Green Party paid high price for keys to new cabinet


Analysis:Greens have had to put a lot of their policies into cold storage in order to get the reins of power, writes Liam Reid, Environment Correspondent.

The Green Party has always known that to enter government it would have to leave a considerable number of its policies and commitments at the door. Indeed, the party leadership has spent considerable effort in preparing its membership for such an eventuality, with the argument that such sacrifices will have to be made if it is to get other key policies implemented.

Much has been made of the party's failure to change Government policy on co-location, corporate donations and the M3 route through Tara, but many other party policies have been omitted from the draft programme for government, and they have had to compromise in favour of more modest proposals contained in Fianna Fáil's manifesto.

Based on its 2007 election manifesto and previously stated policies, the Greens have had to pay a relatively high price in terms of the policies it has had to put in cold storage or abandon completely. But it is a price the party's leadership obviously believes was worth paying.

On climate change policy, one of its core objectives, while the party has succeeded in its major objective of a carbon tax, the party's preference of a €20-a-tonne rate is not included in the government programme.

The programme is committed to a 3 per cent annual cut in emissions, but this will not be enshrined in legislation, as promised.

On public transport, the party has had to compromise on its commitments to Luas systems for Cork and Galway. Feasibility studies are instead promised.

The review of road programmes and reprioritisation of road spending is also missing, and an outer orbital ring road for Dublin has also had to be ditched. Reforms of vehicle registration tax and motor tax have been replaced in the programme for government by the existing, more modest reforms announced in the last Budget.

On housing, the party promised 10,000 additional social and affordable housing units every year. This has now been replaced with an increase in social housing by 5,000 a year, and more vague social and affordable housing "options" to meet the needs of 90,000 families.

Party negotiators see the inclusion of local government reform as a major victory, and they have secured the main element of their manifesto pledge - directly elected mayors. However the creation of powerful regional authorities does not appear, although a major review of local government does.

On regional planning, the party did not succeed in getting a transport and land use authority, and has had to be pleased with its other aim of a national transport regulator.

Its commitment to "stop any further relocation of staff under decentralisation" until a major review of the programme takes place has also been omitted. In the draft programme for government the party is now committed to the current decentralisation programme on the basis that it is linked to the National Spatial Strategy.

On environment policy, the party has also had to make concessions. Its zero waste commission has failed to make it to the final programme, although the party claims its opposition to incineration has ensured no changes to landfill taxes which would favour incineration.

In education, the party was committed to spending an extra €1 billion in its manifesto. It has had to settle for €350 million.

In health, proposals to provide medical cards for all children under six has been downsized to easing the eligibility criteria for such cards.

In the related issue of childcare, the Greens' tax credit system did not make it to the final programme for government.

A series of proposals for tax reforms have been replaced by a taxation commission.

The party's promise to increases in the old-age pension to at least €330 has made way for Fianna Fáil's €300 target.

Likewise, energy efficiency improvement targets of 60 per cent for new homes have been reduced to Fianna Fáil's 40 per cent target.