The Greens are raising eyebrows all over the country as news breaks of a leadership election in the midst of government formation talks. The party insists on its constitutional right to do so. As for the national interest...
Well, the Greens are different, aren't they? That messy business of running the country under the most extraordinary circumstances imaginable may not look as attractive as it once did.
But what I am wondering is whether we can afford to go full-on green right now? This would have been a crazy question three short months ago, when school children were striking for climate change and Greta Thunberg was an international celebrity. But Covid-19 has pushed even poor Greta out of the headlines and climate action increasingly seems like a luxury we can't afford with the great recession looming ahead of us all.
Covid-19 is a crisis which has impacted all of our lives, battered the global economy and left no Irish business untouched. Covid-19 is not just a shutdown. Recovery will take years and the aftershocks will likely fundamentally reshape Irish industries and society. Two weeks ago, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe put the expected deficit for this year at €23.5bn. Now his figure is €30bn or so and nobody has batted an eyelid.
In the middle of all this the combo of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens, with a smattering of Independents, is our only real opportunity of a stable government. But the Green Party is insisting climate action won't play second fiddle to managing the pandemic. The party doesn't seem to be budging on its 17 demands. Yup, 17 of them. These demands might have been realistic three months ago but they sound foolish at a time more than a million people are relying on the state for their income.
Even back in February, climate change didn't really rate as a big issue during the campaign. When asked what was "most important to you in deciding how to vote" for the Ipsos MRBI exit poll at February's election, health and housing were the major factors. Only 6pc of us cited climate change as a factor in how we voted. The Green Party won 7pc of the vote in our pre-pandemic country - a fairly weak performance - and maybe reflective of the fact outsourcing our green conscience solely to the Greens is outdated.
All parties should have a green conscience and the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil policy document has some very, let's call them, aspirational ideas about dealing with climate change. In response to the Greens' demands, the two parties issued a joint document in which they agreed with the Green Party there is "now just a decade to make the changes necessary to halt the warming of our planet and to save our natural world".
They committed to introducing a new climate bill within the first 100 days of a new government which will enshrine in law the target of carbon neutrality by 2050. It is very ambitious and more designed to seduce the Greens into a coalition than to please voters.
Some of the party's demands were unrealistic even before the virus. A key Green demand to cut emissions by 7pc could cost €40bn and force decisions on the size of the national herd, agricultural practices and the use of nuclear power.
New research - 'Is the new Green Party emissions reduction target feasible and what would it mean for the energy system?' - undertaken by University College Cork's Marei Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, says the party's 7pc emissions reduction targets would require "transformative changes" impacting every aspect of people's lives.
The 2019 Climate Action plan proposes to cut Ireland's total emissions by more than 3pc to 45 million tonnes by 2030. And many experts say that would be overstretching ourselves. Meanwhile, notions such as retro-fitting every home in the country are important and would eventually save money, but those savings would take years or decades to achieve and we just can't afford them for the moment.
I get it. I know we are causing severe and potentially irreversible changes to the climate, essentially baking our planet and ourselves with carbon dioxide. I'm not advocating throwing in any towels. The worst thing you can do about climate change is nothing.
Climate change is a huge problem and, to face it, we have to be willing to make personal sacrifices. It is our responsibility not only to future generations but also to each other - right here, right now. The Covid-19 lockdown has cut emissions. We've become used to a different kind of urban life and there are movements fighting to turn city streets over to pedestrians and cyclists. There are petitions that the Phoenix Park is kept car-free forever.
The work-from-home trend will likely continue for some of us, reducing commuters on our roads. We've all learned we can cook from scratch, sew buttons into shirts instead of throwing them out and survive without multiple foreign holidays. We are ordering fewer takeaways, growing more food and making less waste. We can continue making these changes while climate adaptation remains too costly.
We'll do our part. But we need a government instead of a country run by Nphet. And if the Green Party is really interested in serving its voters, there is no better time than a state of national emergency to step up, make some concessions and start leading us through the post-Covid financial mess.