Greens join historic coalition in Ireland

“The wider world’s greatest challenge is to restore biodiversity and stop the madness that climate change will bring if it goes unchecked. That’s what our job will be in government and what we have been voted in to do.” The Green Party of Ireland has agreed to a coalition deal with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to form a government after months of negotiations.

Eamon Ryan
Eamon Ryan

Eamon Ryan 

Olivia Rutherford

The Green Party in Ireland has formed a new government with two larger parties after the terms of its coalition deal received significant support from its membership.

76 per cent of the Greens’ membership approved the decision for the party to enter into a coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on Friday (26 June), surpassing the two-thirds majority of votes needed to back the draft Programme for Government.

In the February elections, the Greens received unprecedented support and increased its vote share by 4.4 per cent to 7.1 per cent, taking 12 seats in the 180-seat Dáil Éireann (lower house of the Irish Parliament). 

Fianna Fáil gained 38 seats, followed by Sinn Féin on 37 seats, and Fine Gael, with 35 seats. With votes divided and no party commanding the majority of the votes, a hung Dáil ensued.

This spurred historic centre-right rivals Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to seek support from the Greens to enable them to form a coalition government. Sinn Féin had sought to form a government but was unable to muster sufficient support from smaller parties after Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ruled out working with the pro-unification party.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin is expected to lead the country until December 2022 as new taoiseach (Irish prime minister) before handing back over to Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael leader to form a new government. 

The Green Party has received four cabinet positions as part of the coalition agreement, with party leader Eamon Ryan serving as Minister for Climate action, Communication Networks and Transport, and deputy leader Catherine Martin serving as Minister for Media, Tourism, Art, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht.

Roderic O'Gorman has also been made Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, while Pippa Hackett will attend cabinet as Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity.

The Programme for Government includes several key Green policies, including the delivery of a Green New Deal, which will target net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, achieve at least 70 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 and undertake a significant building retrofitting programme, among other policies.

Reflecting on the last few months and Friday’s decision the Greens Deputy Leader Catherine Martin commented that it had been a “difficult process” but she is “proud” of how the party has engaged in the process.

She said: “I know some members and supporters will be disappointed with this outcome. I want to assure all members who did not support this Programme for Government that we have heard you and value your concerns. Your vigilance and oversight is more vital now than ever before.”

Speaking following the announcement Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said: “There is a sense of responsibility on us now. We have a job to do. We must work with our coalition partners in getting our country out of a really severe economic crisis. People who are at home now who may have lost their job or are at risk of losing their job – they need a government. We need to get up and stand up for them and get the country working.

“The wider world’s greatest challenge is to restore biodiversity and stop the madness that climate change will bring if it goes unchecked. That’s what our job will be in government and what we have been voted in to do. I believe that we can work with our coalition partners and parties in opposition to work together collectively to set our country on this new future. One that is sustainable in every way: socially, economically and environmentally. That’s what we will seek to do.”

However, the Greens of Northern Ireland leader Claire Bailey spoke out against the agreement. Speaking to BBC's Sunday Politics, Bailey said: "We need to protect the most vulnerable and what I can see in this programme of government is they will be hit the hardest.

"People came out in February and voted for change and I don't think that change is being delivered in this programme.”