It seems that the Green Party is going through some of the same growing pains that effected Sinn Féin in the aftermath of the general election of 2011 and to a lesser extent at the start of this year. In the first decade-and-a-half of the new century SF experienced an influx of excited new blood in the South that frequently found itself at odds with the cautious older blood of the existing membership. Incoming activists and their post-war concerns and expectations struggled to find an accommodation with the interests and behaviours of veteran activists who were themselves struggling with the new political dispensation.
For the contemporary Greens the historical background mightn’t be so dramatic, despite some in the party fancying themselves as “green revolutionaries”, but there is definitely a generational split in the grouping. A split that is turning on a debate between an Establishment-friendly leadership that remains wedded to a form of neoliberal environmentalism and a tranche of new members enthused by policies and ideas that lean closer to a form of green-socialism.
As the Irish Times notes, in a report that slightly smacks of a GP leadership pushing out black propaganda against its internal rivals, things are coming to a head in the party with talk of a “coup”.
Party membership has swollen from just 700 two years ago to almost 3,000 now and for some older members, the recent recruits are much more assertive than anything they are used to. Comparisons are made to Momentum, the hard left group which supported Jeremy Corbyn in the UK Labour Party, and the Sunrise group of left climate activists in the US Democratic Party…
One party veteran said it is “not just the typical internal party strife”, adding: “For some of us, what we’re witnessing is a coup.
“The party that I knew in the late 1980s and 1990s is being overturned, decision by decision, vote by vote, by a bunch of keyboard warriors. They want to be in government with Sinn Féin and Labour and the Soc Dems. No one else.”
Older Greens argue for more party discipline, and claim there must be consequences when someone – such as Saoirse McHugh, the prominent young Mayo Green – speaks out against party policy.
I suspect that in the end the allure of being in government will be enough for the Greens to purchase the loyalty of dissenting members but you never know. With talk of a potential split in the party over the conservative ethos of the leadership, and its too close association with “Official Ireland”, maybe something good might come out of all this debate. A republican left and green movement? Now there is something I could vote for!