Greens still tight-lipped on terror concerns

Green Party leader Steven Agnew has not responded to IVUs concerns
Green Party leader Steven Agnew has not responded to IVUs concerns

The Green Party has said its leader was “unavailable for comment” after a Troubles victims’ group expressed concern about its decision to enter into a possible election pact involving Sinn Fein.

As reported repeatedly in the last week, the SDLP had been pushing for a deal between themselves, Sinn Fein, and the Green Party – but the talks collapsed after the latter party walked away on Tuesday.

The Greens had said they found it impossible to enter a pact to help elect pro-life candidate Alasdair McDonnell, and that they objected to Sinn Fein’s abstentionist stance – but said nothing about Sinn Fein’s long links to violent extremism.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United had voiced dismay at this, and called on the Green Party to remember that Sinn Fein still indulges in “terrorism idolatry”.

No response to this was forthcoming from the Greens on Wednesday, or again on Thursday when asked.

Brian Wilson – the first-ever Green Party MLA in the Province – voiced misgivings about a pact last week.

Asked this week if he feels the flirtation with linking up with Sinn Fein compromised the party’s non-violent principles, he said: “I don’t know. I hope not, basically.

“But as I said, it’ll probably be used by unionist politicians to paint the Green Party as a friend to terrorists and all this sort of stuff; that’s the way Northern Ireland politics works.”

The Green Party’s involvement in the pact could have proved useful in South Belfast – a very hard-fought area where veteran SDLP man Dr McDonnell is only fractionally ahead of the DUP.

Even if the Greens alone dropped out of the race, it is possible it may have provided enough of a boost to the SDLP that it could keep the seat.

However, a Green statement on Tuesday indicated that it had in fact demanded the reverse, and had insisted that Clare Bailey, Green deputy leader, “is much better placed to unify the electorate”.

Ms Bailey joined the Assembly for the first time last year. Last spring she proposed introducing life sentences for men who have consensual sex with women, if a woman conceives and then opts for an abortion.

She got 5.7% of the vote in the 2015 general election.

By contrast Dr McDonnell got 24.5% of the vote in the same poll.

Mr Wilson said it was “wishful thinking” to have believed the SDLP would stand aside to give her a clearer run.

Meanwhile, former Green councillor turned independent Noelle Robinson, who quit in 2015 after Steven Agnew suggested that outlawing membership of terrorist organisations may be counter-productive, said “recent events have made me even more sure that my decision to leave party politics behind was the right one for me”.