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Former Green Party election candidate leaves party

In a Twitter post, Ms McHugh described the Programme for Government as a ‘terrible document’.

A former Green Party election candidate has left the party, saying she “couldn’t stomach” being associated with the Greens.

Saoirse McHugh, who failed to win a seat for the party in the European Parliament elections and in February’s general election, previously said she would leave the party if it went into Government.

In a Twitter post, Ms McHugh described the Programme for Government as a “terrible document”.

She claimed the current Government will do “massive damage to the idea of environmentalism by linking it with socially regressive policies”.

She said: “Our problems in housing, tax avoidance, healthcare, agriculture are inextricably linked with and reinforce environmental breakdown and because of this solutions must be mutual.

“I don’t believe that our pathway to a just and free society lies in electoral politics.

“I have seen how brilliant and brave people are bullied and silenced within parties that profess to be grounded in equality and democracy.”

The blow comes on the day that the results of the Green Party leadership contest will be announced.

Incumbent Eamon Ryan is minister for climate action and transport, but faces a challenge from his deputy Catherine Martin.

The Greens helped form a new three-way coalition Government in Dublin last month and have forced measures to combat global warming and sustainable transport into the spotlight.

The two candidates have held their party roles since 2011.

They are divided over whether experience is essential for the leadership role, while Ms Martin wants to promote more women to ministerial positions.

Ballots in the leadership contest were issued to 2,336 party members in the Republic and 598 members in Northern Ireland.

The Green Party recorded its best ever general election result in February, winning 12 seats – an improvement of 10 from 2016.

It has entered into Government with larger rivals Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, who buried their differences in an historic realignment of politics to face a left-leaning opposition led by Sinn Fein.

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Catherine Martin said experience was not a ‘prerequisite’ to becoming a leader (Niall Carson/PA)

Catherine Martin said experience was not a ‘prerequisite’ to becoming a leader (Niall Carson/PA)

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Catherine Martin said experience was not a ‘prerequisite’ to becoming a leader (Niall Carson/PA)

Among the pledges of the new Government is achieving an average 7%-a-year reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030, representing a 51% reduction over the decade, with the aim of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

It envisages a Green New Deal of retrofitting thousands of homes, and pledges an accelerated electrification of the transport system including electric bikes, electric vehicles and electric public transport alongside a ban on new registrations of petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

More public funds would be invested in walking, cycling and public transport and there would be a major drive to realise the potential of off-shore renewable energy.

Counting of ballots in the leadership contest will be overseen by independent auditors while observers from both candidates will be present.

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Eamon Ryan’s pitch focused on his experience in government (Niall Carson/PA)

Eamon Ryan’s pitch focused on his experience in government (Niall Carson/PA)

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Eamon Ryan’s pitch focused on his experience in government (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms Martin told a previous hustings that experience was not a “prerequisite” to becoming a leader.

After the Greens voted to go into Government, Ms Martin said that there was a “missed opportunity” by her party to promote women within its ranks to ministerial positions.

Ms Martin said those who opposed the Programme for Government document were excluded from the Cabinet table.

Mr Ryan’s pitch focused on his experience in government and as minister for climate action.

He attracted some criticism when he appeared to be sleeping during a vote in the Dail last week but it is not expected to impact the final vote.

Once the vote has been declared, both candidates are expected to give short speeches.

PA