Stakes are high for the Greens as they take on wide portfolio

Stakes are high for the Greens as they take on wide portfolio
Green leader Eamon Ryan flanked by Malcolm Noonan and Roderic O’Gorman during a briefing at Leinster House. Picture: Gareth Chaney

The Greens will oversee elements of transport, supports for children, agriculture as well as the arts and media as part of their wide role in the new coalition. 

But the minority coalition partner's position won't come without risks, ones that have destroyed other small parties.

Party leader Eamon Ryan has called for “collective responsibility” among the three coalition partners and for even those in opposition to work together on the recovery after Covid-19.

He spoke of taking political gambles, of striking out under new departments for the country.

“We must be willing to take risks, make mistakes and fail because that is the only way we will succeed.”

The leader takes over a beefed-up department, taking in some of the biggest areas of concern for the Greens. This includes transport, climate as well as energy. The role will also oversee the communications network. 

This will leave the Greens overseeing expanding public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure as well as efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the natural environment and finally responsibility for broadband. 

Watching carefully will be Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughten, who will keep check as a 'super junior' minister in the department and with particular responsibility for roads and their maintenance.

Deputy Green leader Catherine Martin takes control of the traditional arts department. The expanded wide portfolio will include media, tourism, culture, sport and the Gaeltacht.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has repeatedly spoken of the need for greater support for the media, so any developments here will be watched closely.

The third leg of the stool for senior roles at Cabinet for the Greens is an enlarged Department of Children, with several new roles that will tick the boxes of members' interests.

Under the guide of Dublin West TD Roderic O'Gorman, the department will improve child protection services and “expanding childcare provision will be accelerated”. O'Gorman has a strong track record in the area of protecting children's rights as well as his own campaigning for equality.

He also oversees the coordination of disability-related issues, the first time a senior minister has done so. The department will also include equality and integration.

On top of the senior roles, Ryan has made a daring move and given Senator Pippa Hackett, who some have marked out as a future party leader, the role of super junior in the Department of Agriculture. 

She will be in charge of land use and biodiversity, two further crucial areas for the Greens. TDs at Dublin's convention centre on the Saturday for the special Dail vote said they had been told in advance of Hackett's elevation to Cabinet. However, the appointment was met by general surprise.

A number of other junior minister appointments are expected this week, with new TDs Joe O'Brien, Ossian Smyth and Brian Leddin tipped to play a part in government. 

Waterford's Marc O'Cathasaigh has also been spoken very highly of after the coalition negotiations. But only three will get junior ministries.

And as for the Green leadership race that crash-landed into the middle of the government talks? Catherine Martin in recent days has talked about the party uniting. It is hard to imagine her launching a full challenge to Ryan now amid frantic Cabinet meetings, planning for a recovery and while new Green ministers try to get their feet under their desks.

Ryan will have a lot to sell about the new coalition in the coming weeks. The big test will come after 100 days. At that stage, he'll need to be able show the party faithful that the union with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael was worth it.

The fate of minority coalition parties never ends well. It's up to Ryan to ensure the same fate doesn't befall his own party.

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