#TrendsterGE20 Leaders Interview Series: Eamon Ryan
The #TrendsterGE20 Leaders Interview Series aims to help better inform young voters ahead of the impending 2020 Irish General Election. We have requested interviews with each of the leaders, and deputy leaders of all of the major political parties in the Republic of Ireland.
The first party leader to accept our interview request was Eamon Ryan, leader of the Irish Green Party. I spoke with Eamon at his office in Leinster House on Monday, 2nd of December, 2019.
- 1. In May (2019), Ireland became only the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency (many since have followed). However, in October (2019) Ireland, yet again, missed its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and it has been admitted that reaching the 2020 emission goal is a lost cause and that the State is not on course to meet more demanding 2030 targets. My question is, when it comes to climate change is the state simply talking the talk, and failing to walk the walk?
- 2. There was a green surge in the local and European elections in May (2019), and in November (2019) your party won its first ever Dail By-Election (of course, Joe O’Brien in Dublin Fingal). Are you confident that the Green Party can replicate this success in the next General Election?
- 3. Based on the recent mentioned successes, and the polls, it looks likely that the Green Party will be an important coalition partner after the next General Election. If the opportunity arises, would the Green Party form a coalition government?
- 4. You were in the last government that the Green Party were involved in back in 2007 with Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats. Are there any lessons you would take from 2007 into coalition talks, should you find yourself in that position after the next General Election?
- 5. If elected into power, how does the Green Part plan on making the changes necessary to tackle climate change, and create a green economy, without negatively impacting the most vulnerable, and lowest earners in society?
- 6. In May (2019), the Green Party message was ‘If you want green, vote Green’. There is no doubt that your party is committed taking action to tackle climate change, but there clearly are other issues in the country. What other key issues and problems are important to you and your party?
- 7. Direct Provision has been in place here in Ireland for 20-years, however, in recent months the system has received a huge amount of backlash and criticism with many claiming it is ‘inhumane’. However, the Taoiseach has said the system is ‘imperfect’, not inhumane. What are your thoughts?
- 8. In 2004 you sought your party’s nomination to be a candidate in the 2004 Presidential Election. Do you still have aspirations to be President, or is Taoiseach now the goal?
1. In May (2019), Ireland became only the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency (many since have followed). However, in October (2019) Ireland, yet again, missed its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and it has been admitted that reaching the 2020 emission goal is a lost cause and that the State is not on course to meet more demanding 2030 targets. My question is, when it comes to climate change is the state simply talking the talk, and failing to walk the walk?
Yeah, no, I mean it was good that we declared this kind of emergency and it was in the back of a lot of good work. I think politically, I think the establishment of the citizens’ assembly and I would that, I was involved in it, and I would think that, was important. I think we’ve got to ask the right question, like how we would become leaders rather than laggards and then following that, the establishment of the all-party Oireachtas committee and I think that did really good work, not in every area of that we need to change, but getting a better understanding within the Oireachtas here. Then the motion to declare a climate emergency, and it was important that it was climate and biodiversity because the two actually go together. I think that was all very useful and very important in terms of building political consensus for action. I think the government is still trailing behind that in terms of the actual plans. I suppose I could pick a dozen things, but in short order, you know, the fact that we’re still massive over-investment in roads programs compared to public transport. The fact that we’re still saying, you know, potentially yes to the Shannon LNG facility, the fact that we’re still pushing the future of Irish farming as massive expansion and beef and dairy exports, when we’re only getting a commodity price for an origin green brand and our farmers are bust because of it, most of them. I could go on, they are a myriad of examples where the government is kind of behind the curve still. I think that will change. I think Ireland can and will be good at this.
It’s going to take time. It’s not an easy immediate thing. Like if you’re, for example, if we’re saying we’re going to really ramp up renewables, which we have collectively, it’s still going to take us 10 years to start developing offshore wind, it takes that length of time almost to get a big project like that built. Or similarly, if we wanted to really switch to public transport quickly, it takes time to get through the planning process. Similarly, even if we want to ramp up forestry, it takes about three years to even just collect the seeds, plant them in pots, then three years before you’re ready to put a tree in the ground effectively. So some things take time. But I think that point is coming when really it will be quite a radical shift. I think increasingly the public are supportive of that. I think they understand it’s actually probably going to make for a better economy, better country. I think the government of the public service who are innately kind of cautious or conservative are behind the curve on that. I’m hoping that the public demand for it will be reflected in the political system and will then make it happen.