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Catherine Martin says the party has to avoid at all costs lecturing rural Ireland from South Dublin. Leah Farrell

Green Party contest kicks off as Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin make their pitches to be leader

Ryan and Martin said they would bring down the government if Green policies are not delivered.

THE GREEN PARTY’S leadership contest kicked off online this evening with the first hustings event with current leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin.

Ryan and Martin both paid tribute to each other, but both also said they were the right person for the job.

Facing questions from party members this evening, Martin and Ryan were asked if they would be prepared to bring down the government if the Green policies in the programme for government were not being delivered upon. 

Martin said it won’t be a surprise to people that she would be prepared to pull it all down. 

“Yes, I would be,” she said, adding that she is “not going to walk in every day threatening that”.

However, it is a good thing if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael know in the “back of their minds there is a chance of that happening”, she said.

The last time the party was in government “perhaps that threat wasn’t there… maybe we should have walked earlier”, said Martin.

Ryan also said he is willing to pull down this government if Green initiatives are not delivered. “If it is not delivering a green transition why would we stay in government,” he said.

In Cabinet, everyone has to work as a team, and trust has to be built up, he said.

Asked about why more women were not given Cabinet positions, Martin said who got ministerial roles is the prerogative of the party leader.

“As a woman in politics, I felt a duty to really advocate and promote women in politics,” she said, stating that is why she set up the women’s caucus in Leinster House. 

“I did share the disappointment felt last week by members” over the “lack of diversity in our ministerial appointments”, said Martin. 

She said people that have “demonstrated their ability” and are “rising stars” who have worked hard in the party should be awarded for that. “Not just because they are female”, but because they able, she said.

The Green Party “celebrates and values” diversity, but it is “not enough to celebrate it and not act”. We must promote women, said Martin.

Ryan defended his choices stating that he appointed the best people for the jobs. 

Making her pitch to be the party leader, the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht said she never envisaged a life in politics.

After her son was born, she found the world he was born into “deeply offensive”.

“As a mother knew I had to act” explained Martin, stating that she joined the Green Party. 

Martin said she felt instantly “connected” and a “part of something”. 

“I do not believe in loud leadership just as I never believed in loud teachers,” said Martin.

“If we can connect people to nature… peoples’ hearts will change,” she added. Martin said the Covid-19 crisis shook the world view that we are greater than nature, adding that it demands us to “go big or go home”.

Speaking to those in rural communities, Martin said:

“I am of rural Ireland, I understand rural Ireland.”

She said she understands the fear that change brings, adding that she wants the party to make a “pact” with rural Ireland. “A pact of trust,” she said.

“I will reach into rural Ireland” to bring counties with us, said Martin.

catherine martin Catherine Martin says she was disappointed with the lack of female representation at Cabinet. Screengrab / Greenparty Screengrab / Greenparty / Greenparty

She added that the idea has been put forward that the party is anti-rural, with Martin stating that sometimes the party hasn’t helped itself. Rural Ireland is key in the delivery of change, said Martin.

Ryan said he is as “Dub as Dub can be”, and he doesn’t believe in a rural and urban divide. 

Ryan promised to get out of Dublin before the end of July, to travel to Cork to see how the government can deliver the proposed Bus Connects project there. 

The new programme for government commits to putting villages and towns first, he said.

Martin told the members that were watching the debate online that she would relish the thought of the party being back one day negotiating another programme for government in the years to come, “but with 20 or 30 TDs” she said.

Under her leadership, she promised to never undermine the party’s principles. 

She promised to instill “a new unity” in the membership.

“If you elect me as leader, I will work tirelessly” to achieve climate justice across the island of Ireland, said Martin. 

Ryan began his pitch to retain his job as leader by emphasising his experience. He said he had been a member since the late 1980s.

He agreed with Martin that it is about “winning the heart and the head” in order to bring people with the party.

An “emotional response” will “bring it back home” and get people to think about their local environment”. 

“Every place matters, and every person matters,” said Ryan.

eamon ryan Eamon Ryan says his experience in politics will serve the party well.

He said the Green movement will not work “if it is stop start”, stating change needs to be consistent.

Ryan said Martin has “huge skills”, adding: “I do too”.

While he might be described as “an old fella”, Ryan said he has been around for a long time.

His experience means he knows how Europe, government and the Dáil works, arguing that such experience is what he wants to use over the next few years to take the next steps for the party.

Ryan said it is a “risky and difficult time for the party”, but said his experience in politics can help.

If the party improves peoples’ quality of lives while in government the party will succeed.

In responses to whether there should be term limits to how long a leader can serve the party, Martin said someone in the job for a long time is not always best for the party.

She said sometimes someone new can bring fresh eyes and ideas.

The party’s rules state that a leadership contest should take place after a general election. However, the contest began when Martin announced that she would challenge Ryan for the leadership last month.

Ballot papers will be sent to party members in the coming days, and must be returned by 22 July. The result will be announced on the evening of 23 July.

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