Green Party form government in Ireland
Filed Under: World | Posted: 07/15/2007 at 4:16PM
Comments | Region: Ireland
After twenty-six years in the political wilderness Ireland’s Green Party have finally succumbed to the lure of political office. Born on the 3rd of December, 1981, in Dublin’s Central Hotel, the party formerly known as the Ecology Party of Ireland (EPI) was formed by school teacher Christopher Fettes at a meeting attended by no more than eighty curious onlookers.
Although they had an inauspicious start to national politics, polling just 0.2% of the national vote in the November 1982 general election the party has grown into a real political force within Irish politics. Indeed, the country has not seen a single party government with an overall majority since the last Jack Lynch administration of 1977, therefore strengthening the role and necessity of smaller parties within Irish coalition governments.
The Greens, led by Trevor Sargent, won a total of six seats in the 2007 election, five in Dublin and one in Carlow/Kilkenny. They join Fianna Fail (78 seats) and the Progressive Democrats (2 seats) at cabinet and will be supported by a number of independent deputies. As expected they now assume the Environment portfolio which also includes responsibility for Heritage and Local government, along with the Department of Communications, Energy and National Resources. Sargent, the outgoing party leader will also take up a junior ministerial role with special responsibility for Food.
Prime Minster Bertie Ahern has given the Greens specific commitments on climate change such as, reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 3% a year, the generation of a third of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, official air travel will be subject to carbon offsetting in support of increased forestation and the reopening of rail lines in order to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home.
What the Greens now have to contend with is the business of government. For almost three decades they have castigated and criticised administration after administration for their handling of the environment, road building, farming, fisheries, job creation and the generation of the country’s energy. Never having to govern or make the hard decisions has produced in the Greens and it’s outgoing leader, Trevor Sargent, a saintly quality which all too often culminates in idle pontificating. We are all acutely aware that climate change is now a priority, non more so than PM Ahern. By handing this particular hot potato to the Greens, Ahern has effectively removed that particular monkey from Fianna Fail’s back. Shrewd political manoeuvrings have always been Ahern’s forte but the inclusion of the Green party in his coalition will, I’m sure, be seen as one of his best. The Greens are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, over the next five years. Whatever positive changes they bring to the Republic of Ireland, Ahern and Fianna Fail will benefit from by taking the credit come the next election. However, should they fail to live up to their promises the electorate will come down heavy on them, just as they did with the Progressive Democrats.
In my view the Greens showed a desperate naivety and almost childlike impatience by entering into government with Fianna Fail, the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. They are about to be led to the slaughter, yet instead of digging their heels in and making it difficult for their master, they are blindly strolling towards their fate with all the awareness of Steinbeck’s Lennie Small.
Fianna Fail have proven themselves the Grim Reaper of coalition parties in the past. Both Labour and the Progressive Democrats have suffered the wrath of the Irish voting public after coalition governments with Fianna Fail. Whether the Greens suffer the same fate remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, by welcoming the Greens into government Fianna Fail may just have taken a very large step in the direction of an unprecedented fourth term in office.
By Carl Power