What ever way you look at it, these last few days have seen the Green Party reach a new low, and I’m not only talking about the opinion polls. This sorry state of affairs has been brought about by the Green’s insistence to clinging on to power, at all costs.
As we all know the latest drama concerning the Green Party is former Senator Deirdre de Burca’s dramatic exit. I’m not going to comment on Deirdre’s departure, nor will I trust any of the subsequent statements coming from the party’s politburo. When Chris O’Leary, Patricia McKenna and myself left last year, nasty spin was the party’s default defence mechanism.
Stay in at all costs and keep the membership on side
Being in Government has done nothing to benefit the long-term prospects of the party and their policies. The Greens’ strategy to deal with criticism from any party member is to attack with poisoned and personalised allegations and to deflect any discussion on their role in Government with the recitation of a long ‘list of achievements’. A cursory examination of the parties’ actual achievements in Government show gains in delivering much needed and long overdue planning controls and, hopefully, good animal welfare legislation. But there has been little real progress in the green energy sector, and the much-trumpeted green jobs seem to have arrived as a result of re-deployment.
Internal resources are now completely targeted towards spinning and damage limitation, to keep the media on side and keep the membership on side. In order to stay in government the party have deployed a number of tactics. These include developing a culture of hype and spin within the party, fuelled by rallies, and cronyism and the marginalising of anyone who asks difficult questions. From talking to former colleagues still in the party, it is now a place where anyone who disagrees is encouraged to leave. The green’s much vaunted democracy basically boils down to the TDs going to the membership to retro agree something that has already been agreed by Cabinet.
When criticized in the media for supporting weak and unfair Government policy, or when backed into a corner the TDs will claim they are a small party in Government, doing their best and achieving what ever they can under difficult circumstances. Then, when they are under threat of a membership revolt, John Gormley and his team of TDs will say the Greens in Government are strong, achieving major gains and that the new Programme for Government has ‘Green fingerprints all over it’ to quote Mary White TD. So what is it, are you happy supporting Fianna Fáil policy or are you an insignificant minor coalition partner doing your best?
Ill-prepared for Government
The Greens were always going to be vulnerable in any coalition arrangement for a number of reasons. Firstly, between the years 2002 to 2007 the party concentrated too much on communications and public relations to the detriment of building a strong party, with strong internal leadership structures. And secondly and of equal importance, before going into government with any party the Greens should have decided on clear economic and social policies and bottom line issues, and be fully prepared to pull out of government if these bottom line issues were breached.
Unfortunately the Greens strategy in Government is to go with the flow, clinging on frantically hoping some of them will have a political career after the next General Election. An election they will put off for as long as possible.