The Green Party in election mode

Unlike some of the other Opposition forces, the Greens have a coherent underlying philosophy and sound policies

In his keynote address to the Green Party annual convention at the weekend, party leader Eamon Ryan delivered a tough, uncompromising attack on the policies of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his Government.

He denounced the Fine Gael-led Government's record on climate change, its management of the economy and the Taoiseach's handling of his meeting with US president Donald Trump earlier this month. Ryan has established a deserved reputation as one of the most thoughtful and courteous TDs in Leinster House. His decision to take the gloves off and hammer the Government is a sign that, like many other politicians, he believes an election is not far off. The way he went about highlighting the Government's poor record on climate change came as no surprise, but his forceful approach to a range of other issues represented a shift in tone by the party.

The Greens suffered a meltdown in the 2011 general election, losing all six seats, but the party came back from the dead to recover two seats last time around. The next election will be a big opportunity to build on that and become a significant force in the next Dáil. The Greens, like the Labour Party, suffered disproportionately from being in government at a time of economic crisis but the party is now returning to its roots as a campaigning organisation. Unlike some of the other Opposition forces, who appear interested only in the politics of protest, the Greens have a coherent underlying philosophy and sound policies.

While the party does need a more forceful strategy to raise its profile, it has to be careful about being sucked into populist campaigns which may deliver short-term gains but could undermine its long-term credibility. Ryan was right to lay so much stress on climate change, which is one of the great issues of our age, and it was also important to try and reconcile the needs of farmers with Green policies. Other policies, such as the promotion of new forestry, and action to tackle urban decay and the impact of plastic on our oceans, are positive initiatives which should strike a chord with a cross-section of the electorate.