The Irish Times view on the Green Party: the policy tasks ahead

A successful annual conference behind it, the party must now focus on its key goals in Government

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan will shortly bring an amended version of the Climate Action Bill before the Dail which will establish a legally binding 2050 target for zero emissions and introduce a requirement for the government to adopt a series of three economy-wide carbon budgets. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan will shortly bring an amended version of the Climate Action Bill before the Dail which will establish a legally binding 2050 target for zero emissions and introduce a requirement for the government to adopt a series of three economy-wide carbon budgets. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Green Party conference last weekend passed off without incident and it appears that, for now at least, it has left behind the discord and division which convulsed it before going into Government. There was no hint of the tensions that saw deputy leader Catherine Martin come within a whisker of unseating leader Eamon Ryan back in July or of the rebellious outbreak which saw a small number of party TDs defy the leadership almost immediately after entering Government.

It helped that due to the Covid-19 restrictions the conference was a zoom affair and not a traditional weekend gathering where delegates would have had a better platform to air their reservations about the Government’s shortcomings. The format suited Ryan’s communication skills.

It was evident over the three days of the conference that much of the heat has gone out of the internal rows that absorbed so much of its energy in early summer. But the party still has a lot of work to do to recover its equilibrium after those embarrassing divisions. The key to that will be demonstrable progress on key policy areas, particularly climate change. Ryan will shortly bring an amended version of the Climate Action Bill before the Dáil which will establish a legally binding 2050 target for zero emissions and introduce a requirement for the Government to adopt a series of three economy-wide carbon budgets.

The ability of the party to pursue its agenda on climate change has been helped enormously by the fact that the issue is top of the agenda for European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. The Greens will also need serious progress in other areas where the party has strong policies to demonstrate its influence in Government. Reform of direct provision, better public transport, improvements in the forestry regime, rewetting the boglands and a massive new investment in renewable energy are among the areas where it will have to demonstrate achievement if it is to retain its identity as an independent, policy-oriented party rather than merely the third prong of a troubled Government.

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