It’s rare to get Fintan O’Toole, Kevin Myers, Fergus Finlay and Richard Waghorne (sadly, not online) all singing to the same tune on any matters political, but that is the dubious achievement of the Green party this morning… Each of them though, like the blind men and the elephant describe quite different parts of what ails the Irish body politic. Mr Myers first examines in detail what happened last week when Labour and Sinn Fein defenestrated the Ceann Comhairle:
The issue here is not John O’Donoghue. The issue here is how we do things. The left was responsible for the unconstitutional end to his career. Yet this ‘left’ is composed largely of the remaining body-parts from failed fringe-movements. Within the Labour Party are former Stalinists who supported the USSR, others who were members of the Official IRA, which killed people, and blew things up. Provisional Sinn Fein is Provisional Sinn Fein-IRA, whose moral voice is authentic as Mike’s cock-a-doodle-doo: or, as it is known at Canary Wharf, rock-a-dock or two.
Throw in some mob-oratory from the national broadcaster’s disgraceful ‘Liveline’, and almost no state institution and no politician is safe from the vengeful, idiot wrath of Madame La Guillotine, or Les Heureuses Tricoteuses. [emphasis added]
If you wanted to encapsulate the death of the Green Party in a little moral tale, youd be hard put to come up with a better one than John Gormleys ostentatiously eco-friendly trip to the UK on the ferry, after which he was picked up by a limo that drove from London to Holyhead at a cost of 2,200. If you think of the ferry as Green principles and the limo as Fianna Fáil culture, you have a perfect image for the charade that was played out at the weekend.
But the heart of his case against the Greens is on the substance of policy, rather than metaphorical. O’Toole’s case is that Nama is hoovering up everything in its path:
…lets look at the two things that are not in the programme. Both are completely central to any idea of sustainable development. The first is the implementation of the Kenny report on the control of building land by allowing local authorities to buy it at the agricultural price plus 25 per cent. It has been an absolute mainstay of Green policy since the party was formed. Theres not a word about it in the programme. What we get instead is a wind-powered exhalation about a long-term strategy of land acquisition in order to meet at a reasonable price the needs of both market and non-market providers.
The second non-appearance is the urgent issue of upward-only rent reviews for commercial property. This has to be tackled right now: ludicrously high rents are closing Irish businesses every day and throwing workers on the dole queues. The Greens have been going on about this for ages. All weve got on the table is a very weak proposal to outlaw the practice for new leases. What have the Greens, and the Irish retail sector, got to show for all the posturing? Nothing.
And why is nothing happening on these two crucial issues? Because change would not suit the Nama strategy.
Fergus Finlay also focuses on what the Programme for Government does not say:
Take social welfare, for instance, one of the most critical areas on which the programme is silent “because its a budgetary matter”.
How can any serious politician sit down to negotiate a programme for government and leave out perhaps the single most important issue for thousands of families in the country? There can only be one reason. A programme for government has been negotiated for one reason and one reason only to give its authors a mandate to stay in government and preside over a budget that will be a complete negation of the ambitions and aspirations of the programme itself.
And the kicker:
The Greens are now entirely complicit in this denial. In a week when the value of the Irish Glass Bottle site in Dublin was officially downgraded from the 413 million that was paid for it to just 60 million a fall of 85 per cent the party is telling us, as the programme puts it, that the Governments approach to asset valuation within the Nama initiative is carefully balanced and reasonable.
Putting what remains of Green ideas and idealism into a zombie government is a waste of political capital in the same sense that putting 30 billion of public resources into a zombie bank (Anglo) is a waste of financial capital.
For all the nice gestures, it will be just as productive. The Greens are now in that publicly funded luxury limo, sitting comfortably on the road to perdition.
Of all of them it is Myers who asks the most searching constitutional and related questions of probity in Irish public life:
…instead of facing adversity full-on and rescuing the Irish State by seeking cross-party unity, the Government has chosen merely to rescue the Government. This apparently means giving the reptiles’ foreskins [Myers’ ‘quaint’ term for the Greens] everything they want, from sail-powered airliners, to moss-driven state cars to hand-knitted trains, and meanwhile sacrificing anyone the mob dislikes. (Though to be sure, ‘sacrifice’, in the perverted and grotesque parlance of the Irish public service, actually means early retirement on a millionaire pension-pot).
None of this — from the politicians’ expenses, to the retirement schemes of public servants, to the convulsions of lynch-mob political emotionalism, to a ‘public service broadcaster’ which regularly decides whom to ruin — is rational. Indeed, rational analysis does not explain Irish life.
It cannot explain how RTE’s main current affairs investigative programme into the woes and scandals of Irish life is actually presented by a man who tried to grab a neighbour’s land through — by his own legal submissions — adverse possession, and who for a decade was given a top-of-the-range car by BMW. No rational analysis explains such a bizarre inconsistency in standards, or the overwhelming silence on this issue from the other media.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty