Green Party should have social justice focus – Catherine Martin

Deputy leader expected to make pitch to left-leaning wing in virtual convention

Deputy leader Catherine Martin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Deputy leader Catherine Martin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin will rekindle the internal debate on the party’s identity at its convention on Saturday with a broadside against those who argue it should be solely focused on the environment.

In her speech to the convention Ms Martin is expected to make an argument that the party be broader-based in its agenda, in what will be seen as a pitch to the social justice wing of the party. That wing includes the Just Transition group, the establishment of which has divided the party.

Ms Martin will tell members “there can be no real climate action without social justice”.

She is also expected to say “the Green Party is not a single-issue party, but unfortunately many others might not know or appreciate this”.

“It is vital that we protect the most vulnerable in our society. This transition must centre on the benefits for people and communities.”

The Irish Times understands Ms Martin will tell the convention – which is being held virtually – that it has been a tough few months for the party, despite its election successes. She will stress the need for collegiality into the future.

It is also understood that the deputy leader will also suggest the programme for government can be amended in the future, notwithstanding the assertion by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that it won’t.

She is expected to say that the party must keep fighting and campaigning for Green values at every level including the Cabinet table.

Ryan leadership

While the speech will not challenge the standing of party leader Eamon Ryan, it is expected to highlight Ms Martin’s own leadership credentials. Mr Ryan was re-elected leader in July by a very narrow margin in a straight contest with his deputy leader.

His speech is expected to focus on the implementation of the Green agenda in the programme for government as well as the challenges posed by Covid-19. One of the main motions tomorrow proposes co-leadership of the party in the future. One of those motions, if successful, would result in that change being implemented immediately.

On the first day of the conferences, there were sessions on diversity, rural Ireland and the Young Greens. The 26 candidates for the executive council also made pitches to delegates by video. There were more than 1,000 members listening to the debate at various stages.

During the discussion on rural Ireland, the Senator Róisín Garvey told her party to use language that rural communities could relate to. She said words such as “biodiversity” and “climate change” did not resonate.

“Let’s talk about the flowers, talk about the cattle. Talk about the robin, the sparrow,” she said.

She said in the past she had to work with groups who were based in Dublin that “had expectations of what we should be doing down the country with no concept of what they are asking us to do”.