The resignation from the Green Party of Senator Deirdre de Burca has revealed an insider’s view of croneyism within the Dublin coalition government and the harsh cost of sharing power with Fianna Fail.
In her resignation letter from both her party and the Dublin parliament, Senator de Burca said that Fianna Fail had been “running rings around the Greens”. She also revealed that the Greens only agreed to support Maire Geoghegan Quinn as the new 26-County Commissioner to the European Union in return for de Burca getting a job in the Commissioner’s cabinet.
De Burca accused Green party leader John Gormley, the environment minister, of refusing to challenge Fianna Fail because he fears a new election and losing his Cabinet post.
The Greens agreed in 2007 to join an Irish government for the first time on the condition that Fianna Fail would implement Green policies. Few, if any, of those goals have been achieved as the government has focussed on dealing with an economic crash, focussed on bailing out Ireland’s debt-crippled banks and a small network of developers who gambled billions on ever-increasing property prices.
De Burca’s resignation does not directly harm Cowen’s razor-thin parliamentary majority, but she was one of the Greens’ most prominent members.
She wrote: “I regret to say that I can no longer support the Green Party in government, as I believe that we have gradually abandoned our political values and our integrity and in many respects have become no more than an extension of the Fianna Fail party.”
Referring to the large number of failed Green Party election candidates who were subsequently offered high level unelected positions in government, she wrote:
“It would appear that holding onto office and to seats have become more important to the party than holding on to its fundamental political purpose. We have lost our way as a party and I am sad to say that it has reached a point where I, and most of the people I know, will be unable to vote Green in the next election,” she added.
In the latest opinion poll, the Greens had sunk to 2% -- the same level reached by Fianna Fail’s previous coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, before that organisation was wound up.
Ms de Burca’s revelations on the political horse-trading for highly paid jobs has the potential to devastate the coalition government.
De Burca said Fianna Fail failed to live up to a deal to appoint her to the new EU Commissioner’s cabinet once their candidate, Maire Geoghegan Quinn, was installed as Commissioner.
The former Senator said the Greens had favoured former European parliament President Pat Cox for the job, but agreed to a Fianna Fail nomination as long as a Green was included in the Commissioner’s cabinet.
She says she asked John Gormley to force Fianna Fail to honour the deal, “but he told me that he was powerless to do so”.
She was instead offered the mysterious position of “Chef de Cabinet” in the “European Court of Auditors”, but says she turned it down as she did not believe she was qualified for the job.
“I made it clear to the Green Party and Fianna Fail that I was not looking for a ‘plum’ and well-paid job in Brussels but rather that I genuinely want to make a serious contribution,” she declared.
The high-profile resignation follows quickly after the departure of newly recruited TD, celebrity television pundit George Lee, from Fine Gael after he claimed he was being ignored by the leadership of the largest opposition party in the 26 Counties.
Responding to de Burca’s resignation, Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh has called on the Green Party to collapse the Government and facilitate a general election.
“Deirdre de Burca has highlighted some hard truths for the Green Party,” he said.
“Since entering Government in 2007 the Green Party has abandoned one policy after another to the extent that they have become an extension of Fianna Fail and a defender of their right wing policies.
“They have stood over and supported decisions such as the cutting of social welfare, the cutting of special needs assistants in schools and the application of prescription charges for medical card holders.
“The reality is that the Green Party is afraid to face the electorate after the drubbing that they got in the local elections last year. John Gormley has prostituted the Green Party to his Fianna Fail sugar daddies for the price of two Ministerial positions in which they don’t even seem to be able to implement Green policy.
“He should do the honourable thing and pull down this discredited Government to facilitate a general election.”