*Photograph: John Mangan
This summer’s drought and the fodder crisis have helped people realise we can no longer ignore climate change according to Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan.
Ryan was in Clare last week to launch Barry O’Donovan and Roisin Garvey as their two candidates in the 2019 local elections. On whether they can both get elected, he commented, “I think they will, I think they’ve a real good chance and I think we may surprise people, I think we will do well”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, he revealed that they are hopeful of adding more representatives to their ticket. “We’re not finished I’m hoping we will have additional candidates but we wanted to launch the two to really reignite the Green Party in Clare and tonight was a beneficial step in that direction. It’s not just here, it’s happening all over the country, we’re starting to see the Greens come back, there are young people coming in, the public interest in what we’re saying is coming back because the issues are centre stage. This summer, the fact our grass stopped growing in the middle of June and July, you can’t ignore it anymore, it’s in your face so what we’ve been saying for thirty years around climate change people can see it for themselves now”.
His own political career took off in 1999 when he topped the poll in Rathmines for the local elections and the fifty five year old is confident they will increase their presence on Councils across the country next May. “We’ve already fifty candidates around the country for the local elections and I hope that will grow significantly again. I think we may surprise people, we’ve a real chance of winning seats and as I was saying, one of the reasons I was interested in Clare is because it was always an area where we had a strong Green party, the likes of Brian Meaney, Donal Ó Bearra who really did us proud and we want to bring that back”.
Brian Meaney was the last Green Party representative on Clare County Council, however he joined Fianna Fáil prior to the 2014 local elections. In the intervening four years, Meaney has not rejoined the Greens. “I haven’t seen Brian in ages, I have the highest regard and time for him, as a colleague he was the best of persons, he was great fun but also very loyal, capable and highly talented. If he was here tonight, there’s no man I’d prefer to go for a pint with than Brian Meaney,” Eamon said. On the notion of Brian running for them next year, he answered, “To be honest I haven’t even considered it because I haven’t been in touch with him. I haven’t talked to Brian and I’d have to talk to him”.
In the 2016 General Elections, surfer Fergal Smith flew the Green Party securing 1,700 first preference votes in his first election bid. Despite being approached, he will not be added to their list of local election candidates according to the party leader. “Fergal is great, he took on that role and ran in the last General Election. Fergal is a big wave surfer and he said it was as scary a thing as any big wave he has surfed because it is, if you haven’t done it before it’s great fun but it’s also very challenging and he did us proud. He got a really good vote, a very articulate young person now he’s busy running Moyhill farm with his friends and they’ve a huge job, they’ve just taken on a large tract of land, it’s not easy what they’re doing it’s really challenging. I remember talking to him afterwards and he said ‘Eamon I really enjoyed doing it, I greatly enjoyed the experience but I got to get this farm working properly’ and I think that’s fair enough, he won’t be running this time”.
“I think he’s very interesting, it’s not just because he is a world famous surfer and not because he’s running a big organic farm, I think he is doing that in a way where he connects with local people. What I really like and I’m coming from a distance, they’re very connected into the local community, they’ve got the respect of their local neighbours and rightly so because they’re working decent young people”.
Regarding the next General Election, the former Minister for Communications outlined, “We will run one candidate in Clare, I wouldn’t be surprised if the General Election was before the Locals and European, who knows. I think this Dáil has done a good job, if you look at the way Brexit negotiations are going we’ve had a stronger negotiating position because of the way the Dáil has worked in a collaborative way but I think it would be more appropriate going into the next Budget if all parties presented their alternative visions and have an election before we do that, I’d say that to Mícheál Martin publicly, I have said it to Leo, I think we can’t have an election before the end of March because there’s such uncertainty around that, not too soon after that I wouldn’t be too surprised if there was an election and it would be appropriate to have it then”.
In a Q&A session during the unveiling of the two candidates, the first question fielded came from a member of the Labour Party. The Dublin Bay South TD was happy to be joined by individuals of other parties. “I didn’t know that, that’s great. One of the philosophies we come with is we’ll talk to all parties and it’s characteristic going back a long way, the transition we need to make is so big we’ll need both left and right, we’ll need the business people, the trade unions and the farmers on board, we’re about bringing people together as opposed to dividing them apart. That was a very welcome presence here tonight”.
While Eamon has not been a regular visitor to Co Clare in recent years, his recent stop in Ennis brought back memories of a tourist company he founded in 1989 following three years of travel and unemployment. “We used to start here in Ennis and bring them down to Miltown Malbay up to Ballyvaughan, up to Gort and back around, we used to do a circular tour around Clare and I loved it, it was really popular and it’s still going, my sister is running Cycling Safaris with her husband but it’s different, those days people turned up for cycling in a pair of ordinary trousers and you tucked the trousers into your sock, now everyone turns up in lycra and they carbon fibre everything, it’s funny how it has changed in the last twenty five years,” Ryan recalled.