84% of delegates vote in favour of new programme

 

THE GREEN Party decisively endorsed the Programme for Government and also rejected, by a large majority, a motion opposing the setting up of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

At the conclusion of its day-long special convention at the RDS on Saturday, the party announced that 84 per cent of over 600 delegates had backed the programme, agreed between Fianna Fáil and the Greens late on Friday night.

Party rules require the backing of two-thirds of the members to endorse motions of this magnitude.

The attendance at the meeting was higher than that of the special convention in 2007 that backed the party entering government and the percentage backing the leadership on Saturday was only three points lower than the 87 per cent achieved then.

The strong backing for Nama was viewed as a vote of approval of the party’s continuance in Government, and of the plan to rescue Irish financial institutions.

The manner in which the party’s national executive council phrased the motion meant that members who opposed Nama were required to garner the support of two-thirds to strike the bank rescue legislation down. In the event, the motion was rejected by 69 per cent to 31 per cent, a much larger defeat than had been envisaged.

Of the 622 valid votes in the vote on the Programme for Government document, some 523 were in favour with 99 against. In the second vote, some 415 delegates voted against the motion (and, therefore, in favour of Nama) with 189 supporting the motion.

Party leader John Gormley, speaking immediately after the vote, described the outcome as an overwhelming endorsement for the party and for the Programme for Government.

“We have to live up to those very high expectations. There will be no resiling from this Programme for Government. It will be implemented,” he told party members.

He said the new programme was about recovery, about getting the country on its feet again. “We have no illusions,” he added.

Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan said that the vote had strengthened the Greens as a party and made it easier for it to work in the Government at a very hard time. “Why such a new programme? It was exceptional because we are in exceptional times. We need to stop and check to see what we have to do,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan and Mr Gormley rejected the contention that many of the commitments in the 2007 programme had not been achieved and that many of the new measures were not time-specific.

Mr Gormley instanced the 2007 commitment to have a directly elected mayor of Dublin. He said that this would happen in 2010, a year ahead of schedule.

Mr Gormley also maintained that the internal debate within the party on Nama would have the effect of making the legislation stronger because it had succeeded in adding amendments to the legislation.

The meeting on Saturday got under way at 11.30am, a little over 12 hours after Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Mr Gormley had signed off on the draft document.

During the debate on the programme, only two out of 30 or so speakers chosen at random spoke against the programme. The debate on Nama, later in the afternoon, caused more division among members.

Speaking at a press conference after the vote, Mr Ryan stood over the party’s record in government. “We have been in Government for two and a half years. We have learned to work in Government. It’s not easy.

“We are tying to change the way that politics works and change the economy. We have very hard decisions in the upcoming months.”

Mr Gormley and Mr Ryan said they were fully aware of the decisions that lay ahead.

“We cannot argue against the mathematics. We are borrowing €400 million a week,” said Mr Gormley.