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File photo of Green Party TDs outside the Dáil in 2006 Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Column This is a difficult time for the Greens - but we have reasons for optimism

The Green Party has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of voters – but Irish politics needs our voice, writes new Chairperson of the party Roderic O’Gorman.

DECEMBER SEES THE 30th anniversary of the founding of the Green Party, and the beginning of my term as Party Chairperson. As such, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the current state of the Green Party, and our direction over the next couple of years.

Undoubtedly, the impact of the General Election result and the lessons we have learnt from it will be felt across the party for a long time – not only the absence of a Green perspective in the Oireachtas, but also the need to reorganise the party on an almost entirely voluntary basis due to our loss of funding. While this is certainly a difficult time for us, we have seen some optimistic signs.

My own result in the recent Dublin West by-election, where we almost tripled the number of first preferences we received in the same constituency in February, has been a positive boost for the Green Party as a whole. While no-one can say how this increase might translate on the national level, it shows that people are still willing to give their No.1 vote to a Green candidate.

Crucial to a renewed Green Party will be a progressive and reforming policy platform. A range of political decisions taken by the new Government have highlighted the need for thinking outside of the usual norms of Irish politics. Prior to our entry into Government, the Green Party had a strong record in challenging the consensus on issues such as over-development and the ruinous taxation policies that were at the root of the recession in our country. When we failed to challenge the political consensus during our period in Government, we were punished by our voters.

However, challenging the political consensus is only a worthy ideal if it is accompanied by real policy proposals. Over the next year, there are three significant areas the Green Party will focus on.

The proposed Constitutional Convention offers an opportunity to create real change in this country. We want to see a reform of how we elect our TDs, moving away from the parish pump politics that has done so much to damage our country. Changing the electoral system also offers the opportunity to examine how we involve more women in politics.

Following on from our success in passing the Civil Partnership Act while in Government, we will be campaigning for full marriage equality to be enshrined in the Constitution. And we will argue that social rights like a right to healthcare and housing are as worthy as the right to private property to protection within the nation’s Constitution.

The continued Eurozone crisis means that our relationship with the EU, and indeed the relationship of the EU to each of the Member States, will continue to hold centre stage. We need a genuinely pan-European response to the economic crisis, not one determined solely by the whims of Germany and France. The Governments of these countries cannot be permitted block progress towards Eurobonds and reform of the ECB on the basis of purely domestic considerations. We will work with our Green colleagues across Europe to promote realistic solutions to these issues.

Last month, the Government announced a retreat from its commitment to passing climate change legislation. Not only does this represent a rejection of our moral obligation as a developed nation to take a lead in fighting climate change and its devastating consequences for developing countries, it also represents a failure to recognise an economic reality. Across the industrialised world, countries are passing climate legislation to give industry and agriculture the certainty they needs regarding carbon emissions in the future. By ignoring this international trend, Fine Gael and Labour are putting future jobs at risk, and leaving Ireland completely unprepared to avail of post-carbon economic development.

On 11 December, we will launch our new strategic plan outlining how the party will operate over the next five years, along with new party spokespersons. This will be accompanied by a vigorous fundraising strategy, starting with a gig in Vicar St supported by a range of Irish and world musicians. These occasions represent the next steps towards the renewal of our party.

We are fully aware of the difficult road ahead in terms of rebuilding trust with those of our voters who felt they could no longer support us in February. We understand the real challenge of affecting national policy without representation in either house of the Oireachtas. Despite these obstacles, we believe that a vibrant Green Party, advocating progressive, long-term solutions to economic, social and political issues, can and will play a significant role in Ireland’s recovery from the economic crisis.

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