Green party members raise concerns about complaints handling process

Members of the Green Party say they have been increasingly concerned about how the party handles complaints.
Green party members raise concerns about complaints handling process
Cllr Lorna Bogue, Green Party, said she felt that others had been put off speaking out after seeing how she had been treated.
Cllr Lorna Bogue, Green Party, said she felt that others had been put off speaking out after seeing how she had been treated.

Members of the Green Party say they have been increasingly concerned about how the party handles complaints.

Spurred by an exclusive story in Tuesday's Irish Examiner, in which Cork councillor Lorna Bogue detailed what she felt was harassment from some fellow members and being temporarily suspended from the party, Ms Bogue told RTÉ's Today Programme yesterday that a number of members have suffered abuse online, and have been told to leave the party after voicing concerns about a coalition government with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. Ms Bogue said she felt that others had been put off speaking out after seeing how she had been treated.

One senior member of the party who ran in the February general election said they had similar experiences as Ms Bogue, and that they had been called by numerous members of the party HQ after a media interview they had given during the campaign gained traction.

It's understood a number of party members made a formal complaint about leader Eamon Ryan after he used a racial slur in the Dáil earlier this month.

Rob O Sullivan, one of those who made a complaint said:

"I sent a complaint about Eamon's use of the word to the party, and was told to expect a phone call.

"With the vitriol in the response that elected party representatives received, I just decided to let it go. If they'd do that to councillors, what could I expect as an ordinary member?

"I got an email from the General Secretary asking me to take a phone call, I didn't answer the phone, and I've had no follow up since.

"The Party will have to do a lot to make me feel more welcome at being involved. Not to speak for anyone but myself, but I wanted to quit politics entirely. It was deflating."

The email, sent from General Secretary Maura McMahon, and seen by the Irish Examiner requests to: "Talk with you informally to better understand your complaint." No further contact was made after the attempted phone call.

The rules of the party state that: "The General Secretary may continue to make informal efforts to resolve the dispute even after a formal complaint has been received. However, the complaint must be brought to the attention of the NEC or the Management Committee within five working days of receipt, unless the aggrieved party agrees to an extension of time to allow informal efforts to continue."

"There's a general feeling that there are no real repercussions for members when a complaint is brought," Mr O Sullivan added.

"So what's the point in bothering? Especially if it's a TD or MEP or something you're complaining about."

The ongoing rift in the party has reached a tipping point this week due to the vote on the programme for government on Friday.

Members and elected representatives have been openly critical of each other's stances online, while many have been encouraged to leave the Green Party and join other political groups such as Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats or People Before Profit.

Cork Green Party Councillor Oliver Moran says the party have already begun a process into examining how Whatsapp and other social media groups are used by members."It is a very difficult time for the party and some of the incidents have been quite serious and disappointing to see. The party is aware of the problem and I know it will begin a specific process to allow people to air their grievances and reunite."

A Green Party spokesman said: "The Green Party is committed to dealing with and acting promptly to any complaints. The party encourages members to air complaints through the existing channels. If a member feels those channels are not available to them they can use their local branch or contact senior officials directly.

"All complaints are dealt with by the Executive Committee of the party and it may take time for due process to be adhered to."

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