The Irish Times view on Eamon Ryan’s resignation : a severe blow for the Green Party

A new leader will change the Coalition dynamics and create new uncertainty in Government as general election speculation grows

Eamon Ryan speaking to the media at Goverment Buildings on Tuesday after he announced he is stepping down as party leader. (Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos)

The resignation of Eamon Ryan as leader of the Green Party leader has given an unexpected jolt to Irish politics. It creates immediate questions for his party, of course, but also for the Government, now undoubtedly entering its final phase. And in a wider sense it underlines the difficulty of implementing essential climate policies.

While the Green Party lost significant ground in the European and local elections, there is no reason to believe that this led to any immediate pressure on Ryan. In fact, the Green Party now looks weaker following Ryan’s decision to step down as leader and not to stand in the next general election. An experienced politician and minister, he has been its public face for more than a decade.

This has led to Ryan at times becoming something of a lightning rod for opponents of Green Party policies; he may hope that his departure will detoxify the Green brand for some voters. His decision to step down was driven, he said, by personal considerations. But the personal and the political cannot be cleanly separated. And the decision of Catherine Martin not to put her name forward as leader and to step down as deputy leader increases the uncertainties facing the party.

Ryan succeeded John Gormley as Green Party leader in 2011. The Green Party lost all its Dáil seats in the general election of that year, after a torrid period in Government blighted by the financial crash, the bailout and unpopular austerity policies. Ryan’s great achievement was to revive the party, winning its best ever election result in 2020 and leading it back into Government, after negotiating a programme which included far-reaching, legally-binding climate actions.


The conundrum which Ryan faced – and which will face his successor – is that many voters are in favour of climate-friendly policies in theory, but often oppose them in practice. This was clearly evident across Europe as the green wave which swept through the last elections five years ago subsided significantly this time around. That climate policies have become part of the wider “culture wars” is unfortunate, but it is a fact which green politicians have to deal with. The passing of the EU Nature Restoration Law on Monday represented an important victory, even though implementing its terms will be hugely challenging. At home, the green agenda has also progressed in recent years, albeit not as fast as the party hoped.

Ryan’s departure, following that of Leo Varadkar a few months ago, will inevitably create some uncertainty in Government. There were some tensions between the Greens and the two bigger parties during the recent election campaign, though that was probably inevitable. Whatever happens next, a new Green Party leader will change the Coalition dynamics. A new unpredictability has now entered the political equation.