Dan Boyle: Our Germanic Cousins


from top: Co-Leaders of Germany’s Green Party Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock; Dan Boyle

In these trying times social media offers some forms of amusement, as well as many sources of frustration.

A friend on Twitter daily posts stills from classic films he is watching to get him through COVID. He challenges others to identify the film.

I quickly identified The Third Man (1949) as one of the films. I just as quickly let myself down when I identified Berlin as its locale, rather than the more obvious Vienna. I was tired.

Another excuse I would have proffered would be that I have been thinking a lot about Berlin and Vienna in recent times. More particularly about the fortunes of the respective Green parties in the countries of those capital cities.

In Germany, Die Grünen have been the template for the development of green politics throughout the world. There have been peaks and deep troughs in its political development.

At the time of German reunification the party lost all of its Bundestag seats in West Germany. It was thought that the party was not sufficiently identifying with the national mood. Although it was proven right about the economic cost of Helmut Kohl’s Ostmark policy.

Its parliamentary presence was barely maintained through a once off quirk in the German electoral system. This saw its newly acquired East German allies Bündis 90 winning a handful seats. The irony here is that, even thirty years later, East Germany is the part of the country where Green support is weakest.

Eight years later The Greens would not only have a restored presence in the Bundestag, it would be a party of government for the first time. A minority partner to the Social Democrats. It seemed a good fit.

It wasn’t without difficulties. It did manage to get re-elected though. Since 2005 it has been all about Angela Merkel.

Where The Greens in Germany have successfully become embedded is in State (Länder) government. There are sixteen such state governments. In 2020 The Greens find themselves a government party in eleven of these.

It coalesces with every political party in the State, with the exception of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, or the Alternative für Deutschland anywhere.

In one Länder, Baden-Württemberg, The Greens are the main party of government with the Christian Democrats the minority party.

Up until twelve months ago, The Greens seemed on course to become the most popular party in Germany. Since then Angela Merkel has had a significant COVID bounce. Her party, the Christian Democrats, has seen its support increase by over 50%.

Green support has slipped by 10% and is now on a par with that of the Social Democrats. With the impending German general election it seems it will be the choice of the Christian Democrats to decide which party with whom it should be in government.

Up until now the Austrian Greens have not been in government. In 2017 it contrived to almost put itself out of business. A bitter internal feud saw the party lose all its parliamentary seats.

By 2019 it had recovered and reentered parliament. Since January of this year it has been in government with the ÖVP the People’s Party, European allies of Fine Gael and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

The Greens replace, as a junior partner in government, the notorious far right Freedom Party. Since the election Green Party support there has increased. Support for the Freedom Party has nosedived.

Irish politics has become Europeanised. Government formation also needs to be seen in the same context. The quality that is most needed is not so much compatability (although that remains important) but of fluidity.

Being able to respond to circumstances as they are, not as you would prefer they ought to be, is what should inform negotiations, even with those who are not preferred.

In the meantime I’ll try not to mix up Berlin and Vienna again.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


24 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Our Germanic Cousins

  1. Truth in the News

    The Irish version of the “Die Grunden” failed miserably in their tenure of office
    with Fianna Fail from 2007 to 2011 and will repeat the same again in short order
    The critical economic activity that creates the income and foreign earnings is
    Agriculture and the like s of Ryan and several of his accolades know nothing
    about it ,only to lecture on methane, all that’s going on at present is the slow
    dance before the eventual marriage consummation, however like the drones
    in the beehive it ends in death.

    1. bisted

      …thankfully we have Greta and the Young ones giving the environmental message…shame on you greens jumping on the opportunist bandwagon…I really thought there were some idealists among you…you have betrayed those who gave you their preferences…

  2. Dan Boyle

    I see the usual suspects are making the usual non
    arguments. Predictable and very very repetitive. Cue more self righteous indignation at being called out….

    1. GiggidyGoo

      You’ve been called out here many times Dan – you’re quite an expert at self righteous indignation actually, followed by high-tailing it to avoid discussion.

    2. bisted

      …surprised to see you here Dan…thought you would be much too busy giving the benefit of your extensive experience as a negotiator…or have the new crop of young greens outdone even you in betraying their electoral base in pursuit of perks and pensions…

          1. Clampers Outside


            Btw, I liked the piece.

            I didn’t say that earlier as I got distracted by the link in the first comment.

          2. GiggidyGoo

            Yep Dan, you’ll be very fit with all that running away, muttering ‘Buy my book, its all in there’ (Remember that one Dan? The one you used not to discuss what went on in the Green Party – funny that isn’t it, that you won’t discuss it)

          3. Clampers Outside

            If you said what trope was supposedly on display wouldn’t that make more sense.

            Enlighten me, I could do with a giggle :)

          4. Clampers Outside

            Or, allow me so.

            One of your tropes would be your sniping style of commentary on these posts, that Dan has clearly recognised.

            Or another would be the constant reference to a past with FF.. which I’m sure has been noticed too.

            Any others?

          5. GiggidyGoo

            (+1). Now there’s a trope that fits the definition. ‘A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.“
            Neither you or Dan has used the word properly. That’s why I told you to look up the definition.

            Here’s a definition of ‘high-tailing’. ‘To go away or leave rapidly’ . As you see above, the bould Dan has that down to a fine art, especially when I, and many others ask him to account for the actions of his party. If he is prepared to write about the benefits of green, then he should also be prepared (in his capacity as the writer and a member, and a representative of a line f thought) to explain the actions of that organization.

          6. Clampers Outside

            It is used properly, you’re just not acknowledging your own tropes Goo.
            I’m fine with that.

          7. Clampers Outside

            Your own admission of repeated requests “to account” is from what I’ve repeatedly seen to be most certainly your main trope. And that’s going by the definitions you’ve provided yourself Goo.

    3. V

      Well Dan
      In my day the usual suspects
      Doing their thing, especially for you
      And your column
      Was the best bit

      Make the most of it bhoy

  3. Dan Boyle

    I discuss it all the time!. It’s frequently the theme of these posts. A more legitimate criticism is that I talk about it too much….

    1. GiggidyGoo

      Discuss = talk with, not talk to. You have a facility here to talk ‘to’ the readers. When readers want to discuss, you don’t do so, rather use phrases like ‘read it in my book’, or contents similar to what i’m replying to.
      So, no, Dan – you high-tail it when called out.

  4. Dan Boyle

    I respond frequently but am avoiding more and more the tin eared brigade whose opinions must be accepted as absolute..

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