Silly Season In Irish Politics by Robert Sweetnam

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BY NOW we all know the gritty details of how much NAMA is going to pay out for these so called ‘toxic’ debts. €54bn is an awful lot of money isn’t it? Yet we are told that it is essential for the survival of our economy. No doubt you have perhaps read much about it elsewhere so I’m not going to delve into it in detail but if anything it has put a massive strain on relations between Fianna Fáil and The Green Party. A lot of people I have been talking to have been quite pleased about this because it is building up their hopes that there might be a general election sooner rather than later.
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Youghal Native Robert Sweetnam

Youghal Native Robert Sweetnam

Most people understand that the upcoming budget will hit everyone in some way or another but at least Minister Lenihan has said that he is ruling out tax hikes. However before you celebrate, no tax hikes does not mean no new taxes and a new tax that will almost certainly be introduced if the Green Party get their way is a carbon tax. Figures have already been thrown out and about such as an 8c per litre hike in the cost of petrol and 5c per litre of diesel. So called ‘dirty fuels’ such as peat and coal will face significant increases. With regards to petrol and diesel, 70% of what we pay per litre already goes on tax.

The common line that I have been hearing is that people are screaming out for a reprieve on more swinging cuts to their pay cheques (if they are lucky enough to still draw one) and getting Fianna Fáil and the Green Party out of government before the budget is seen as a means to an end in that respect.

The growing public hatred of Fianna Fáil and by proxy the Green Party, helped enormously by the irrevocable fiasco of John O’Donoghue’s expenses, has all the main political parties in a spin when it comes to the upcoming second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The fear is that the people of Ireland will use their vote to punish Fianna Fáil and the Greens by voting no.

If you are curious then you can read this post from January 2008 where I correctly predicted a re-run of the Lisbon Treaty referendum if we were to vote no. In that post (which was a rant about the Green Party) I also predicted the demise of the Green Party for going into coalition with Fianna Fáil to begin with. Having just read over it again I mentioned in it that the Green Party in a member vote needed a 66% majority to decide if the party was going to support the Lisbon Treaty however only 63% of them agreed. It is interesting to see that this time around they appear to be whole heartedly in support. Their assimilation into Fianna Fáil seems to be nearing completion.

When it came to supporting the NAMA legislation, once again the Green Party put it to their members to vote if they should support it or not. Their members decided to support it but only if certain changes to the legislation were put into effect. One of these changes much trumpeted by Minister Eamonn Ryan was that the banks were going to take a share in the risk that the NAMA proposal could possibly bring about. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall when he was told that this risk sharing was only going to be a pathetic 5%. Yet another example of Fianna Fáil throwing the boot into their junior coalition partners letting them know just who is the boss.

What this serves to point out is that the Green Party are in a curious place. They are a coalition member of government in power for their first (and almost certainly last) time. As the governments majority in the Dáil is very small indeed the Green Party should be in a position to dicate terms and conditions to Fianna Fáil. They could (and should) threaten to pull out of the coalition if they don’t get their way. They should have Fianna Fáil over a barrel but they seem completely unable to use the strategic political position. Considering they only have six TDs they should still have the upper hand on their senior coalition partners. But perhaps that is the catch 22. Perhaps the Green Party need Fianna Fáil just as much as Fianna Fáil needs them.

As I said already this leaves them in a curious place. John Gormley has gone on record as saying that the Green Party are not ready to leave government yet as they still have many objectives to achieve. But one has to wonder that with their wholesale annihilation in the recent local and European elections, would it be better for the Green Party to bow out of government now and regroup? Salvage what remaining shred of credibility they have left and focus on the future.

I’m sure that if the Green Party were to issue a statement saying that they were leaving the coalition it would actually boost their credibility significantly. If anything else, collapsing the government would allow the people of Ireland to choose those who they deem most suitable for getting is out of this economic mess that Fianna Fáil are largely responsible for.

Finally, regarding the Lisbon Treaty I would like to take this opportunity to urge people not to use the referendum to punish the government no matter how much they deserve it. Make an informed decision and vote with this information in mind. The referendum is about Ireland’s future not about the future of the Green Party and Fianna Fáil.

Disclaimer – This post reflects my own opinion and in no way reflects the opinions of any third party nor those of Fine Gael of which I am a member.

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