The Green Party is facing a mounting internal revolt over its participation with Fianna Fail in the crisis-hit Dublin coalition government.
The Greens, which is currently at a record low of just 2% support in national opinion polls, lost its second local councillor within 24 hours today. There are fears among members that the party is facing a demise similar to that which befell Fianna Fail’s former coalition partners, the Progressive Democrats, which was forced to disband last October.
Former deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Bronwen Maher has now quit the Green Party over its role in supporting Fianna Fail and its inequitable social policies.
Ms Maher, whose decision followed yesterday’s exit by Chris O’Leary of Cork City Council, said she couldn’t forgive the party’s two Green ministers for supporting cuts in health, education, equality, public transport and a cervical cancer vaccination programme.
“The Green Party is now rightly seen to be propping up a Government that has lost the confidence of the Irish people, and which is unable to come up with any meaningful solution or way forward in this economic downturn.”
Patricia McKenna, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee and its first MEP, has accused the Green leadership of being “in complete denial” about the crisis within its ranks.
GOVT BLAME GAME
Confidence in the 26-County economy has nose-dived in the past few months as information emerged of the true scale of the shortfall in the national finances amid a rapidly declining property market.
Job losses have mounted daily, notably with the decision by US multinational Dell to make 2,900 staff redundant following a decision to move its assembly lines from Limerick to Poland.
In addition, a fraud scandal and allegations of corruption have struck the state’s financial sector, forcing the government to nationalise Anglo-Irish Bank last week and casting doubts over the credibility of the other financial institutions.
The government has reacted angrily to claims that the nationalisation amounts to a ‘cover-up’ of questionable practices at Anglo-Irish Bank, described as ‘Ireland’s Enron’. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan warned the opposition parties against repeating claims that his Fianna Fail party helped favoured property developers to secure risky bank loans in the dying years of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic boom. He said these suggestions could further undermine confidence in the financial sector.
The role of the state’s Financial Regulator also remains the subject of controversy. A statement this week by the new appointee Jim Farrell, appeared to defend the actions of his disgraced predecesor, Pat Neary, who was forced to resign over his office’s long-standing knowledge of corporate mismanagement at Anglo-Irish Bank.
Meanwhile, planned government cutbacks have led to threats of industrial unrest. Ireland’s largest union has warned of strikes and “civil disruption” if the Dublin government reduces public service pay.
Ministers are meeting this week to decide how cuts of more than 1 billion Euros can be achieved in the pay bill as part of the effort to reduce public spending this year.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said although most workers understood the link between pay and the state of the economy, they would ask why they would have to take a pay cut while the people who took out the huge loans in Anglo walked away scot-free.
Mr Gilmore said the Government’s plans for Anglo Irish were more about safeguarding the bank’s interests than guarding taxpayers’ money.
“What has gone on at that bank has been absolutely scandalous. We have to get to the bottom of it, and we won’t get to the bottom of it if there is, in effect, a legislative cover-up of what took place in Anglo. We won’t co-operate with a cover-up.”
Sinn Féin’s Arthur Morgan said the nationalisation of Anglo-Irish was not “nationalisation in the public interest”.
“It is simply a bailout for the former patrons of the now defunct Fianna Fail tent at the Galway races.”
The crisis was “created by the corrupt culture endemic in our financial system and encouraged by successive Fianna Fail governments out of their love affair with greedy property developers”.
The “revelations about the hidden loans of [former chairman at Anglo-Irish Bank] Sean FitzPatrick and others have exposed the systemic fraud in Irish banking”.
“It has shown that senior bank managers and their auditors cannot be trusted, that our officials in the Financial Regulator are incompetent, and that the Government’s banking policy is an abysmal failure,” Mr Morgan said.