I came into the political arena very reluctantly. It all started with a phone call from Eamon Ryan. It was a bit comical, looking back. It was mid 2013. The phone rang. A number I didn’t recognise came up on the screen. I answered and listened on, somewhat baffled as the leader of the Green Party said he’d like me to run in the European elections in 2014. I wondered if he had dialled the wrong number. As the conversation unfolded I explained that I was into activism, not politics. He tried to persuade me that within the Green movement the two went hand in hand. I was having none of it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today we celebrate 40 years of the existence of the Green Party in Ireland. Over the past forty years, the Green Party message has remained the same. The Green Party has always been about much more than politics. Now that message resonates around the world with increasing urgency, and in government the message is having a real impact and turning Ireland Green.
If I had been initially reluctant to accept the notion that activism is at the heart of Green politics, my views have changed. Politics can be a slow-burner. It can take years to see projects and ambition come to fruition. The past year has turned that modus operandi on its head, with the Greens in government in Ireland and beyond showing that activism = action. We are getting things done. At a local level, at a national level, and at a European level.
Yesterday, after a long year of hard, hard work in the European Parliament, where I’m now working as an MEP, we reached a deal on the Environment Action Programme to 2030. It’s massive, complex, important legislation on the environment and climate change. It’s certainly good news that we reached the deal. I’m certainly proud that I was the Rapporteur/ the European Parliament’s lead negotiator. I’m certainly proud of the team around me that helped to make it happen. But getting the deal across the line is just the start. Achieving the deal wasn’t about ‘winning,’ it’s about saving lives in a climate and biodiversity emergency.
I’ve been a climate, biodiversity and peace activist for most of my life. The clue is in the name. Activism = Action. The Environment Action Programme aligns with my life’s work. It gives legislative backing to ensure that the right action happens in areas that can create positive change for the planet and people; areas such as the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and moving beyond GDP to a Wellbeing Economy. For that action to unfold, massive work and massive commitments are vital.
The will is there. The action is already happening. We’re seeing it on the ground here in Ireland. And today, as we celebrate 40 years of the Green Party, I’m proud, really proud, to see solid, impressive, meaningful and impactful action happening as a result of the hard slog of my fellow party members, each and every one of them activists to the core.
The past year has given all of us a little more perspective on what really matters. The climate and biodiversity emergency has come into focus in a very real way, as we have all, some more than others, faced the collective trauma of making our way through a global health emergency. Action around the pandemic has shown what collective movement can do. There is so much more to do of course, and fair distribution of vaccines throughout the world is an issue I’ve been active on.
On tackling the climate and biodiversity emergency, we are all (you too) getting things done – at a family level, at a community level, at an individual level. We have a massive fight on our hands. All of us. The planet is in deep peril. But there is hope if we get things done together.
Of course, under the current circumstances with Covid, we in the Green party are not able to mark the occasion of our 40th anniversary with the sort of knees-up we might ordinarily like, but we’ll be reflecting on four decades of growth, the reasons why it has never been so important to be ‘Green’, and why, we must always remember…Activism Works.