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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 30, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

    New realities

    Harry McGee

    It’s 12.27pm. The debate on the Labour Party motion calling for a reverse in the cut-backs on educaton is coming to an end. The vote will be called in about three or four minutes, before I finish writing this entry.

    Eamon Gilmore is on his feet now making the closing argument for the motion. He’s saying that it’s using the “lámh láidir” for the pupils in schools to make paltry savings, it is at the same time forging sweetheart deals with the banks, allowing them to escape from their responsibility.

    The Greens are getting it in the neck. Gilmore is now asking do the Greens stand for anything? Earlier,  Brian Hayes lampooed Paul Gogarty as a “rebel without a clue”.

    It’s clear that the Greens have gone through the horrors this week and realised full well the painful compromises and the steel that is necessary to be in Government. They have been taunted unmercilessly – and baited non-stop – by the opposition.  Gogarty’s email didn’t exactly do him any favour though if you examine the language, it’s clear that all he was doing was stating a political reality. The Greens might pull out eventually. On this issue. Or on a combination of issues. But we’ll wait until all avenues are exhausted. Not really an ultimatum is it.

    “The Green Party is dead. The Green Party is beaten. I think that’s a sad day for the country,” Gilmore is saying now.

    12.23: The vote is being called. This process will take a fair while as the opposition parties will insist that it be done manually rather than electronically. That will mean every TD in the House (all under strict instructions from their whips to be present) parading through the chamber.

    It will be passed safely today. Jackie HR and Michael Lowry are also onside.

    The wider question is: how long will the Government last?

    Ivan Yates was boldly giving very short odds for elections in 2009 and 2010 and confidently predicting that Cowen’s government won’t last a full term.

    We’ll park on that prospect. But there’s no doubt there are new realities… and they include the following:

    It’s true that what once looked like an ingenious gold-plated coalition is now getting shaky. With the economy going into a prolonged recession and some awful and hard decision to be taken, will all those in Government have to stomach to grin and bear it? Brian Cowen is determined to take the tough decisions, or so he says, paying no heed to populist stunts.

    The problem of survivability is that it faces a battle in keeping three disparate groups loyals – the two remaining indepedents; the Greens; and its own backbenchers. And you suspect that it’s the latter group that might give the biggest headache.

    There are too many who are disgruntled because they were demoted or disgruntled because they were not promoted from the backbenhces. The awkward squad under Cowen will be potentially much bigger than the handful of unhappys under Bertie.

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