A delegation from the Green Party led by Chairman Dan Boyle, travelled to Budapest this weekend to attend a council meeting of the European Greens. The occasion is the first time the Irish Greens have met with European counterparts since the general election. Amongst the issues discussed was the party’s recent electoral performance.
A specific meeting took place between the Irish delegation and representatives from other green parties that have suffered electoral reverses, including Germany, Belgium, France and the Czech Republic, to learn from their experiences. The Irish Green Party will be examining this and other organisational issues in the run up to its AGM in May.
The European Green Party Council meeting, which happens biannually, brought together more than 400 green politicians and activists from 42 countries. Among the other issues under discussion were: responses to the Fukushima reactor disaster, media freedom, human rights and the political situation in North Africa.
Senator Boyle told a meeting with the Green European Foundation, a Brussels-based think-tank aligned to the European Greens, that plans to set up a green-leaning think tank in Ireland were well advanced. An Irish Green Foundation was likely to be established this year, he said.
“The primary objectives of the think tank would be to publish research and raise awareness and acceptance of green issues,” Senator Boyle said.
“There is a wide, surface level acceptance of the green agenda. Lots of people believe in being green, and many make small changes – by sorting waste for recycling for example, or walking or cycling more. But it’s clear that when it comes to more substantial lifestyle changes, or when certain policies involve a price tag, there is a much lower level of acceptance.
“As a political organisation the Irish Green Party did it’s best at emphasising the positives of our policies – job creation, reduced heating costs through better insulation, lower tax for greener cars – but there is no doubt that we paid a price politically for endorsing unpopular policies. This situation perfectly suited the other political parties who quietly backed many of our policies, but publicly and actively attacked them on the doors and in the media.
“We have learned – the hard way – that you cannot, as a political party, devote all of your energy to fighting unpopular fights and defending unpopular measures, then expect to get re-elected. The fact that these issues are vital to Ireland’s long-term prosperity gets lost in the cycle of election campaigns, which are traditionally dominated by shallow populism and short-termism.
“We need help in convincing people that our policy approach is viable and important, and this is some of the work that the think tank will undertake,” he said.