It appears that we are on the verge of welcoming a new political party into the vast, complex world that is Irish politics. Following the leak of official documents in recent weeks, it seems that a new Left-Green splinter group is about to emerge from an unexpected place.
It must be prefaced that there has been no official statement from any potential members of this new party regarding the foundation of a new grouping, but we can assume from the aforementioned leaks that the group is merely waiting for the right moment to announce its presence on the political stage. Upon reviewing what was unfortunately leaked on Twitter, one can see that the name of this new left-wing party is ‘An Rabharta Glas - Green-Left.’ Let’s discuss what this party could mean for Ireland’s current Green Party, its electability, and its future in Irish politics.
In recent months we have seen an exodus of Green Party members as they voted in an overwhelming majority voting to enter into government with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, with 77% of members backing the Programme for Government. Despite this support, many high-profile members including Saoirse McHugh and Councillors Lorna Bogue, Peter Kavanagh, Liam Sinclair, and Sophie Nicoullad have left the party, to name a few.
The members who left were largely seen as being more left-wing than their party counterparts, who ruled out a coalition government with the current parties before talks had begun. While some members left shortly after the party voted to enter government, like Saoirse McHugh, many disillusioned members founded a splinter group that was still officially affiliated with the Green Party: The Just Transition Greens (JTG). This group contains anti-government TDs such as Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello as well as many councillors such as Hazel Chu. The group has criticised many of the policies supported by the Green Party, and hold a view that they can instil change from within the party.
However, many others feel they have exhausted all avenues within the party to try and instil any necessary change. Many original members of the JTG have now left, with many former Green councillors now sitting as independents on their respective councils and many former members searching for a new political home. This is where An Rabharta Glas (RAG) comes into play.
We are aware that many former Green representatives and members are involved in founding a new eco-socialist party for those disillusioned with the Greens, but who may not necessarily be attracted to the policies of parties such as PBP or the Social Democrats. There is a growing feeling among the left in Ireland that a new political force is needed to champion the environmentalism movement that many feel the Greens have abandoned in government. We know this party has already attracted many former members, with the party having the potential to cause unease amongst Eamon Ryan’s Green Party.
The Green Party has seen its polling figures tumble lately, falling to 2% in a recent poll. This is a stark warning to what may become of the Green Party as it faces a difficult election in the years ahead. This difficulty will be augmented by RAG, which will offer an alternative to the Green Party and who will not form a government with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.
While a large majority of the Greens voted to enter government, some members are growing increasingly displeased with the party’s performance and may view RAG as the best alternative to the current Irish Green Party. The general disgruntlement of the Irish public with the Greens, especially those tuned into environmental affairs, is increasingly evident as the Greens continue on their downward slope in the polls. This is where RAG could potentially come into play; they have the potential to offer the public a stronger green-left party which may eat into the Green’s urban vote, but RAG may well focus on rural issues and voters.
This is largely because the Greens have continuously failed to make breakthroughs in rural areas as many see the Greens as a detriment to rural Ireland and farmers. The Green Party has struggled to shake off this perception and often fails to offer much evidence to disprove this image. If RAG can tap into the core issues of rural Ireland and bring an environmentalist perspective on them, they may attract a large swathe of voters that most left-wing parties have failed to captivate.
However, RAG will have to compete with PBP who is an eco-socialist party, with both parties aiming to secure a similar voting demographic. It will be a challenge for RAG to differentiate itself from PBP, which may ultimately negatively impact their electability as the general public may struggle to see a difference between the two.
While it is always interesting to see new political parties being formed, it is no secret that many left-wing parties in Ireland tend to make noise for a short period before fading out. While the establishment of a new green-left party in Ireland should be welcomed, there is a fear that RAG may follow the path of other doomed smaller parties in Ireland. It is not clear whether a new eco-socialist party will do much to invoke unity among the left; instead it may lead to further fragmentation.
While RAG has the potential to eat into the Green Party’s vote and gather rural votes, left-wing parties have already taken substantial support away from the Greens. This is evident in the record-high polling for the Social Democrats, who outpolled Fianna Fáil in the Connacht-Ulster region in the latest poll. The Social Democrats appear to be consolidating their place as the fourth-largest party in the country, with much of this increased support coming from those who typically vote Green. The Social Democrats receiving this Green vote may dent RAG’s chances to make much of an electoral impact.
In summary, the establishment of a new green-left party is not entirely unsurprising considering the number of younger members and councillors leaving the Greens recently. However, RAG faces a difficult path ahead as they compete with PBP for the same votes and with the Social Democrats quickly becoming more popular amongst the public. The party does have lots of potential to establish itself as an up and coming party, as the Social Democrats were when the party was first founded in 2015. The local elections in 2024 will be a make or break moment for RAG. They will need to win a minimum of 5-10 seats to guarantee their longevity and future as an Irish political party. We will be keeping a close eye on the progress of this new political grouping.