Greens’ first year in Government reads more like Succession than The Brady Bunch

What happened to the Green Party in 2020? It achieved its best ever general election result by a country mile, returning 12 TDs.

When the party went into a Coalition with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, its three ministers were given pivotal – and powerful – departments. The Programme for Government looked like a condensed manifesto for the Green Party. What’s more, the targets were no longer just for show.

Yet, the script of the Greens’ first year in Government read more like Succession and the venal Roy family than The Brady Bunch. The party was riven by bitter rows, by personality disputes, of accusations of bullying, walk-outs, abstentions and resignations.

Now, 18 months after entering Government, the damaging rows have finally subsided and the party seems to have found itself back on an even keel, with focus returning to policy rather than personality.

Not all the internal strife and divisions have disappeared. But it would be true to say that the pro-Coalition wing of the party is in the ascendancy at this moment in time.

The doubters have either retreated or have left the party in the past year. It also seems that the tinderbox issues – the Canadian-EU trade agreement is the one that comes to mind – have moved slightly to the background of late.

It has ever been thus in the party. It’s 40 years this year since the Ecological Party was founded in the Central Hotel in Dublin. Since then, its electoral fortunes have been topsy-turvy. So has its internal dynamics, characterised by rows over being in or out of power.

It was more divided, more damaging this time than it had ever been in the past.


The agenda for the national conference this weekend – which is being held online due to the deteriorating situation in relation to Covid-19 – suggests a party that is mostly at peace with itself. The only agenda item that suggests divide is the debate on Just Transition on Saturday afternoon.

The debate will be chaired by Lauren Kendall of the Green-Left group Just Transition Greens, which has been a constant critic of the leadership’s actions and policy decisions in Government.

The elections for the party’s Executive Committee this weekend – as well as the ongoing hustings for the election for party president – feature candidates from both wings.

Elsewhere, the agenda encompasses many of the established Green policy positions including a circular economy, biodiversity, sustainable transport, traveller rights, and societal moves to secular education.

Unusually, there is no session evaluating the party’s performance in Government over the past year-and-a-half.

The brochure for the conference heavily features the Greens’ achievements in Government so far, and they have been credible.

The pledge for 51 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 has been enshrined in legislation. The Climate Action Plan is a reality and Eamon Ryan achieved big wins in the National Development Plan on transport, retrofitting and renewable forms of energy – even if the price for all that was to give agriculture a bit of a pass.

Performance and delivery

Roderic O’Gorman and Catherine Martin have had some uneven moments as ministers, but both have had strong autumns in terms of performance and delivery.

One must remember that the Green Party got a lot of its agenda into the programme in its first tour of government over a decade ago.

Fianna Fáil played a trick of the loop by supporting in words but taking little action to implement. Neither of the current version of the two other parties in the present Coalition have that disposition, but might not share the sense of urgency of the Greens on action.

In that context, unless the party is able to show “real-life” evidence of implementation across a swathe of policies within the next two years, the house of cards it has built up since 2011 will come crashing down.

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