Moves to form an all-Ireland Green Party will offer voters north of the border an alternative to tribal politics, it was claimed today.
Northern Ireland Green co-leader John Barry said the plans, endorsed at the annual conference in Co Tyrone last weekend, would also see Greens in Ireland strengthen their links with sister parties in Scotland, England and Wales.
Under the plan, the Northern Ireland Greens have invited their counterparts in the Republic to organise in the North’s 18 Westminster constituencies.
Northern Ireland will act as “an autonomous region,” calling the shots over local policies.
The Green Party, led by Trevor Sargent, has six members in the Dáil.
It is understood its members will be asked by Mr Sargent in a special delegate conference in September to endorse the new shake-up.
Mr Barry insisted the move was not a merger.
“Green politics are international and seek to challenge politics and identities based around fixed and debilitating nation-state borders,” he said.
“This weekend we have embarked on a process of creating an all-Island Green Party organisation.
“This is not, however, a simplistic ‘merger’, but consistent with the logic of the Agreement. It also has an East-West dimension in calling for closer support and co-operation from our sister parties in Scotland and England and Wales.
“The Green Party in Northern Ireland will remain an autonomous Green Party but will, with the help of the Green Party in the Republic of Ireland, become an even more effective political party challenging the narrow Irish and British nationalisms of the four main ‘tribal’ parties and promoting our commonsense and progressive political agenda.”
Mr Barry said his party was the only one in Ireland which could now claim that it was a defender of the Good Friday Agreement and that its organisation embodied the spirit of it.
“While this is an internal organisational matter for us, this is an exciting prospect and opportunity to offer ourselves and our policies as uniquely pro-Agreement,” he said.
“Part of the excitement comes from being able to offer ourselves to those within Northern Ireland who are disillusioned with tribal politics.
“Whether the young ex-Sinn Féin voter who has seen its radical pretensions revealed as the lust for power becomes that Party’s animating goal, or ex-SDLP voters for whom the party, while non-violent, is no longer radical, or the 200,000 unionist voters who are fed-up with the internal feuding of the UUP or the strident march into the past of the DUP, and have not voted since the referendum of 1998 – to all these voters we can now present a radical, all-island and all-islands alternative.
“This does not simplistically mean we are somehow advocating a united Ireland.
“While supporting the consent principle and therefore not ruling this out, the Green Party’s position is based on the Agreement – not the force of arms or the force of numbers.”
The Northern Ireland Green Party’s other co-leader Lindsay Whitcroft is contesting the European Parliament election on June 10 as the party’s candidate.
Mrs Whitcroft said she believed the new structures were a natural development.
“I believe it is more than symbolic that the Greens have taken this decision with myself and John Barry as co-leaders,” she said.
“John is originally from Dublin though spent most of his adult life in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. I am from the Limestone Road in Belfast.
“Both of us share a vision of Green politics centred around focusing on the real issues that affect quality of life for people – sensible economic policies that are child-friendly, commonsense policies to promote and help small businesses, healthy local food and agriculture for our farming families and rural communities, proper planning and controls and all island solutions to many of our pressing problems from energy to transport to environmental protection.
“I believe the establishment of an all-island Green Party, within an all islands Green political context, is a natural progression from the Agreement.
“We can say the Greens are now the new generation of peacemakers who have the ideas, energy and vision to take up the task of building the peace from those parties who, despite themselves, negotiated the Agreement.
“It is time to move on, time for to move on to Green politics, the natural home for progressive politics in Northern Ireland.”