Trouble in Paradise? Optics, cynicism and our new FF/Green Government…
One of the real problems of ‘reading’ Irish politics in the current period (since the 1990s) is the difficulty in assessing how much deliberate or contrived disagreements are used in order to shore up the credentials of one party or another in Government. We saw something of this in the first PD/FF administration where issues which had been agreed behind closed doors were agonised over.
I hope this is not the case with the current government but it is difficult to tell. Two stories that hit the media today make me wonder. The first is a report that Ciarán Cuffe TD said that the Green Party would not support the EU Reform Treaty unless the Government also supported the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Although Bertie Ahern has commented positively on the matter at the ICTU (Irish Congress of Trades Unions) conference yesterday this wasn’t sufficient for the party. Cian has dealt with this further here. A later clarification that – yes, FF would support the Charter in full went some way to defusing the argument. Still. Optics? Bad timing? Miscalculation? Storm in a tea cup? Who can tell? It’s early days for the Green Party to be coming out with such statements, although no better man than Ciarán Cuffe to act as a sort of auxiliary conscience of the party (and I’m not being pejorative when I say that, he is someone I have considerable time for).
More serious is a report about the Senate Elections…Now here is a can of worms and no mistake. The Green Party cohort of councillors is less than pleased about instructions that in the upcoming Elections their votes should be ‘supervised’ by the party in order to ensure that they vote for ‘designated’ Fianna Fáil candidates. This appears, but again who knows, to be some sort of quid pro quo for the rapid (and again I’m pleased with this) return of Dan Boyle and A.N.Other as Green Party Senators selected by An Taoiseach to the Senate.
Problem with this sort of approach to rigid coalition discipline was that it conflicts with the secrecy of the ballot and as an Oireachtas spokeswoman noted “it was illegal for anybody to tamper with it”.
Keeping the story running was Bronwen Maher, Green Party councillor who said:
she had been told that she would receive instructions from her party to vote for five or six named Fianna Fáil Seanad candidates.
“We were also told that the ballot papers would be inspected by a senior party official to make sure we voted the right way so that the Green Party could verify to Fianna Fáil that we had delivered on the deal,” said Ms Maher.
Perhaps people are waking up to the ramifications of coalition. For she noted:
that when the Green Party members voted to go into government with Fianna Fáil they were told they would get two Seanad seats but they were not told what they would have to do to get them.