Greens leadership contest pits leader Eamon Ryan against his deputy Catherine Martin

The Green Party leadership election kicked off last night, with a hustings for members in the south of the country hearing that the party must "go big or go home".
Greens leadership contest pits leader Eamon Ryan against his deputy Catherine Martin
Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin and leader Eamon Ryan.
Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin and leader Eamon Ryan.

The Green Party leadership election kicked off tonight, with a hustings for members in the south of the country hearing that the party must "go big or go home".

Current leader Eamon Ryan and Deputy Leader Catherine Martin are contesting the leadership election, which the party's constitution requires be held within six months of a general election.

Ms Martin told the hustings that the party "could not settle with being the fourth-largest party in Ireland".

"Winning more Dáil seats and tackling the climate emergency are two sides of the one coin for me - I would gladly negotiate a programme for government the next time out, but with 20 or 30 TDs."

Mr Ryan said that the party has to broaden its voter base from the "leafy suburbs" and ensure climate justice for the most vulnerable in Irish society. Mr Ryan touched on the rebuilding of the party under his leadership since 2011, along with Ms Martin and Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman.

It has to be about winning the heart and not just the head. It has to be about protecting our home and recognising that every place matters and every person matters.

Mr Ryan said both candidates had "great skills" for the job.

Ms Martin said that she believed the party can renegotiate the programme for government if it is not working. Mr Ryan told a member who asked how the party can unite after the division on the coalition that he knew about healing the party's wounds, having been around in 2007 when the party entered government with Fianna Fáil.

Party sources say that Mr Ryan is considered a strong favourite, following the party's passing of the programme for government by a wide margin.

"It would have been difficult to see Eamon being leader had the deal not gone through, but it passed easily, so you'd expect that he'll win this election," said one source.

However, Ms Martin is extremely popular within the party and was pushed to vote by a large contingent of the party's councillors. It is understood Ms Martin may have received as many as 200 names from the party's membership to support her when the race began at the beginning of June.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the hustings are being held online and have been organised regionally according to EU constituencies. The Dublin constituency hustings will take place on Saturday from 11am, while the Midlands-North West and Northern Ireland constituencies will hold theirs next Tuesday from 7pm.

Members from each region have been given the chance to ask questions of the candidates via Zoom.

Ballots for the election are being sent out next week, with a result due on July 23.

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