The Green Party flips between feast and famine

World of Politics with Harry McGee

A little over ten years ago, in April 2013, the Green Party held its national convention in Galway. It did not publicise it. It told nobody it was taking place.

So there was no publicity, no press conferences, no stump speeches.

As the former Connacht Tribune journalist Ciaran Tierney tweeted at the time, the convention could have been held in the snug of Tigh Neachtain.

And even if it had, few people would have noticed.

Why all the secrecy back then?

Well, the party had taken a pasting in the 2011 election. It lost everything. Its Government ministers, all its six TDs, all its senators. It even lost its State funding as its national vote dipped below 2 per cent to 1.8 per cent.

That meant it was as poorly financed as a minor sporting club, with just about everybody in the party working on a volunteer basis.

Eamon Ryan became party leader. At the time, he was fond of quoting that Samuel Beckett quote: ‘Try Agan. Fail Again. Fail Better

Ryan was honest when he told delegates that weekend in 2013 that the future of the party was “never more uncertain”.

The Greens are one of a handful of small parties who flip between feast and famine.

If we dial back the clock another six years, to 2007, the party held its convention, also in Galway, in the Salthill Hotel. There were hundreds of delegates then. The party seemed to be on the cusp of something. Its poll ratings were positive. It looked like it could increase its number of TDS from six to perhaps double digits. Trevor Sargent was the leader. He gave a very poor speech at the convention but it was several months out from an election so it made little difference.

In the event, the party underperformed, returning with six seats, the same number it had had in 2002.

The point was that in 2007 the Greens had no hesitation in going into government with Fianna Fáil.

The story of the subsequent years is well known. The Government did all right for about two years and then the economy collapsed on the back of a massive housing and banking bubble.

Pictured: Eamon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party, with City Councillor Martina O’Connor, Senator Pauline O’Reilly and City Councillor Niall Murphy.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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