Ryan ‘absolutely convinced’ up to 10% could vote for Greens in next election

Party leader shrugs off ‘false narrative’ that smaller parties suffer in Government

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said 10 per cent of voters could support the party at the next elections – and that the party is aiming to double its number of councillors at the next local elections.

Speaking at his party’s annual conference in Athlone today, Mr Ryan said there was a “false narrative” that smaller parties suffer in Government and he was “absolutely convinced” up to ten per cent of voters “can and they will” support the Greens.

The most recent Irish Times/IPSOS MRBI poll had Green Party support on four per cent.

“It’s not easy in Government, it’s never easy, but I think this false narrative in my mind that you’ve the old adage, that the smaller parties suffer in Government, I don’t think that’s an absolutely set rule.”

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“I think if we can show delivery for the Irish people, that improves the quality of life as well as addressing this future, the big challenge of our time, I’m absolutely confident that they will, that we can get those numbers (10 per cent).” Mr Ryan said he wanted to more than double the party’s councillor representation at the next local elections in 2024, with an aim of 100 seats up from the current total of 45.

“Are one in ten Irish people willing to cast their vote for the next generation?

“I’m absolutely convinced they can and they will.

“But it’s heads down in the meantime, keep delivering, then we face that election with our heads up, proud of what we’ve been doing in Government serving our people.

He said the party’s “first focus” was on the local and European elections, but Senator and super junior minister Pippa Hackett suggested the target was also intended for the general election, telling reporters: “When we get that 10 per cent vote next time around, we’ll see what we can achieve in the next Government”.

The Green Party is holding its first in-person convention in three years in Athlone today. The programme includes sessions on climate and politics, childcare reform, arts and culture and a European ‘Green Deal’. Mr Ryan and deputy leader and Minister for Arts Catherine Martin will address the convention this evening, broadcast live on RTÉ.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday morning, Mr Ryan said he wouldn’t rule out tax breaks for property developers in the face of the housing crisis. “We’ll look at every different option. You don’t come to this with a kind of ideological position where you’re not going to consider options, we’ll look at every option,” he said.

The Green Party leader pointed to work under way on the expenditure side, such as the move to forward fund stranded build to rent developments with planning permission, as well as taxation reforms aimed at bringing vacant land into use and the Croi Conaithe scheme which funds the refurbishment of vacant properties. But he said: “We have to go further and faster, and that means not ruling anything out”.

Mr Ryan acknowledged that electricity generated by nuclear power stations would flow across the interconnector to France once it is completed, and was already coming from the United Kingdom. But he said the future for power in Ireland “won’t be nuclear in my mind”.

“It will be wind, but also in solar,” he said, adding that under policies brought forward by the Government some 5GW of solar power would be on stream by the middle of the decade – “which is the equivalent of three or four nuclear plants”

“By the time we finish in this five years we will have transformed our country, our energy system. our transport system, our childcare system, our forestry and farming system. That’s what we’re focused on – is delivering that real change and we will do it in the next two and a half years.”

Asked about the return of rebel Green TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello to the parliamentary party, Ms Martin said the party was “absolutely delighted” to have them back “where they belong”. She said the party had not given consideration to any form of enhanced sanction for deputies who continually vote against the whip – as both Ms Hourigan and Mr Costello did on a vote relating to the location of the National Maternity Hospital. Both have indicated that they would consider voting against the Government again on a Dáil vote ratifying the EU-Canada trade deal known as CETA if it was to come to pass.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times