Green Party leader Trevor Sargent has called for the introduction of directly elected mayors to make local government democratically accountable.

In an address to election candidates at the start of the party's annual conference in Galway, he said that in government, the Greens would reduce the rates burden on business by making property speculators pay their way.

The Greens are hoping to run a candidate in every constituency in the forthcoming General Election, and opinion polls suggest they have a good chance of adding to their current six seats in the Dáil.

Mr Sargent told party candidates that because they were outside government, there was a glass ceiling over them preventing them introducing their policies.

But with success, he said, the Greens in government could make the changes which would deliver a good quality of life.

And he criticised the way politics is funded at the moment, claiming that what he called a wealthy cohort of developers and speculators were bankrolling Fianna Fáil in the Galway Races Tent.

Mr Sargent has said it the party's firm intention to be a key part of the next coalition, and much of this weekend's business will be directed at selling that message to the voters.

Tomorrow morning, German Green Party member and former German Food & Agriculture Minister, Renate Kunast, will give her perspective on the Green experience in government.