Gogarty may step down as spokesman

 

EDUCATION:THERE WAS growing speculation last night that Green Party education spokesman Paul Gogarty would resign his position in the wake of decisions on education taken at the party’s convention in Wexford. Mr Gogarty said he would be making a statement today.

He is understood to be particularly upset about a motion, which delegates accepted, to establish a high-level reference group to develop a strategy on education commitments.

Before the debate he said in a statement to delegates that the motion would “have the effect of undermining me as education spokesperson despite my having gone out on a limb for the party”.

His motion for a special conference next year to discuss the party’s continued participation in Government had a majority of about 55 per cent, but required a two-thirds majority to pass. A similar motion calling for a special conference to be convened if education cuts were not reversed, was also turned down.

Party leader John Gormley said he had not had a chance to talk to his colleague, but “no one can predict which way motions are going to go at the Green Party conference. It doesn’t work like that. People make up their own minds”.

Mr Gormley said Mr Gogarty “is a brilliant spokesman and someone who is dedicated to education.

“He’s a good bloke. I respect his viewpoint. He expresses himself very directly and we appreciate that. So we’ll see what happens.”

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan said yesterday mistakes were made in the last year that “now we would do differently and I think probably the most sensitive and most difficult issue has been the education cuts. There was real understandable opposition and anger to the cuts”.

He said the message from the conference debate on education was that “we really have to try to protect education spending”. This would be discussed at the next parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday.

During the debate Mr Gogarty, a TD for Dublin Mid-West, said Fianna Fáil “behaves as if we’re an optional extra”, but they “need to realise that if they continue in Government they need us. We’re the leg that props them up and if we pull the leg from under them, they’re going to fall the hardest.”

He had a message for the Taoiseach: “If in doubt we’ll pull out.”

Former MEP Patricia McKenna warned that the Greens had to be “very careful about the message we send to the public”.

Ms McKenna pointed out that the education cutbacks had already been decided in Cabinet and discussed and supported and it would be a “very bad signal now” for the party to turn around and oppose it.

She said the Greens “need to pull our weight”.