Green Party leadership race: Candidates set to declare interest

Potential candidates likely to include Roderic O’Gorman, Pippa Hackett, Ossian Smith and Steven Matthews

Roderic O’Gorman is considered by some colleagues to be the front-runner in the leadership stakes. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Candidates for the leadership of the Green Party are expected to declare their interest and begin campaigning on Wednesday morning, following the shock resignation of party leader Eamon Ryan on Tuesday.

Deputy leader Catherine Martin said on Tuesday evening that she would not be a candidate, opening the field to contenders likely to include Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman and super junior minister and Senator Pippa Hackett, with Mr O’Gorman considered by some colleagues to be the front-runner.

Senior party sources said any potential candidates would not declare on Tuesday night out of respect for Mr Ryan but added they fully expected there to be a contest for the position. Other potential candidates are said to include Minister of State Ossian Smyth and Wicklow TD Steven Matthews but none were prepared to comment on Tuesday night. However, potential candidates were understood to be sounding out their colleagues.

The Green Party’s Executive Committee met on Tuesday night to discuss the leadership contest, with party members expecting a short nomination period and a contest of three weeks during which there would be a number of hustings events – perhaps happening online, as in the 2020 leadership race.

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The contest will be decided by one member, one vote with voting open to the more than 4,000 members between those in the Republic and those north of the Border.

Senator Pippa Hackett is expected to enter the race for leader of the Green Party. Photograph: Laura Hutton

There was an expectation among some that the new leader will have to come from the Green Party’s Cabinet members.

Several party sources said they expected Mr O’Gorman and Ms Hackett, a Minister of State for Agriculture who sits at Cabinet, to enter the contest.

What's behind Eamon Ryan's shock resignation?

Listen | 17:42

The Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, is stepping down after 13 years at the helm. However, the Transport Minister is staying on as a member of the Cabinet, as the government enters its final phase in power. He says it will be up to the next leader of the party to decide if he remains in that role. The Greens lost their European seats and half their councillors in the local and European elections earlier this month. It was a poor result but it wasn’t quite the collapse that had been speculated upon. After Leo Varadkar’s shock departure in March as the leader of Fine Gael, and this latest announcement, is the prospect of an early general election even closer? And who is likely to succeed Ryan as the party leader?Presented by Bernice Harrison. Produced by Aideen Finnegan.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan confirmed he would not be throwing his hat in the ring as did Waterford TD and party whip Marc Ó Cathasaigh.

Mr Ó Cathasaigh said: “Today is not the time to think [about] the future leader. Today is a time to reflect on the leader we’ve had for the last 13 and the enormous achievements he has had.”

Some of the party’s rural parliamentarians have expressed the view that the next party leader should come from outside the capital.

One Oireachtas member, speaking privately, says there is a view among some TDs and Senators that the party really needs to focus more on its presence in regions and rural Ireland, especially in light of the recent losses in the local and European elections.

“The three party leaders we have had have all come from Dublin and I believe it is time that we chose somebody from outside Dublin,” said a senior party figure, who spoke on the basis of anonymity. “We need to have somebody who can strengthen the party in rural Ireland, in the places where we have lost most seats.”

Ossian Smyth could be a potential candidate. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Steven Matthews has also been mentioned as a likely candidate

Others felt Mr O’Gorman, who represents the Dublin West constituency, would command support from across the organisation.

Mr Ryan’s announcement on Tuesday had been flagged in advance to his Coalition partners and to party colleagues, he said. Speaking at Government Buildings, the Minister for Transport said it had been “an absolute privilege” to serve the public for almost 30 years. He said he would continue as a party leader and in his ministerial roles until a new leader was 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 had 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.

Senior Coalition figures, however, acknowledged that the impending leadership change added an element of uncertainty to the Government, with just months to go before the next general election.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times