Aoife Moore: Eamon Ryan must do something to fix broken Green Party

Eamon Ryan will continue to lead the Green Party — but after 10 years at the helm, has he lost touch with the growing problems within it?
Aoife Moore: Eamon Ryan must do something to fix broken Green Party
Eamon Ryan was re-elected leader of the Green Party, it was announced at a press conference at Brooks Hotel Drury St, Dublin. Picture: Stephen Collins

A day of humiliation for the Green Party, both within its ranks and as part of the Government, ended with a short sigh of relief.

After a knife-edge win of just 48 votes, Eamon Ryan — almost 10 years at the helm and re-elected leader of the party he brought back from the brink — looked fairly shook at the idea.

Although no real shock to members, it solidified a narrative that many within the party have come to resent: You can't fight City Hall.

Ryan's ability to convince his party to enter government last month was seen as the victory that would ensure his leadership continued, despite dividing the party into two camps, with those disaffected by the coalition solidly behind Catherine Martin. 

But the party stalwarts weren't going to abandon their man now that he'd got them a seat at the Cabinet table.

Months of in-fighting about whether or not to enter government, among a number of other issues, came to a head the morning of the announcement in the form of a slew of resignations, including some who accused the party of a lack of support for LGBTQ+ members. 

The most notable figure to jump ship — former MEP candidate Saoirse McHugh - lambasted the "toxic" nature within the party, an issue Ryan himself acknowledged weeks ago.

Therein lies the issue: Ryan, who is well aware of all that's broken, is doing nothing to fix it.

He is aware of harassment within the ranks, but has done little in the way of taking the reins on the issue.

He is aware that he has a propensity to embarrass his colleagues, not least when he fell asleep in the Dáil during a vote on workers' rights.

Sources say Mr Ryan rewards allies and distances critics — not a cardinal sin, and certainly would be regarded as politics as usual for most of us. 

However, for a party that markets itself as being anything but politics as usual, they are beginning to feel the consequences of false advertising.

There is potential here for Ryan to overhaul the party, now that the question of leadership and Government involvement has been put to bed.

Although in this lies another obstacle which could explain the leader's lack of perspective: Eamon Ryan is universally liked around Leinster House. 

Politicians and journalists, the self-anointed gate-keepers, have decided: 'Ryan's alright'.

So much so that when the Green Party leader used a racial slur in the Dáil this year, the narrative quickly became why his female deputy didn't run to his defence, not why he used the slur in the first place.

When local councillors backed Catherine Martin for the top job, after years of proactive work within the party, they were derided for being "ungrateful" to Ryan, despite a leadership contest being baked into the party's constitution.

This universal approval may be exactly why Ryan can't or won't see the issues with his leadership that are staring him in the face.

In politics, it's not unusual to surround yourself with 'yes-men', but it's not advisable — just look at Fianna Fáil's polling numbers.

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