Nama unease grows

The Green Party is set to hold a special convention on the Dublin government’s controversial ‘bad bank’ after a swell in grass-roots opposition.

Several constituency groups with Fianna Fail’s junior coalition partner have demanded the emergency meeting under party rules.

If two thirds of members vote against the setting up of the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) it could plunge the coalition’s controversial plan into chaos.

The Dail is to resume on September 16 to debate the legislation. The plan by Taoiseach Brian Cowen is to purchase property and development assets from banks and developers at up to three times the market price.

The unprecedented move would inject taxpayer money into the banks and bail out the bad loans of property moguls, who borrowed unwisely for risky development deals and general speculation.

If it goes ahead, the 26 County state will be saddled with up to 90 billion Euros in debt as well as a giant property portfolio of unknown value.

This week, the 26 County Supreme Court confirmed the fears of many when it dismissed claims by developer Liam Carroll -- seeking to avoid bankruptcy -- that the Irish property market could make a rapid recovery. The same arguments are likely to be put forward in respect of the Nama legislation, despicted as an safety-net by the government but seen by others as a corrupt bailout for a wealthy elite.

At the same time, the coalition goverment has embarked on a series of swingeing cutbacks in public spending and social welfare. About one-third of a 3 billion Euro package of cuts already indicated for next year are expected to come from social welfare cuts.

The deteriorating economic situation and a public loss of confidence in the goverment is seen as setting the stage for social upheaval in the coming months.

With the highly unpopular coalition having lost its majority in the Dail, increasing pressure is now being brought to bear on the Green Party, as well as on Fianna Fail’s hand-wringing backbenchers, to withdraw their support. Meanwhile, Fianna Fail is desperately keen to avoid raising the political temperature ahead of the re-run of the referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty in October.

Green Party leader and coalition loyalist John Gormley claimed on Thursday that his party’s special convention would reassure his party’s rank-and-file.

“I would hope that as a result of a party convention, we can reach an accommodation of some sort and that we can agree on a motion in relation to the Nama legislation,” he said.

The party currently has two Ministers and five TDs, all of whom would face an uphill task to retain their seats in the case of a general election.

Speaking following a meeting of Sinn Féin activists in Navan on Monday, party president Gerry Adams said his party would be “vigorously opposing” the Nama legislation when it comes before parliament next month.

“This is not the way to sort out the banks and every euro of public money spent on the banks is a euro taken away from education, from health, from social welfare and from job creation.

“Sinn Féin will be supporting local communities fighting to keep resources for all these essential entitlements.

“We will focus particularly on the government’s cuts in education in the Autumn.

“Cutting education is the worst thing the government could do. It will have disastrous long-term consequences for children and for the economy. Sinn Féin is committed to opposing this.

“December’s budget is on course to implement savage cuts to public services and social protections. The McCarthy report gave some sense of what can be expected. This is the wrong approach.

“Sinn Féin believes that there is massive popular opposition to these punitive measures. Our party is committed to playing a leadership role in the development of an alternative which will usher in politics based on citizens’ rights and in complete contrast to anti-people policies of the government and its mirror reflection in Fine Gael.”

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