Eamon Ryan leaves door open to becoming tánaiste

Micheál Martin expected to be taoiseach for first half of next government

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has not ruled out his party seeking the position of tánaiste in a coalition with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Mr Ryan said he had no interest in being taoiseach as part of an arrangement to rotate the top position, but did not rule out a stint as tánaiste.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is expected to be taoiseach in the first half of a coalition government with Fine Gael and the Greens, with Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar going second.

Senior Green sources had previously floated the idea of Mr Ryan also getting a year as taoiseach, although Mr Ryan ruled this out on Today with Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio One.

It had also been assumed that Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin would alternate the position of tánaiste.

Mr Ryan repeatedly said positions within the potential government have not yet been discussed and are usually a matter for party leaders. The priority now, he said, is working in policies and getting the country through the Covid-19 crisis.

“We should be fixating on delivering change,” he said.

Leader

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin last week said she is giving serious consideration to challenging Mr Ryan for the position of leader after being urged to do so by a number of party members and councillors.

Party rules stipulate that the position of leader must be open to nominations within six months of a general election, meaning a contest would have to take place by August 8th.

Ms Martin is leading the Green Party team negotiating a coalition deal with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and has said that is where her focus is and Mr Ryan said the leadership issue is dealt with in the party rules.

“That’s how we do things, last week Catherine said she was focused on the talks for government formation. That’s the first task.”

Mr Ryan said he and Ms Martin talk every day and had in the past discussed the leadership issue. If she were to become leader of the party, he would work with her, he said. He had not been aware of the letter circulated by some Green party councillors last week. “But that’s not something that threw me.”

However, Mr Ryan admitted that he was not certain he would run in the next general election as his younger daughter in particular did not want him to do so. It was something he would have to evaluate. No one person in the party was indispensable, it was a team game.

“Thirty years is a long time in politics.”

The decision of who will be attorney general had not been discussed at all within the party, he said, responding to media reports.

Attorney general

“Whoever will be attorney general needs to be a really good lawyer for the government,” he said. Mr Ryan pointed out that there had been some “very political” attorneys general in the past who had been very good in the role.

When asked about Fine Gael having discussions with Independent TD for Wexford Verona Murphy who was previously a nominee for the party, Mr Ryan said that he was prepared to talk to everyone “if we’re going to win over the country to turn green”.

He disagreed with the comments of Ms Murphy on refugees and thought that using refugees as an election issue had not been right.

On the issue of the pandemic payment, Mr Ryan said the Green Party wanted to see the introduction of a basic income payment which offered better social protection and allowed people to work at the same time.

The pandemic payment had not been well thought out and it had its flaws, but it was an emergency measure. “The current plans will taper off, it will be adjusted. There will have to be changes.”

Mr Ryan said he would like to see lessons learned from the approach taken during the current crisis.