Catherine Martin rules out bid for Green Party leadership as Eamon Ryan steps down

‘An absolute privilege’: Ryan departs as Green Party leader and will not run in next election

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan announced that he will be stepping down as party leader and will not run in the next election. Video: Chris Maddaloni

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has announced that he is stepping down as party leader and will not run in the next election.

As the contest began for his successor, the party’s deputy leader Catherine Martin said she was also stepping down from her senior role in the party and she ruled herself out of competing for the more senior role.

“At this point in time, I will not be putting myself forward for the leadership contest. I will also step back as deputy leader,” Ms Martin said in a statement, just hours after Mr Ryan’s announcement.

“I look forward to supporting the new leadership of the party. We are fortunate to have such an extremely talented party membership.”


Ms Martin, who previously challenged Mr Ryan for the leadership at the time the Coalition was being formed in 2020, said her focus was on “delivering further real and critical change in my capacity as Minister [for Tourism, Culture and the Media]” and serving the people of Dublin Rathdown.

“I look forward to running there in the next general election,” she added.

Mr Ryan made his unscheduled announcement at Government Buildings at 1pm after the Cabinet meeting.

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The Minister for Transport said it has been “an absolute privilege” to serve the public for almost 30 years. He said he will continue as a party leader and in his ministerial roles until a new leader is elected.

“I am stepping down to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders,” Mr Ryan said. “Our party will now elect a new leader to take the party forward from here.”

Mr Ryan said politics has become too demanding, too “divisive” and there had often been “vile attacks” on social media.

He said he wanted to focus on family life and paid special tribute to his wife, Victoria White and his children, and made particular reference to his son Tommy, who has additional needs.

“I cannot continue to work the long hours that being a public representative involves which is why I am not standing again in the next general election. I have parenting commitments at home which I also want to serve. We have a son with special needs who also requires my attention.”

Mr Ryan later said he had made the decision many months ago and confirmed he would not run again in the next general election. He stressed the decision was not driven by the “bittersweet” results for the party in the local and European elections.

Mr Ryan said he is proud of what the Government has achieved over the last four years. “We have set the country on the course for a more sustainable future.”

He referenced improvements made in public transport, renewable energy and nature restoration. Describing social justice as integral to the party’s politics, he cited in particular the reduction of loss of life during Covid, the new climate law, retrofitting, cutting public transport fares, and greatly expanding solar and wind energy capacity as achievements.

His party suffered a bruising in the recent local and European elections, however, losing more than half its council seats and both European Parliament seats.

Asked if others had come to him to discuss his leadership, he said that had not been the case and the decision was a personal one.

“It wasn’t driven by the results. We had mixed results,” he said, pointing out “we topped the poll in a number of constituencies” in the local elections.

Mr Ryan said one of his biggest regrets was that “under my watch a narrative has taken hold that we are not concerned about rural Ireland, our solutions are costing people and we are not connected to the man and woman on the street. None of that do I believe to be true.

“Divisive politics will not work if we are to see the scale and speed of change that has to be achieved. Our approach is to start by listening to people, asking for help, rather than telling everyone what to do, admitting uncertainty in how the change will work best and speaking to the heart and not just the head.”

He also criticised the baleful influence of social media on politics and politicians.

“Convincing people of that has not been easy because we have also been the subject of a relentless attack, particularly on social media. It seemed at times that we were subject to co-ordinated attacks in the comments section following any post we made.

“I decided to ignore the worst comments, even when it included vile statements about my own recently deceased father. The level of invective has only increased in the last year and poisons the well of public thinking about our agenda and not just our party.

“That is one of the reasons why it is so important that we cherish a strong, impartial and independent media and that we put the future funding in place so that people can trust that they are getting accurate information on what is happening in our world.”

Mr Ryan added he was willing to serve in any role for the duration of the Government – that was up to the new leader of the party.

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Taoiseach Simon Harris paid tribute to Mr Ryan in the Dáil describing him as a “politician of substance and impact”.

Mr Harris said the leadership of the Green Party is a matter for that party, and that the Coalition’s programme for government would continue to be implemented.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said Mr Ryan had been consistent throughout his political life about issues, and had a steadfast commitment to green issues.

Mr Martin said “this Government has proven to be a watershed government in respect of the response to the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis”. He cited the climate laws, retrofitting, investment in public transport as examples.

In contrast, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said the Green Party had been a failure in Government, although he on a personal level he wished Mr Ryan.

“The Government was good at setting targets, but not at delivering them, and those failures would have long-standing repercussions for the country,” Mr Carthy said on RTÉ's News at One.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik, who shares the Dublin Bay South constituency with Mr Ryan, said she wanted to wish him and his family well, adding she wished “to acknowledge his immense contribution to public service and to environmentalism”.

Mr Ryan becomes the second leader of a Coalition party to step down this year, after the resignation of Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar in April.

Mr Ryan was first elected to the Dáil in 2002 and has been a TD for Dublin Bay South since 2016. He has been the leader of the Green Party since 2011.

Mr Ryan led his party back into Government in 2020 after the party’s best election result. He had spent much of the previous decade rebuilding the party after it lost all of its seats in the post-economic crash election of 2011, after it had served in government with Fianna Fáil for a tumultuous four years.

His resignation comes as the Coalition enters the last phase of its life, preparing for a general election that must come before the end of next March, but which many expect before then.

Since the relatively successful recent local and European elections for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, speculation about an autumn election has intensified.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times