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Green Party’s row with Lord Mayor Hazel Chu drags on despite peace bid 

Party chairperson determined to stand as independent candidate for the Seanad

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Green Party chairperson Hazel Chu is pressing ahead with plans to run for the Seanad as an independent candidate. Photo: Andres Poveda

Green Party chairperson Hazel Chu is pressing ahead with plans to run for the Seanad as an independent candidate. Photo: Andres Poveda

Green Party chairperson Hazel Chu is pressing ahead with plans to run for the Seanad as an independent candidate. Photo: Andres Poveda

The Green Party’s damaging and very public row with its chairperson and Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, is set to continue.

Peace-making efforts by some members of the parliamentary party have been rebuffed by the Lord Mayor. TDs and senators last night endorsed a compromise motion by 11 votes to five aimed at defusing tensions.

But she rejected their call for her to stand aside temporarily as chairperson while she contests a Seanad by-election as an independent candidate.

The account of a divided meeting and the vote result are being sent to the party’s executive council to work out where to go from here.

The Green Party had chosen not to contest either of two Seanad by-elections due this month. And it was expected their 16 TDs and senators would vote for two candidates, one for each seat chosen respectively by their coalition colleagues in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

It was understood that any later Seanad vacancy which might arise would go to the Green Party. A similar arrangement was borne out in practice in the 2007-2011 Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition, when in November 2009 the Greens got an extra Seanad seat.

But Ms Chu has stood by her determination to contest the seat as an independent. Speaking ahead of the latest meeting, the Dublin Lord Mayor said the Green Party TDs and senators had no power to get her to stand aside temporarily as party chairperson.

Three party senators had earlier withdrawn a motion of no-confidence in Ms Chu as chairperson, which they brought themselves.

One of those behind the original no-confidence motion, Senator Pauline O’Reilly from Galway, had publicly asked how the chairperson of a party can stand for election flying other colours.

But Ms Chu insisted that only party members – via the executive committee – could effectively get her to stand aside as chairperson.

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“As my position of cathaoirleach of the party is mandated directly by the membership, any request for me to step down – even as a temporary measure – should properly come from the membership, or via their representatives on the executive committee,” she told the Irish Independent.

“Motions passed by other bodies of the party are not binding, and so any issues raised by the parliamentary party around my position as cathaoirleach should be directed to the executive,” the Dublin Lord Mayor added.

Deep internal party divisions are compounded by the decision of the party’s deputy leader, Arts and Tourism Minister Catherine Martin, to back Ms Chu’s candidature.

Four other party TDs, and one senator, also endorsed her nomination – despite the national executive’s decision not to contest this by-election.

Many Green Party members are dismayed by the row, which has overshadowed one of the party’s primary achievements to date, publication of a strong draft law on climate change which now goes before the Dáil and Seanad.

Ms Chu’s candidature is seen as a further move to undermine Eamon Ryan as party leader. It follows the revelation earlier this month that Green Party TD Patrick Costello had initiated High Court proceedings seeking a ruling on whether a referendum is required to ratify the EU-Canada trade deal.

The three-party Coalition is trying to get ratification by the Dáil and Seanad and efforts to rush a vote by TDs before Christmas were pulled.

Mr Costello, who is Ms Chu’s partner, insists he is taking his High Court action as a private citizen and basing it on senior counsel’s opinion that there is “a good case” for a referendum vote in line with articles 15 and 34 of the Constitution.

Before joining the Coalition last June, the Green Party was highly critical of aspects of the EU-Canada deal. Since then, the leadership has said important changes made it acceptable.


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