Say hello to the Greens. They want to get back in the game
Sketch: The Green Party got stuck into Labour over what was and wasn’t in the troika deal
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan with other European election candidates Grace O’Sullivan, Ross Brown and Mark Dearey at the launch of the Green Party’s election manifesto in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke
The soft underbelly of the Coalition is squishy and plump and irresistible to hungry Opposition politicians.
Yesterday morning, even the Greens decided to sink in the fangs.
Lumbering Fine Gael, with the hide of a hippo, isn’t getting half as much attention as its junior partner in Government.
While Labour, on the other hand, is being savaged.
Sinn Féin couldn’t resist an attack in the afternoon when Saint Gerry of the Voluntary Presentation returned from his recent incarceration to declare the latest announcement on water charges is a poor attempt by Fine Gael to cover Labour’s blushes over the issue.
Fianna Fáil was too busy wallowing in its own mortification, having choreographed the unedifying Hanafin’s Ball debacle in Blackrock. Its leader was in no position to do any attacking.
But back to the Greens.
They used to be somebody. And they want to get back in the game.
As a former coalition weakling used to having sand kicked in its face, the party decided not to punch above its weight during the launch of its European election manifesto. So they went for Labour, the crowd now occupying their slot in government.
They went about doing to Labour what Labour did to them, with some coalition-mudguard-on-coalition-mudguard action.
Party leader Eamon Ryan is running for a seat in Dublin, and, surprise, surprise, he is getting a very good response in that hotbed of positivity known as “the doorsteps”.
He senses a negative reaction against political parties and the political system in general, but “I have to report it’s not negative against us in the Green Party”.
This gives him “real confidence that we can win”.
Has Eamon commissioned any internal polling to back this up? “No. We haven’t any money for that. But Paddy Power has me at evens.”
Handing over sovereignty
Nobody, it appears, is giving him an earful on the Greens’ participation in a government that presided over the events leading to the handing over of our sovereignty to the troika.
Instead, Eamon is getting good vibes as he sells the party’s policy on Europe and its membership of the fourth-biggest power bloc in the parliament. He feels voters look upon them as progressive, modern and forward-looking and think: “Yeah, that’s what we’re about as a country.”
As for that troika business, it’s all been twisted by the Labour Party to make it seem like they had no choice but to go down the road of privatisation and increased charges.
Forced to do it? Eamon Ryan says this is simply not true.
He says the troika agreement stipulated they would merely look at the option of divesting energy assets but there was no commitment to do it.
It seems when the Greens agreed to the terms, they had their fingers crossed behind their backs and all their faith in Labour unpicking them.
“We actually signed on the clear understanding in our own minds that, well, the Labour Party will be in government next time and they’re not going to do it. Because I was opposed to it, it doesn’t make sense.”
But then Labour let them down.
Yes, that soft underbelly was showing and Eamon was coming over all carnivorous.
“I think it’s bizarre that you have a Labour Party which actually seems fixated on privatisation,” he marvelled, before delivering a history lecture.
“It’s remarkable to see the journey that those members have gone on, from that very Marxist left-wing [ideology] – I wasn’t old enough to remember when they were kinda in that phase of their thinking but they were. As I understand, all very strong Marxist-Maoist or whatever strand of hard-left thinking that existed 30 to 40 years ago – that’s where they were, and they’ve made this journey right the way towards seeing divestment in public ownership and reliance on markets as the way forward.”
Ears must have been burning in Ely Place.
There was “a three-way deal done to privatise assets that I think shouldn’t have been privatised”. He believes Fine Gael, the Department of Finance and the unions readied it up the year before the election.
Ah here, Eamon. So you signed an agreement you disagreed with because you expected Labour to unpick it? And then they did the dirty on you? Is that a former minister’s escape route from his past?
“No, I take full responsibility for all the actions at that time – I’m just saying: look at the wording of the agreement. What the Labour Party is saying is they were compelled to sell State assets . . . the wording doesn’t say that.”
The Greens say they should be investing rather than divesting. “It’s a technical issue, but it’s important.”
And a tasty conspiracy theory.
And so to the mandatory leadership question. For this election, a view has arisen that a party leader who does not deliver the requisite amount of seats will be sacked. Might this happen if the Greens strike out?
“What we don’t have in our party is the same manoeuvrings, or the same uncertainties, or the same fighting that seems to be going on in just about every other party. It’s not an issue.”
You’d miss them, all the same.