The Irish Times view on the Green Party: leaving options open

The party’s decision not to rule out coalition with the two big parties will put it in a pivotal position

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan knows only too well the perils of going into government, having served as a Minister in the Fianna Fáil/Green coalition of 2008 to 2011 which had to deal with the economic emergency that struck the country as a result of the financial crisis. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan knows only too well the perils of going into government, having served as a Minister in the Fianna Fáil/Green coalition of 2008 to 2011 which had to deal with the economic emergency that struck the country as a result of the financial crisis. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

 

The Green Party took an important decision at its weekend conference to go into government after the next election if it can negotiate the right terms with either of the two big parties in the Dáil. Party members backed their leader Eamon Ryan, who said in his keynote speech that the Greens must be prepared to take office in order to pursue the most effective ways of addressing climate change.

Ryan knows only too well the perils of going into government, having served as a Minister in the Fianna Fáil/Green coalition of 2008 to 2011 which had to deal with the economic emergency that struck the country as a result of the financial crisis. The party lost all its six Dáil seats in the 2011 general election as a result of the deep unpopularity of that government arising from the decisions it took to put the country on the road to recovery.

By accepting the responsibilities of office, and refusing to run away when the going got really tough, the Greens showed a capacity for governing in the national interest, which has stood to them in the years since. That experience should prove invaluable when it comes to facing up to the challenge of climate change, which will involve tough and potentially deeply unpopular decisions in the years ahead.

The 400 or so delegates at the conference voted five-to-one against a motion to reject coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. That emphatic endorsement of the leader’s strategy will give him and his negotiating team a strong hand if and when it comes to negotiations on a programme for government with other parties.

It is important for the Greens to be open about the full implications of their policies for the people of this country in advance of the next election. Voters should be under no illusions about the changes in lifestyle that will be felt at every level of society if serious policies to tackle climate change are implemented. In the European and local elections the party surfed a wave of emotion about the importance of climate change. The tough part will be translating that mood into workable policies that the public will accept.

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