Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan clash on experience in final Green hustings

Green Party leadership candidates spoke at final hustings of the campaign on Tuesday

Green Party leadership candidate Catherine Martin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Green Party leadership candidate Catherine Martin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The two candidates contesting the Green Party leadership have differed markedly on whether experience is essential for the role.

Deputy leader Catherine Martin told the final hustings of the campaign on Tuesday night that while experience was a valuable attribute for a leader, it was not a prerequisite.

In contrast, party leader Eamon Ryan focused almost wholly on his extensive experience in government and as party leader in his opening remarks, in areas such as climate change, energy, transport, and land use.

Ms Martin made a deliberate pitch questioning the primacy of experience, an issue that had been frequently mentioned in previous hustings. She suggested that the quality had been overemphasised and said that experience sometimes acted against decisions that required risk or radical departures.

Ms Martin said the leader should be a risk-taker, and also suggested the Greens would pull out of government if the programme for government was not fulfilled.

“It’s the greenway or the highway”, she said.

Mr Ryan said directly he wanted to stay on as leader of the party he has led since 2011. “I want to stay on as leader. I want the job,” he said.

Both Mr Ryan, now Minister for Transport, and Ms Martin, now Minister for Arts and Culture, responded to questions from members in the north west and from Northern Ireland.

In response to a question from Northern Green leader Claire Bailey, Mr Ryan said she had been responsible for the important change in language, that say the “united Ireland” unit in the Department of the Taoiseach changed to the “shared island unit”.

Current Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Current Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ms Martin said thee were two traditions, one island and one plant and she as a Green did not “want physical borders.”

Asked by Saoirse McHugh about bullying in the party, Mr Ryan said it started with each individual and how they deal with others.

“I hope I have never engaged in a way that is antagonistic,” he said.

He said that during the last turbulent while, there had been online “heightened emotion, and bullying and abusive behaviour” not just in the Greens but all over the world.

He said the party had been “swamped” by this issue.

“We have a mechanism that is fit for a party of one or two TDS and not 12. We are not coping to be honest.

“One of the first tasks in the convention coming up is that complaints will be dealt with very quickly and dealt with very fairly,” he said.

Ms Martin Catherine said bullying was an “extraordinary issue and should not be part of our organisation.”

She said she wanted a party where dissenting voices feel comfortable. “It needs to be clear that differences of opinion will never go against you,” she said.

“We have to have clear processes in place where people who feel they are bullied feel safe on how to report it.”

Both differed in responding to a question from Northern Ireland suggesting Ministers, and Taoiseach’s Seanad nominees, should be appointed by the party membership.

Ms Martin said it was an issue that required reform and examination. Mr Ryan said that “as leader you are three to make a call”. He said that many of those decisions, including which portfolios go to which parties, were taken at the last minute and “going back to the executive would be difficult.”

Ms Martin, in her closing speech, said she was ready and eager to lead the Green Party. “I am asking you to choose a new energy and a new leader,” she said.