The Emerging Greens
The emergence of Green politics in Ireland first came in the
form of social movements protesting against mining, the chemical
industry and most significantly against nuclear power. The Green
Party did not emerge directly from these movements but rather
was initiated by Christopher Fettes, a Dublin teacher. Active in
the Vegetarian Society, the Esperanto movement and Friends of
the Earth, Fettes became increasingly convinced of the need for
a political party that would address Green issues. To achieve
this he issued invitations to a meeting to form a Green Party,
which was held on 3 December 1981 in the Central Hotel, Dublin.
The invitation included a list of proposed aims, including the
- "a steady state economy to replace unlimited economic
- "a non-exploitive but more fruitful relationship with
the natural environment"
- "the provision of a basic income to all, and a
decentralised and economically self-sufficient way of life,
giving a maximum freedom to individuals and a minimum of
power to central government"
Of the 80 people who attended, a majority was in favour of
creating a political party, and thus the Ecology Party of
Ireland (E.P.I.) was born. A steering committee of 12 was
elected and membership was approximately 40 for the first few
months. The initial structure of the E.P.I. was conventional,
being based on branches like the other Irish political parties.
This traditional organisation was in part put forward with
political registration in mind. While the E.P.I. was too young
for the unexpected general election of February 1982 the
steering committee issued some leaflets announcing the party's
existence and promising the voters the opportunity of being able
to support ecology candidates at the next election. In March the
Party held its first convention at the Glencree Reconciliation
Centre in Wicklow and it was here that the seven principles of
the party were agreed by consensus. These principles still serve
the Green Party to the present and are:
- The impact of society on the environment should not be
- Conservation of resources is vital to a sustainable
- All political, social and economic decisions should be
taken at the lowest effective level.
- Society should be guided by self-reliance and co-operation
at all levels.
- As caretakers of the Earth, we have the responsibility to
pass it on in a fit and healthy state.
- The need for world peace overrides national and commercial
- The poverty of two thirds of the world's family demands a
redistribution of the world's resources.
The E.P.I found itself facing a general election in November
1982, and having already given the commitment mentioned above to
contest the next election, the party decided to put up seven
candidates. The candidates polled 0,2% of the national vote and
an average of 1,3% in the constituencies contested.
1983 saw the E.P.I. change its name its name to the Green
Alliance/Comhaontas Glas, and it was under this title that
Christopher Fettes contested the 1984 European election,
standing in Dublin. He managed to poll 1,9% of the vote (0,3%
nationally). Along with the new name came organisational change.
The old structure of the E.P.I. did not correspond to green
notions of grassroots democracy, and it was dropped in favour of
an alliance of autonomous groups. With some modifications, this
is still the basic structure of the party.
The following years' local elections gave the party its first
electoral success when Marcus Counihan was elected to Killarney
Urban District Council. Overall the Greens won 0,6% of the
national vote. This was for 34 candidates, 28 of whom stood in
Dublin. Then in 1986, the party experienced a minor split over
whether it should be a campaigning movement or concentrate its
energies on the electoral process. A few favoured the former and
left the party while the remaining majority concentrated on
electoral politics. The next electoral test was the 1987 general
election where the Party scored 0,4% of the national vote and,
although down on their 1985 vote the result was achieved with
only 9 candidates.
In 1987 the Party changed its name to the Green Party/Comhaontas
Glas to help end public confusion over whether it was a
political organisation or not. The new name came just in time
for the electoral breakthrough of 1989, when Roger Garland
became the Party's first T.D., representing Dublin South. In all
the Green Party contested 11 constituencies in the June 1989
general election, 10 in Dublin plus Kildare. The Party also
contested the Dublin and Leinster constituencies in the European
election held the same day. In the Munster constituencies, the
Greens supported the People First candidate, Joe Noonan.
The success of Roger Garland was built on with the election
of 13 councillors in the June 1991 Local Elections. Four seats
were won on Dublin Corporation, six on Dublin Co. Council and
one each on Cork Corporation, Wicklow and Kildare Co. Councils.
On Dublin Corporation the Greens formed a governing coalition,
the Civic Alliance, to run the capital city. Things however did
not run entirely smoothly as Councillor Richard Greene resigned
from the party early in 1992. An unexpected general election
followed in November 1992. Roger Garland lost his Dublin South
seat, but this was balanced by the election of Trevor Sargent
for Dublin North.
In June 1994 the Party pulled off a major achievement with
the election of two MEPs (out of 15) to the European Parliament.
Patricia McKenna topped the poll in Dublin with 14,5% of the
first preference vote, and Nuala Ahern got 11,8% in Leinster,
enough to secure the final seat. Overall the party nationally
received 7,9%, putting it in fourth place behind Fianna Fáil,
Fine Gael and the Labour Party. The party also made important
gains in the Urban District Council elections held the same day.
And that same month, the Dublin City Council elected Cllr. John
Gormley as the first Green Lord Mayor of Dublin.
These successes continued with the Cork bye-elections in
October 1994, where Cllr. Dan Boyle, although failing to gain a
seat, received 16% of the poll in Cork South Central. In May
1997 John Gormley joined Trevor Sargent in the Dáil where he
was elected for Dublin South East after enduring a week-long
marathon count to defeat Michael McDowell of the PDs by
An even greater achievement was recorded in the 1999 European
Elections when Patricia McKenna and Nuala Ahern successfully
defended their European Parliament seats. Patricia McKenna took
the third seat in Dublin with 12.7% and Nuala Ahern did even
better taking the second seat in Leinster with 13.78%. The 1999
Local Election Results were a mixed bag. Although the Party's
vote, at 2.4% nationally, remained the same as 1991, the figures
failed to produce the seats expected. There were some notable
successes though. Mary White, with an excellent 23%, topped the
poll ahead of Fianna Fail in Borris, Carlow as did Eamon Ryan in
Rathmines, Dublin and Paul Gogarty in Lucan, County Dublin.
But the major success were the National elections of 2002, where
the Party saw the number of MPs rise to 6 in the National
To be continued...............
National Government: Fianna Fail and Green Party
Other Parties Represented in National Parliament:
Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn