Green exodus claims fifth of candidates
THE Green Party is shedding members and is on the brink of extinction in some parts of the country.
Fall-out from Ireland's fiscal crisis and disillusionment among members with the Fianna Fail coalition deal has led to hundreds quitting.
Green Party headquarters has confirmed to the Sunday Independent that 20 per cent of Green Party candidates, who stood in the 2009 local elections, have either resigned or not renewed membership.
The Green Party still claims to have a membership of 1,900 but the loss of senior activists, who were considered strong enough to be put on the party's election ticket, is a major blow to the leadership.
This has echoes of the Progressive Democrats, which also began losing many supporters while still in government.
Frank Gallagher, PRO and general secretary of The Donegal Greens, claims there are now only two or three Green Party members in Donegal, since the 57 members of the Donegal Greens decided to disaffiliate themselves from the main party in November.
"They're pretending to have the numbers which they simply don't have. There's total disillusionment within the Green Party," said Mr Gallagher.
In the Midlands, Brian Flanagan and Fergal O'Byrne, two prominent Green Party members, resigned last week with Flanagan declaring a new allegiance to the Labour Party.
Former Green MEP Nessa Childers (Dublin), former Councillor Bronwen Maher (Dublin) and former local candidate Patricia Gardiner (Dublin & Sligo/Leitrim) have also made the switch from the Greens to Labour.
Bronwen Maher left in January 2009, citing the new direction of the party.
"It got to a point where I could no longer defend my party because I didn't believe in the way they were going about things so I had to leave, and I did."
Other issues, such as last year's budget and Nama, led to prominent members Cllr Betty Doran (Longford/Westmeath) and Pat Kavanagh (Wicklow) leaving the party.
In Munster, the loss of long-term member Cllr Chris O'Leary, who resigned in January 2009, citing what he saw as the party's "stay-in-government-at-all-costs" attitude, had major ramifications for the party.
The Greens are at an unprecedented all-time low in Cork and have lost the support of most grassroots members, according to Mr O'Leary.
"A lot of people haven't just left overnight. The TDs and ministers didn't have anything to do with the party locally. I think they're not sufficient to the grassroots members of the party, they're too busy trying to hold on to their own portfolios than they are with keeping up party policy," Mr O'Leary added.
The Greens now only have two elected representatives in Cork, with Cllr Liam Burke (Youghal town council) and Cllr Alan Clayton (Kinsale town council).
Dan Boyle represents the party in the Seanad but he failed to get a Dail seat in the last election.
After the local government elections, the Greens had 15 councillors nationally -- and no representatives on major councils where there had been significant environmental issues over recent years including Cork, Waterford, Tipperary and Kerry.
Since Mr O'Leary's resignation, only one other leading local government election candidate, David Grey in Tralee, Co Kerry, has since departed the organisation.
The only real bright spot for the party in Munster came in Clare where Cllr Brian Meaney was elected on both Ennis Town Council and Clare County Council.
The high-profile resignations of Deirdre de Burca and Patricia McKenna damaged the party publicly while Trevor Sargent's resignation, following his interference with a criminal investigation, was a serious blow to the party.