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‘Simplistic’ to think non-Dublin candidate will help Greens, says O’Gorman as he lines up against Hackett

Minister for Children has slight advantage as race begins to succeed Eamon Ryan

Roderic O’Gorman had a just over three-to-one advantage as of Wednesday evening with 16 backers to Hackett’s five. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

In the two-horse race to succeed Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Roderic O’Gorman was ahead of Pippa Hackett, at least in terms of public endorsements from Ministers, TDs and councillors.

O’Gorman had a just over three-to-one advantage as of Wednesday evening with 16 backers to Hackett’s five.

This includes 12 councillors for O’Gorman, just over half of the party’s local government total of 23, compared to one for Hackett.

There is an important caveat here. Unlike Fine Gael’s system for electing a leader – where parliamentary party members’ votes carry more weight than the grassroots – in the Green Party it is one member, one vote.

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So such endorsements are nice, but not necessarily game-changing.

Nonetheless O’Gorman will surely be happier after day one of the campaign than Hackett.

His camp will hope the endorsements will generate momentum as the contest plays out over the next three weeks.

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O’Gorman, a Dublin West TD has a high profile and busy brief as Minister for Children and Integration.

Supporters highlight his history in the party and experience.

Dublin city councillor Michael Pidgeon said: “When it seemed like the Green Party might disappear in 2011, he worked and worked to rebuild. He’s got principles, decency and experience.”

Another city councillor, Janet Horner, said he had taken on “arguably the hardest job in Irish politics while keeping our values of equality, care, humanitarianism and climate action front and centre”.

Offaly-based, Hackett can point to her four years at Cabinet as a “super-junior” agriculture minister.

Her land use and biodiversity brief does not dominate the news agenda – for better or worse – in the same way as O’Gorman’s responsibilities. The Senator does have policy achievements under her belt such as more generous farm payments for afforestation and efforts to encourage organic farming.

A farmer herself, perhaps Hackett’s key strength in the leadership contest is her perceived potential to build bridges with rural Ireland in a way that another Dublin-based leader might fail to do.

This is something her supporters believe.

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Green Party chairwoman Pauline O’Reilly is supporting her in part because she is not from Dublin and it is essential there be a “rebalancing” of the party.

Wicklow TD Steven Matthews said: “She is based outside Dublin, and she has the energy, the work ethic and the vision to make a fresh start for the Green Party.”

O’Gorman has said it is “simplistic” to believe that having a non-Dublin leader will solve the party’s difficulties in rural Ireland.

His solution is to listen to rural communities and the “strong rural voices” in the party and to strongly advocate for Green policies such as the local link public transport and alternative income streams for farmers.

Hackett says the party’s policies “have to work for ordinary people” and be “easy” and “affordable” and she said that will be her focus as leader as she sought to build relationships “across communities, across Ireland”.

The next Green leader will have to prepare for a looming general election that is all the more daunting given the poor results for the party in the local and European elections.

The coming days will likely see more endorsements for both candidates.

O’Gorman may have the edge in that department for now but there are hustings to come.

Ultimately it is the Green Party’s more than 4,000 members that will decide who they want to lead the party into an uncertain future.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times