THE Green Party is in Government after a huge members’ debate – but their internal battles are still not quite done.
Both leadership contenders and fellow government ministers – Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin – faced each other on Tuesday evening in the first of four leadership election debates before a members’ vote later this month. The online debate was remarkably friendly including the questions of members in the Ireland South European Parliament constituency.
Party members voted 3:1 on June 26 in favour of coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. But a leadership contest must still by rule happen within six months of the February 8 general election and results due on July 23 next.
Both Ryan and Martin stressed the need to keep up consultation with members which is a party hallmark. They agreed that they must listen to all members – especially those who opposed Coalition.
The party leader and incoming Transport and Climate Change Minister, Eamon Ryan, stressed his years of experience with the Green Party. He argued that he knows how local councils work, and also knows the workings of the Dáil, the Government, and the European Union.
The current deputy leader, Ms Martin, who comes originally from Co Monaghan, while now a TD for the Dublin-Rathdown constituency, stressed her rural roots. “I am of rural Ireland,” she said adding she understand rural people’s fears of efforts to tackle climate change.
Taking the offensive Martin said she regretted the “lack of diversity” in last week’s government appointments – and stressed the need for the Greens to promote women and people from minorities in all aspects of politics.
But Mr Ryan countered that Green Cabinet appointments were 50:50 men and women while the four male junior appointees were the people best qualified.
The new Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister also stressed her links to the Irish language and, unlike her rival, also spoke in Irish . But she emphasised tackling climate change. “We need to go big – or go home on this,” Ms Martin said.
Her support for leadership came largely from anti-coalition members. Ms Martin was sceptical about government talks but later led the party negotiations and finally strongly endorsed the deal.
Eamon Ryan tried to counter his rival’s rural credential gambit by saying he was from Dublin but his family had deep rural links.
The party leader said he was not against term limits on leaders – but stressed the need for an experienced leader.
On tonight’s performance, both leaders scored much the same. But party insiders say that the current leader, Eamon Ryan, has a considerable advantage given the size of the pro-coalition vote, and this may decide things.