Fermanagh green activist Tanya Jones has been elected as the new deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland.

The writer, former solicitor and anti-fracking campaigner was chosen following a membership vote at the Green Party conference last Sunday.

Ms. Jones stood unsuccessfully in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections and in the 2016 and 2017 Assembly elections. 

She will fill the role vacated by Clare Bailey who decided to step aside to concentrate on being an MLA.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter this week, Ms. Jones said there are three main aspects to her role as deputy leader.

READ: General Election 2015: Jones ‘overwhelmed’ by support for Greens

“Most importantly, to support Steven [Agnew] as leader and to support that party in general. When I was involved in the Frack Free movement in Fermanagh, I found that Steven personally and the Green Party generally were very supportive. That’s what impelled me to become more involved; I wanted to give something back to the party,” she said.

“I also want to spread the message that the Green Party vision isn’t just for the urban east, it’s for the rural west as well. There’s a stereotype that social justice issues are important in the city and environmental issues for the rural areas. But all the social justice issues the Green Party is concerned about are worse in rural areas,” she contended. 

“Fuel poverty, child poverty, a lack of support for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer) community, a lack of support for mental health, for people with disabilities, women with crisis pregnancies – all of these situations are made worse for people who have to travel significant distances even to start addressing them.”

Ms. Jones continued: “Although Steven and I are very good friends, we are very different. He is an atheist while I am involved in the Fermanagh Churches Forum. Being a green Christian is important to me. He is focused on social justice issues, I am from the environmental side. There is a balancing out of the green leadership team.”

Ms. Jones is unelected but feels this fact will not impinge on her role as deputy leader. 
“I’ve been working very closely with Steven and Claire for some time. I’ve been representing Fermanagh concerns to them. My Green Lassie blog has been significant in helping me to articulate what I believe and other people have found it helpful as well,” she stated.
She admits that the Green Party’s presence in Fermanagh would not have happened so soon if the threat of fracking had not affected the community in 2013-14. 

“The Green Party would have probably taken longer. It may be now we would have been setting up in Fermanagh rather than a few years ago,” said Ms. Jones.

Grass roots democracy is important to the Green Party, according to Ms. Jones who cites Monday night’s packed meeting in the Lakeland Forum opposing cuts to hospital servies as “grass roots democracy in action.” 

She commented: “The comments from the floor were so positive. If we can come together as one and get our message across like we did on Monday, that potentially could feed into the electorate and we would have representatives who actually represent us, rather than the binary and divisive situation we are in at the moment, which patently isn’t working.”

If a new Executive gets up and running in the future, Ms. Jones said she has ambitions to become an MLA.

She commented: “I’ve lived in Fermanagh for 11 years and I have been involved in the community in lots of ways. 
“I’m quite well aware of the challenges but also the opportunities that Fermanagh offers to people and to sustainable businesses.”