Greens deputy leader to enter coalition talks after voting against move

Catherine Martin will engage in process ’in good faith’ ahead of party member meetings

The deputy leader of the Green Party Catherine Martin, who voted against entering into talks on coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, has said she accepts the result of the parliamentary party’s vote on Sunday and will engage “in good faith” with the talks process.

Speaking to The Irish Times on Monday afternoon, Ms Martin said that she would support all efforts to arrive at the best programme for government possible and then make a judgment on whether to support entering into coalition on the basis of the document.

Ms Martin and others in the parliamentary party had wanted firm guarantees from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on a number of issues, including committing to a seven per cent annual reduction in greenhouse gases, before agreeing to enter government negotiations.

She argued that further clarifications would help to build support for any deal with the membership of the party, where a two-thirds majority in favour of any deal is needed to enter government.


“I think it would have been better to iron out any ambiguities from the outset,” she said.

“I could not support entering formal negotiations because my clear preference was firstly to request further essential written clarifications and explanations from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on a number of issues including core social justice issues,” Ms Martin said.

“There were a number of loopholes, lacunas and ambiguities in their replies to our 17 questions and firstly seeking clarification had potential to instil greater trust, hope and confidence in the process for our members

“It’s important to emphasise that our members are key, as two-thirds voting membership support is required to endorse any Programme for Government that may be presented to them. We are now in a situation where we have to play ‘catch up’ from the ‘get go’ in these negotiations but hopefully that’s possible,” she said.

Ms Martin went on: “Personally I feel further clarification would have placed any subsequent negotiation on a more solid footing and would have assisted in avoiding the danger of ambiguity or wriggle room emerging on the part of negotiating teams at a later, much-advanced stage and that would have the potential to spook our members or derail the process.”

However, in a boost for party leader Eamon Ryan, Ms Martin said she would weigh in behind the decision of the party.

“However events have clearly moved forward and the majority of our parliamentary party, in their wisdom, felt such clarification from both FF and FG was unnecessary.

“Whilst I and also some other members of the parliamentary disagree with the approach adopted, I respect the democratic decision of the parliamentary party and I will enter these talks in good faith, with an open mind trying to arrive at the best deal possible for our country and our party.”

Member reaction

The Green Party is to hold a series of online meetings with party members in the coming weeks to hear the views of members on a possible coalition deal with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

In a letter sent to party members last night informing them of the parliamentary party’s decision to enter formal negotiations with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on a programme for government, party leader Eamon Ryan said there would be a round of “webinars and Zoom meetings for members” from next week.

The Greens, who won 12 seats in the February election, are seen as crucial in the formation of the next government.

There was a flurry of online criticism overnight of the parliamentary party’s decision to enter talks, but senior party sources said the response had been mixed and that it was too early to take the pulse of the organisation on the coalition question.

It is expected there will be a series of debates broadcast online if a programme for government is concluded, followed by a postal ballot, though the arrangements have yet to be made.

Greens sources stressed the “grassroots-up” nature of the party and said that the decision of the parliamentary party to enter talks – and by extension to enter government if the programme for government was acceptable – would not necessarily be followed by the membership.

However, one senior figure conceded that if any deal was rejected by the members, it would amount to a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the party. The Greens’ rules also require a leadership election after a general election, which is also expected to be conducted by postal ballot.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times