Greens’ leader in North says draft programme not the change people voted for

Ryan argues the deal is the best one available, and will enable historic progress on climate action

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: “I don’t believe it would be possible or in the national interest to go into another prolonged negotiation process”

Supporters and opponents of the proposed coalition deal in the Green Party engaged in intensive campaigning over the weekend, with both sides expecting the contest to be decided by a narrow margin.

Party leader Eamon Ryan dismissed calls for the programme for government to be renegotiated, saying there was no "wriggle room" to revisit it.

Mr Ryan acknowledged that the programme thrashed out by the three parties was “not perfect”, but he argued it was the best deal available and would enable historic progress on climate action.

An opinion poll in the Mail on Sunday found that 75 per cent of Green voters support the deal.

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Those backing the programme were dealt a blow when the leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland said the electorate in the Republic had "voted for change, and I don't think that this change is being delivered in this programme [for government]".

However, Clare Bailey said she would support her party if members do vote to go into government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael despite her opposition to the proposed programme.

“If it’s ratified and we do go into government I am 100 per cent committed to the Green Party, and I will stand by my party and I will support them,” Ms Bailey told BBC’s Sunday Politics show. “We will move forward together because this should not break us as a party. We need to be stronger than that.”

Opposed

A total of 195 of the North’s Greens’ 800 members – or just under a quarter – have registered to vote on the draft programme for government, the outcome of which will be known on Friday.

Ms Bailey, a South Belfast MLA, is the latest in a number of high-profile party members from across the island to oppose the programme.

She and Green TDs Francis Duffy, Patrick Costello and Neasa Hourigan are opposed to the deal, as well as party chairman Cllr Hazel Chu and Cork-based Cllr Lorna Bogue. General election candidates Sean McCabe, Saoirse McHugh, Tate Donnelly and Julie O'Donoghue released a joint statement at the weekend announcing that they would also vote against the proposal.

They said they believed the deal “represents an unjust recovery”, and “one of the most fiscally conservative arrangements in a generation”.

“Regressive taxation in the form of carbon and sugar taxes are included, while corporation tax and the top rate of income tax remain unchanged,” they said.

“It’s a deal that was negotiated in good faith but fails to deliver on our promise to tackle homelessness and provide better healthcare. It sets out an inadequate and vague pathway towards climate action.”

Housing

Responding to the statement, Mr Ryan told RTÉ Radio it was possible for the next government to address the climate and biodiversity crisis, as well as social justice issues such as access to housing and health.

He said that if the programme was rejected by party members on Friday it was very uncertain what might happen next.

“I don’t believe it would be possible or in the national interest to go into another prolonged negotiation process”, but he did not think it would be an immediate election due to the Covid-19 crisis.

A group of 27 Green Party councillors, TDs, senators and an MEP, all from outside Dublin, on Sunday night issued a joint statement in support of the programme for government and urging Green members to vote in favour of it. The signatories stress the benefits of the deal for rural Ireland and regions outside Dublin.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times