Ryan criticises RTÉ over exclusion from leaders’ debate

Former minister says only Green Party would do work to make Paris Agreement reality

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: “We are in a row with RTÉ. Like the Government, their criteria for inclusion are rooted in the past.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: “We are in a row with RTÉ. Like the Government, their criteria for inclusion are rooted in the past.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has criticised RTÉ for refusing to allow him to participate in the seven-leader debate it plans to host during the general election campaign.

Speaking at his party’s annual conference in Dublin this weekend, Mr Ryan and party deputy leader Catherine Martin both lambasted the national broadcaster for excluding the party from the debate, planned to be held in the University of Limerick.

According to the party, the criteria set out by the broadcaster is that a party or group must have a minimum representation of three Dáil deputies. The Greens lost all six Dáil seats in the 2011 election. It has argued the criteria should not be based on the previous general election outcome alone on the basis it was an outlier. It has also pointed out it is one of the few parties which will be running candidates in almost all 40 constituencies.

“We are in a row with RTÉ,” said Mr Ryan. “Like the Government, their criteria for inclusion are rooted in the past.

Ms Martin said the party would not let RTÉ forget its obligations. “We will ensure that RTÉ adjusts [the composition of the panel] so it includes Eamon Ryan,” she said.

Mr Ryan challenged Taoiseach to meet him, irrespective of the RTÉ debate, and talk to him face-to-face about climate change “in a respectful way” during the election campaign.

The issue of climate change, and the implementation of the global agreement in Paris, was a dominant theme of the party conference which was attended by about 300 delegates. There was repeated criticism of the Government’s stance that agriculture should be afforded special status.

Mr Ryan said his party was the only one committed to ensuring the Paris Agreement became reality.

“Only a Green Party will do the work not he ground and will make the Paris deal a living and breathing reality,” he said.

Fossil-fuel free

In his leader’s address, Mr Ryan said the party would work to ensure that Ireland was fossil-fuel free by 2050.

“If we fail to act the consequences for Ireland may not be immediate but could we live with ourselves?”

He said that four-fifths of fossil fuels should remain underground, that there should be no burning of peat or coal, and no fracking.

In a direct challenge to agriculture he said that on better land Irish farmers would have to switch to food production which minimised emissions and maximised the price. He portrayed it as a potential win for farming.

Mr Ryan told the conference that the future was electric. He said that included electric cars. He said it was the job of politics to persuade people without landing them with daily moral choices.

“Cities will choke if people don’t relent on their car dependencies,” he said.

The party is optimistic it can make a return to the Dáil after an absence of five years. Mr Ryan, who is running in Dublin Bay South, is seen as its best hope of winning a seat.

“The Green message is more relevant and more important than ever. We have to grab history and shape the future,” he said.

Ms Martin told delegates that the party could not have another five years in the political wilderness.