28 October 2008

The Greens are beginning to wake up to the uneasy Reality of Sitting in a political Trap

Ireland's coalition government is stumbling from one crisis into the next, and the three parties involved are drifting from uncertainty to uncertainty now on a daily basis. Crisis has become the normal condition, and worries about the next problem around the corner makes many politicians ever more nervous.

Today TDs and Councillors of Ireland's Green Party - the second largest force in the coalition - have been meeting in Dublin to discuss their (belated) response to the ongoing controversy over the 2009 Budget. (see also my entries of October 14th & 20th)

After a long and deafening silence in the previous week, which saw the Budget introduced by the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan (FF) and the Irish nation erupt in anger and protest over its new measures - in particular the withdrawal of medical cards from the elderly - the Green politicians are beginning to wake up to the realities of being a junior partner to Fianna Fáil. This - to call a spade a spade - means nothing else but sitting in a political trap, with little legroom and even less leeway. Having burned their 25-year-old ideological ships last year when entering the coalition, they have hardly anywhere left to go, except political oblivion.

Some within the party are now expressing concern about the proposed cutbacks in education, which will be at the centre of a Dáil debate tomorrow and on Thursday.

Ireland's Green Party knows only too well that it stands already fully in the spotlight.
Two independent TDs - Joe Behan and Finian McGrath - withdrew their support from the government over the new budget, rendering the support of John Gormley (above) even more important for Taoiseach Brian Cowan and Fianna Fáil.

Gormley's TDs will have to support the government in Thursday's vote on a Labour Party motion on the education cuts, and that will be difficult and uncomfortable for them.

Dublin TD Paul Gogarty (left), the youngest of the six Green members of the Dáil, has already called for the cutbacks to be reversed and has suggested alternatives to the Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe (FF).

Green Party leader John Gormley has said that he is in government for the long haul, but many of his party's Councillors are worried about their prospects in next year's local government elections and may have a different view.
They have already voiced their opposition to the medical card cuts and will be just as unhappy about many other budget provisions.

In order to survive as Taoiseach, Brian Cowen needs the Green Party, and in oder to provide this vital support, John Gormley needs the support of his whole party, not just the six TDs and two Senators he has in Leinster House.

There has been already a split in the Green Party earlier this year, when two thirds decided to support the Lisbon Treaty, while one third voted against it. (for this see also my entry of January 20th)
The latter elements of the party were found in happy and rather easy partnership with the People's Movement in the NO camp before the June referendum, and it is likely that at least some frustrated Greens will give up their party membership sooner or later over the ever more unpopular closeness of their leadership to Fianna Fáil.

Perhaps those members of the Green Party who - against critical advice and against common sense - rushed into the coalition with Fianna Fáil in June 2007, will now feel the eyes of their friends on them, and hear their angry questions ringing in their ears. As things stand right now, anything could happen and no political surprises can be ruled out for the foreseeable future.

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

Damian said...

Again, you're way off the mark. The Green Party is not waking up to anything.

The country is broke. Banks are shaky. The budget had to be tough if we don't want to bequeath future Irish generations with a ruined economy and staggering national debt.

As Sunday's RedC Poll would seem to indicate, the people do not blame the Green Party either for the Medical Card fiasco or for previous government policies that wasted some of the opportunities presented by the boom.

The country now needs leadership and responsible, progressive government – not dominate by parties reliant on the unions, the farmers, the builders and developers - or any other vested interest for that matter. The Greens, in a newly strengthened position in the Dail, offer that leadership.

P.S. The Greens' democratic acceptance of a difference of opinion on Lisbon is not by a long way the same thing as a split. Labour are split. FG are split. FF are split. The Greens respect both sets of views within the Party. The shinners, presumably, aren't too keen on dissenting voices - hence their 99.9% sheeplike – I meant disciplined, adherence to the party line.

P.P.S. concerning your claim that it is "likely that at least some frustrated Greens will give up their party membership sooner or later"; membership has increased by a third in 2007 and is on course to do even better this year. Resignations have been in the single figures. It would be nice if the facts fitted your theories, but they just don't.

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