Daniel Murray’s ESG newsletter: Sinn Féin tacks right on environment too

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I found myself out of breath trying to keep up with the changing positions of Irish MEPs on the Nature Restoration Law this week.

A watered-down version of the law passed in the European Parliament on Tuesday, by 329 votes to 275.

But not before a bit of party rebellion and role swapping by Irish MEPs from both sides of the divide.

The European People’s Party (EPP), of which Fine Gael is a member, had led a vociferous campaign against the law, in what many believe was in reaction to growing farmer protests against the European Green Deal.

The difficult politics of environmental regulation has not been helped by the nearing European elections, and the pressure on many domestic governments from anti-climate action and anti-immigration parties to their right.

Yet for the second time in the last year, Ireland’s five Fine Gael MEPs rebelled against the consensus position of the EPP, and voted in favour of the law.

The rebel alliance were quick to brandish their credentials as heroes on this occasion, though it shouldn’t be forgotten that they were instrumental in the initial weakening of the law that took place last summer.

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Then on the other side of the floor, the Left Group had reached their own decision on supporting the law. All the soundings from group member Sinn Féin had been that it too would be supporting the final passage of the law.

Chris MacManus, the party’s only MEP, stated last June that the amended text of the law struck “a balance for nature and farmers”.

In a statement at the time, he said that Sinn Féin had engaged constructively to ensure a “holistic law that we could then support” and that this was now “reflected in the final negotiated text” at the European Environmental Committee.

Just three weeks ago, MacManus responded to protests by saying farmers in Ireland and across Europe needed to be listened to, but appeared to back the law, as he called for the Irish government to “adhere to the flexibility in the nature restoration law framework”.

Yet surprisingly, MacManus himself rebelled against his group’s position, along with Independent MEP Luke Ming Flanagan, and voted against the law.

While MacManus and Sinn Féin both insisted in the aftermath that his vote was reflective of the party’s overall position, its clear this is yet another issue that is causing division.

Lynn Boylan, the party’s Seanad spokeswoman on the environment, described the passing of the law as “great news”, despite her party colleague voting against it.

Sinn Féin’s official position was that the law hadn’t gone far enough in providing new funding streams for farmers to meet nature restoration targets. But a more cynical observer might conclude that with the party under pressure in the polls, this was tack to the right by the unashamedly populist Sinn Féin, not dissimilar to its recent shifts on immigration.

The party is becoming adept at dressing up conservative positions as liberal causes. They want a debate on immigration because otherwise anti-immigrant sentiment will thrive. And now they are against the Nature Restoration Law, because it doesn’t provide the means to actually restore nature sufficiently.

It is clever politics, allowing the party to speak out of both sides of its mouth to differing audiences in different locations. As local and European elections approach, and a possible general election, Sinn Féin appear to be doubling down on its policy of following the people.

It brings to mind a quote from the French revolutionary Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: "There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader."

Thanks for reading,



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Third annual PwC Business Post Sustainable Business Awards

The PwC Business Post Sustainable Business Awards has been confirmed for its third annual edition on the 21st of March 2024, recognising leadership, innovation, investment and ingenuity in the areas of Environment, Social and Governance ( ESG ).

Past winners of the awards include An Post, Bus Eireann, Bord na Mona and University College Cork.

We are very pleased to note the growing momentum of our Sustainable Business Awards Showcase events, which highlight the best practice found at winning organisations, and provide a network and inspiration to those seeking to become our next award winners.

David McGee, PwC Ireland ESG Leader, said the awards “celebrate best in class Irish businesses across a wide range of ESG categories that invest in and promote sustainable practices, innovation and leadership.

Entries are now closed. The shortlist of nominees can be read here. Best of luck to all entrants.

For further information contact Chris Flood at the Business Post: