Ryan accuses Government of fostering culture of cronyism

Green Party leader tells party conference he will serve full five-year term in Brussels if elected

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has accused the Coalition Government of fostering a culture of cronyism and inside influence.

In his leader's address to his party's conference in Dublin this evening, Mr Ryan said the recent controversy surrounding senior Fine Gael strategist and lobbyist Frank Flannery illustrated the existence of that culture.

In hard-hitting criticism of the Government he also excoriated Minister for Environment Phil Hogan’s reform of local government as “gerrymandering” that worked in the favour of Fine Gael and big parties in the regions. He also portrayed Mr Hogan’s overseeing of the process to decide on directly-elected mayors as a “farce”, saying there was no certainty of what was being proposed with only ten weeks to go to possible public plebiscites.

In a reference to the report in The Irish Times that disclosed Mr Flannery had invoiced Rehab for lobbying the Fine Gael-led Government, Mr Ryan said: "The democratic revolution promised by this Government is a shame.*


"They way their people are appointed each in turn to different public boards. They way Frank Flannery walks the corridors of power, paid by a charity to lunch his ministerial friends, scorning an Oireachtas committee where he had real questions to answer."

The conference, held in the Hilton Hotel on Charlemont Street, was attended by some 200 delegates. The party will run 50 candidates in the local elections on May 23rd, as well as four candidates in the European elections, including Mr Ryan in Dublin.

He became the first of the candidates in the European elections with Leinster House connections to commit himself to serving the full five years in Brussels.

“Some people have asked how I could lead this party from Brussels, to which my response is that we have always had a broader understanding of how leadership works, and how it can be shared. I don’t see Brussels as being so remote.”

The other candidates in the European elections are: Grace O'Sullivan (South-East), a former Greenpeace activist who spent ten years at sea; Cllr Mark Dearey (Midlands-North West); and a former DUP activist from East Belfast, Ross Brown (Northern Ireland).

Amongst its local election candidates are former TDs Dan Boyle and Ciarán Cuffe. Other prominent candidates include Roderick O'Gorman (Dublin); Séamus Sheridan (Galway); Catherine Martin (Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown); and David Healy and Joe O'Brien (Fingal).

The theme of the convention was 'A New Direction'. Core green issues such as planning; sustainable economic activity; green energy; green transport and climate change predominated. There were also strong criticisms of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney's key policy, Harvest 2020, which it was claimed favoured intensive and non-sustainable farming; as well as his plans for the expansion of the sea farming sector.

In his speech Mr Ryan also said that big business needed a “light hand on the tiller” to encourage growth but emphasised the necessity of having proper structures of regulation in place. He also criticised the tax arrangements for big multinational corporations such as Apple which he said cold be harmful for Ireland’s image abroad.

* This article was amended on Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times