Ten of University College Dublin’s (UCD) Young Greens committee members have resigned following alleged experiences of “ageism” and “sexism” in the Green Party in recent months and as a result of the passing of the ‘Programme for Government’.
Committee members and Green Party supporters, which include newly elected auditor Adam Lawson, have spoken exclusively to The College Tribune of their disillusionment with the Party following the recent negotiations of the ‘Programme for Government’ (PfG), which has prompted them to step down and revoke their party membership.
In an email sent to society members in May, the society highlighted their “anger and disappointment” at the government formation talks which included the Green Party and urged members to sign a drafted letter to Party leader, Eamon Ryan, and key figures, outlining 17 key areas of concern. In June, the UCD 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.
This period saw younger members allege to have experienced “ageism” from members of the wider Green Party, some committee members of UCD Young Greens have now alleged. The society’s auditor, Adam Lawson, has accused senior members of the Green Party of largely dismissing the concerns of UCD Young Greens over the PfG. “When we did engage or attempt to engage with TD’s and some other Green Party members, they were quite dismissive of us in general.”
Lawson has told The College Tribune of a specific incident with party leader Eamon Ryan, which he feels illustrates the failure of senior members to accept the views of younger members. He said: “We had video calls where we spoke to 3 TD’s; Ossian Smyth (TD for Dún Laoghaire), Malcolm Noonan (TD for Carlow-Kilkenny) and Eamon Ryan, during the negotiations before the PfG. We set out our hopes and worries. I felt all of them didn’t really engage with what we were saying. I was particularly disappointed with Ossian and Eamon, as, when we voiced our concerns, they rarely answered our questions properly. They largely weren’t honest about the possible trade-offs of going into government and that we might have a point.”
Conall Gunnigan who has resigned as the societies’ Public Relations Officer has recalled a similar experience when following an episode of RTÉ’s ‘Primetime’ in which Smyth appeared. According to Gunnigan, he “put a message into a members forum” over fears that young people’s views, not just (his) own, were being dismissed as the views of ‘young radicals’. “During those debates, a lot of the comments I was getting were ‘Oh you’re just a young radical’ and it was very much dismissing my views and the views of other young people because of our age.”
Just a subsection?
However, a prominent member of UCD Young Greens, Taylor Fewer, believes the recent issues in the Green Party go deeper than just “ageism”, and instead highlight an issue of general lack of communication and discussion in the Party – “Some people will tell you it’s strictly an ageism problem, it’s not.”
Fewer has told The College Tribune of her own experience of “limited and unproductive chats because certain people, if they disagree, take it as a personal affront, and cannot discuss it…” She added: “They are all ages, from my experiences, it’s not all older people. Among women, it’s all ages and a general lack of unwillingness to see from any either point of view other than their own… when the party can’t grow, then we stay stagnant.”
According to Fewer, the reality of the ‘age divide’ has been starkly revealed as a result of the PfG. She acknowledges that after “fighting for so long for environmental change” some, rightly, “saw the PfG providing some environmental change… It was them finally achieving their goal.” While for younger, perhaps newer, members, the abandonment of social justice policies in the PfG have led many to “step back and say: ‘okay we got what we’re fighting for but is it worth it if we’re losing all of this’?”
Fewer has recalled her experience of this divide – “My first comment into a Party chat was attacked for speaking towards environmental privilege and was torn to shreds by some members as ‘right-wing’… telling me I was ill-informed and in over my head by counsellors in the Green Party… simply because they disagreed.”
Amid the divide in the Green Party, recent months have also given rise to allegations of ‘sexism’ within the Party membership. Fewer has cited the recent appointment of Ossian Smyth as Minister of State for Public Procurement and Government as an example of the issues faced by women in the Party. Smyth was allegedly chosen for the position over Neasa Hourigan, Spokesperson for Finance, in the new coalition.
“We (Mná Glasa Óga) got up in arms about it and we wrote a letter to the Party, which I think went all the way up to Eamon. It was something that we were very united on. We are a party that promotes our women, we had a great opportunity to promote a capable woman and we let her down entirely. What about Neasa, as our finance spokesperson, did not qualify her for the ministerial position? These decisions are Eamon’s… it makes us question if these things matter, whether women and men are being placed in positions without genuine reason. She deserved this role, and someone took it away from her.”
Mná Glasa Óga has been established in recent months by some young female Green Party members, such as Tara Gilsenan. According to Fewer, it is something which “In reality there should never have been a need for, but now, there is.” She continued: “it has been set up to ensure young women in the Party have a voice because sometimes it has been overpowered.”
Gemma Farrell – Reporter