Eamon Ryan says Green Party’s job is to ‘hold the centre ground’ but space is getting tighter

Party’s next election strategy boils down to assumption of more people being concerned about climate change that at the last one

There was an air of optimism and high spirits aplenty around the RDS on Saturday as Green Party members gathered in the unexpected sunshine for their party’s annual convention.

A few hundred delegates hooted and cheered their ministers and candidates with gusto, while the party leader Eamon Ryan defended its record in Government and set out his tests for a future coalition. Considering that the polls suggest that party will be struggling to contain significant losses, this is a higher-than-usual level of political brio.

It is founded on a sound assumption – that there will be more people concerned about climate change at the next election than there were at the last one. But it may not take sufficient account of the toll that being in Government will have on the Greens’ vote.

Negative attitudes towards the party are certain to be stronger at the next election than they were at the last one. In particular, many independent TDs have made a brand out of demonising the Greens, especially in rural areas. Ryan himself has become a lightning rod for some of that sentiment.


Polling averages have the Greens trundling along at about 4 per cent – well down from the 7 per cent the party won at the last general election in 2020 (6 per cent at the local elections a year earlier). And though big national opinion polls are not the best measure for small parties, which depend on exaggerated support for candidates in a limited number of constituencies where they are competitive, they are a worry to party strategists, all the same.

Every single one of the 12 seats that the party won at the last election could look vulnerable to a greater or lesser degree – even Ryan’s own seat in Dublin Bay South could be dicey if, as expected, Fine Gael wins back a seat in a constituency it would always have regarded as a banker and where it used to win two out of four.

All small parties kind of live on the edge in Irish politics, but that sort of uncertainty must be wearying for those involved. And yet there was little sign of it getting them down at the weekend. Ryan was in ebullient form, greeting friends and supporters at the entrance, including some of the veterans of the last time the party was in government, when the financial crash saw it lose every one of its seats. It was like the fall of Saigon, they joked.

They can laugh about it now. Just about.

But that experience is seared into the memory of everyone in the party. Avoiding a similar meltdown – and the consequent removal of environmental priorities from the business of government for a decade – is now the top priority. That will take more than just good intentions – it will take smart politics.

Everyone in Government knows that relations between the three parties will come under strain as the election approaches. Ryan doesn’t shy away from it, scolding both his partners for their flurry of ardfheis promises in recent weeks. But he also identified with them, declaring the party’s task was to “hold the centre ground”. As left and right target him, will there be enough room for them all there?