Green Party 'loses patience' and pulls out of Government
The Green Party has decided to withdraw from the Government after “losing patience” with the lack of resolution to the ongoing saga of Fianna Fáil’s leadership. As a result, the date of the election is likely to be brought forward from March 11th.
It announced the decision in at a press conference in Dublin this afternoon in the same hotel where Brian Cowen stood down as leader of Fianna Fáil yesterday but opted to remain as Taoiseach.
Mr Gormley said Fianna Fáil’s leadership issue was too much of a distraction for the Government and meant an immediate election was necessary.
The two Green ministers - Mr Gormley, who held the environment portfolio, and Eamon Ryan, who had the communications, energy and natural resources brief - have tendered their resignations, meaning there are now just seven ministers remaining in the Cabinet, the Constitutional minimum.
Tonight Mr Cowen reassigned the portfolios held by the two Green Ministers after their resignations were accepted by the President.
The communications, energy and natural resources brief has been allocated to Minster for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey.
Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív has been assigned the environment brief. Last week he was also assigned the defence ministry following the resignation of Tony Killeen.
Mr Gormley was speaking after the party met for a number of hours to discuss political events over the last week, culminating in Mr Cowen's resignation yesterday.
He referred to a series of problems between the Coalition partners, including the failure of Fianna Fáil to inform the Greens of important political developments and the “ongoing saga” surrounding the larger party’s leadership.
“Our patience has reached an end. Because of these continuing doubts, the lack of communication and the breakdown in trust, we have decided that we can no longer continue in government,” Mr Gormley said.
Other difficulties included the party not being informed about “meetings with bankers”, by which Mr Gormley meant the Greens did not know that Mr Cowen played golf and had dinner in July 2008 with Sean FitzPatrick, then still chairman of Anglo Irish Bank.
Mr Gormley said the party would support a truncated Finance Bill - which gives effect to measures contained in the Budget - from the Opposition benches and he called on Fianna Fáil to make every effort to fast-track the legislation.
He declined to answer questions about whether the party would support the Labour Party’s motion of no confidence, saying that the “issue doesn’t arise” because the Opposition was willing to stay the motion to bring forward the Finance Bill.
Speaking this afternoon in Portlaoise, Mr Cowen said that it would not be possible to deal with the Finance Bill within one week as the timescale was unrealistic. He said he would not be resigning as Taoiseach and ruled out going directly to the Áras to seek the dissolution of the Dáil and call an immediate election.
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said he was hoping to convene a meeting of spokespeople from the Greens and the other Opposition parties in his department over the coming days to discuss a timetable for passing the Finance Bill.
He said it would be difficult to have the Bill passed by the end of next week but insisted there was consensus among all parties that it should be passed. "I will explain the difficulties and I will see how they can address the difficulties," he told RTE's Six One News.
"I accept that we have to accelerate the timetable for the general election, there’s no question of trying to postpone the general election. But we do need to have a realistic timetable that would allow the Bill to be passed in an orderly way."
Fine Gael’s deputy finance spokesman Brian Hayes said his party has had contacts with the Greens in the past 24 hours over the Bill. "It is Fine Gael’s view, as it is the Greens view, that the Dáil can be dissolved next Friday and that the Finance Bill can pass all stages in both Houses of the Oireachas".
Labour’s Pat Rabbitte said his party as "not averse" to co-operating with Mr Lenihan on easing the passage of the Bill. However, he said Fianna Fáil must realise that the lifetime of this Government was over and his party it would not support the "farce" of it remaining in power.
"What is going on here is an attempt by Fianna Fáil to protect the jobs of their own members and their own TDs."
Sinn Fein's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Bill should not be put before the Dáil and called for an immediate dissolution.
In his statement, Mr Gormley described the party’s period in Government as a time of rare privilege. “It would of course have been preferable if our time in Government had not coincided with the worst economic downturn in our nation’s history. It has meant having to take the most difficult decisions that any party could have faced.”
Referring to the Greens inability to support Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s plan to appoint new ministers after senior ministers had resigned, Mr Gormley said: “We were left really in the lurch in relation to the promotions issue.”
Mr Gormley expressed pride in his party’s legislative achievements and said he regretted not having more time to complete other legislation.