Analysis: Poor polling and anti-environmentalist ire prompts exit of second coalition leader

Eamon Ryan steps down after 14 years and the Greens’ most successful period politically

Eamon Ryan, of the Green Party, is the second coalition leader to resign this year
Green leader Eamon Ryan is the second coalition leader to resign this year. PICTURE: BRIAN LAWLESS (Brian Lawless/PA)

To lose one party leader from a ruling coalition may regarded as a misfortune but to lose two looks like carelessness.

Six months ago, the smart money would’ve been on Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin being the party leader to quit the Republic’s three-party partnership but he’s seen off Leo Varadkar and now Éamonn Ryan.

The Green Party leader has stepped down after 14 years in the job having overseen what is arguably the most successful period politically in the party’s history. He will remain as minister for the environment, climate and communications until the end of the government’s term though he will not seek re-election as a TD.

Without the Greens’ influence in the coalition, its policies on public transport, renewables and nature restoration were unlikely to have been as far-reaching.

But the minority party is at the sharp end in the bid to combat climate change and therefore the focus of much of the ire by those who feel inconvenienced by policies that seek to curb the use of fossil fuels and reduce harmful emissions.

Green Party deputy leader Mal O'Hara told the Irish News it had never stopped `campaigning on local and broader issues'
Green Party NI leader Mal O'Hara

Mr Ryan’s resignation announcement was greeted with glee by those who continue to subscribe to the notion that the climate crisis is a myth. The Ryanair X account dedicated several tweets to attacking the minister who capped flights at Dublin airport.

The bad feeling and disillusionment with the Green leader and his party was manifested in poor results at the polls earlier this month. It lost its two MEPs as its popular vote halved, while the party’s local government representation fell from 49 to 23.

Falling on his sword may indeed be the best option for the Greens and Mr Ryan, whose cabinet colleague Simon Harris has seen his party’s rating soar since he took the reins from Leo Varadkar.

Deputy leader Catherine Martin was thought to be the obvious frontrunner as a successor but she has counted herself out, leaving Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman as the leading contender. However, don’t rule out a leadership bid from former Belfast councillor and Green Party NI leader Mal O’Hara, who was appointed to the Seanad in April. .

While the northern and southern Greens are separate administrative entities, up to 700 members north of the border will be entitled to vote in the leadership election.

Whoever emerges as leader it’s likely they will seek to distance themselves increasingly from their coalition partners, hoping to salvage something positive from the forthcoming general election.