John Gormley, Keough-Naughton Visiting Fellow and Former Leader of the Irish Green Party will provide an Irish perspective on the European economic crisis.
Sponsored by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Henkels Lectures Fund, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.
John Gormley was born in Dublin in 1959. He grew up in Limerick city and was educated there at St Munchin’s College, where he attended as a boarder when his family moved back to Dublin. After leaving school he worked for a number of years in Dublin and Germany. He later studied English and German literature in University College Dublin and Freiburg University. It was while studying in Freiburg on a scholarship that he first encountered the fledgling German Greens. On returning to UCD in 1982, he set up the Ecology Society and became its first auditor. He also joined the newly formed Green Alliance and helped the party campaign in the 1983 by- election. Following his graduation from UCD John Gormley taught German in DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology) and then set up the Academy of European Languages.
He has been active in green politics for almost thirty years. He has served as a green public representative for twenty of those years. He contested his first General election in 1989 when the then selected green candidate had to pull out. He was elected to Dublin City Council in the local election of 1991 for the Rathmines area. He was elected as Lord Mayor of Dublin by the City Council in 1994.
He was first elected to Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) in 1997 and re-elected in 2002 and 2007 for the Dublin South East area. During this period he was an Irish government appointee on the Convention for the Future of Europe along with former Taoiseach, John Bruton and four other members of Dáil Éireann. Following the 2007 election the Green Party entered coalition with Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s largest political party at that time. John Gormley was part of the Green Party negotiating team and subsequently became the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In July of 2007 he was elected leader of the Green Party.
As Minister, John Gormley introduced a number of far reaching reforms, including new planning legislation, a carbon levy to deal with Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, new funding mechanisms for local government. He also introduced important animal welfare legislation and financial measures to encourage people to cycle to work. The Green Party in government also introduced special grants for households and businesses that wished to invest in insulation and energy saving equipment. Funding for environmental NGOs was also tripled during that period. Unfortunately, the Green Party’s tenure in government also coincided with the worst recession in Ireland’s history. The cutbacks and increased taxes introduced in a series of budgets meant that the government parties became increasingly unpopular. The 2011 election, which was called by the Green Party because of the entry of the IMF, was quite disastrous for both government parties, but particularly the Greens, who lost all their seats. John Gormley’s remaining pieces of legislation such as the Climate Change Bill did not make it through both Houses of parliament.
In May 2011 John Gormley stepped down as leader of the party. He no longer holds any executive position in the Green Party. He works as an environmental consultant and writes a column in the Current Affairs magazine, The Village.