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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Northern Ireland Greens part of the Irish Green Party

(by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

Brian Wilson refuses to carry a mobile phone on environmental grounds. If he had one, he might have been tempted to switch it off by now, writes Liam Clarke.

As Northern Ireland's only Green MLA, the former politics lecturer has stolen a march on Sinn Féin. He is now the only member of the Stormont assembly whose party is also in government in the south.

Last week he was dodging media opportunities as he assessed the possibilities ahead. "It is an interesting situation," he agrees. Might this unique position tempt him into becoming more accessible? "I don't carry a mobile. I have complained about masts. But now the other Green people are all complaining that I don't have one," Wilson said.

A former civil servant, he cut his political teeth in the cross-community Alliance Party, of which his wife Anne is still a member. He has been on North Down borough council since 1981, first for Alliance, then as an independent, before joining the Greens in 2005 and topping the poll in the council elections of that year.

In the Stormont elections last March, he more than doubled the Green vote and unseated Robert McCartney, an anti-agreement unionist. Nobody remarked on the fact that the Northern Ireland Greens were part of the Irish Green party with full voting rights and two members on its 15-strong executive. Now this relationship will come into closer focus.

Trevor Sargent, the former Green leader, recently discussed policy with Wilson. Last Wednesday, Northern Ireland Greens travelled to Dublin to vote unanimously at the Mansion House conference in favour of coalition with Fianna Fail.

Peter Doran, a Northern representative on the Green Party executive, said: "We were very keen on government so we can actually move to delivery of our policies." These include making Ireland GM-free – and using this as a unique selling point for Irish produce – and spreading organic farming across the whole island.

The Greens see a role for Northern Ireland's declining engineering industry in making turbines for renewable energy production."Pollution, climate change and protection of the environment know no political borders, and neither do we," said Wilson.

June 17, 2007
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This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on June 17, 2007.

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