By Mick Hall
It’s not easy bein’ green. It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ‘cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water - or stars in the sky.
On the surface it looks very much like Fianna Fail’s leader Bertie Ahearn reeled the Green Party leadership into his coalition government like children who had sneaked down from their beds on Christmas Eve in an attempt to get a peep at their presents. The deal that the Green Party eventually accepted could have been on the table last weekend, but Bertie knew if it were, a full Green Party conference would have to be called and not as occurred on Wednesday evening, a round robin of the membership within Dublin and the surrounding counties. More importantly the weekend papers would have had the details well before the conference took place, which would have enabled the GP membership to contemplate it in detail, and in the light of day the deal would have been revealed as a win-win for Bertie Ahearn.
There is little in this deal that the Greens could not have achieved by standing back and offering FF their support in the Dail on an issue by issue basis. Indeed, by doing this the Greens could have guaranteed that FF do not renege on any agreements; the incoming FF/PD government would have had nowhere else to go, as Ahern had already publicly ruled out any deal with SF. In the process, the Greens would have maintained their independence of action.
Up until now the Greens have made much of honesty in politics. Now they have joined a coalition government led by a man who has a host of questions to answer due to the evidence given to the Mahon Tribunal. However even if Mr Ahern turns out to be an honest politician, he is a pro-globalization free marketeer, who is an advocate of neo-liberal economics. He is about to privatize much of the public health care system which goes against the best interest of the Irish people and is against Green Party policy.
This deal also spits in the face of the Iraqi people and for the Greens to claim on cutting a deal with FF that they continue to support the Iraqi people was shame-less. Green negotiators failed to get any real guarantees over Shannon Airport and the USA’s illegal renditions and the movement of US military personnel through Shannon.
The fact is what the Greens have done is join a coalition government with the two most right-wing parliamentary political parties in the south of Ireland as their partners, which negates the whole purpose of the Green Party to date and ties it into cabinet responsibility, which cannot but silence 2/3 of the Green parliamentarians from voicing doubts and differences over FF government policy. With this act Mr Ahern has silenced a major section of the progressive opposition to his policies in Dail Eireann.
To write that many of us on the Left, who until this tragic decision had been willing to take the Greens at their word and view them as part of the progressive political family, feel totally betrayed would be an understatement. For myself, this betrayal is equal to what SF did when it recognized the right of the UK state to govern the north of Ireland.
In all honesty I am bewildered why any left progressive environmentalist party would join a conservative government which only considered the environment as an after thought when it was unable to govern in it own right. If the Greens had achieved a hard deal over the main policies within their election manifesto such as an end to the use of Shannon airport by the US military/security services, or the abandonment of plans to build the M3 motor-way near the Hill of Tara, or a ban on corporate donations, and an end to the plan to build private hospitals on public land, I could have understood the Greens entering the coalition. But Bertie made it clear none of these were a runner. They did not even managed to achieve the position of An Tanaiste.
Am I bitter? Sure I am, bitter and angry, as any decent man should be whenever an honest man is enticed by a reactionary satrap. As to those who claim the Greens can repeat the success of the PDs in the last FF led coalition, they are mistaken; for there is a major difference between the PDs as a FF coalition partner and the Greens. Bar the fine detail, there are few real political differences between FF and the PDs, thus the latter have always been pushing against an open door when it has managed to get part of its platform through, not least because FF and the PDs are both pro business and pro globalization parties.
The same cannot be said for the Greens, and they are far from natural bedfellows with their two coalition partners. I feel people are missing the point of the raison d’etre of a radical green party. It is not to tinker at the edges here and there, but to wake up the general public and through them, central government, to the sheer waste and dangers society environmentally faces if we continue along the same reckless political path.
Once in government they are bound by Cabinet responsibility, so, for example, how can they make a fuss over the violations of human rights and the law at Shannon, they cannot. Some Greens will claim they can have more influence quietly blowing in the Taoiseach’s ear. In your dreams, one is tempted to reply, for the fact is the Greens are a public pro-active party which forewarns the electorate, or they are nothing. Entering government must be the icing on the cake for a party like the Greens and must be with progressive partners with whom they can make real and lasting changes for the good.
The Greens by entering into this coalition, have now joined a long list of once radical organizations who have chosen to become, as Chris Gaskin wrote, “the mud guard of the two failed civil war parties”.