It’s four years since Ireland entered the bailout. Those dark November days will live in infamy and have been etched into the Irish psyche.
Those events were the beginning of the end for the Cowen Government, and the Green Party announced it was leaving the administration shortly afterwards. In the 2011 general election that followed the Greens were wiped out, losing all of their six seats. Following their electoral demise, where is the party today?
The local and European elections held in May were their first big test since 2011 and the results were described as “disappointing” by the party leader Eamon Ryan.
Ryan came close to winning the final European Parliament seat in Dublin but it wasn’t to be. He lost out to Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes. Overall, the party won 12 local council seats but failed to send anybody to Europe.
So why did the party decide to get into bed with Fianna Fáil? Wouldn’t they be in a much better position if they had decided to stay in opposition?
“We’ve been a party for 30 years and at some point you have to take on the responsibility of governing” he says, “We were in a fairly powerful position and managed to get some good legislation through”.
Following that fateful decision and the general election that followed a few years later, the Greens suffered the loss of all of their Dáil seats and failed to win any in the Seanad, leading to the party having no Oireachtas representation.
However, Eamon Ryan points out that every European Green Party has faced complete or near complete wipe-out after being in government. He describes the public attitude to green politics as a tide coming in and going out.
With a general election at most 18 months away, what would the Green Party’s priorities be if it ended up in government again?
“We still don’t have a proper system of regional government in this country” he says, “Political reform as a whole would be one of our main policies”.
The education system and secondary education in particular is an area the party would seek to change. “Secondary education focuses too much on rote learning. It’s all about ticking boxes and that doesn’t prepare you for life” says Ryan.
With just 12 seats on local councils and no national or European representation, there’s a long way to go before the Green Party has much hope of changing either of these systems.