NI Green Party leader Steven Agnew to quit
The leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland is to quit, part blaming the power-sharing impasse at Stormont for sapping his drive for the job.
Steven Agnew said he was “frustrated, despondent and angry” that he had been unable to perform his role as a legislator for 18 months, accusing Sinn Fein and the DUP of “betraying” the needs of local people.
Mr Agnew, who will remain as an Assembly member for North Down, said he had considered leaving politics completely but decided against it.
The 38-year-old father of two said a desire to spend more time with his son, nine, and daughter, six, was another major factor in his decision to stand down as leader.
He also suggested that after almost eight years in post, during which time he led the Green Party into eight elections, it was time for someone with “fresh energy and vision” to take the party into next year’s local council elections.
In an interview with the Press Association, where he acknowledged that his motivation for the role has dimmed since Stormont collapsed, Mr Agnew said he believed he was strongest when on the floor of the Assembly and, as he was no longer able to legislate in the chamber, it was right he handed the baton on.
“My skills and strengths are as a parliamentarian and obviously in the context of no sitting Assembly I feel I am now the wrong person in this role,” he said.
“Frustration is one word, despondency at times but I think really I am angry,” said Mr Agnew.
“I am angry that we have two parties that are putting their needs as parties ahead of the needs of the people of Northern Ireland. I don’t think anyone could say this period of suspension, or call it what you will, is good for Northern Ireland.
“I tend to be moderate in how I present these things, but I am angry – I do think it’s a betrayal of the people of Northern Ireland.”
Mr Agnew will remain as leader until his successor is selected in the autumn.
He said he found the demands of the role increasingly incompatible with being the father of two young children, saying: “I used to wake up thinking about the Green Party and now maybe it’s about more that I wake up thinking about my kids and my energy and focus is on that,” he said.
Mr Agnew said he understood the public anger that he and colleagues were still getting paid their full salaries, despite an announcement from Secretary of State Karen Bradley in March that she was “minded” to cut their pay.
“Fealty’s in Bangor would be my local pub where I would most often go if I’m having a drink. It used to be you would walk in and somebody you may or may not know offering to buy you a pint and now the first thing you’ll get asked is not ‘what are you having Steven?’ but ‘are you still getting paid?’
“It’s usually said in good humour but underneath is a genuine frustration at the situation.
“Whilst I don’t take it personally and often people will say ‘look, we know it’s not your fault’ and that’s nice, I feel like they do – I want to be in the Assembly, I want to be delivering on what I worked really hard to achieve in getting elected. It’s not easy being Green, it’s certainly not easy getting elected as a Green.
“I didn’t do it for this, I didn’t do it to collect a pay cheque without feeling that I’ve done everything I can and should be doing.
“I want the Assembly back up and running. I want decisions being made.”