City Councillor to hold her party to account: 'What I went through was personally very hurtful'

City Councillor to hold her party to account: 'What I went through was personally very hurtful'
Green Party Councillor Lorna Bogue with party leader Eamon Ryan TD on the top of Shandon for the launch of her General Election campaign in Cork earlier this year. Picture: Dan Linehan.

“YOU can’t just tell fairy stories to the members and expect there will be no follow up from it. Not this time anyway.

“It’s like the new Taylor Swift song: I’ve seen this film before and I didn’t like the ending,” Green Party Councillor Lorna Bogue has said about her party in Government.

The Cork City Councillor isn’t willing to keep quiet and toe her party line if she feels it’s the wrong thing to do.

Following the Golf Gate controversy Ms Bogue called for a fresh election or a national Government, saying the Government was “limping along.”

This isn’t Lorna’s first time speaking out against the Government. Since her election in 2019 her outspoken nature has attracted attention, and earlier this year caused her to be temporarily suspended from the Green Party.

In comments to The Echo earlier this year, Ms Bogue accused party leader Eamon Ryan of fudging on red line issues in the Programme for Government (PFG) — comments which were read back to Deputy Ryan on Prime Time. An email landed in Lorna’s inbox shortly afterward stating that her membership status had been changed, however, her suspension wasn’t upheld. Her party leader also hasn’t spoken with her about the issue at all.

Eamon Ryan, now Minister for Transport, has however been in contact with Ms Bogue about infrastructure projects in Cork. She said she would never let personal issues get in the way of working to ensure the people of Cork get what they deserve.

“I’m quite happy to put that kind of stuff aside and just deal with my colleagues in a professional manner even if they haven’t dealt with me in a particularly professional manner. That’s just part of this particular job, I guess,” Ms Bogue said.

Asked whether Minister Ryan has ever addressed any of the issues she has had within the party with her directly she said: “Oh no. I wouldn’t have expected him to, to be honest. We just generally don’t deal very well with issues in the Green Party, as has become very clear over the last few months.”

There is still an investigation to come on the whole fiasco, and the remit for it is currently being established. Initially, Councillor Bogue said it was just about her own issue with the party, but it has changed somewhat now given the public resignations and everything that has happened in the intervening time.

“Eamon Ryan himself said during the leadership election that there were so many complaints about bullying that headquarters was swamped,” Ms Bogue said, adding that she is happy to work with the party to get to the root of the problem.

“What I went through was personally very hurtful, I wasn’t too happy about it, and it was just embarrassing for me, as well, that this was done to me.

“At the same time, I am a reasonable person. My issue has always been that if this is happening to me and I’m a fairly public figure within the Green Party, what is happening to everyone else who is less able to speak out for themselves?”

She believes bullying is a systemic problem within politics as a whole, given that other parties have had similar issues over the years, adding that she found it amusing that people in other parties were contacting her in an attempt to recruit her “for telling the truth” about the Green Party.

“I suspect if I joined another political party and did exactly the same thing, they wouldn’t like that,” she laughed.

“I think people are watching too much House of Cards or something,” she said. “It seems very geared towards not being decent to one another.” Overall Lorna admits politics is “not a very nice career.” She used to recommend that people get involved, but would she still?

“I would in the sense that the more sound people there are in politics, and the more people with their feet down to earth, and the more different perspectives that exist in society - if that was in politics and the political sphere, then yes I think that would contribute to things being less the way they are.” However she said that’s really not the way it is now.

“It’s much less about helping people or changing things once you get past a certain level. It stops being about that and then it starts being about power and winning.

“It’s a very competitive field and then it can end up being quite a nasty place to work,” Ms Bogue said.

While there may have been issues within her party, she credits her fellow Councillors in City Hall with being “rocks of good sense” and for simply making sure she was ok.

“They have all had kind words to say to me at some point. Even if it’s just after a council meeting and they pull me aside. They have been so good.

“I actually can’t thank them enough for it.

“In the Council chamber we go at it hammer and tongs when the media is watching,” she laughed, but added “but they are all sound and really decent people, so I’m very grateful to them.”

Nationally, the Green Party has made headlines since they entered Government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Just before summer recess, two TDs Neasa Hourigan and Joe O’Brien both voted against the Government on proposed eviction legislation — a decision Ms Bogue backs — which resulted in both TDs’ speaking rights in the Dáil being stripped for two months.

“You can’t just put in fluffy language around an issue like housing (in the PFG) and then expect us to sign up to something that has all of the good things explicitly stated, but none of the bad things.

“Now we are seeing evictions in the middle of a pandemic.

“I don’t think that it was reasonable for the other Green Party TDs to decide amongst themselves that Neasa and Joe have to be punished for it.”

She also said that there is a “big question” within the party about why the TDs were punished for voting “in line with Green Party policy.”

Lorna also claims that there are now members of the Green Party who are contacting her telling her they regret their decision in voting in favour of the PFG: “Fair play to them. I think it’s ok to make mistakes, and also, I can understand why people would want to think the best of our party.”

However, she said that the Green Party position in Government was “completely overstated” by people “who should have known better.” She said many of the people who made promises were prominent members of the party, some of whom were in Government last time the Green Party went into coalition.

“They knew exactly how the dynamics of the relationship worked, which was that the Green Party was seen as a soft touch because they behaved like a soft touch and are doing it again.

“This time, unfortunately for them, I’m here to point that out.” To that end, Lorna was involved in setting up Just Transition Greens, a group who are essentially holding the Green Party to account from within, and she is chair of the group.

“There is a lot of magical thinking going on in the Green Party at the moment. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for it.” She said the establishment of the group is a “silver lining” to the issues of the last few months but added that she can’t envision the group branching away from the Greens “for the time being” anyway.

“It really depends on what happens next.”

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