Eamon Ryan wants Saoirse McHugh to run for Greens in Seanad by-election

Saoirse McHugh.

The Green party hierarchy has set its sights on running European elections candidate, Saoirse McHugh, in a Seanad by-election to replace newly-elected party MEP Grace O'Sullivan in the upper house.

The Irish Examiner has learned that party leader Eamon Ryan wants to run Ms McHugh in any Seanad race after the Oireachtas summer recess ends in September, saying she is the future of the party.

An environmentalist from Achill Island in County Mayo, Ms McHugh was the surprise star of May's European elections campaign after she narrowly lost out on a seat in the sprawling Midlands North-West constituency.

While she and Mr Ryan were repeatedly asked in the immediate aftermath of the contest if Ms McHugh - who had only joined the Greens a year earlier - would run in another race, both said they needed time to consider the matter.

However, speaking to the Irish Examiner before the party's annual conference in Dublin this weekend, Mr Ryan confirmed he now wants Ms McHugh to contest the upcoming Seanad by-election.

Mr Ryan said: "I will be asking the Taoiseach that we will call the Seanad by-election in September as soon as the Dáil returns.

"Fingers crossed in terms of whoever our candidate is, I am hoping we [the Greens] can replace Grace because I think she did a brilliant job, we will see if Saoirse is running for it."

While Mr Ryan said that any Green party candidate will be selected by the entire party and not just its leader, he added that Ms McHugh is "hugely talented and committed particularly around the issues of rural development, farming and food policy".

"I am hoping we will open that very shortly and it will be an open competition within the party," he said.

The future of Ms McHugh - who was the subject of rumours in the immediate aftermath of May's European elections that Sinn Féin would try to entice her to switch parties - is likely to be a key issue at the Green party's annual conference this weekend.

Among other issues due to be discussed are the growing threat of climate change to Ireland and abroad, and the possibility of entering a coalition after the next general election.

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