Varadkar: Pivot towards greener politics 'might never have happened' without Eamon Ryan

Eamon Ryan yesterday confirmed that he was stepping down from his role as Green Party leader.
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.39 19 Jun 2024

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Varadkar: Pivot towards greene...

Varadkar: Pivot towards greener politics 'might never have happened' without Eamon Ryan

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.39 19 Jun 2024

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The pivot towards greener policies in Irish politics in recent years might never have happened if it wasn’t for Eamon Ryan, former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The Green Party leader announced plans to step down from his role yesterday to make way for “a new generation of leaders”.

He said he will not be seeking re-election to the Dáil and was looking forward to spending more time with his wife and four children.


On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Minister Ryan.

“He's somebody who I think really was in politics and is in politics for the right reasons,” he said.

“I, for one, am glad that the Greens were in Government with us and are in Government with us for this period.

“Many of the things that have been done, like the climate change legislation, like the nature law, like pivoting towards public transport, like really upping our game in terms of climate action around retrofitting, local link and so on – a lot of that might not have happened or certainly wouldn't have happened as quickly without Eamon.”


He said the difference Minister Ryan made to Irish politics will become more and more apparent as the years go by.

In his speech yesterday, Minister Ryan said his biggest regret is that under his watch, “a narrative has taken hold” that the Greens are not concerned about rural Ireland or the average person on the street – warning that “none of that is true.

He also took aim at social media during his speech – noting that he has been “the subject of a relentless attack” in recent years.

Eamon Ryan announces that he is stepping down as Green Party leader Eamon Ryan announces that he is stepping down as Green Party leader, 18-06-2024. Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews

Deputy Varadkar said he understood where Minister Ryan was coming from – but said he noticed a more gradual change in tone online during his 13 years in government.

“It was probably a little bit more like the frog in the boiling water for me,” he said.

“You know, it didn't happen suddenly where we went from opposition and you could see the change from, you could do no wrong to [...] you can't do anything right.

“I see Sinn Féin now suddenly experienced that shift as well over the past few months even though they haven't been in government.

“So maybe that change happened more gradually for me, so I was less affected by it.

“I also got good at just shutting it out, to be honest, and ignoring it, which was probably a good thing.”

Leadership race

The former Fine Gael leader said Minister Ryan’s announcement should not undermine the Government – but all eyes will be on who his replacement will be.

“The agreement that three parties made four years ago was an agreement of three parties, negotiated by lots of people, not just the party leaders and endorsed democratically by the membership and the public reps of all three parties,” he said.

“So I think it's solid in that sense in a very detailed programme for government.

“What will, of course, be of significance is who becomes leader of the Green Party now and what their basis for leadership will be and what their arguments will be becoming leader.”

General Election

He said he does not expect the leadership change to have any impact on when the next General Election will be held.

“Ultimately that's going to be the Taoiseach’s call and I don't believe Simon Harris would make that call without consulting or having the broad agreement from the other two party leaders,” he said.

“I think there’s a very good chance this Government can be re-elected but I think that would be lessened if it were to break up in a way that was any way acrimonious or if anyone felt that the rug had been pulled out from under them.

“Certainly, in my mind, while I had views on when the election should be, I never for a second contemplated springing a surprise on Micheál Martin or Eamon Ryan and I highly doubt Simon Harris would do that.”

He said he has previously pointed out that it is better for a Government to hold elections in the summer – but admitted that the decision is “never as simple as just when's the right time or what's the best weather.

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