04 February 2008

The Green Side of Planet Bertie

Twelve months ago John Gormley, TD, then Cathaoirleach (chairman) but not leader of Ireland's Green Party, as well as one of their six TDs (members of Dáil Eireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament), created a new planet.
This amazing feat was accomplished in Galway, where he was rallying the members of his party during a pre-election speech, in anticipation of the general election which was due in May 2007.

Gormley (left) was a passionate orator, and in those heady days - it seems - he also believed in what he said and would deliver what he promised.
In Galway, known as "the city of the tribes", he made his stirring speech about the "strange tribe called Fianna Fail" which "lives in a world of its own (and of its own making) called Planet Bertie". There one could get loans from people that one did not have to pay back, and one could save Ir£ 50,000 without even having a bank account.

But Gormley did not leave it at that. When he noticed how well his speech went down with the audience, he kept going and placed a frontal attack at the doorstep of Michael McDowell, his long nemesis and constituency opponent from Dublin South-East. The then Minister for Justice had only recently become leader of the Progressive Democrats and replaced his predecessor as Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) as well. He was literally basking in joy at the peak of his personal political career. But such joy has a price, and in the case of Michael McDowell this was the "rent" for his patch of land on Planet Bertie, which he inherited from Mary Harney.

John Gormley's eagle eyes saw this weak spot immediately and he said that the new PD leader had become Ireland's version of Tammy Wynnette, "standing desperately by his man Bertie". This hurt, especially since McDowell (right) - in contrast to Mary Harney - had enough doubts about the Taoiseach and his highly unusual (to say the least) personal and financial dealings. Even in the build-up to the 2007 election campaign the then Tanaiste was more than once only a step away from pulling the plug on the coalition with Fianna Fail. I am sure that Michael McDowell - when reflecting on 2007 - has come to regret his loyalty to Planet Bertie. It did not only cost him his seat in Dublin South-East, it destroyed his party and ended his political career forever. (And there are not too many mourning these facts in my neck of the woods...)

Meanwhile the cosmic situation inside the Irish universe has changed dramatically. Before he became fully aware of it, John Gormley, who coined the memorable catch phrases of Planet Bertie and good old Tammy standing by the man, finds himself not only on the very same strange planet he verbally created, but standing by Bertie in exactly the way Michael McDowell did before him (and Tammy Wynnette would have done, too, if she had the luck of being Irish).
And all this in the span of a year... How extraordinary!

Being confronted with his great remarks from the recent past, Gormley was rather taken aback and might have wished to have more powers, including that of turning back the clock. But such power is not available, not even to the Minister for the Environment. So he produced a little sweet-and-sour smile and said that now he lives on "Planet Earth" and is concerned with saving it from climate change. Well put, dear John, but what about all the philosophy, principles and true commitments that were left behind when the Green Party crossed the line of decency to join Fianna Fail?

John Gormley might think he lives on this planet, but I know better. Because I am here on Earth, on the very Emerald Isle he comes from himself, and see each day the problems FF-led coalition governments have caused in more than ten years in power. It seems that the Green Party leadership took off in a dream-like spaceship, when they saw the chance of power looming for them over the horizon. But it was a short and costly flight. The ship crash-landed on Planet Bertie (the only place it was heading for anyway) and John Gormley has - quite ironically, really - become the replacement for Michael McDowell as the nodding little dog in the rear window of the government's big car.

Welcome to the green side of Planet Bertie, where the taxes are higher, pollution is lower, and no one is allowed to change a light bulb, unless it is one that saves energy. The Hill of Tara is still sacrificed to the jaws of big traffic, the concerns of Mayo people over Shell are still ignored, and most of the green principles - built up over more than 25 years in opposition - are burned on the bonfire of vanities. Welcome to the green side on Planet Bertie, indeed!

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

Alexander "Sunny" Bergen said...

Just spotted this excellent article of yours, which I obviously missed at earlier visits to your blog. It is - as all your pieces - written with passion and panache, and shows great concern for your country, as well as great inside knowledge into its political structure.

Here in the UK the Green Party still languishes in obscurity, mostly due to the unfair and obsolete first-past-the-post system we use in our elections. In Europe the Greens are doing much better, and I always thought that the Irish Green Party hat a lot of clout. It seems that this is fast disappearing since they joined the government.

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