The Green Party leadership has told members it will pull the plug on the Government if its agenda is not delivered upon.
Current leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin, who is challenging him for the top position, made the commitment during the party's Ireland South hustings on Tuesday.
Ms Martin said while she would be prepared to walk out on their Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael partners she would not wield the prospect as a regular threat. However, as leader she would seek a set of tangible measures to assess whether the party was getting what it sought in the programme for government.
“Yes, I would be [prepared to cause an election] and I think that is known,” she said. “But it’s not that I’m going to walk in every day threatening that cause that wouldn’t work in a partnership. But I’m hoping that at the back of their minds they know that there is the chance of that happening.”
Mr Ryan said he would also collapse the Government because without a green transition there was no point to them being in power.
Tuesday’s was the first of four hustings culminating in a membership vote on who should lead the resurgent party almost immediately after it has entered coalition. Today it has almost 4,000 members.
The party constitution requires that nominations for leadership be opened after a general election. Ms Martin, deputy leader and newly appointed Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, surprised many when she agreed to contest.
The hustings allows grass roots members to pose questions to the candidates. Asked about gender balance in its ministerial appointments, Ms Martin said she respected “that these matters of appointments are the prerogative of Eamon as party leader”, but that she “did share disappointment last week, the disappointment felt by many members, on the lack of diversity in our ministerial appointments”.
Defending himself, Mr Ryan said he had spent almost a decade travelling the country encouraging women to take on leadership roles.
He also said the Greens’ four Cabinet Ministers were evenly split on gender lines, and that Junior Ministers were awarded to those with specific qualifications for their jobs. “I didn’t want to disqualify them because the fact of their gender.”
A former cabinet minister, Mr Ryan was elected head of his party in 2011. In response to a question on term limits, he said he would not be averse to the idea but suggested experience was an important attribute.
Ms Martin said the issue warranted exploration, but a balance of experience and “fresh eyes” was required. “Being a long time in a certain role doesn’t necessarily mean you are the right person for that role.”