Dismay as Greens vote to stay in power
Dismay as Greens vote to stay in power

Green Party members have set the scene for massive political upheaval in the 26 Counties this winter afer they voted to stay in government and support a programme of unprecedented budget cutbacks in tandem with the gigantic NAMA bailout for bank shareholders and developers.

The special convention on Saturday voted by 84 per cent to 16 per cent in favour of continuing in government, comfortably exceeding the two-thirds majority required by the party’s constitution.

A revised programme for government emerged on Friday evening following a theatrical and apparently choreographed negotiations process between the two coalition parties, Fianna Fail and the Greens. It concluded in time for evening news shows, with negotiators from both parties claiming to have achieved a historic breakthrough.

The renegotiated Programme for Government contains a reversal of some education cutbacks and the end of stag hunting and fur farming, as well as other measures geared to the Green constituency.

Green Party members arriving at the convention at the RDS in Dublin were greeted with shouts of “Greens out”, and an alternative version of We Will Rock You: ‘‘We Will Sack You.”

Protesters including the People Before Profit Alliance, the Socialist Workers Party and Shell to Sea had gathered with placards and banners, megaphones and microphones to voice noisy opposition to the party’s vote on Nama and a new Programme for Government.

Nora Boyle, a disenchanted former member who had previously campaigned with Niall O’Brolchain, a former Green mayor of Galway, said the party now had “too much of a middle-class agenda”.

“Where is the eco-socialism the Greens stood for?”, she asked.

“The leadership has turned its back on the whole ethos of community and grass roots democracy.”

But party leader John Gormley told the convention: “Very, very hard decisions have to be made. We are willing to make those decisions, but we do so in the context of a document which is transformational in nature, which is going to deal with the problems that beset this country for many decades.”

The result means that the prospect of an imminent general election now recedes. It will come as a huge relief for 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen, whose administration has stabilised in recent weeks, first following the result of the Lisbon referendum and now the vote of confidence from the Green membership.

Mr Cowen said he was confident the document was “a vibrant, pragmatic and comprehensive programme” and “a blueprint to meet the challenges we now face”.

“The Government partners have a good relationship based on trust, pragmatism and a shared desire to do what is best for the country in economic, social and environmental terms. This programme reflects this.”

The main opposition party, Fine Gael, criticised the deal, with enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar saying it was “quite astonishing that Minister Gormley, when questioned... was unable to say how much the renegotiated Programme for Government is going to cost”.

Water charges are to be part of a new system for financing local government. Confirmation of the plan lead Joe Higgins MEP to predict a “water war”.

“Just as happened in the 1990s, there will be a massive boycott, with people power coming directly into play to defeat plans to introduce a water tax,” he said.

“It was such a campaign in the 1990s that forced the Fine Gael/Labour Party government to abolish water charges for the whole country in December, 1996.”

Sinn Fein’s Caoimhghin O Caolain said the Green Party was “obviously terrified of the prospect of a general election.

“They had the opportunity today to do the right thing by the Irish people and turf Fianna Fail out of Government. Instead they missed that opportunity and acted in their own selfish interests.

“They are now set to join with Fianna Fail in imposing savage cutbacks that will hit the less well off the hardest while the parasites who caused the economic crisis are bailed out by NAMA.”

* The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) staged “tractorcades” in the 29 county areas where it organises. Tractors gathered outside the towns on Monday morning and drove slowly through the different centres.

Protests were held in towns and cities such as Limerick, Kilkenny, Sligo, Ennis, Tralee, Carlow, Loughrea, Clonmel, Tullamore, Cavan, Monaghan, and Swords in Dublin.

IFA president Padraig Walshe, who led the protest in Portlaoise, called on the Dublin government to take immediate action to assist farmers. “Almost every town throughout rural Ireland is dependent on agriculture, and the income collapse will lead to significant downturn in business across the rural economy,” he said.

Mr Walshe said farm incomes were expected to fall this year by up to 25 per cent and 35 per cent over a two-year period. He said the average farm income was below 15,000 Euro this year.

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© 2009 Irish Republican News