It’s been a tough time for everyone since February – including the Green Party. There was significant disagreement within the party about whether or not to enter government, and in recent times the party has lost many of its young members, following a tumultuous few months in government.
There have been several high-profile departures over the last several months, notably Mayo’s Saoirse McHugh and Cork’s Cllr Lorna Bogue. Just last month, the Chair of the Young Greens Tara Gilsenan and the Chair of the Queer Greens Tiernan Mason resigned from the party in a joint statement on social media. Citing recent government decisions relating to the Evictions Bill and the Mother and Babies records, Ms Gilsenan said they were left with no other choice as their views were being ignored by the party’s leadership. “We just were not being listened to. We were trying to reflect our views but we realised there was absolutely no way anyone was going to take our opinions on board.”
The pair’s resignation took immediate effect and did not leave much hope for reconciliation. “We had hoped that we could fight to make a difference and to hold the Green Party to account, but in our short time as chairpersons, we have realised that our efforts have been in vain and that the concerns we have raised have been going unheeded,” they wrote. “To that end, we feel that we are no longer able to represent these affiliate groups of the Green Party.”
Since then, the Young Greens National Executive has released a statement to say that they are suspending all operations until January 2021. Explaining their decision, the organisation cited a significant decline in numbers in previous months, and a desire for current members to “find purpose within the Green Party.”
“The Green Party overall and the Young Greens have had an extraordinary and overwhelming amount of growth and change over the past 18 months.
Young Green members have canvassed and worked tirelessly with the main party, for the elected representatives and for the green movement in Ireland and elsewhere.
From a state of growth and as a campaigning body, the purpose of the Young Greens has changed significantly more recently.
The past five months of government have had a major impact on our membership numbers and negatively affected the drive and passion of volunteers.”
The organisation has said that they will continue to sit on the executive committee of the Green Party during this time and that Young Green branches will continue to operate as normal. They will also continue to welcome new members. According to the Young Greens Equality Officer Heather Casserly, the decision to suspend operations for two months was not one that was taken lightly: “After a year fraught with political upheaval resulting in a loss of morale among the Young Greens, not to mention the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, operations were suspended in order to allow the members to focus on their mental well-being, and evaluate their places both in the Green Party and in the wider green movement.”
Speaking to Trinity News, the Trinity Young Green’s Secretary Mark Heavey said: “As a society we have made a similar decision to the national Young Greens to greatly decrease the number of events we will organise compared to the first half of the term.” A “sense of exhaustion” among members, combined with a drop in engagement with events, led Trinity Young Greens to make this decision. “Frustration with the climate bill, an apparently endless series of scandals, and in particular the mishandling of the mother and baby homes issue has turned people off the society and the Green Party, and caused a number of resignations, including our former chair Julie Smirnova and OCM’s Tara Gilsenan and Nina Cullen,” Heavey said.
Heavey is not optimistic about the future of the party on its current trajectory: “Upon return, it will be necessary to precisely establish what sort of relationship the society will have with the main party. Most young members feel the party does not listen to them. A political party which does not listen to its members does so to its detriment, especially members who worked tirelessly, as the Trinity Young Greens did, to help provide them with electoral success. The party is currently highly dysfunctional and unless serious change begins to occur, I think its future is bleak.”