The spate of Green Party defections following the publication of the Programme for Government (PfG) in June has been ongoing throughout summer 2020.
In June, Young Greens advised their members to vote against the PfG which later saw the Green Party enter into a coalition government with Fianna Faíl and Fine Gael. The majority of Young Greens [65.95%] voted against the PfG, prompting widespread anger and resignations, including the resignation of ten members of University College Dublin’s (UCD) Young Greens committee.
Despite this, a group of young female Green Party members have established a new affiliate group of the Party – Mná Glasa Óga (MGO). An offshoot of the Young Greens and inspired by the Mná Glasa, ‘Green Women’, MGO is a group that gives a voice to young women in the Green Party. Recently, Tara and Rossa Gilsenan, MGO’s Policy Coordinator and Chairperson respectively, spoke to The College Tribune about the new group.
“Because we haven’t been ratified yet, we aren’t officially an affiliate group.” Tara explains, “So – we’re still waiting. It’s frustrating but [the Party is] just very busy at the moment with everything.” MGO’s campaigns, Rossa adds, will hopefully “come out before Christmas.”
What are MGO’s goals?
R: “Giving young women a voice. we’ve seen in other affiliate groups that young men find it easier to put themselves forward and get support, so we wanted a space just for women.”
T: “Young women in the party can be drowned out, and we wanted to have a place to build each other up and make sure our voices are heard.”
What do you think the Green Party could do engage with younger people, especially younger women?
R: “Ratify us! […] TDs need to include young people in their vision for the future and for now – they need to remember a lot of the hard work from the Young Greens is what got them elected.”
T: “To be honest, I don’t know how they’ll engage young people. As a young person in the Party, I don’t feel comfortable or represented there anymore. Most of us feel very let down – look at how many of us voted against going into government. 80% of the Rural Young Greens voted against it. When the main party voted to go into government by such a large margin, it really makes you wonder – are we being heard? […] A lot of them would not have been elected without us – we know it and they know it too. We canvassed every day all over the country, and some members didn’t even thank us.”
Do you think MGO represents an important step for representation of young women in the Party?
R: “Definitely. There’s so much potential in young women and we don’t always get the chance to be part of decision making within the party. When we’re ratified, we will get two votes on policy decisions.”
Some young critics of the Green Party cite issues of ageism and sexism as fundamental issues in the Party recently. How do you feel about the Young Greens’ reportedly implementing a sexual harassment policy?
T: “The national Young Greens committee is working on a sexual harassment policy. But it really should have been there to begin with. There isn’t one in the main party.”
Have you personally ever felt snubbed by older members because of your age or gender?
T: “To say I have felt snubbed because of my age or gender is an understatement. I have experienced sexism so many times, I couldn’t pick one incident to talk about. I have seen issues of sexual harassment that weren’t dealt with by the party, I’ve been attacked by elected representatives on Twitter and nothing was done by the party – the list goes on.”
Finally, how do you feel about the mass resignation of the UCD Young Greens committee this year over these issues?
R: “I completely understand it, but it was sad to see all the potential in those young people go like that.”
T: “To see [the committee] pushed out because our ideals were betrayed to that point really broke my heart. I completely understand and respect what they did but I hope other committees don’t end up going the same way. Adam, the auditor, is not a hot-headed person – he’s very measured, so for him to do this shows just how badly we’ve been betrayed.”
These current problems within the Green Party, Tara concludes however, are not “a reason to stop fighting” – They are a reason to fight harder. “If we don’t fight,” she warns “[…] we could end up with a right-wing Green Party.”
Isobel Dunne – Reporter