ming has his opinion and I have mine. We are both passionate about rural Ireland. Éamon has helped to set a green agenda in this country. I just feel it is important rural Greens are part of that discussion to give it better balance,” she said.
Speaking to national media last Wednesday about McHugh’s views on the carbon tax, Ryan said it would ultimately be the parliamentary party which decided what the Greens would do next if they had a successful outing at the ballot box.
“Everyone knows Saoirse has a different view on that. It’s a party which allows for different views. If you completely control ideas or what’s possible then maybe you miss something,” he said.