The Dáil’s summer recess may be upon us but the issues engulfing the Green Party linger on. The turbulent last few months have left its mark on all branches of the party, not least the University College Dublin (UCD) Young Greens, who now face replacing 10 committee members who resigned over the Programme for Government (PfG) and broader issues within the party.
Paul Carroll, Branch Coordinator of National Executive of Young Greens and recent graduate of Maynooth University, spoke to The College Tribune about the discrimination young Green Party members have faced in recent months, and his hope for the future of the Young Greens.
“There is a Green Party worth fighting for,” Carroll says. “We want to send a message to those in UCD that there is.”
In July, 10 members of UCD Young Greens, including newly elected Auditor Adam Lawson, resigned from the society and the party following the Green’s decision to enter into coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Carroll has acknowledged the disappointment of losing members of the UCD Young Greens. “It is saddening to see people leave who I know to be good Greens, people who were campaigning and canvassing for us, and people who I would have gotten to know through opposing the PfG.” He says he doesn’t think any less of them for leaving and accepts that these resignations have become an increasing issue for the party – “it’s a very common thing these days, unfortunately, that people are leaving the Greens for completely valid reasons.”
These reasons, highlighted by those leaving the UCD Young Green’s, are alleged ageism and sexism within the Green Party and its branches. Speaking to The College Tribune following his resignation, outgoing-auditor Lawson highlighted the issues which Young Greens faced during the PfG negotiations. He said: “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. […] There are issues within the Green Party in how members respect each other and talk to each other.”
This ageism, Carroll is quick to admit, “is a problem.” Previous allegations of ageism were made by UCD Young Greens against members such as Ossian Smyth (TD for Dún Laoghaire) and Party leader Eamon Ryan. “There are people in the party who engage in certain behaviours that we don’t approve of. It is incredibly disheartening”, Carroll acknowledges, warning that should those in the main party continue to behave like this, “they will see their youth membership decline even further”.
Moving away from the party membership, Carroll goes on to criticise an “overblown narrative” branding Young Greens as purely “Young Radicals”, perpetrated primarily by “certain journalists with blue ticks”. He says: “Certain journalists that reached out to us, such as from RTÉ Drivetime and Morning Ireland, gave us a fair platform and showed us a greater understanding than those from certain Newspapers that would have had a different opinion, who didn’t reach out to us, and chose to retweet that we were not the ‘real Greens’ instead.”
Similar to issues around age, sexism has been flagged as a systemic issue within the Green Party, and one which has prompted the necessary creation of ‘Mná Glasa Óige’, a branch of the Young Greens for female members. One of its members, Taylor Fewer, previously told The College Tribune of the branch’s fight against the apparent “unnecessary” and “undeserved” snubbing of Neasa Hourigan for the position of Minister of State for Public Procurement and Government.
On this, Carroll is clear – “Specifically in the Young Greens and the Green Party there is a problem of sexism […] in a political party or youth movement, it’s an awful place to be a woman”. Consequently, according to Carroll, there are to be further measures taken to stem the problem of sexism by the Young Greens.
“We are working on developing a sexual harassment policy. We are also working on having better disciplinary procedures. We have recently set up a Mná Glasa Óige, a safe space specifically for women to organise. […] Some alt right and centrist journals would disdain the idea of safe spaces but it’s not a bad thing to have a space where women can become active without the danger of – for lack of a better word – ‘shithead men’”.
In the last few weeks, the Green Party’s popular general election candidate Saoirse McHugh has left the party, Eamon Ryan has been filmed sleeping during a Dáil vote, and Neasa Hourigan and Minister of State, Joe O’Brien, have both had their speaking rights removed for not following the party whip in Dáil votes.
“Even for the people who were for or against the PfG, I think there is space in the Young Greens to hold the government to account on that kind of core value issues.” Ultimately, he says, “there are fights coming.” However, he still believes “there is a Green Party worth fighting for.”
Gemma Farrell – Assistant News Editor