The pro-coalition wing of the Green Party has enlisted Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo for a live seminar on Monday night, as part of its final push to win over the support of the membership for the programme for government.
Party leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin announced that Mr Ruffalo - who received Oscar nominations for his roles in The Kids are Alright and Foxcatcher and also played the Incredible Hulk in the Marvel movie of the same name - would participate in a web livestream on Monday evening to discuss fracking and the programme for government.
Mr Ruffalo has also been a prominent environmental campaigner for many years and has been particularly active in the anti-fracking movement in the United States.
The seminar was organised by the party leadership to highlight the gains it achieved in the programme for government, in banning importation of fracked gas and removing State support for the Shannon LNG facility.
The Hollywood actor in the livestream which began at 7pm urged Irish people “to do the right thing” and oppose any fracked gas being exported into Ireland.
He said those opposed to fracking need to deny the powers that be to bring about a world for their children. “Think of your children above all else. Let that be your guide. If we take care of the children, if we take care of their health and environment and future, the rest will take care of itself,” he said.
He said fracking companies would “jump on Ireland” and would sucker the State if allowed.
Mr Ryan and Ms Martin also spoke during the seminar.
Mr Ruffalo told people who thought they were not getting enough on fracking in the programme for government to be patient. “We are not getting it all. We fought for a lot. We deserve a lot more.
“A movement is a long-term endeavour. It does not happen overnight. The way the fracking industry works, they get ahead of the camel in the tent and they get the tent.
“Now you are in the tent. Don’t fret about getting everything you want at the moment. This is a movement. This is a long journey forward. Any win is a win for us in the long term. Calm down. Do what’s right for right now.
“Look into your hearts and ask yourselves,” he told the several hundred people who linked to the online seminar. “In the face of everything that we’re facing, in the face of the justice that we’re fighting for, in the face of all these new technologies that promise so much better lives for people, whether it’s your job, or your health, or just the beauty of your surroundings, why would you move forward by creating more natural gas use and more fossil fuel use in the world.
“Take Ireland (for example). I’m telling you, they’re using you. You hear the plan, they’re gonna jump your countries, they are using you to bring this product into your country and disseminate it to the rest of Europe, and you are going to be the suckers at the end of the line here. I’ve seen it time and time again.
“The one thing that Covid showed us is that we’re all in this together. The world is a small tiny place. There’s nowhere else to go. And so we have to rely on each other, and we have to defy the powers that be, in order to bring them around and bring around the world that we need to have for our children.”
With both camps in the Green Party accepting the decision on the programme for government will be very tight, the respective campaigns have ramped up considerably on Monday in the final hours of canvassing.
While the vote is not being counted until Friday, it is a postal vote so the last votes are expected to be cast tomorrow to allow delivery to party headquarters. Some 2,000 members of the party are expected to participate in the internal ballot with a two-thirds majority required if the party is to enter coalition.
‘On a knife edge’
Earlier on Monday Mr Ryan says if his party’s members reject the programme for government “it would be very hard for us to go back to the negotiating table.”
Mr Ryan has described the programme for government as a “left wing document” and the best approach to repair the economy.
He said he did not know what would happen if party members rejected it.
He said he was engaged in intensive campaigning over the weekend to persuade Green Party members to back the programme and enter coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Opponents of the deal were also lobbying fiercely, with Green party sources on both sides predicting a tight result when the votes are counted on Friday.
One Green TD said the vote was “on a knife edge” with a two-thirds majority needed if it is to be ratified.
Mr Ryan agreed that the vote by Green Party members on the programme could be very close, but he was hopeful that members would sign off on the document.
The outcome of the membership votes among the three parties will be announced on Friday.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil members are expected to ratify it but all three must back the deal in order for Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin to be elected taoiseach when the Dáil sits this Saturday.
The Green Party has the highest threshold of the three parties to secure the approval of its membership.
Two thirds of members registered to vote on the proposals must back the deal.
However, one of the TDs who negotiated the deal, Neasa Hourigan, has said she will vote against the deal, while a number of Green members have voiced their concern about it.
The leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, Clare Bailey, has also called for a no vote.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Ryan acknowledged that the Green Party would be going into government at one of the most challenging times possible and that there would be risks and uncertainties.
The new coalition government will need to invest in public housing, public health, public transport and climate action which will require the State to be “bigger,” he said.
“In the particular crisis at the moment, the best approach to get the country back working again is actually to borrow and invest in stimulus and employment. The programme for government says we’re going to do that for the next two or three years.”
Following that there would need to be a review and the books would have to be balanced again in the long run. “But even then there’s an agreement that we would try to balance the current account, we would continue to borrow for capital investment,” Mr Ryan said.
Speaking on Monday morning, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he believes the deal can be approved. However, he said nothing can be ruled out, including a second general election this year, if parties do not vote to pass the draft government deal.
“I think we will have to have that debate when it happens. I’m a positive person and I believe we can get this done this week and that is what the country wants us to do,” Mr Coveney said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Asked if another election could be on the cards if the deal does not pass, he said: “Well I mean we can’t rule out anything. Our focus will be on getting this deal passed and putting in place a government that can work for people when the country needs it.”
He said this is a difficult week for Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party because there is division among members and politicians about the deal.
He said: “In many ways, within Fine Gael there are lots of people who still find it difficult to contemplate going into government with Fianna Fáil in particular.
“Politics has changed and if Fine Gael defines itself by its past and its past relationship with Fianna Fáil then I believe the electorate will move away from us. We have got to define ourselves by what we want for the future.”
When asked about opposition to the deal, voiced by Ms Hourigan, he said she was part of the negotiating team that signed off on the deal.
He said: “She did not get everything she wanted in the deal... nor did I”.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are sharply divided on what to do if Green Party members reject the proposed coalition government deal between the three parties this week.
Sources in the parties expect a political crisis to arise if the programme for government is not endorsed by Green members this week, with a deadline for renewing the Offences Against the State Act on Tuesday, June 30th, looming.
Several senior Fine Gael figures, including a number of Cabinet Ministers, told The Irish Times on Sunday they would not form a government with Fianna Fáil and Independent TDs if the Green Party rejected the programme. Fianna Fáil sources say the party can form a government supported by or including Independents if the Greens do not endorse the deal, while some party sources also believe Labour can be persuaded to join the process if the Greens reject the proposal.-Additional reporting PA