Fionnán Sheahan: 'Greens go all Love Island as Eamon takes flirting tips from Maura'
It got all hot and steamy at the Green Party conference.
There was no air conditioning in the venue as the party had its largest turnout for years on the back of the Green Wave, so it was roasting in the hall.
And turning up the temperature was Eamon Ryan’s unrelenting flirting with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
The ever-direct Maura Higgins would be proud of him.
The Greens are clearly picking up tips from watching ‘Love Island’ as they blatantly signalled they were willing to share a coalition bed after the next general election.
Party members voted to keep their options open on entering government.
Then Eamon took to the stage at the Law Society HQ in Blackhall Place in Dublin in his open-necked, short-sleeved, white linen shirt.
He encouraged his devoted followers to loosen up, saying there was “optimism, energy and excitement” in the room and even had them chanting slogans.
Batting his eyelids at Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Ryan pointed out the need to get into power.
“If we really want to change things in this [transport policy] and so many other areas then I think we must be open and prepared to enter government after the next election.
“I know from experience how hard that can be but also what can be achieved,” he said in a text aimed at Leo Varadkar and Michéal Martin.
Fresh from their best ever local and European elections, the Greens now want to make an impact with their 49 councillors and two MEPs – and getting TDs elected.
After their previous experience in government though, there’s an obvious element of caution.
Last time they coupled up with Fianna Fáil, they got voted off the island.
Following the disastrous 2007-2011 coalition, the Greens were nearly wiped out coming back with no TDs, having so few votes they didn’t qualify for government funding and they held on to only three county councillors.
Party chairman Roderic O’Gorman, who topped the poll in Leo’s backyard of Castleknock, alluded to the Catch 22 sentiment amongst members.
“Potential participation [in government] is something a lot of members view with trepidation,” he said.
Deputy leader Catherine Martin said the membership would all be gathering around the firepit before any decisions were taken about going into government.
“There is no party with democratic structures as strong as ours,” she said.
Yet Ryan said the other parties want to work with the Greens “because they know we work well in a team”.
As for what will be on the table in coalition talks, Ryan set out a few items: climate action, public transport, social housing and millions of trees.
He wants to give a grant to all 120,000 family farms in the country to plant an acre of diverse native forestry at the corners of every field.
Ryan says the party’s next step is to have stakeholder meetings with campaigners, activists and academics in every county to think about what’s needed to draw up a new green national development plan.
Topics for discussion include how to switch the transport budget two to one in favour of public transport and public housing paid for by the rent charged over the life-time of a loan.
“We want to stitch the ideas that emerge from the discussions into new county development plans and include them in the proposals we might bring into any future Programme for Government negotiations,” Ryan says.
But he’s not entirely playing footsie with the current incumbents of The Villa on Merrion Street, who will have to up their game to be chosen for a lasting relationship.
“In the area of transport policy I am afraid Fine Gael and Minister Shane Ross are a complete waste of space. Their only road map is to build yet more roads.
“Their only climate initiative to switch from fossil fuelled cars to ones powered by a battery. They are blind to the unsustainable sprawl, long distance commutes and gridlock that this policy will bring,” he said.
“They have 51 major roads projects on the go and not a single big public transport project in the planning process.”
It’s all hotting up for the election.