28th November 2021 | Press Releases

Deputy Leader Catherine Martin’s speech to the Green Party Annual Convention


Watch the full speech here

A chairde ghlasa,

Céad míle fáilte romhaibh go hArd-Fheis an Chomhaontais Ghlais 2021.

This weekend is our opportunity to regroup, have engaging and creative discussions, and look back on all that has been achieved in the past year, and look forward to where we would like to bring our Party over the next twelve months.

It has been an extraordinarily challenging time since the start of the pandemic. We have endured tragedy, isolation and our society, our communities, have been forced to be apart. I would like to take a moment to thank all our frontline healthcare workers and all those who helped keep our country open in the most challenging of circumstances. Your patriotic dedication and compassion in helping those who needed it, and your extraordinary bravery, sacrifice and resilience during one of the deadliest public health crises in our living memory will never be forgotten.

As a Member of Government, and particularly with my areas of responsibility in Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, I have been acutely aware of the need to support people and their livelihoods like they have never needed to be before.

To that end, I secured record levels of funding in the Budget to ensure that artists and businesses could survive the darkest days and return to doing what they loved as soon as it was safe for them to do so. And in these uncertain days as we witness the further twists and turns of Covid, the Government will not be found wanting and is keeping the need for further targeted supports under ongoing review in close consultation with the stakeholders.

The Green Party, the so-called smallest Party in coalition have had real influence and direct input in shaping Government policy.

With the Climate Action Bill enacted into law, at long last Ireland has truly and proudly begun the transition from laggard to leader. This legislation is hugely significant and will deliver a seismic policy change across all sectors, but it was also desperately needed.

Next month is this party’s 40th birthday. Enacting the climate legislation earlier this year was a remarkable milestone in our party’s history, at times it seemed an almost insurmountable hurdle, but we never gave up, never lost hope. I would like to pay tribute to all the green activists across the island who contributed over those 40 years including our former party leaders Trevor Sargent, John Gormley and especially our party leader Eamon Ryan –who navigated this vital landmark legislation over the line.

And we are insistent that in tackling climate change, the need for climate justice, a just transition, goes hand in glove with the monumental changes required

Although we have a lot more work to do, we, the Green Party, are continuing to make a difference.

We succeeded in getting approval agreed across government to introduce a Basic Income Guarantee pilot scheme for artists. This new innovative pilot scheme will be a groundbreaking artistic lifeline for artists and creative sector workers who will receive the vital stability of a steady income and have the financial freedom to focus on their artistic work We the Green Party made this happen.

One of the key commitments we secured in the Programme for Government was to end Direct Provision and replace it with a new system that would be run on a not-for-profit basis and centred on human rights.

The White Paper published earlier this year sets out how we are going to do that. We, the Greens, made this happen.

And as we continue to progress through this term of Government, our Green influence across the board is not just clearly shining through but tangibly, objectively evident.

In the area of online safety, I am currently finalising for publication legislation for a new Internet watchdog, an online safety commissioner.

The era of self-regulation for online platforms is over. This commissioner will designate online services for regulation, assess compliance of services with safety codes and audit complaints or issues.

Crucially, the new Internet watchdog will have robust powers, it will have teeth. This includes applying financial penalties on platforms or services of up to €20m, compelling them to take actions, and blocking offending material.

We are also making critical changes and key policy shifts in sustainable tourism, transport and in Housing, where the Vienna cost rental housing model is a central part of government policy, a solution espoused by Greens across Europe for decades which delivers rents at up to 40% less than market rate.

Our Green voices are in the room, at the decision making table, where we need to be.

Our organisation on the island has 12 TDs, 4 Senators, 2 MEPs, 2 MLAs, 45 Councillors but most important of all, over 4000 members – because we are a grass roots, a members built democratic party – our members are the essential heartbeat, the unified driving force and make all the vital effective difference.

Together we are a Green team that understands the hard graft and activism it takes to make change happen – not to just talk about what might or could be some time in the future, nor to stay politically safer on opposition benches, but rather standing up, coming forward, and serving our country at the most unprecedented time since the foundation of the State. We are community activists but we are also a party that can be trusted, a party of its word, a party that delivers, a party of government.

Agus a chairde, ba mhaith liom nóiméad a thógáil chun ár dteanga náisiúnta a lua. Sé bunaidhm aon pháirtí Glas ar domhain acmhainní nádúrtha na cruinne a chaomhnú agus a chur chun cinn, agus tá an Ghaeilge ar na hacmhainní is luachmhaire atá againn. Cuireann an Comhaontas Glas an Ghaeilge i lár an aonaigh i gcónaí.

Is onóir as cuimse domsa bheith mar Aire Sinsearach na Gaeltachta, agus leanfaidh mé ar aghaidh ag troid ar son na Gaeilge gach aon lá, i mo roinn féin agus ag bord an Rialtais.

Is linne ar fad an teanga. Is cuma cá háit arb as duit, nó cá háit a bhfuil tú i do chónaí, is leatsa an teanga agus an cultúr Gaelach. Bímis Gaelach. Bímis Glórach. Bímis Glas.

And whilst we have achieved so much in such a short period of time on a national level, there is still much to be done both at home and abroad. We followed the COP26 summit with hope, but it was disillusioning to see other countries and politicians haggling to dilute wordings and trying desperately to maintain the status quo. We were all let down but we are not without hope.

Ireland may be a small country, but we can set a leading and lasting example, and we can make a difference.

The bottom line is that we need to act faster and be courageous in our actions.

This is where the Green Party comes in. We know the scale of the challenge, and the changes we must make for present and future generations. And an enormous and intrinsic part of this challenge is to endeavour to do all we can to take other political parties and the people on that journey with us, coming together for a cause bigger than any political party. This global challenge does not have time for opportunistic populism, it does not respect, let alone recognise geographical borders, political egos or political ideologies. Our biggest challenge is to continue to reach out inclusively to those with little or no environmental track record,climate activists must influence further, collaborate and convince, become the great persuaders of our time.

You, our members, have dedicated so much of your lives pioneering our urgent Green message and embedding it into your communities. We need you, and more people like you.

Institutions, by their nature, don’t change quickly, but the Green Party knows and recognises the urgency to change course.

The old system is built for the old world. It cannot be business as usual.

And if our institutions can’t get what needs to be done, then let’s never accept no for an answer,

let’s continue to advocate effectively, campaign relentlessly and more importantly deliver real results, real change.

Yes, we need policies, strategies and legislation that will help move the dial closer to where it needs to be. But that is not all.

We need new visions, new leaders. Change makers.

People who constantly push the boundaries and challenge the status quo.

People demanding that We. Must. Do. Better.

Despite the progress made, we still have a long way to go- we must, all of us, raise our game further to ensure that we not just consolidate but advance & follow through on the significant inroads made since we entered government so that we as a country never steer off course. This requires ongoing vigilance, advocacy, community activism, and to never be afraid to self-challenge, to question, to disagree, to assess, to review.

This Party of activism must always have inclusive room for different views, perspectives and opinions – that is our calling card, our distinctive inner strength as a policy driven party of conviction.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

We are exactly where we need to be in this Green decade of change.

Our time is now.