Green Party: NI leader determined to recapture lost MLA seats

Monday, Aug 15, 2022

BELFAST: The new leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland has told of his determination to grow his party and recapture Stormont seats lost in the Assembly election.

Belfast councillor Mal O’Hara, 43, replaced Clare Bailey as leader on Sunday following a disappointing election result in May which saw the party lose both of its MLAs.

In an interview with the PA news agency, O’Hara also told of his desire to see the region become self-sufficient in energy and to change “hearts and minds” over environmental issues.

Previously the party’s deputy leader, he was elected unopposed as leader after Bailey decided not to continue in the role in the wake of the Stormont election in which she lost her south Belfast seat.

O’Hara said: “We do an internal process within the party and our rules state that we have an election for a leader after each Assembly election and Clare indicated that she wasn’t going to put her name in the hat.

“As deputy for the last three years, I was the next person and we agreed and felt that it was time for new leadership and new energy in the party.

“Members were very supportive and keen to see me take on the mantle of leadership when Clare indicated she was stepping down.

“Clare will still remain involved with the party, we will be utilising her expertise and knowledge in different ways within the party.

“But I think she has decided after the disappointing Assembly election it is time for new leadership, a fresh approach and to bring forward the next generation of activists.”

O’Hara described the Assembly election result, in which party member Rachel Woods also lost her seat in North Down, as the “swings and roundabouts” of politics and said his party had been squeezed by major issues.

He said: “What happened to us was there was a very focused narrative around issues such as the border poll, around a nationalist first minister, that if you were annoyed with the bigger parties then you had to vote for Alliance, and also the Northern Ireland Protocol and the DUP stance on that.

“As a smaller party inevitably we got squeezed.

“But we are very proud of the legacy our MLAs delivered.

“We brought two pieces of law, but also we forced the Executive to bring forward a Climate Bill. “We have always been the progressive vanguard of change.

“We have talked about the environment for decades and it’s good to see that others are beginning to adopt those policies and move in that direction.”

O’Hara added: “The Greens, in the last Assembly forcing the Executive to bring forward a Climate Bill, we are going to start to see progress and while we may not be in the Assembly, part of our role is about holding peoples’ feet to the flames and making sure that they progress the Climate Bill.” —PA