THE Green Party may be in government now but even if it is part of the establishment, its party conventions are still just that bit different.
In the lobby outside the conference hall in White's Hotel in Wexford, there are stands from the Irish Seed Savers Association, the Wexford Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Irish Georgian Society.
A note to the media lists the "eco-facts of White's Hotel" (reduced energy bills by 35% from energy-efficient lighting and motion detractors, drilled its own water well etc etc). The shirt and tie is a lot more prevalent than in days of yore, but the check-shirted delegate is far from extinct. The Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael ard fheis it most certainly is not.
Just to emphasise the point, there is a tongue-in-cheek poster on the wall of the media registration room, showing RTÉ political correspondent David Davin-Power, surrounded by Fianna Fáil delegates during his 9pm news broadcast at last weekend's ardfheis. Under the photo are the words: 'Green Party Convention Rule No.1: Absolutely, no donuting behind David Davin Power'. Not that there's any danger of that happening. Green delegates are far too cool for such behaviour.
The debate is also different. The Greens have got undeniably slick in recent years, and like all party conventions, there is a lot of choreography. But there is also a fair degree of open debate. One delegate gently chides deputy leader Mary White for her suggestion of a tax on text messages.
There was also a full-on debate on the merits of a national government. The first motion that the party should enter negotiations with all other Dáil parties on a "government of national unity" was heavily defeated. However, a compromise motion calling on the leadership to consider the merits of a "government of national unity and sustainable recovery" got majority backing, albeit not the two-thirds required to ensure it was passed.
A motion calling for a special conference on whether to continue in coalition with FF, proposed by TD?Paul Gogarty, was defeated.
Speaking on the motions, Galway councillor Niall O Brolcháin, predicting that a national government may happen, suggested consideration should be given to a "Green taoiseach".
Another speaker, Dominic Donnelly, speaking on politicians' pay, sought to differentiate the Greens from other parties with a bit of role play. He introduced himself as "Ned Chancer", a candidate from the "Mé Féin party" and asked for votes "because I'm a chancer". Having grabbed the delegates' attention, he reverted to his normal persona, declaring that the Green Party was different and "this is not what we stand for". He urged delegates to vote for a motion that proposed ending the system whereby TDs and senators can take seemingly indefinite career breaks from their public and civil service jobs while in Leinster House. The motion was passed.
Former leader and current food minister Trevor Sargent, got a warm reception when he stood up to address the convention. "The National Taskforce on Obesity report says obesity-related problems cost Ireland €4bn per annum. Doesn't that figure sound familiar? Are we not seeking to cut €4bn from government spending? Could it be that the solution to all of our problems – the financial crisis, food security and climate change – are all to be found in a focus on food?" Food for thought.