The UCD Young Greens society have announced that ten of their sixteen committee members have resigned. This comes as a result of disagreements over the Green Party membership’s decision to enter coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, and Eamon Ryan’s re-election as leader of the party.
This mass departure follows a larger trend of younger Green members leaving the party. The most notable figure to leave the Green Party is Saoirse McHugh, a candidate at both the recent general election and the 2019 European elections.
Several members claim to have been considering resigning since the Programme for Government was passed by the membership. However, it was Eamon Ryan’s victory in the leadership contest which was the final straw for several of them.
Outgoing auditor, Adam Lawson, told The University Observer that he thought he would resign if the Programme for Government went through as it would mean “the Green Party were making stuff worse, not better”. “If the government is true to what it says it’ll do in the Programme for Government…it’ll make the rich richer and the poor poorer.” Lawson believes that this “is worse than doing nothing”.
Outgoing treasurer, Eoin Power-Moran, said that “there was no way I could continue to support a party where they voted in someone who like literally just the week before was asleep in the Dáil during an important debate.” He also took issue with the Programme for Government stating, “I’d feel like a bit of a hypocrite if I were to go back out onto the doorsteps four years from now, having achieved nothing really.”
Lawson and Power-Moran both referenced the lack of improvements on housing policy and the absence of a carbon tax dividend in the Programme for Government as crucial manifesto promises which were going unfulfilled.
Lawson also mentioned the shift from promising a 7% decrease in carbon emissions per year to agreeing to a 7% decrease on average over the next ten years. Lawson claimed this promise was particularly unreliable given “the government isn’t going to exist after 2025.” Lawson claims that he perceived the 7% as a “red line”.
Other members stated that, while they were unhappy with the choices the membership made, what really triggered their decision was a perceived lack of reasonable debate around the issues. Outgoing PRO Conall Gunnigan said “the debate around both were what really pushed me away”. He claims that “while most were respectful, there were also ageist and sexist comments”. He cites Ossian Smyth’s dismissal of Lorna Bogue’s views on the grounds of being from the youth wing of the party as “particularly bizarre” given Lorna is an elected representative. Gunnigan also feels that “there’s an element of hypocrisy in a party that claims to be in it for their children but refuses to listen to young people”.
Lawson reiterated this sentiment, saying that “if you don’t raise your voice or speak out you’re not a target of ageism or sexism.” “Older members, predominantly men, are very happy for young people, and young women in particular, to be in the party so long as they don’t say things they disagree with. When we have done that, more often than not, it’s been the case that our points haven’t been engaged with”.
The University Observer understands that most, if not all, of the resigning members are leaving the Green Party as well as the society committee. Lawson said that he had waited until now to leave so that he could cast his vote in the leadership election.
The University Observer spoke to Theo Dillon, UCD Greens secretary, who has not resigned. He supported the Programme for Government and Eamon Ryan’s leadership bid. While he acknowledges that the Programme for Government was imperfect, he thought it was the better of two not-great options. However, there were several aspects of the deal which he was particularly enthusiastic about, notably biodiversity. He also believes that simply having a seat at the government table would do a lot for pushing green policies up the agenda; “I think it’s important to have a left wing environmental party at the table no matter who else is there”.
He said that he understood why people have resigned but that he views the party very differently to them. While he is not entirely satisfied with the way the politics are going, he believes that the society is not exclusively a political enterprise. He says the society is in many ways a place for "environmentalists to promote environmentalism and sustainable living”. The society has a significant social dimension as well as a political one. Therefore, one is giving up a lot more in leaving the society than they would be in simply leaving the party.
Next year will undoubtedly be a challenging year for many UCD societies. Only in their third year, such a large exodus of members will surely make matters even more difficult for UCD Young Greens for the coming year. However, they are expecting to be able to fill most of the committee vacancies at an EGM. All of those who have resigned have agreed to stay on until then.