Jim Carroll

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Another fine mess…

Is someone keeping count of the number of U-turns the Green Party have made since going into government? The political equivalent of joyriders doing handbrake turns every chance they get, the Greens have turned around so often at this stage …

Thu, Feb 18, 2010, 11:09


Is someone keeping count of the number of U-turns the Green Party have made since going into government? The political equivalent of joyriders doing handbrake turns every chance they get, the Greens have turned around so often at this stage that they probably don’t have a clue which way they should be facing.

Along the way, they’ve amassed a lengthy list of abandonded principles, forgotten policies and botched attempts to cover their hides which probably should be prepared for widespread distribution before the next general election. If nothing else, it will serve to show Green Party reps, members and groupies that life is very different away from the high moral ground.

Vincent Browne had a great column yesterday about the latest problem the Green Party face. Well, faced – there’s another one today as party chairman Senator Dan Boyle decides to tweet his nose at the world and then scarpers.

Anyway, yesterday’s problem was the bould Willie O’Dea. As reported widely, the Minister for Defence and Limerick East TD has found himself in a spot of bother over an allegation made against a fellow Shannonside politician which has turned out to be completely wrong.

As the Greens manned up to back their government colleague, Vinnie listed a few government decisions and policies which the Greens have spinelessly gone along with during the two and a half years spent keeping Fianna Fail in the power to which they have become accustomed. He wonders if the Greens are really in government: “what’s the evidence? They are in office all right, but in government?”

You can probably pre-empt the Green response to this and other quibbles about their decision to go into government by now. You have to make unpleasant and unpopular decisions, they will bleat. We can’t be in opposition forever, they will whine. We have been able to advance a couple of Green policies, they will mumble. Some of those policies were rattled off by Eamon Ryan and Mary White the other day when Deirdre de Burca left the Green nirvana and her former colleagues were forced to back John Gormley, a man who is to Irish politics what Sven Goran-Eriksson was to international football management. At least we were spared the Gormley interview method this time out. You know the one where he nods his head furiously while the other person is speaking and then talks over them. Watch out for it when he’s on the telly in the next 24 hours to try to speak out of both sides of his mouth about his party chairman’s fit of pique.

It’s a sorry stage of affairs when even the opposition acknowledge that attacking the Greens is like shooting fish in a barrel (maybe it’s time the Greens brought in a law against that sort of thing). Yesterday in the Dail during the debate on the Willie Fib, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore sounded even a little sorry for them as more tirades came their way. Many Greens probably feel a nostalgic twinge for the days when they were the ones giving out yards from their high horses about standards in public office.

Instead, they are there simply to make up the numbers, waddle through the lobby after their Fianna Fail buddies and vote confidence in a government minister who said one thing on tape to a journalist and another thing in a sworn affidavit to a court of the land. The Greens really are the mudguards, add-ons, hitch-hikers and spare wheels in this government and no amount of hand-wringing and tortured brows are going to change that. As Miram Lord writes witheringly today, “the sight of the Greens doing their angst-ridden routine yet again fooled nobody”. And that will hopefully also apply to Boyle’s egotistical solo run. At least the Irish electorate won’t be fooled when it comes time to rate the Greens’ time in office.

No-one ever said that being in government was going to be easy, but the Greens, of all people, should have known that sharing (a tiny bit of) power with Fianna Fail is not really being in government. If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get fleas and it will take a hell of a lot of disinfectant to cleanse the Greens after this bed-in. It’s truly a sorry state of affairs for a party who had the potential to be more than just an eco-friendly appendage to another couple of years of Fianna Fail rule.

Yet it’s also further proof, as our friend GLXTD and his disciples discovered last week, that you can’t really change a political system from within. Oh sure, you can make small changes – and the Greens will be first to a microphone to point to some of them (Paul “Madser” Gogarty was on about stopping political donations again yesterday – doesn’t he know that there will be copious loopholes in that one too for parties to exploit?) – but the real big-ticket changes will never be implemented by those who are in power thanks to that same system. That’s like turkeys voting for Christmas. The Irish political system really has no room for idealists or policy wonks or those who want to make a difference. Yeah, you’ll get lip service paid to all of that but, in truth, the Irish political system wants people who know how to run for office, people who’re prepared to plague government departments with reps and PQs, people who know that getting a pothole mended is far more important than any institutional change. If you want something else, you’re not going to get it by being elected to Dail Eireann – or, in the case of Dan Boyle, getting handed a cushy gig in the Seanad.