Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has declined to say if Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu can remain as chairwoman of the party following her decision to run in the Seanad byelections as an Independent.
He also said he would not be voting for her in the election but would be supporting the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael candidates on each panel, in line with an agreement on the April polls that was reached by the three Government parties
A majority of Green TDs and Senators, as well as the party’s ruling executive council, decided 10 days ago the party would not run a candidate for either of the two Seanad seats currently vacant.
However, Ms Chu secured the signatures of six Green parliamentarians for her nomination, as well as three Independent ones.
Significantly, Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin was one of those who signed nomination papers for Ms Chu, who needed nine signatures.
The action by Ms Chu, and its support by Ms Martin, who is also a senior Government Minister, has highlighted the internal divisions within the party.
A number of Green TDs have privately expressed anger at Ms Chu’s decision, saying it will foment a bitter row in the party between two factions, for which Mr Ryan and Ms Martin are the respective figureheads.
There are increased tensions between both sides ahead of a parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday. Ten of the party’s 16 TDs and Senators have opposed her candidacy and are expected to vote for the Government candidates.
Minister of State for Community Development Joe O’Brien, one of those who nominated Ms Chu, is also expected to vote for the Government candidates.
The latest row comes a number of weeks after another Green TD, Patrick Costello, mounted a High Court challenge against the a trade agreement between Canada and the EU, in effect taking a legal challenge against the Government of which he is a member.
Asked at a Government press briefing on the Climate Bill on Tuesday if he would vote for Ms Chu in the byelection, Mr Ryan said the party’s executive council had decided it would not run any candidates. He said he had made his view on the matter known very strongly on two occasions.
The Green Party leader said an arrangement had been reached between the Coalition parties that on this occasion, each of the bigger parties would run one candidate for each of the two panels on which there are vacancies.
He said a departure from that by the Green Party might jeopardise its chances of running a representative as the sole Government candidate in a future election.
Asked if Ms Chu could remain as chairwoman of the party, Mr Ryan said he would discuss it with the parliamentary party on Wednesday and with the party;’s executive council on Saturday. “I will sit down and talk to my colleagues about that,” he said.
Fianna Fáil's candidate for the elections next month is Gerry Horkan, who is contesting the seat on the industrial and commercial panel vacated by Sinn Féin's Elisha McCallion. She resigned after it was disclosed she received £10,000 in Covid-19 relief grants in Northern Ireland, for which she was ineligible.
The Fine Gael candidate is Maria Byrne who will contest a seat on the agriculture panel following her former colleague Michael D'Arcy's decision to resign and take up a position as chief executive of the Irish Association of Investment Managers.