Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Green Party - victims of Stockholm Syndrome?

Are the Greens suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, political hostages trapped in a Government of their own making?

In today’s Irish Times, political editor Stephen Collins suggests that Green Party Dail representatives engaged in a process designed to pave the way for the party's exit if its coalition partners had not proved amenable to backing down on the medical card issue. This is surely a laughable suggestion.

The budget measures, including the medical card proposal, had been endorsed by all cabinet members, including the two green ministers, and received a standing ovation from all Government deputies, including the Green TDs, on budget day. Indeed on that same day, Minister Eamon Ryan made multiple media appearances, defending the budget and praising the collective cabinet decision-making process, describing how they worked constructively together to arrive at these tough but necessary decisions.

Only when the backlash of public reaction became evident in the following days did Green elected representatives, e.g. Deputy Leader Worzella Gummidge (TD - Carlow Kilkenny) and prospective European election candidate Senator Deirdre de Burca, kick off the backtracking process with the media.

And surely all the evidence to date suggests that the Greens will stick with this Government through thick and thin, on the basis that if the coalition partners don’t hang together they’ll hang separately?

So the Greens have nowhere to go, they are completely compromised by their 18 months in office.

In pursuit of their stated goal of saving the planet, the Greens have been content to park their ethical concerns and look the other way as the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern blustered his way unconvincingly through months of tribunal hearings. Indeed, Green party leader John Gormley, one of Bertie’s loudest critics when the Greens were on the opposition benches, was transformed into mourner-in-chief when Bertie announced his resignation. Standing at the shoulder of his fallen Taoiseach, one wondered if John would be able to hold back the tears as this mighty stag was pulled down by the pygmies of the opposition and the media.

The current budget shows that they have also been prepared to park Green social policy positions. Presumably, they concur with Mary Harney’s cynical text message: “the worst day in Government is still better than the best day in Opposition.” [as reported by Stephen Collins]

If saving the planet is your goal, then you can justify almost any means to attain that end. The Greens routinely adopt this highly elastic line of defence. Yet it’s clear that the 5-year 15% cumulative reduction in CO2 emissions, set out in the 2007 Programme for Government, will not be achieved unless, perhaps, the country goes into the very deepest economic depression.

If the Greens fall far short of their climate change targets, while simultaneously abandoning long held ethical and social policy positions, will there be a price to pay at the next election?

Who or what can save the Greens now? Only an environmental disaster, I suspect. Every toxic cloud has a green lining.

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