Ireland's Greens elect Gormley new leader

DUBLIN, July 17 (Reuters) - Members of Ireland's Green Party elected environment minister John Gormley their new leader on Tuesday after the party last month entered government, for the first time, as coalition partner to Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

Gormley replaces junior agriculture minister Trevor Sargent, who brokered June's coalition deal but had pledged during May's general election to step down if his party joined an Ahern-led government and helped secure him a third successive term.

"Entering government was a difficult decision," said Gormley who holds one of the Green Party's two cabinet posts. "But I also know that it was the right decision."

"We don't have the luxury of time on our side when it comes to climate change. It is the biggest issue for this party, for this government, for this country and for humanity at large." Gormley, a former Lord Mayor of Dublin and member of Ireland's Dail (lower house of parliament) for 10 years, was elected by over 60 percent of the 775 votes cast by party members. Sargent will stay on at the department of agriculture, food and fisheries where he is responsible for food and horticulture.

Ahern, in power for a decade, brought the Greens into government to shore up his centrist Fianna Fail party whose pro-business Progressive Democrat (PD) allies suffered big losses in the May 24 vote.