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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 7, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

    Long Night of the Soul for the Greens

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Not easy to find time for th’oul blog when you’re busy covering a rapidly-changing story for the paper. I’m currently languishing between the first and second count results for Ireland East, so it seemed a good time to “post”.


    The Greens in happier times (from left:) John Gormley, Patricia McKenna (now Independent) and Trevor Sargent

    The big question is: where do we go from here? The electorate has registered its displeasure with the Government. It’s more than the usual mid-term rabbit-punch. There is serious discontent out there.

    The Greens seem to be in a state of shock over their poor performance. They have been getting generally good media treatment which didn’t reflect the real public attitude. If a general election were held in the morning, would any of the Greens hold their seats? Offhand, I can’t think of any I would put money on, except perhaps Trevor Sargent.

    It’s not that long since the Greens had the image of a naive bunch of quasi-hippies. They didn’t even have a party leader, as I recall. The Greens made the transition from a semi-religious movement to a party of power over a very short period.

    They were unlucky in that, when they finally decided to abandon their political virginity, the damned economy collapsed. Fianna Fáil have been around for 83 years – they’re used to the ups and downs of politics, more or less.

    But for the Greens it must be a searing experience to look at the latest eleciton results. My guess is that the leadership will want to stay in government; the membership will have mixed feelings.

    Was it Harold Wilson who said, “Never resign”? The dissidents who quit so publicly in recent times should, from their own viewpoint, have stayed in the party where their influence would now be greatly increased.

    In the short term, will anything change? There is no sign as yet of Fianna Fáil backbenchers wilting in the face of electoral disfavour. It must be like being on board ship during a major storm. You just cling to the rigging until the wind dies down.

    The Greens are like a guy who is getting badly beaten up in a bar but dare not go outside because there’s someone with a gun waiting to shoot him.

    Meanwhile, a stockbroker of my acquaintance told me the other day that the big worry in financial circles was that the Government would fall before the legislation setting up Nama (National Asset Management Agency – the so-called “bad bank”) was put through. After that, he said, it didn’t matter so much.

    Taoiseach must be an awful position to hold at the moment. A previous incumbent told me once, “You have no friends in that job.”

    • Tony S says:

      It seems to me as if the Greens are a soft target for the Irish electorate. They are members of the present government and should expect their share of the flak for that but if, and it would seem to be the case, the electorate is also delivering a judgement on FF’s mishandling of the economy over the past five/seven years, how exactly did the Greens contribute to that?

      The way I see it – either the Greens’ policies are relevant or they aren’t – it’s that simple, given that, of all the parties, their policies are the most transparent, as they’re built around a specific ideology

      Once again, we see lazy political judgments delivered by a lazy electorate …

    • Ripped Off says:

      Can’t say I feel particularly sorry for any of the losers. Yes, the timing of the Greens’ rise was unfortunate and certainly those who put them where they are must have been bitterly disappointed with how quickly they fell into line with their FF bedfellows.

      Being ‘a Dub’ I can instinctively understand how FF have fallen from grace in the capital. The present ‘Teashock’ has nothing of charisma, charm, cunning or whatever which which has endeared his predecessors to the urbanites. His bullish arrrogance and ‘like it or lump it’ attitude immediately alienate him from all but those who favour the parish pump politicians you encounter outside the Pale.

      Will Enda Kenny and his crew learn from Cowen’s shortcomings? Who knows?

    • Tony S says:

      Also being ‘a Dub’ and at present living outside the Pale, what I have noticed is the following:

      1. Politics and how it works is intrinsically different in ‘rural’ Ireland. It is all about ‘What I can do for you as opposed to the other fella’ and is for this reason that I’m cynical about whether the ‘other crowd’ would make that much of a difference, especailly given the current situation.

      2. The FF grassroots people that I know are seriously pissed-off with Cowen and his leadership. They know that, unless something radical happens, they’re going to get kicked out sooner rather than later and are afraid that a prolonged period in the political wilderness beckons. What that might mean for their voting behaviour come election time is uncertain at this stage, but I think that a change in leadership is more on the cards than we might think. They are very, very disappointed in Cowen’s leadership …

    • Craig says:

      Come on, the Greens deserve everything they’ve got, I was one of their voters for my 2nd or 3rd preference votes, like a lot of other people. They were always elected on transfers.

      I didn’t always agree with them, thought they were very naive, but by God they adjusted to being power-hungry, Teflon, double-speak politicians very fast. I voted for them because I thought at least they are principled, that’s all they really had. But I (& clearly most of the electorate) now see that they never had any, so they are now irrelevant.

      FF is kept on life-support by the “my family always vote FF” brigade, but most of that support is in the 65+ age group and it’s obvious over time that it will dissipate. FF’s golden years are over, I was fooled in the last election to vote for them, being scared of the impending economic difficulties, but their incompetence is truly breathtaking and I will never forget how they have destroyed this country.

      FG & Lab are not great alternatives but are all we have left and a drowning man will take a life preserver even if it is broken.

    • dealga says:

      People’s attitude to the Greens is bizarre. You have a chance of being in government and being in a position to make the changes you believe in or you stay in opposition and achieve precisely nothing. It’s bloody obvious that they had to support Fianna Failed policies in government – walking out as soon as FF did something unpopular is as pointless as choosing to stay in opposition.

      The damage has not been done since 2007 – the damage was done before that, long before that, but our ‘angry electorate’ was too thick to realise that in 2007 and happily voted Fianna Failed back in. Have the Greens been a 100% success story in government? Of course not, but kicking them now for problems created by the bubble policies of 2002 – 2006 is intellectual cowardice.

    • Dave says:

      I have to disagree with Craig. The way I see it, the only Greens that have demonstrated a semblance of principle are those that have stuck with the party/government. What’s the point of having principles if you’re not prepared to impose them on an ailing government?

      Honestly, the recent tribulations within the party have reinforced my pre-formed opinion of Greens and their supporters that they’re all too ready to adopt the moral high-ground position but retreat into defensive mode once they’re actually invited to put their money where their mouth is.

      Incidentally, I don’t entirely agree with the blog post. I think people voted for the Greens in the hope of toppling the government, not of prolonging it – albeit in a different form.

    • Eamon says:

      I like the photo and the caption, Deaglán, it kinda says it all.

      I have to say, I think some of the other comments made here (and elsewhere) are pretty wide of the mark. ‘The electorate’ when used as a collective term to talk about the opinions and decisions of a complicated assortment of people is often misleading and simplistic .

      In terms of the Green Party, the vast majority of the 1.8 million voters probably gave Gormley’s crew very little thought during their deliberations on whom to support. Transfers notwithstanding, it was not the great unwashed who punished the Greens but their own former followers (a very small fraction of the overall electorate). To say that a ‘lazy electorate’ has punished the Greens for the sins of Fianna Fáil during the boom years is in fact a very lazy analysis of the results. Rather it is the Greens’ own (former) voters, who have issued a verdict on their party’s performance in Government since 2007.

    • Tony S says:

      Exactly, Deagla …..

      If I were to paraphrase so many conversations I’ve had with people in the past few months it would be along the lines of “What a terrible mess we’re in (pause) by the way, I blame the Greens” I kid you not …

      As I said above, they’re an ideas-driven party, and either you buy into it or you don’t. The central tenets of their programme for government – focus on renewable forms of energy, reform of local goverrnment specifically with regard to our absurd ‘planning’ regulations, and the promotion of a sustainable living agenda – are, in my view, incredibly important for the country and need to be effected as soon as possible, even though they will take longer than one term of government to realise. It is this rationale that persuaded them to ‘get into bed with the devil’. they knew what they were going and the risks they were running; what they couldn’t have foreseen was the extent and severity of the economic downturn.

      If, in the inevitable change of government that’s coming (in my view, before year’s end), these issues are forgotten by the electorate, they will, in my view, be even more myopic and narrow-minded than I had imagined. An electorate gets the government it deserves …

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