Nobody can rain on party leader’s parade as he eyes Green shoots

The woes of a bruised coalition Government and fears of another property bubble may just throw the Green Party a lifeline and help get party leader Eamon Ryan elected to Europe.

Nobody can rain on party leader’s parade as he eyes Green shoots

It’s 7.30am and drenched commuters rushing to work aren’t interested in talking politics, but some stop and listen to Green Party canvassers.

The Greens were destroyed in the general election three years ago, after its coalition with Fianna Fáil came to a sudden end. Former energy minister Eamon Ryan has spent that time trying to rebuild his party.

Arriving at Clontarf Dart Station (in a taxi), Ryan greets party councillor Donna Cooney as she hands out fliers to passengers. The area is a goldmine for picking up young voters, with many IT workers heading to the East Point Business Park nearby.

Ryan knows all too well the Greens’ reputation is damaged by their ties to the economic crash.

But the former Dublin South TD is optimistic about voters returning to the party, given Labour’s record in Government and other crises emerging.

“We do get grief about it. It’s better to listen to people than ignore it. I don’t mind talking about banking or energy issues,” he says.

He and other Green candidates, including Ireland South MEP candidate Grace O’Sullivan, hope to capitalise on Labour transfers and any disillusionment with them.

“They more than anyone else gave false promises before the last election,” says Ryan as he offers pamphlets to wet commuters dashing through station barriers.

Recent polls suggest that Ryan is in contention for an MEP seat in Dublin, but he will have to fight it out with Fianna Fáil and Labour for the third and final spot. Transfers will matter hugely.

Despite some still holding the Greens accountable for the crash, many commuters look up, smile, recognise Ryan, and wish him the “best of luck”.

It’s a sure sign he has their vote, quips Ryan. Is it?

Dublin IT worker Barry Cregg, 40, steps out of the rain and says he’s going to vote for the Greens. “I’ve always liked their policies. They went out with Fianna Fáil but should go back in.”

Others won’t engage.

“I don’t have time,” shrugs one middle-aged man, “but I’ll take one [a flier], OK”.

Ryan says the main issues voters raise include local charges, the loss of medical cards, and the housing crisis.

Residents in Dublin have been hit with 14% rent hikes in a year, while house-hunters have watched their dreams collapse as prices rocket. A lack of social housing may also cause a “tsunami of homelessness”, some say.

Sustainable housing — social and private — is the only answer, says Ryan. “It is a bubble. It should not be about sustaining an industry. We need public housing investment.”

Ryan offers alternatives for housing, pointing out that tracts of land are zoned at Cherrywood, south Dublin, and at the glass bottle site in Ringsend, which can be built on.

The big question for Ryan, his other two MEP hopefuls, and the 47 party candidates running for council seats, is have voters forgiven them?

Oracle sales worker Claire Fergus, 33, says voters feel disconnected from the big parties in this election. “I would give the Greens a vote. It’s definitely not going to Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael,” she says.

Any increase on the party’s three council seats will be seen as an improvement.

“In every other European country, Green parties have lost their seats after being in government but have come back,” says Ryan as another train arrives into Clontarf.

Come count day on Friday, he and others in the Greens will be counting on every vote around the country.

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