Green Party Deputy Leader Catherine Martin has said the party's leadership election is healthy and "it's less about a challenge" and is more about a conversation about the future direction of the party.

Minister Martin told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the Green Party is now much larger than when Eamon Ryan became leader in 2011.

She said that political parties should always seek to promote women and the Green Party must do more "than talk the talk" about electing women to senior roles and this would unite the party.

She said some ministerial appointments were a missed opportunity to promote women and to unite the party.

The Green Party leadership contest kicked off last night online, with hustings for members in the south constituency. 

Ms Martin is challenging Eamon Ryan for the leadership.

Mr Ryan said he believes he has the backing of the party but said if his colleague is elected, he would be happy to serve under her.

Green Party leadership contest hustings get under way

Ballot papers will be sent out this week and must be returned by Wednesday 22 July - with a result to follow the next day.

Ms Martin, who is Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gealtacht, said her new portfolios are all connected and the challenge facing each one is huge.

She said it is clear that Covid-19 has decimated international and domestic tourism and she will be proposing extending the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme for the sector and to include seasonal staff.

She said that she has hit the ground running and has already met the tourism recovery task force and will meet the Arts Council and Sports Ireland this week, ahead of visiting the Gaeltacht next week.

Ms Martin said we need the arts in Ireland "like never before" as it is therapeutic, empowering and at the heart of who we are and needs to be supported and "resurrected" from Covid and given new life.

She said she is listening to the artists and is fully aware of the crisis they face and acknowledged that the sector is heavily dependent on the wage subsidies.

She said she would like to see the current wage supports maintained for artists, art workers and organisations.

She will set up a taskforce with the stakeholders this week as recommended by the Arts Council.