Clare Bailey is the new leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland. She takes over from Steven Agnew who announced at the end of July that he was standing down from the party’s leadership after seven years.
The south Belfast MLA was chosen as leader after her nomination was unopposed.
Her priorities will have to be to raise the profile of the party in the run up to May’s local government elections, perhaps speaking out and placing a Green stamp on surprising issues to extend their appeal and court publicity.
The name ‘Green’ sometimes fools people into thinking that they are a single-issue party. Instead they focus on what I remember Agnew once explaining as a triangle drawn between the points of the environment, the economy and people.
Ensuring that the party are heard above DUP/Sinn Féin arguments and the clamour of the other three large parties is a tough ask in the face of the rules that broadcasters follow during campaigns.
Bailey’s previous employment, interests and campaigning will bring to the fore many non-environmental issues. In 1981, she was one of the first intake of pupils at Lagan College, Northern Ireland’s first integrated school, and continues to be a strong supporter of integrated education.
She worked for Nexus, a charity which supports those who have experienced sexual abuse and violence, and volunteered as a clinic escort for the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast. For 15 years, she also volunteered at Giro’s Community Café and drop-in centre.
You can find out more about Bailey in this 2015 interview I conducted for NvTv, Belfast’s community TV station.
Born in Clonard and resident in her south Belfast constituency for most of her adult life, the QUB politics graduate joined the Green Party in 2010 and was first elected as an MLA for Belfast South in May 2016, retaining her seat in March 2017 when constituencies shrank from 6 down to 5 MLAs.
The party’s press release announcing her leadership explains that her personal experience of the injustice built into the system, and the lack of women’s experience reflected in public policy as key factors in her decision to get involved in politics.
Bailey paid tribute to the outgoing leader who “has immeasurably developed the party during his time as leader” and commented on the state of the party she is now at the helm of:
“I take over a party with a buoyant and dynamic membership – people who are committed to taking on the challenges of our time. The challenges are significant and serious – we have a government in denial about climate breakdown. Brexit looms large over all of us while the politicians of the past have failed to give us a voice. And, across Northern Ireland, certain citizens are denied the rights that others take for granted.
“The Green Party is the only party willing and able to tackle these issues. We were the first local party to propose a People’s Vote on any final Brexit deal. We are the only party to accept the reality of climate breakdown and with the bold policies to deal with it.
“And for us, equality is more than just a buzzword – we stood the first transgender candidate on the island of Ireland, we use a meaningful gender quota, and have been at the forefront of LGBTQ rights. That’s why, now more than ever, the Green Party can be a force for positive change.”
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about, reports from, live-tweets and live-streams civic, academic and political events and conferences. He delivers social media training/coaching; produces podcasts and radio programmes; is a FactCheckNI director; a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland; and a member of the Corrymeela Community.