Irish Green party in trouble


By Derek Wall, of the left wing of the English-Welsh Green party:

A calamitous coalition

Wednesday 24 June 2009

The Irish Green Party has provided a textbook example of how not to do green politics. Who would have thought a Green Party would cut bus services and support motorway-building through a heritage site? Who would have believed that a Green government elected partly because of its opposition to the Iraq war would allow US war planes to refuel in Ireland at Shannon?

The Irish Greens have had councillors, MEPs and members of the Irish parliament elected because of the country’s system of proportional representation.

Ireland has two centre-right political parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, which have often been linked to allegations of corruption involving property deals.

The Greens made their name as critics of Fianna Fail. In February 2007, Green leader Trevor Sargent told the Irish Times: “I do not see myself leading the party into coalition with Fianna Fail due to its culture of bad planning, corruption and bad standards.”

However, after the May 2007 general election, Sargent resigned as leader and 80 per cent of party members voted to join a Fianna Fail government in coalition.

The results have been catastrophic.

In Mayo, local people believe that a gas pipeline and processing plant being built by Shell will create pollution and bring no benefit to the local community.

The Irish Green Party, which once strongly supported the Mayo protesters, has become silent since joining the government.

Worst of all from an environmental point of view, the government is building a motorway through Tara, perhaps Ireland’s most important political landscape.

The Greens have acted as a “mud guard,” taking the flak for Fianna Fail’s actions. The Irish economy, based on cuts in corporation tax and banking deregulation, has been in freefall. What is the difference, it is said, between Ireland and Iceland. The answer? One letter and six months.

Savage cutbacks in public services have been introduced and the Greens have presided over cuts in the Dublin bus services.

Before the coalition was created, prominent party member Ciaran Cuffe argued: “Let’s be clear. A deal with Fianna Fail would be a deal with the devil. We would be spat out after five years and decimated as a party.”

True words indeed.

In June’s elections, the party lost nearly all its councillors, failed to get any MEPs elected and was nearly beaten in Dublin by a former member Patricia McKenna, who had left in disgust.

The Green Party now looks likely to stay in government, even if Fianna Fail were to import nuclear weapons and declare war on Scotland or introduce pesticides into school milk. The Green MPs know that if they left government, there would be a general election and they would lose their seats and salaries.

It looks likely that the party will disappear for perhaps a generation.

This is tragic given the urgency of problems such as climate change. The damage done to Green politics internationally is too large to measure.

However, we should not simply cry betrayal and refuse to participate in electoral politics.

The Latin American left has shown it is possible to use the state to help build an alternative. Greens in Europe have created some positive changes. In Scotland the Greens have not gone into government with the SNP but have supported them on progressive measures. Likewise in London, Green Party members supported much of the progressive work of former mayor Ken Livingstone.

While politics involves inevitable compromises, the pursuit of office can sometimes erode all real political gain.

The late great German Green Petra Kelly argued that the Greens should be an “anti-party party.” Perhaps her words need to be rediscovered.

See also here. And here.

Irish Greens vote to back Lisbon Treaty: here.

Campaign launched to save ancient Irish monuments: here.

8 thoughts on “Irish Green party in trouble

  1. Ireland to vote on EU treaty – again

    Ireland: Prime Minister Brian Cowen has announced that the electorate will be asked to vote again on the EU reform treaty in October.

    Mr Cowen claimed that legal guarantees secured for Ireland at an EU summit last week should help to win majority backing the second time around for the Lisbon Treaty, which is widely held to amount to a constitution for an EU superstate.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/world/world_in_brief__59

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  2. Lisbon clarifications do not alter text of Treaty in any way

    June 24, 2009

    Speaking today in the Dáil Sinn Féin Dáil Spokesperson on European Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said one thing was very clear following the European Council of Ministers meeting last week, “in October the Irish people will vote on the very same Treaty they rejected in June 2008.”

    Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

    “Let us all be very clear about what happened at last week’s European Council of Ministers meeting.Nothing of substance was achieved. References to legally binding guarantees are meaningless. The guarantees are nothing more than a series of clarifications of some aspects of the Lisbon Treaty. The clarifications do not alter the text of the treaty in any way.

    “Writing on Lisbon II Senior UCD law lecturer Gavin Barrett last week stated in an Irish Times article that, ‘Normally a treaty requires ratification by other member states. This treaty does not. This is because it involves the member states offering existing legal guarantees and clarifications only in respect of substantive legal obligations already explicit or implicit in the treaty.’”

    “So when we come to vote on the Lisbon Treaty later this year we will be voting on exactly the same treaty, with exactly the same consequences for Ireland and the EU, as we did on June 12th 2008.

    “Let’s just look at one area of the clarifications, Irish neutrality.

    “The Decision of the Heads of State agreed last Friday in Brussels says that, ‘The Lisbon Treaty does not affect or prejudice Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.’ This tells us that Irish troops can only be sent abroad with the consent of the Irish government in the Council of Ministers and the Oireachtas.

    “Sinn Féin never disputed this fact. Indeed the Lisbon Treaty is very clear in this regard. However neutrality is not only what you do with your troops; it is also about the alliances you form, what you do with your resources, and what other member states do in your name.

    “The Lisbon Treaty makes clear its intent when it states that there shall be a common defence. In expanding the scope of permissible military missions it demonstrates its desire to move beyond peacekeeping and civil reconstruction. In reasserting the compatibility of EU foreign and defence policies with those of NATO it reminds that the emerging EU common defence is clearly aligned. Provisions for Permanent Structured Cooperation create the real possibility that wars we do not support will be fought in our name and with our resources. While the Mutual Defence clause creates obligations incompatible with any internationally recognised definition of neutrality.

    “Anyone in any doubt about the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for Irish neutrality should read the exchange of views in the opinion section of the Irish Times sparked by Dublin City University academic Karen Devine from the 25 of November to the 24 December 2008.

    “When the electorate rejected the Lisbon Treaty by 53% in 2008 they gave Brian Cowen and his government a strong mandate to secure a better deal for Ireland and the EU. The facts are they not secure such a deal. They have returned with the very same Treaty put to us last year.”

    http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/16703

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  3. Irish troops to stay in Kosovo and Afghanistan

    on 30/06/2009 20:03:35

    Irish troops are to remain in Kosovo and Afghanistan after the Cabinet signed-off on the move today.

    Almost 240 troops stationed in the Balkan state will stay for another year while the seven in Afghanistan will remain for a further period to be determined by Defence Minister Willie O’Dea.

    Ireland has participated in the UN-authorised mission in Kosovo (KFOR) since August 1999.

    Mr O’Dea said: “Ireland shares and supports the determination of the international community, through its presence in Kosovo, to help build a safe and secure Kosovo, with guarantees for the protection of the rights of all communities and their members.

    “The security situation in the Irish area of responsibility is improving and it is currently described as stable with the threat of attacks on KFOR personnel assessed as low.”

    Ireland has been involved in the UN-authorised International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan since July 2002.

    “The seven members of the Defence Forces that are operating with ISAF, are in staff appointments in ISAF HQ in Kabul,” Mr O’Dea said.

    “They are generally situated within the ISAF compound, and are therefore subject to enhanced security.

    “The situation on the ground will continue to be the subject of on-going risk assessment.”

    http://news.eircom.net/topstories/15974500/

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