Ex-Green Party leader Trevor Sargent ordained as CoI deacon

Former minister of state says he will continue to campaign for environmental issues

 Former Green Party leader Trevor Sargent has become a priest in the Church of Ireland.  Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Former Green Party leader Trevor Sargent has become a priest in the Church of Ireland. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

Former Green Party leader Trevor Sargent has said that his new role as a Church of Ireland deacon will not prevent him continuing to campaign on environmental and humanitarian issues.

Mr Sargent led the Green Party between 2001 and 2007 and was a minister of state in the coalition government with Fianna Fáil from 2007 to 2010.

He lost his North Dublin seat in 2011 and subsequently moved to south Co Wexford with his wife, Áine Neville, where they have become organic horticulturists.

He was always an active member of his church during his earlier careers as a teacher and politician, and established a breakfast prayer group in Leinster House during his time as a TD.

Since leaving politics, he has studied theology in Trinity College Dublin and is expected to complete his MA in Divinity next year. He was ordained a deacon on Saturday and is expected to be ordained a full minister in due course.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Sargent said he has had no regrets about leaving politics and has always had a calling to the church.

“I believed that God was directing me on my way before the general election in 2011,” he said.

Trevor Sargent embraced by his wife Aine Neville after the ceremony at Shillelagh Parish Church, Shillelagh, County Wicklow. Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Trevor Sargent embraced by his wife Aine Neville after the ceremony at Shillelagh Parish Church, Shillelagh, County Wicklow. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Four churches

He will now become a deacon in Shillelagh, Co Wicklow and nearby Tullow in Co Carlow, where there are services each week in four churches.

He said the two jobs were not as dissimilar as people assumed.

“My social work as a deacon will involve the issues and kind of responsibility of an elected representative. It involves planning, schools, traffic, preservation of old buildings, social issues,” he said. “Of course, you are not dealing with as many people. It’s on a parish level but then you get to know people very well as you are dealing with them on a very personal level.”

Mr Sargent said he thought it was very important for him to utilise his Christian tradition during his time as a TD. “Christianity was important to foster debate that would not threaten. In the [breakfast prayer group] there were politicians of different traditions praying together. There was a means of communication.”

A fluent Irish speaker, the newly-ordained deacon leads the church’s Irish language group.

Former Green Party leader Trevor Sargent (right) with Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory Michael Burrows, before the ordination ceremony at Shillelagh Parish Church, Shillelagh, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Former Green Party leader Trevor Sargent (right) with Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory Michael Burrows, before the ordination ceremony at Shillelagh Parish Church, Shillelagh, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Disappointed

Mr Sargent said he had hoped to retain his seat in 2011 and was disappointed, but said it needed to be seen in context.

“When I failed, a door closed and another door opened,” he said. “I knew at that point a new road was going out before me. It has been a circuitous route to this point.

“Looking back now, in ways, even though people might be wary for me saying this, I want to thank people of Dublin North for giving me this opportunity.

“I am working for green principles but in a different way.

“My life has been devoted to environmental issues. As a Christian, I believe it is our responsibility to preserve our world for the next generation.”