Green Party members believe Ryan may face pressure to stand down
Leader’s victory over Catherine Martin by just 48 votes was much tighter than anybody had anticipated
Eamon Ryan: his supporters in the party said “a win was a win”. Photograph: Getty Images
Green Party members believe Eamon Ryan will come under renewed pressure to stand down at some stage during the Government’s term following his narrow victory over Catherine Martin in the party’s leadership contest.
Mr Ryan survived Ms Martin’s challenge to his leadership by a margin of only 48 votes on Thursday, in a contest that was much tighter than anybody had anticipated.
While his supporters in the party maintained that “a win was a win”, others pointed to the need for him to review urgently the issues that have divided the party’s 3,000 membership over the past year.
In separate interviews on Friday, Mr Ryan would not deal with questions as to leading the party into the next election on the basis that the leadership contest had been completed and the immediate challenges related to the business of Government.
At a briefing on the July stimulus, Ms Martin, Minister for Arts and Tourism, was asked about Mr Ryan’s decision not to say when he would stand down. She also said the contest was now over, and added that she had pledged her support to his leadership.
Speaking about the tenure of his leadership, she said: “It is a matter for Eamon and has never been discussed [with me].
“We are only in the first month of this Government. The leadership contest ended last night. We have a job of work to do to heal the division in the party. I am here to bring stability to the party, and to work to provide the stability the Government needs.”
Dublin Lord Mayor and Green councillor Hazel Chu, a supporter of Ms Martin, said the closeness of the contest showed that the party would need to make changes after months of division and turbulence.
She told RTÉ there was a strategic review under way, and Mr Ryan was amenable to change and to make change. She said it was not set to cause division but to “ensure everyone’s voices are heard”.
Both sides in the contest had engaged in an intensive series of phone calls in the dying days of the campaign as it became clear the outcome would be closer than anticipated.
It was accepted the vast majority of those opposed to the programme for government backed Ms Martin.
According to one of Mr Ryan’s supporters, of those who supported the programme there “were a lot who had no issue with Eamon, but just wanted a bit of a change or a woman to lead, which is fair enough”.
Another said a sizeable majority of the Northern membership supported Ms Martin.
It came as a new left-wing group affiliated to the party made very direct criticism of the party under Mr Ryan’s leadership, and said his “near loss” in the contest was a demonstration that many in the party believed it was diverging from its policy platform.
The co-chair of the Just Transition group, Cllr Lorna Bogue, said: “Many voted for us on the premise that these are all left-wing policies; they simply cannot be described as right wing.
“There is a deep feeling within the party – as evidenced by Eamon Ryan’s near-loss of the leadership of the party – that the direction of the party in Government is diverging from our election promises and long-standing policy platform.”
The group’s 16 signatories include Dublin Central TD Neasa Hourigan as well as a number of Northern representatives, including co-chair Cllr Áine Groogan. The group was given the green light by the party’s executive council but, significantly, Mr Ryan refused to say if he supported the proposal.
Ms Bogue also said the group would include people who were not members of the Green Party, raising the possibility it might spin into a new stand-alone party in the future.
“If people want to leave the party we support that decision. But we want to provide an avenue for those people to still have a say in how their party works, so their work doesn’t fully go to waste, and so they can hold the Green Party to account on its actions in Government.”