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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 20, 2009 @ 9:53 am

    Greens want to become the carnivores of Irish politics

    Harry McGee

    Well it looks like the dirty tricks of the property boom didn’t entirely pass the Greens by.

    For what we saw unravel over the past couple of days was a delicious example of adroit political gazumping.

    Let us sketch the political problem they faced and how their strategy to deal with it:

    Here they were facing into local and European elections facing charges before the electorate of being accomplices in crime.

    From the party’s point of view it wasn’t fair. They weren’t there when all of the lousy decisions to keep on overheating the economy and the property market was made. Yet, they were being blamed for it. In the mind of the citizens on the doorstep, even the act of consorting with Fianna Fail made rocket and tofu  equally as unpalatable as rancid stew.

    The party held a parliamentary party on Friday at which this was discussed. And it was no coincidence that Dan Boyle delivered the first shot across the bows on Friday night.

    Boyle’s role as chairman of the Greens has been compared with that of Michael McDowell when the PDs were in a coalition with Fianna Fail between 1989 and 1992. He was the Greek chorus and conscience of the party, the enemy within (though with official sanction).

    Boyle has interpreted his role as chairman of the Greens fairly loosely. There are times when he’s flying a kite or going on a solo run or saying something that’s never going to be a runner.

    But it’s plain as a pikestaff that what he said on Friday night was the official party line.

    In an electoral cycle, it moved towards reclaiming the Greens separate identify and distinguished between then and now.

    The approach contained two elements and a sting in the he tail.

    The two elements:

    1. We take no responsibility for the bad decisions that were made before we entered Government.

    2.  We take responsibility for any bad decisios made since then.

    And so the frank acceptance of failures and mistakes since 2007.

    And the sting in the tail?

    A demand for reform of the Programme for Government.

    The opposition deftly portrayed it as the Greens looking for an exit strategy. That infuriated the Greens but you reap what you sow and it was inevitable that the media and the other parties would play it that way.

    What the end game for the Greens was to get Fianna Fail to agree to review the programme for government. The party is in an incredibly powerful position now compared to 2007. Bertie’s belts and braces  seems to have been made of string and elastic The PDs are gone and Noel Grealish will go independent. The two by-elections will be lost to the opposition. Joe Behan is gone. Jim McDaid is still in purdah. Three are a couple of backbenchers – and Mattie McGrath’s name is always mentioned in this context – who cannot be fully relied upon for support.

    Cowen gave a kind of gruding acknowledgement that the Greens’ review would be looked at on This Week on RTE. However, the junior coaliton partner was furious that the media reports on Monday gave the import that the Greens were being put in their place by the Taoiseach.

    Hence, a bit of toe-to-toe exhcnages within Government buildings on  Monday. It prompted a fuller commitment to reforming the Programme for Government from Cowen. It also allowed Eamon Ryan to issue a statement which more or less implied that the party was glad that Cowen had fessed up and accepted the Green demands for reform.

    Its candidates can now go to doorsteps saying it has secured a reform of the programme for government.

    So when people give out about cutbacks, they can respond that it’s all up for review.

    Immediately, the likes of Ryan and Boyle were talking about reversing education cuts and about the importance of the Metro. (And while I’m at it, is the Metro the right solution for a low density city like Dublin? There are overground lines leaving Dublin to the North, which can then be spurred to the airport).

    And immediately, I thought… a season of brinkmanship in the autumn.

    This was a victory for the Greens. But they will have to be wary. The party is still being bullish about the local elections. From where I am sitting it looks as electorally vulnerable as its coalition partner. It might shear some of that new-found bolshie-ness away.

    • Eoin says:

      Harry: that’s alright but you have to credit the Irish electorate with a little more of an eye for the subtleties than that. I do not think the Greens are in a stronger position now than in 2007 simply for the fact that those inclined to vote for them see them playing politics in the same way as FF do.

      Cynicism be damned; these are changing times and brinkmanship like this is suited more to the older styles of ‘politics as a game’.

    • LiamK says:

      The Greens weren’t there when the real damage was done, but what have they actually achieved in their 2 years other than propping up a discredited and thoroughly rotten Fianna Fail. Not much.

      I’ve voted Green in the past, I won’t do so the next time.

    • Kynos says:

      Greens are screwed. They lost the Tao when they lied and broke their promises to their voters in May 2007 just to get their hands on power. Looking forward to seeing them punished in June and the next General Elections. They have zero credibility in my eyes and don’t think I’m alone in that.

    • An Fear Bolg says:

      Telling a potential voter that “everything is under review” won’t much of a commitment. After all – look at their record to date. They say they have implemented most of their points in the programme for government, but weren’t the “green” aspects of that programme mostly FF policy in its election manifesto anyway?

      This “win” of a review is FF-style politics as usual. Surely voters would only be interested if the review was carried out before the election? Are we to take the Greens’ word for it that they will obtain anything useful from such a review? It is nothing more than paving the road out of government.

      The Greens have total Stockholm Syndrome and have adopted the cathphrases of government and coalition they once excoriated. This may be realpolitik but raises the question: why bother with the Greens if, in fact, they are no different from the rest? I expect they will go the way of the PDs in the next general.

    • kynos says:

      The sad thing is that the message of the Greens is of such vital importance. But they’ve discredited the message and undermined the mission. The current leadership should be turfed out.

    • Harry says:

      Eoin, like every other political party, the Greens need to get a sufficient number representatives elected if they are to have any relevancy. If that party’s candidates are getting it in the neck for being conjoined with FF, it then falls on the party to respond to it. They need to show that they are different. It’s not playing politics. It’s asserting the party’s own distinctiveness and identity. Whether or not it has any purchase wit voters is another question.
      It’s clear from comments to this and to an earlier post of Deaglán’s that there’s not a huge amount of empathy for the party’s position.

    • Brian Boru says:

      Instead they’re becoming something that rhymes with carnivores. They have taken the FF shilling and sacrificed Shannon, Lisbon and other points of principle to get it. Shame.

    • kynos says:

      Gormley waffling tonite about the Roman Catholic Church’s “moral duty” or whatever to stump up more for the legions of raped and battered kids. What a joke, the only moral I’ll ever take from my experience of that tw*t is to never vote Green again. Next car I’m buying’s going to have a four-litre engine.

    • kynos says:

      Suppose just because I’ve no respect for the Green Party or rather its leadership and those within its ranks who traded principle for power don’t mean I have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Petrol’s going up as well. I’ll stick with the relatively eco-friendly 2.4 litre I have then.

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