Are John Gormley and the Greens already paving their exit?

If the new 55% rule caused a bit of friction in Britain, there is another not entirely unrelated debate taking place in the Republic just now. The UK coalition ought to take a glance over there at how the Irish coalition government is likely to end. There are a growing bundle of by elections the Fianna Fail end of the government seems extraordinarily reluctant to call. As Noel Whelan accounts in his op ed column on Saturday, this is for good reason:

We have a two-party minority government at a time when there are simultaneous vacancies in three different Dáil constituencies. In addition, Fianna Fáil has little prospect of winning any of them in a byelection. The timing of these byelections is, therefore, likely to impact significantly on the duration of the Government.

Yep, two parties. Which makes Niamh Connelly’s piece in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post all the more interesting. For Fianna Fail needs to retain government power sufficient long enough to demonstrate that being faced with tough choices, they did the right (not to mention the patriotic) thing.

The Greens require something quite different. In short, and put rather crudely, they need to develop a plausible exit from its ill starred partnership with Fianna Fail. And John Gormley’s interview with Connelly seems rather studded with departure points (some more plausible than others). The issue of the byelections being the first:

His firm intention is to proceed with the Dublin mayor elections in October, and his preference is for all three polls – the mayor elections, the by-elections and the referendum on children’s rights – to take place on one day.

‘‘If you hold the mayoralty elections, you do have a situation where you would have to – in terms of cost-effectiveness and efficiency – hold the by elections or even a referendum at the same time,” Gormley told The Sunday Business Post. ‘‘The timing of all of this will be a matter for cabinet but my personal view is that it makes sense to hold these at the same time, and we want to see if that’s practicable.”

The by-elections will inevitably reduce the government’s slim majority, probably cutting it to just three – which could be perilous. ‘‘It’s clear that if you’re putting forward the scenario that the by-elections are lost, then the government’s majority would be eroded. But I don’t think that should be a reason for not holding by-elections.

For me, that’s not the impediment, the issue is whether it is cost-effective, efficient and best to do so. That’s the one and only reason that motivates us.

Yeah, right! Anything that puts a distance between them and FF has to be good for them (that means looking for a soft-ish landing rather than the utter disaster the polls seem to be holding out for them just now) Then he has an interesting line on the banking crisis:

The Green Party had one of many stand-offs with its larger coalition colleagues over the public aspects of an independent inquiry into the banking crisis and an initial ‘scoping’ report is due to be submitted this week. When asked who he believed bore primary responsibility for the economic crisis, Gormley responded that successive governments played a role, and that it was ‘‘all too convenient to overlook the approach of all the political parties’’.

In respect of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), Gormley wants to bring the scandal-hit agency under the remit of two Dail watchdogs – the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Office and the Public Accounts Committee – on the basis of ‘‘serious malpractices’’. ‘‘The manifestos of Fine Gael and Labour were talking about putting more petrol on the fire by getting rid of stamp duty. There was a very unrealistic view amongst all the political parties,” he said.

‘‘I mean, how many people actually got it right? I do believe that, for the most part, the Green Party got it right but we were lone voices. As [Labour Party TD] Pat Rabbitte said, the political parties didn’t want to be out of step because anyone who acted as a ‘Jeremiah’ on these things wasn’t going to get the votes.”

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The “second” party (Greens in the Republic and Lib Dems in Britain) in coalitions will be bound to take a hammering at the next Elections.
    Personally I wont feel too unhappy about vegetarian, sandle wearers taking a knock in the South. They after all a protest group rather than a “real” political party. They are better at shouting from the sidelines rather than making decisions.
    Next election they are bound to be almost wiped out. FF will of course take a hit also but at least they have more meat on the bones to survive.
    The irony is that FF need a long government to have any hope at all of holding on to power and yet to keep seats Greens need an exit.
    Not sure if the ex-Gardiner Street, ex-Officials, ex-Workers Party, ex-Democratic Left will do any better in a FG dominated govt for up to five years.

    In Britain, there is I think a certain resignation that for five years Tory led cuts will actually lead to the situation where they can be simultaneously thanked for turning the deficit round and get an electoral kicking for the pain it caused.

  • joe

    Its not so much FF’s lack of desire to call these byelections that makes me feel nauseous.. its the spin that its actually somehow a good thing for the national interest. Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

    FF again dressing up their narrow self interest as Ireland’s. Vomit.

    The sooner they’re crowbarred out, the better for all of us.

  • It’s hard to see how any form of exit would help the Greens. Having opted to join a FF-led government, the only way was down for them. There is no amount of distance that can be put between them and FF that would be sufficient to wipe the taste of this coalition away for the Green’s electors.

    On one hand, they might argue that they have gained experience in government that may be of advantage in future elections, on the other, how many will survive long enough to get another bite at the cherry? Sargent? Gormley? Ryan?

    In reality, a Green exit may simply compound matters for them. Perhaps their only choice is to hang in with FF and hope that an external factor brings down the government or that it survives it’s term. That way they might establish an optical illusion of having hung in their to do their best during tough times, not wanting to be de-stablising the government when tough decisions needed to be made etcetc. Whether the electorate are in any way forgiving or not, we will have to wait and see.

    Either way, a Green precipitated governmental collapse will just pre-empt their own electcoral collapse.

    The ability to both obfuscate on calling by-elections and the re-jigging of constituencies to produce 3, 4 or 5 seaters (mainly depending on the strengths of FF and FG) are issues that should have been parked with an Oireachtas ombudsman office long ago. Similarly, Willie O’Dea appeared to break the Electoral Abuses Act (which precipitated his resignation as a minister), one statutory penalty for which is being disbarred from the Dail for five years, yet this is (indirectly) being handled by the Minister for Justice rather than an independent Oireachtas authority. In reality, that should be another by-election that would have to take place.

    With such useful powers still in FF hands, the Greens will likely tootle on in coalition and hope that they get a lucky break. Allusions to exit strategies are intended to portray them as being in government by choice. Whether that is true or not, is a different matter.

  • Alias

    “FF again dressing up their narrow self interest as Ireland’s. Vomit.”

    It’s europhiles dressing up their narrow self interest as Ireland’s. The 400 billion of external debt that was converted into national debt by the government was so converted in order to protect the eurosystem lenders who recklessly lent that money to other eurosystem lenders who in turn recklessly lent it to other private corporations. Forcing those who didn’t borrow it to forego public services for which they paid their taxes in order to give their incomes to repay the debts of private business is the act of abject quislings to Ireland dressed up as patriotism. That is what they will be hammered for, and rightly so.

    Incidentally, FF are falling apart from within, so the Greens will be out of office soon enough. 20 FF TDs rounded on a quisling and told him bluntly that if so much as one euro is cut from pensions to give to banks then they’re gone.

  • Political parties which proclaim themselves radical and then get into bed with reaction, eventually end up getting the good hiding they have been asking for.

    I bet Gerry Adams has been at the altar thanking his god for not tempting him with a FF led coalition government, which would have placed him and his party in Gormley’s shoes.

  • The anti-democratic nature of placing the ability to call byelections in the hands of the Dail is clear, since by delaying them it permits Taoisigh who have lost the confidence of the people to delay their judgement by way of the ballot box.

    Filling Dail vacancies should be an automatic matter for a standing Elections commission similar to Elections Canada which should be on a similar footing (if not the same offices) as the Referendum Commission.