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Why this councillor was canvassing for Trevor Sargent... when he was 10

Roderic O’Gorman’s love for the Greens goes all the way back to canvassing with Trevor Sargent in 1992.

RODERIC O’GORMAN IS no ordinary Green. His affinity with the much-maligned party goes all the way back to his childhood.

“I was first out canvassing in ’92, with [former Green TD and minister] Trevor [Sargent]… when I was 10,” he tells a startled TheJournal.ie over tea in Dublin yesterday morning.

What on earth possess a 10-year-old boy to decide to canvass with a small and, at that point, fairly insignificant party?

“Back then where I lived I was just used to being out in fields, messing around in the river, looking at animals and things like that. The whole protecting the environment and keeping it clean. ”

He said that his parents are not political at all, in fact they’re almost a-political. But it turns out his mother knew best:

My mam told me there’s this political party that likes the environment and I said: ‘That sounds good to me’. So she rang up Trevor and said: ‘Trevor, I’ve a young man here who’d be interested in helping you out.’

“In fairness to Trevor it was not a problem. He just brought me out canvassing. I don’t think I scored him too many number ones that day as a 10-year-old, but it was an amazing experience and ever since then I’ve been involved in the party.”

O’Gorman joined the Young Greens when he studied at Trinity in the early 2000s and was involved with former leader John Gormley’s general election campaign in 2002.

Green Party Leadership Contests O'Gorman (right) counting votes in the Green Party leadership contest in 2007 Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

He’s been running for the party in local, general and by-elections since 2004 and was finally elected to Fingal County Council in May last year.

A university lecturer at DCU, O’Gorman is honest about the Greens biggest mistake when when it went into government with Fianna Fáil in 2007 . He explained that for the first two-and-half-years it could not “bring it down”.

Fianna Fáil had a majority with the PDs and with the independents. We should never have gone in under those conditions. That was the biggest mistake we made. For the first two-and-a-half years, we were there as invited guests.

“I think from the political tactics point of view going in without being able to pull it down was the biggest mistake straight away,” he added.

O’Gorman is hugely ambitious for his party and insists he is not just in politics to be in opposition.

He is full of praise for those who helped rebuild the Greens after the 2011 wipeout and bring it back to the point where Eamon Ryan was 1,100 votes off taking an MEP seat from Fine Gael in Dublin in the European elections last year.

Counting Begins O'Gorman embracing Eamon Ryan during the European elections last year Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

As for the next election, O’Gorman believes “four or five seats would be fantastic but thinks “two or three would be more realistic”, citing party leader Ryan as having “a good chance”.

He also mentions councillor Malcolm Noonan in Carlow-Kilkenny, where he is running in the by-election, Mark Dearey in Louth and deputy leader Catherine Martin in Dublin Rathdown as all having a chance. 

As for himself, O’Gorman reckons “on a good day” he could be fighting it out for the last of four seats in Dublin West, where cabinet heavyweights Leo Varadkar and Joan Burton are among the incumbents.

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He won 5 per cent in the first by-election held there in 2011 and 6.5 per cent in 2014 when he outpolled the Labour party.

The political scene is “so flexible at the moment”, says O’Gorman and he thinks the Greens could have plenty of options after the next election, depending on how many seats the party returns with.

Unless we have a signficantly-sized parliamentary party we shouldn’t go into government. So, for me, it would have to be six, seven eight. I would be reluctant to go into government without that.

But he adds that the party “could support a minority government”  or else form a “constructive opposition” if it returns with two or three seats.

As for convincing voters that the Greens are not just about the environment, sandals and lentils, O’Goman makes a compelling argument:

As humans, everything we do is linked to the environment. The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath, the places we work, where we bring up our children.

“If we don’t have a good environment, none of the rest can work properly. I see my environmentalism as a human rights element at the core of it. We can’t have a good economy if our environment isn’t functioning properly.” 

The Green Party annual conference is taking place in Kilkenny all-day today. 

More details here and the conference brochure and agenda is here

Meet the Young Greens: ‘I’m tired of middle-aged men pissing away my future all the time’

Catherine Martin: ‘It was 1am and we’d been discussing development plans’: Meet the Green who doesn’t care about populism

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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