Ryan rejects Young Greens’ criticism of party entering Government

At virtual Green Party conference leader says joining coalition ‘right thing to do’

WFH at conference: Green Party leader Eamon Ryan at his home in south Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

WFH at conference: Green Party leader Eamon Ryan at his home in south Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has strongly defended the decision to enter coalition, saying it was the “right thing to do” in order to address climate change and the Covid-19 emergency.

In a keynote speech to a virtual Green Party conference at the weekend, Mr Ryan said the Greens would deliver on its agenda in Government, and that €1 million a day would be spent by the Government on creating new walking, cycling and active infrastructure throughout the State.

He also signalled a significant ramping up of public transport in regional cities and towns from November. “I think we did the right thing by opening talks with every other party and not ruling out any options for Government,” he said. “I also think we were correct to say in mid-March as the first wave of Covid-19 broke that any further talks should be delayed until the immediate crisis was over.”

On Sunday, the decision to go into Government was criticised by the Young Greens chair, Tara Gilsenan, who also raised concerns about how the party had dealt with allegations of sexual harassment. Ms Gilsenan said the Young Greens, the youth wing of the party, had opposed the programme for government “for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, the glaring absence of climate justice and a just transition”.

She said she wanted a harassment policy adopted by the party, saying she had “witnessed many instances of harassment, whether it be online, whether it be of an ideological nature, or whether it be of a sexual nature”.

“When I and another person reported incidents of sexual harassment, they were not dealt with,” she said, adding: “I will not stand for this happening to any other member of our party or of our youth group, especially young women, who have to put up with enough sexism and ageism as it is.”

No record

In a statement, the Green Party said that it takes any allegation of sexual or physical harassment extremely seriously. “To date, the party has no record of such a complaint being filed,” a spokeswoman said.

Ms Gilsenan criticised the party’s decisions while in Government saying: “The parliamentary party can justify what they wish by saying that they had to make these sacrifices to get climate action. Even if this were true it would not negate the fact that we have betrayed our founding principles and alienated and hurt the Irish people.

“We know what people in this country want, especially what young people in this country want, and it is not this Government. You ignore the Young Greens at your peril. We are the future and times are changing,” she said.

On Saturday, deputy leader Catherine Martin said the party should not be defined by climate change alone, but should work towards achieving social justice, inclusion, income equality, fairness and diversity.

“Unfortunately many others might not know or appreciate this. Notwithstanding that this single issue [climate change] is of course the greatest challenge facing humanity, social justice inextricably travels through the very core of ecological justice.”

She said it had been a very difficult year for the party and that it had “lost some very good members, some because they didn’t agree with the decision we made to enter Government”.

On Saturday, the convention voted against a motion to have co-leaders for the party, which was tabled by the party’s two MEPs, Grace O’Sullivan and Ciarán Cuffe, and supported by 116 delegates. A total of 120 delegates voted against the proposal in an online ballot.

Mr Cuffe said on Twitter afterwards that he was disappointed, but added: “We’ve never been an ‘Uno Duce, Una Voce’ party. No doubt we will discuss this again.”