Greens steady the ship and look to focusing on the big tasks at hand

The heat has gone out of the internal rows that sucked up so much of the Greens’ energy earlier this summer

So the fisticuffs in the tunnel are behind them, and now that the Greens are back on the pitch it's time for them to start raising a few green flags.

The party is 100 days in government, and from a narrow party perspective one hand is as long as the other.

For sure, the Covid-19 pandemic absorbs so much effort and energy, especially for party leader Eamon Ryan. But unlike the two other coalition partners the Greens won't be judged primarily on competence; rather on the ambitious agenda it has set for itself in the programme for government.

What was evident over its three-day conference this weekend is that a lot of the heat has gone out of the internal rows that sucked up so much of its energy earlier this summer.


Sure, deputy leader Catherine Martin again reminded members that she defines the party differently than Ryan, and her speech hit notes that will appeal to the constituencies that don't back Ryan as much – younger, leftier and radical. That includes rural Ireland, although there is a tug-of-war between both camps of the party as to which appeals more to country people.

Against that, most of the motions went the direction of the party leadership. A motion from the party’s two MEPs calling for co-leadership was defeated, the new executive council has more members supportive of Ryan than his detractors, and most motions containing even a tincture of “just transition” didn’t cross the threshold.

Past master

It helped that it was a virtual convention, held in the clouds, which is a perfect place for Ryan because he is a past master, as is his wont, of always coming across silver linings. His big “news” line was the State will spend €1 million a day on active travel for the next five years. But that’s not new, just expressing the €360 per annum budget for cycling in another way.

So much of the Greens’ polemic over the years has been about aspiration. But now is the time for the party to show perspiration.

It will begin next week with a key piece of legislation, the Climate Action Bill, and then it will have to make good on the core programme for government “wins” such as public transport, forestry, rewetting the boglands, renewable energy.

Roderic O’Gorman needs to come up as soon as possible in the new year with his White Paper on replacing direct transition.

The Junior Ministers need to step up to the mark. Super-junior Pippa Hackett is in charge of a key policy area for the Greens, forestry. She succeeded in steering through a Forestry Bill that didn’t originate with her party and doesn’t sit with its own aims of increasing biodiversity and increasing the proportion of broadleaf species. Now she needs to start getting real progress for those targets.

Malcolm Noonan has the heritage brief and has also electoral reform. He and Catherine Martin dodged a bullet when they both adroitly passed on the decision on the hare coursing licence to somebody else – Fianna Fáil's Darragh O'Brien. But Noonan now needs to get his own project over the line.

Coalition partners

The same can be said of Joe O'Brien, the Communities Minister, and Ossian Smith, whose brief is procurement and digital strategy. Neither brief exactly sets the pulse racing, but the Greens need all of the Ministers out there if they are not going to be swamped by their bigger coalition partners.

Martin has probably been the most visible of the Ministers across a dizzying array of portfolios. She has maintained a high profile, has been proactive since taking on the job, and has re-established a smooth relationship with Ryan.

The party can look back on the convention as the one that has steadied the ship and allowed it to focus on the enormous tasks at hand, without the constant distraction of infighting and personality differences. It has not come before time.