Ireland: Greens win 4.7% (+0.9%) of the vote and 6 seats (unchanged)
Constituncies where they won:
Ireland: Possible coalition partners circumspect
Ireland: Sargent hints at possible coalition deal with Fianna Fail
Ireland: INTERVIEW-Irish Greens ready to enter government
Ireland's Ahern Triumphs in Elections
Former Prime Minister Garret Fitzgerald said he expected Ahern to cut a deal with the Green Party. That combination could produce an 84-seat bloc _ and mark a radical departure from the past decade of right-leaning, pro-business government. "Fianna Fail desperately needs the Greens at this stage," said Fitzgerald, who was the last Fine Gael leader to defeat Fianna Fail back in 1982. "I don't see any other way to get a stable government."
Ireland: Donations on Green agenda
Ireland: Third time's a charm for White
Ireland: Interview with Travor Sargent Green Party leader (before election)
[read it below]
Ireland: Green, Green Grass of Home safe territory for Flanagan
Finland: Finnish PM names Tynkkynen climate specialist
Canada: Green party says federal Tories ducking climate concerns over N.B. refinery
Canada/PEI: Party leader predicts own loss
New Zealand: Greens hit back over petrol tax funding
Australia: Greens leader to visit Japan
IRELAND: THE BEARING OF THE GREENS
With the opinion polls predicting a tight finish in the upcoming General Election, there is an increasing likelihood that the Greens will have a part to play in the next Government. If so, what will they bring to the table? Who are they likely to do a deal with? And what is their leader Trevor Sargent really made of?
INTERVIEW by Jason O'Toole
For the first time since the Green Party's inception in 1981, in the forthcoming general election they will be running candidates in every constituency in Ireland. Some political pundits are suggesting that Green Party leader Trevor Sargent could play an influential role in the negotiations to form the next government.
Born in 1960, Trevor Sargent, who describes himself as a committed environmentalist, recalls being politically aware from an early age, even writing missives to all the political parties when he turned 18 to enquire about their environmental agendas. "I treated my vote very seriously. I wanted to make sure I didn't waste it," recalls Sargent. He joined the Greens back in 1982 and won a council seat in 1991. During his short period as a city councillor, Sargent first came to the public's attention when, during a council meeting, he waved in the air an unsolicited cheque he had received from a developer. This action resulted in a melee, as other city councillors scrambled to snatch the cheque out of his hands. "I was surrounded from behind and I felt this arm coming around my neck, pulling me back in the chair, and hands reaching out grappling like claws from JCBs, saying, 'Grab the cheque. Somebody grab the cheque', which I held onto very tightly. All I can imagine now is that there was a cold chill running up the spines of certain councillors in that room wondering was it Frank Dunlop's name on the bottom of that cheque," says Sargent. Sargent was elected as a TD in 1992 and has been a constant fixture in Dail Eireann ever since then. Sargent is actually the first official leader of the Green Party, having been voted into the position at a special leadership convention in 2001.
Jason O'Toole: What is your assessment of the monetary controversies surrounding the Taoiseach?
Trevor Sargent: I think Bertie Ahern has been caught up in a culture of expecting people who are well off to bankroll politicians. It is brought about because essentially the opportunities for increasing your assets in land rezoning, for example, make millionaires of people overnight. Therefore there is a huge amount of disposable money in the hands of a very small number of people and - because parties still accept large corporate donations - the temptation is there to facilitate the people who are going to be giving you the money. So, there is a vested interest element in politics, which the Green Party is determined to put an end to. Which is why we don't accept corporate donations, and we limit personal donations so that there can be no undue influence on decisions. So I think that's at the heart of it. The ghosts of the past are catching up Bertie Ahern, given that he was around at the same time as Charles Haughey and Ray Burke.
If these allegations are founded, should he step down?
(Sighs) Well, if I was him I would, to be honest, as the future leadership of the country requires absolute clarity and standards that can be there to be emulated. As long as people continue, as we are here, discussing the personal finances of the Taoiseach, we are not actually focusing on the issues that have to be debated and need to be decided on. I hope his legacy will be seen in a positive light, but he is not helping himself because he did say last autumn that he was going to offer all these bits of information about his personal finance, and I think he used the phrase, 'for the sake of completeness', and now there is doubt whether that was the whole story.
But would you be willing to go into a coalition with Fianna Fail with Bertie remaining as party leader?
I am only able to second guess because it is a matter for our membership — ultimately that is where the decision is taken — but if I was to gauge the mood in the Green Party and people have been texting me and speaking to me about the news reports at the moment - there is very little appetite to see a return of Fianna Fail to government. People are more resolved than ever now to bring about a change of government. The decision of our Ard Fheis was based on not ruling out anybody - but I think the Taoiseach himself by not coming clean, when I called on him to do so on the first of May, and he said, 'I'll have to wait on the Mahon Tribunal' — that annoyed a lot of Green Party supporters.
So, with a change of leadership in Fianna Fail, would you go into government with them then? You would have more clout with FF, rather than a rainbow government, because you would probably be Tanaiste.
You are presuming an awful lot there — for example, the willingness on the part of Fianna Fail to end the cosy relationship it has built up over years with very large developers to ensure that it has a reasonably healthy bank balance. So, a change in culture, which would involve ending corporate donation in politics, would be on the table — and I don't see Fianna Fail buying that.
Would you consider going into coalition with Sinn Fein?
As they (other parties) have ruled out Sinn Fein, effectively Sinn Fein is not going to be in the picture. There are still questions over the investigation to do with the northern bank robbery and, certainly in northern communities where the Green Party has been active, strong evidence of intimidation. Intimidation takes many forms, so it is more to do with very general threats and not as specific as a bullet in the post or anything like that.
Why is this?
People who are in the Green Party, who used to be in Sinn Fein, for example, have found that their freedom to choose a new political direction has not gone down well with their former colleagues — and that has produced levels of intimidation, which to me indicates that there is still someway to go. Supporters - or people who profess to be supporters of Sinn Fein - are finding it difficult to adjust to the support for the PNSI, given its past as the RUC. So, I think we are in a transition period and it is probably too early to call it. But, hopefully after the Assembly has got up and running, it will be clearer that Sinn Fein is going to develop in a totally democratic way and accept the democratic decisions that are made
Are you optimistic about Northern Ireland?
We've now got the prospect of institutions in the North, which has hopefully got the possibility to develop into full democracy - and it is only an interim arrangement after all — because it actually, unfortunately, enshrines the sectarian divide rather than overcomes it at the moment. We are certainly not out of the woods yet because the sectarian violence and segregation is actually worse than before the ceasefire. Talking about attacking the Greens, the Tanaiste has said a lot of silly stuff about your party over the years.
I really find Minister McDowell to be fixated with the Green Party, to be honest. Given that he is the leader of a party in his own right, he is wasting an awful lot of airtime talking about another party, rather than talking about his own party. I presume he feels that people will respond to that type of smear tactics that he is using, but I think it rebounds. There is no doubt that he is under threat as a party - 2% is a margin of error. Politics is far more than just trying to denigrate your opponent I don't want to go down to that level of smear tactics.
Was the government wrong in allowing Shannon airport to be used for US military purposes?
I feel that the Irish government are in the dock and have blood on their hands over the way in which Shannon was used for attacks on Iraq without the sanction of the United Nations. I think we should get engaged in trying to rescue the situation in Iraq - and the withdrawal of troops from Shannon would be part of that, because on behalf of the Irish people, our government made us a player in destabilizing Iraq, so 1 think we have o responsibility to try and repair that damage. But the United Nations has to be where we focus our attention.
What do you think of Enda Kenny's proposal to introduce drug testing in schoojs?
I don't see it being anyway a solution because I think the drug problem is a much bigger one than just a lack of protection in schools. Schools are under huge pressure as it is anyway and I really think that schools need to be helped in providing alternatives to recreational drug use which is obviously a problem. I was talking to - as I do frequently - people who are essentially hanging around in fields and parks, and street corners, and I asked a few of them why were they drinking and they said, 'Everybody does it - except people who are on sports teams'. It just seems to me that if there is not enough sports facilities, if there is not enough PE in schools. If there is not enough other activities, then drugs becomes a default activity.
As a country, I think we need to focus on the positive solutions, rather than trying to win the war by basic enforcement. It is not going to work, as we
have seen in other countries.
What do you think about relaxing the laws on marijuana, as they have done in the UK to free up the police to concentrate on more serious crimes?
I don't see it being a great help, in all honesty. Already, from what I can see, the Gardai are so overstretched that they have to make critical choices anyway by how they employ their resources. They are going after the larger operators, by and large.
Have you ever tried marijuana? Surely, you must have tried it in college?
No, I didn't take to it, at all. I would have smelled it. Anyone who has frequented The Buttery in Trinity College over the years can't fail to have noticed the reeking stench of marijuana. No, I didn't try it because, to be honest, 1 didn't want to actually impair my performance (laughs)... The mental problems, which I have witnessed, with marijuana use are somehow acceptable collateral damage, you might say. Growing up as a teenager, and having gone to college, there know people who got caught up in drug use and, I have to say, that marijuana was the one that was most common. And now I look at them, in their 40s, and they're totally de-motivated - they don't seem to want to achieve anything and have a very long- term view of life. You could say they are chilled out, but they are permanently laidback, and I think it has cost them in the long-term. You certainly have to be motivated to be in politics.
But I am sure you must have got drunk occasionally in college?
Quite often music and drinking went together for me. Long sessions of music - experimental and otherwise - were generally accompanied alright by a bit of drink. I would probably have been drunk, certainly, alright, but there is always an element of subjectivity about what does drunk mean – I haven't fallen down in the middle of the street or anything like that. But I would've as a teenager, and certainly in college, with a few friends gone off to get one of those terrible large litres of wine paint stripper stuff! But that was to do with affordable at the time rather than anything else.
So did you ever wake up in the morning after a session, forgetting the name of a girl you might have been romancing?
(Laughs) That would not bode well for somebody getting into politics - to be forgetting names, particularly of somebody one was very friendly with!
Do you not think teenagers are being demonised at the moment with all this hype about binge drinking. What is the problem with a teenager going out on a Saturday night and getting pissed?
Well, apart from the medical repercussions of it (pauses)... to be honest, I know we don't use all our brain cells but killing them off is not going to help
matters either. I just think that it shouldn't be the only option and it seems for many people that it is the only option. We are proposing that there should be youth cafes in every town. People can go - with out the pressure to drink or the pressure to be in an adult environment—to just hang out.
Do you believe in God?
I do, yes. I'm driven in politics by belief that this is what God wants me to do. I read the bible every day. I am strengthened and invigorated by having a prayerful reflection quite often on the train when I am coming in. It's part of my daily routine, as much as one can call it a routine.
So when you got involved in politics, at an early age, you had a strong believe that God wanted you to become concerned about green issues and to help make the world a betters place?
Yeah. I did, yeah. As a teenager, I had quite a strong faith. I can remember, in fact, in October there is one of the church test days commemorating St Francis and around that time quite a number of churches have a particular mass, or service, celebration that takes in more than just humanity it takes in animal live, the wider creation. I can remember going to one of these services, there was a sermon being preached about our pets - dogs and cats, and how important is the goldfish and hamster. It was generally very human-centered even though it was talking about animals. It wasn't giving animals the right to exist on their own - it had to be because they were useful to a human. I can remember at the end of that sermon actually standing up - I think I was about 14 - and (saying), 'Excuse me! I have a question'. I remember asking the guy in the pulpit whether he felt that it was important that animals have rights of their own, and not just because they were 'handy' for humans as a beast of burden, or for food, or as entertainment. He was (saying), 'Of Course. Of course'. My father was a bit embarrassed about it at the time. But it did seem to me that God just didn't create animals to be 'handy' for humans. Humans are a fairly late arrival on the scene. The creation we now take for granted was developing and diversifying and enriching the plant for millions and millions of years before we ever turned up. So, I feel we have a duty of care not to mess it up giving that it is essential for our own life.
Do you go the church every Sunday?
Yes. I haven't been great the last couple of weeks because Sundays have been campaigning days, and the service in Balbriggan, which is my local parish, is on at 12 o'clock midday. I am Church of Ireland member. It's one of the disadvantages, I suppose, of not being a Roman Catholic in Ireland. It means that you don't have the range of mass times, going from a Saturday evening up to a Sunday evening.
Describe Trevor Sargent's God for me?
I believe in a very loving God. I believe in a God who is boundless in his or her- I think God is far bigger than any gender - (ability) to forgive. That forgiveness is extremely generous, but it does require for us to go along the way as well - it does require us to want forgiveness. I would be very focused and very empowered by knowing that there is a God who has the best interests of life on earth, but has also given us the will to decide what's right and what's wrong.
Do you believe in heaven and hell?
I do, yeah. I think it is right here on earth. I think most of humanity, unfortunately, is living in hell... I read about both but nobody can be sure, so, I think that really is a matter of faith and I have to say that the religion that has rationalized it best is probably the Hindus and the concept of reincarnation that your good in this life is essentially, I suppose, evaluated and, when it comes to reincarnation, you can either be reincarnated to reflect the good or to reflect the bad. I am not prescriptive about it - I just now that i f we're not going to try and improve life on this earth then there needs to be some motivation to try and help us to do the right thing. If one can call it evidence — certainly the anecdotes one hears — in relation to people with near-death experiences, does suggest to me that our souls do live on. That's important for me because family members who have died, for example, I do still hold onto that hope that I might meet them again.
So what would your heaven be like?
I am not sure the human imagination can capture that, but certainly of this earth it would be good friends, good food, closeness to nature, and a sense of satisfaction in what I am doing is good for me and is good for other people.
Do bad people - like suicide bombers and Henry VIII-go to hell?
I would really be putting myself into some kind of judgmental state - which I can't do on God's behalf. We are talking about suicide bombers, we are talking about Henry VIII - these are the tabloid side of injustice. The non-tabloid is the collective decision-making that we all make and the collective denial that we all engage in. Obviously, people are not setting out to do it (harm the environment) - they are locked into a system and that's why the Green Party has to be in position to take decisions, with the help of the community, so that we can become more efficient in our energy use and start building houses that are not going to take a lot of oil to heat and use passive solar heating.
Are you a vegetarian?
I am, except when I'm so hungry I would eat a horse. I would be a vegetarian overall. If I was to go out to a restaurant I would choose the vegetarian option, or if I was cooking at home. For me, again, it is to do with global justice - it is the basis of how food is created. I know that there are parts of the world, obviously, if you are on the side of a hill and nothing will grow, you are going to be eating the goats or the sheep, or whatever can graze and get a living off that hillside. But, overall, most of the crops that are growing go to animals feed, which is a very insufficient way of creating protein, and the statistic that comes across is the 10-to-l ratio which basically says that you can feed 10 people on the same amount of land with a vegetarian diet compared to one person on a meat-base diet. In terms of global hunger — and ensuring that everybody has enough to eat — it is better probably to try and cutback on meat. Also, for health reasons.
How do you feel about the fact that Irish women have to travel abroad to carry out abortions?
That issue is so difficult to be black and white around. I know that there are medical cases when the child is not going to survive or after a rape when an abortion is seen as the only option due to suicidal or health reason. But in the case of the Green Party there is a huge divide over where does one draw the line in terms of what's justifiable.
What is your view on a rape victim opting for an abortion?
I think she should be giving every possible counselling but, in the end, I think the decision is primarily hers. I have known a number of women who have had abortions and they have said it to me openly. Some are still of the opinion that it was the right thing to do, but there are some who hugely regret it — in spite of the circumstances of how it came about.
If your daughter was raped and fell pregnant would you want her to keep the child or have an abortion?
I wouldn't, to be honest, be setting out what I thought should happen. I would be giving her every support medically and psychologically. I would be listening also to every other psychological and medical advice that was available. And I would be largely guided by it. I think it is very important not to rely on an angry response to determine a decision. There are very tragic situations all the time, which one tries to live with or get over. But part of the human condition, which can be inspiring and extremely uplifting, is the ability to out of adversity — take some strength and hope. I'm reflecting on reality here and experiences of my own, so I couldn't prejudge because it really does come down to whether somebody's got the mental and even spiritual strength to overcome that adversity. I've known a number of situations where you've got a child who could be the outcome of a very violent rape situation and could be the most loving child. I've known people who have been adopted in that situation and they are the best of people-very high achievers.
Should same-sex marriages be legalised in Ireland?
This, to me, is a matter of basic human rights. Although I am heterosexual, I really do feel a huge sense of injustice that people who are homosexual
are denied equality in society. I appreciate people who say marriage is an institution that was developed with heterosexuals in mind. But that really shouldn't be any reason to deny people who are homosexual the, if you like, social conformity of a marriage.
But would your religion present you with any conflicting views on this issue?
I look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture to me is - an ideal example of a loving relationship, not doing anybody any harm, and contributing to society in a positive way, then I cannot see how that could be denigrated.
What about same-sex couples adopting?
That, as with heterosexuals adopting, should firstly focus on the welfare of the child. It's difficult to comply with all the requirements for adoption nowadays in any event, so I would think that I would be focusing again on what's in the interest of the child. And there may well be cases where a homosexual couple are in a good position to adopt a child, but I wouldn't want to prescribe that that is going to be the right thing.
As a religious person, what would be your take on sex before marriage?
(Laughs nervously) My religion is based upon helping those who are disadvantaged — not going around beating people over the head. I think Christ, equally, was focused on the genuine welfare of people and, I would say, the wider environment as well. He was certainly somebody who treaded very lightly on the earth. And when it came to Pharisees waging the finger and talking about rules and compliance, Christ was very quick to turn around and say, 'Are you perfect yourself before you start giving out about others?' I am not going to judge. People in many cases can't forward to get married. There are all sorts of reasons why one wouldn't get married - there are all sort of situations, so I can't be giving a general point. We did indeed (.lived with his wife before marrying), yeah, because getting married took a lot of preparation and a lot of time and I think that's pretty standard nowadays.
Do you have an iPod?
I am looking forward to getting one actually. I see people on the train all around me with their iPods when I'm listening to the news programmes. I haven't had much time really to indulge in my interest in getting an iPod, but maybe this summer I'll get a chance. To be honest, I enjoy buying CDs. If you have a lot of time for it, that's great, but I don't have time for it.
What type of music do you listen to?
I would have a particular liking for The Waterboys, both from a musical point of view and because I got to know them quite well when they were recording Fisherman's Blues. They did a couple of concerts for the Green Party, so they are people who I would naturally have an infinity, a kind of friendship with. U2 - having enjoyed the sense of occasion at their concerts. I would have met a number of members of the band and they would be of a similar age to me, so I would have grown up with them, I feel.
What do you make of Bono accepting a knighthood?
I would prefer if he took the knighthood for his campaigning work on climate change, although I wouldn't begrudge it to him for the great work he has done on HIV and Aids, and global poverty as well. I don't have a hang-up. I think he is a global citizen.
Who would be your favourite sex symbol?
(Laughs) Again, I will try not to let politics get in the way, but I know that Cameron Diaz has a very ecological outlook in many ways (laughs). She would certainly engage me in riveting conversation!