20 October 2008

The Silence of the Lambs

While Ireland is trembling with anger over the proposed new taxes and levies introduced by the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan in Tuesday's 2009 Budget, many of our politicians - from the Taoiseach down to County and City Councillors - are trying to save their political bacon.

The Councillors, who will face their voters in local elections next year, are especially jittery in the wake of the devastating blow Lenihan has landed on all of us, but in particular on the elderly, whose right to a free and full medical card is about to be withdrawn.

To no-one's surprise
Fianna Fáil TDs and Councillors are particularly anxious, as they have to bear the main brunt of the public outcry. Dozens of people were queuing outside party offices and other places where TDs hold their weekly constituency surgeries this weekend to voice their anger and to register their complaints. In Limerick alone more than 60 angry citizens laid siege to the office of the Minister for Defence, unofficial government spokesman and local TD Willie O'Dea. He had not a happy weekend, and most of his colleagues were in the same situation.

Meanwhile several
Fianna Fáil backbenchers are coming out into the media with more or less open criticism of the government and their party leadership, but none of them is yet prepared to go the whole hog and follow Wicklow TD Joe Behan, who resigned last week from Fianna Fáil over the budget.

What is surprising though is the complete silence of the
Green Party. The junior partner in the government coalition has so far not issued a statement on the 2009 Budget and none of their six TDs - including two Cabinet members and a junior minister - and two Senators have uttered a word about it in public.
It appears that the eight green politicians in Leinster House are in some kind of retreat from reality and hope that the whole fuss will blow over before someone out here in the country realises that they are part of the government, too.

John Gormley and Eamon Ryan sat at the Cabinet table just as any other minister when the two Brians - Cowen and Lenihan - presented their plans for robbing the poor, sick and needy, while leaving the rich fat cats unscaved. And they obviously gave their agreement to the plans that became the 2009 Budget. Thus they are as guilty of the fiscal onslaught as all their Fianna Fáil colleagues and the last of the PD Mohicans, Health Minister Mary Harney (who apparently is the one who first suggested the withdrawal of medical cards from the over 70-year-olds).

If the
Green Party thinks that it will not be held co-responsible as willing accomplice of Fianna Fáil and Mary Harney, it is time to wake their sleeping ecologists and show them the real world.
So far they just pretend that all the mess has nothing to do with them.

Only yesterday party leader and Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
John Gormley (left) stated that "the financial markets might be in trouble, but renewables are much more important and seeing boom times". The man who is obsessed with changing all our light bulbs still believes that by 2020 about 40% of all energy used in Ireland will come from renewable sources.

Where have you been the past six months, Mr. Gormley? Away with the faireys to change their light bulbs as well? The financial markets
might not be in trouble, they are in trouble! In deep trouble in fact, not seen since the world depression of 1929. This alone could sink all your lofty green policies like a stone in a pond. But you still pretend to be green Mr. Innocent, some kind of Irish Winnie the Pooh, playing games with the two Brians, posing as Piglet and Tigger...

Gormley's Cabinet colleague
Eamon Ryan (right) is taking the same route as his leader. He remained completely silent about the budget, but declared over the weekend that "renewable energy will be the cornerstone of our future". He should know, one hopes, as he is the Minister for Energy & Natural Resources. He is also the Minister for Communication, but refuses to communicate with the people about the one big subject on everyone's mind.

Former party leader
Trevor Sargent (left), the man who threw 25 years of green principles over board when he brought the Greens into coalitions with Fianna Fáil, is now junior minister in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with special responsibility for Horticulture. The last time one has heard from him was more than two weeks ago, when he presented the National Organic Award 2008 to Glenisk Irish Organic Butter. Since then he has been as absent from the public eye as a unicorn and as silent as a trappist monk.

The three Green backbenchers and their two friends in the
Seanad are not very visible anyway in recent times and seem to enjoy the quiet but well-paid life in Leinster House.

Currently the most active of them is
Ciarán Cuffe (right), a trained architect, town planner and lecturer, who is a TD for Dún Laoghaire. He is also a fellow blogger, although sometimes with a quite strange sense for priorities. This weekend I had expected to read something about the budget and the treatment of the elderly. But no, those subjects seem indeed taboo in the Green Party now. Ciarán Cuffe is writing about the two things he knows: architecture and Dún Laoghaire.

The young Dublin TD
Paul Gogarty (left) seems to restrict his statements and activities in the public eye to brief spells in intervals of between three and six months. The last time one has heard anything from him was on July 13th, when he reacted to an article in the Irish Independent. This must have been a quite exhausting deed, since he has not been seen or heard of in the media since.

Mary White (right), the party's deputy leader, TD for Carlow-Kilkenny and the only Green woman in the Dáil, even beats Paul Gogarty's silence record by two days. Her last publicly noticed activity was the launch of the first edition of her party's local constituency newsletter on July 11th. And like her Dublin colleague she keeps stumm about the outrageous budget. Is this the same Mary White whom I supported for years in local campaigns, and whom I saw standing up against the big and mighty when it did matter? She still looks like herself by appearance, but the Mary White I knew and supported would not be silent over a budget like this. They must have done something to her since she joined Dáil Éireann.

The two Green Senators are even less visible than their colleagues in the
Dáil. Former TD Dan Boyle (left), who lost his seat in the 2007 general election and was then compensated with a Taoiseach's appointment to the Seanad, has not been heard of in any substantial way since he was made the Deputy Leader of the upper house last year. Maybe he is too busy running the Green's finances in the background, as he is - according to a colleague - apparently "the only Green politician who understands money".

Déirdre de Búrca (right), a fellow psychologist who worked for over ten years with Rehab, made her last public appearances before the Lisbon Treaty referendum, when she campaigned together with many other government and opposition politicians for a YES vote. She was in fact the most visible Green politician in that campaign, and after the Irish people clearly rejected the treaty in the referendum, she almost disappeared from the political radar. Perhaps she needed a little rest, or maybe she was advising the government in the background on political rehab. And then she had of course to attend - together with Dan Boyle - a gathering of European Greens in France.
However, she is back in Dublin now and in fact
the only one of the eight Greens in the Oireachtas who actually has made a statement on the budget. But it appears that she also - like Mary White - has left her good old self and her common sense at the door when she entered Leinster House. In a speech in the Seanad she said on Wednesday:
"I emphasise the positive aspects of the budget because we are hearing a great deal of critical commentary. Most of those criticising the budget are aware of the difficult circumstances in which the decisions were made. It is important to balance their views by commenting on the positive aspects of the budget decisions. For example, in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government investment in water services has increased to the highest level ever."
This kind of rhetoric I find especially disappointing. It is not even defending the indefensible, like Willie O'Dea does it for Fianna Fáil. No, this is holding up a stinking old cabbage and telling the world that it is a nice and fragrant rose!

When the Green Party joined the government after the 2007 general election, many observers and analysts were quite surprised, myself included. I remember that I wrote a piece about the dangers of sharing power with Fianna Fáil, reminding the Greens of the price that both Labour and the PDs have paid for their taste of power and warned them not to go into a coalition like the innocent lambs go to the butcher's house.

I think it is a very bad mistake, I wrote, but if you really have to do it, then make sure you do it wisely, independently and as a coalition partner with guts and teeth. Do not make the errors the PDs made, and which led eventually to their demise.

Well, the coalition is only a little more than one year old now, but sadly one has to realise that the Irish Green Party as we knew it for 25 years is no more. For a short-lived share of power their leadership has sold their souls and principles to Fianna Fáil.

And now, in a situation where one is waiting for their voices to be heard, there is - apart from Déirdre de Búrca's meekly bleating in the Seanad - absolutely nothing uttered from the green pastures. Sadly they did enter the coalition as a group of junior sheep, and what we witness now is the silence of these political lambs.

The Emerald Islander

P.S. There is another reason why the Green TDs and Senators have no time for such trivial and unpleasant things as the budget and the worries of the elderly over their medical cards. One can read it on their website, which gives the following enlightening instruction:
"Time to dust down the dancing shoes – the Green Party's inaugural National Ball takes place in the Lord Bagenal Hotel, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow on Saturday 1st November.
This will be a black-tie event and tickets are priced at € 80, including a five-course meal (with a vegetarian option of course!) and entertainment by a live band."
And - as the website points out - "tickets are selling fast!"

When you meet one of them the next time, and are uregd to give them your vote, just remember this: While the world is in the deepest financial crisis since 1929, and our own country's economy is in recession, the Greens have nothing to say to us about an outrageous budget, presented by a government of which they are part. They don't give a hoot for the ever more unemployed or for the elderly who are robbed by the government of their medical cards. Instead they are enjoying themselves in style, dancing the time away at a posh ball...
They really do live on a different planet.


Damian said...

Any chance you might reconsider your post in light of this morning's announcement?


Thanks for your question, Damian.

And the answer is NO. What I wrote in this post yesterday still stands.
I have listened carefully to what the Taoiseach, Mary Harney and John Gormley said this morning. It was an attempt to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted. Too little, too late.
The government, including the Green Party, are in a shambolic condition.
Incompetence is the main trait of this government, and when they are found out, then panic sets in. The announcement this morning was a direct reaction to the massive anger in the country, and the huge pressure Fianna Fail backbench TDs have put on the Taoiseach, after they themselves were getting flak from everywhere over the weekend.
This has not been influenced by the Green Party, which still remains silent - except for the brief statement John Gormley made this morning in the press conference.
I acknowledge that he said he regretted the situation and that it had been "difficult for the Green Party". Well, yes, he can see it now. But again, it is too little, too late.

Since they joined the government, the Greens have been marginalised and sidelined, and they have been very quiet on many other matters on which they would have spoken critically while in opposition.

The Green Party I supported for a long time does no longer exist and that fills me with sadness and anger.
And I am not alone with this view.
But as an analyst I have to see the realities and accept that the idea of an independent Irish Green Party has been sold out for a little piece of power Fianna Fail is willing to share.
I suppose such is politics. Or - as Lord Acton used to say: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The Galway Tent Blog. said...

Who Needs a Medical Card When They Will Be Killed Prematurely?

The planned Dublin Bay Incinerator at Poolbeg will cause up to 300 premature deaths per year (1).
Perhaps that means an extra three thousand sick people per year.

Boston, not Berlin.
With 3,000 extra sick people why not introduce not-universal American style health care! That adds to GNP, will increase growth, and will pull The Galway Tent out of the recession.

The Bush controlled US Environmental Protection Agency values Human Resources at about $7.22 million(2). So let's get rid of health care for old people, they have no economic value apart from their life-time savings.

(1)Passively confirmed by Dick Roach (Dail Ref: 12568/07). http://galwaytent.blogspot.com/2008/04/incineration-amsterdam-example-300.html
(2)"By reducing the value of human life, which is really a devious way of cooking the books, the perceived benefits of cleaning up the air seem less," said Frank O'Donnell of the District-based group Clean Air Watch. http://galwaytent.blogspot.com/2008/07/cosmic-markdown-epa-says-life-is-worth.html
(3)A small incinerator in rural Tippereary was stopped by Bord Pleanala after lawyers for John Magnier’s Coolmore group had argued that the facility would be prejudicial to animal health.
(4)Ringsend Death Risk is 20-80 Times Higher With Incinerator.

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