Green coalition backers confident majority will support deal

Mixed views on whether abstention of three TDs will influence outcome of party’s vote

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: will open proceedings  of an online convention followed by explanatory sessions on the 170-page programme. Photograph: Alan Betson

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: will open proceedings of an online convention followed by explanatory sessions on the 170-page programme. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Green Party deputies who support the programme for government have expressed confidence two-thirds of the party’s membership will be willing to back its coalition with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael when voting occurs at the end of next week.

While TDs who spoke to The Irish Times said the endorsement of Catherine Martin would give a big fillip to those arguing for a coalition, there were mixed views within the parliamentary party about whether the decision taken by three TDs to abstain would have an influence on the outcome of the vote. While none of the three have said publicly so far they will vote against the agreement, there are indications at least one will do so.

The three are Neasa Hourigan, Patrick Costello and Francis Noel Duffy, who is married to Ms Martin.

However, those who support the coalition said on Thursday they were confident the required 67 per cent of the party’s members will support the Greens entering government for the second time in its history.

Party officials will begin to post voting ballots out to the estimated 2,300 eligible members on Wednesday. Like the other two parties, the Greens will complete their count on Friday, June 26th.

Explanatory sessions

The party will hold an online special convention on Thursday from 1pm to 9pm, with two one-hour breaks scheduled. Party leader Eamon Ryan and Ms Martin will open the proceedings followed by explanatory sessions on the 170-page programme. There will be a panel debate featuring prominent speakers who support, or oppose, the party entering coalition. Dozens of members will then be allowed to make their arguments for or against, and will be allotted two-minute slots.

Final Draft Programme For Government

Waterford deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh, who was on the negotiating team, said Ms Martin had shown great skills during the process and had been “superb as a negotiator”. The Carlow-Kilkenny TD Malcolm Noonan said she had done an amazing job, while Joe O’Brien from Fingal said her role had been crucial.

However, one of those who abstained, Mr Costello, said on Tuesday he had concerns about the programme. He said he abstained because he did not want to block the membership reaching a decision but added: “I did not want to vote Yes because I do have concerns and I did not want to give it my full endorsement.”

Speaking on RTÉ, he asked whether the programme, with much of the emissions reduction happening later in the decade, was “doing enough on climate change or kicking the can down the road”.

‘Diverse membership’

Green TDs who support the programme say they are tentatively confident it can be approved. “There is a diverse membership between constituencies,” said Mr Ó Cathasaigh.

“In my own view, it will sail through. I think it will get 90 per cent or beyond. This is the constituency of Grace O’Sullivan with a huge history of activism. We are seeing things we have campaigned for all our lives.”

Mr Ó Cathasaigh said he had “hoped for unanimity” among its TDs but was not surprised some abstained.

“There are people who come from different perspectives. Front and centre for me was cuts in emissions. That was my guiding star. I joined the Green Party for my children but maybe the programme was not as strong for some in their areas as it was in mine.”

Mr Noonan also said the programme contained commitments on climate that people had campaigned for for many years. Mr O’Brien said that nobody could “argue that it’s not the greenest programme for government ever”.

He said that the commitments on social justice, particularly ending direct provision, were also very important for him.

A number of prominent Greens, including Cllr Lorna Bogue in Cork and Mayo general election candidate Saoirse McHugh, said they were veering against the programme. Ms McHugh said the programme contained a lot of “woolly, management-speak”.