Thursday, February 19, 2009

Irish Greens to leave government?

Oh dear God let it happen! Next month the Irish Green Party conference will discuss whether to call an all members meeting on staying in the right wing coalition government. This decision is not one that only effects Ireland but the reputation of Greens all over the world is at stake.

Some favour trying to form a "government of national unity" with lefter forces, like Sein Fein, whilst it looks like others (although I fear a minority) just want shot of the lot of them in order to get back to fighting for what they believe in.

The whole process of going into the coalition in the first place was pretty sickening as the party leader at the time of the election, Trevor Sargent, had said he would not lead the Greens into a coalition. Voters will have been under the impression that this meant the Greens weren't going to be coalition partners with the right.

Nope, Sargent resigned the party leadership in order to allow the party to take a child's seat at the table. I suspect many of those who'd voted for the Party would have felt utterly betrayed by the move, or at least bewildered. That kind of approach is frankly unimpressive.

Of course, with the Euro elections coming up we'll be able to see exactly how much these decisions have cost the Greens in support in Eire. From my perspective however, the performance of the party in government has been weak to say the least. Partly because they are constrained by their senior partners they have not exactly covered themselves in glory (eg roads, bus fiasco, GM crops) this despite holding the Minister for the Environment post.

A number of high profile resignations from the party were made all the worse by the dismissive attitude of the Party itself and it appears that activists have dropped out of the party orbit - either into inactivity or simply more direct forms of democracy.

I suspect a large number of Greens around the world will be watching to see what happens in Ireland both at the conference and in the Euro-elections. Personally I can't see the point of having a principled party if it's principles are for sale. Whilst I don't hold with any form of purism it really does seem that the Irish Greens have been a tragic example of how successes can be built on sand.


Peter Cranie said...

The Irish Greens democratically voted for govt but I agree this wasn't a good call with a hugely discredited FF.

The Scottish Greens and our two London AMs have shown how to exercise power, without being accused of selling out.

Jim Jay said...

It's true they took a democratic decision to enter the government - although I still think they lied to the electorate which rather undermines those credentials.

Anyway I think the Scottish Greens in particular have shown how it can be done - Our London AMs, and in fact our cllrs all over the country are almost without exception excellent which came as a great surprise to me - but a lovely one of course!

Charlie Marks said...

At the time of the last Irish election, the "lefter forces" such as SF, Irish Labour and the socialist parties would have been divided by the fact that SF were and are given a fair amount of stick in the corporate press for their erstwhile paramilitary activities and criticised by neoliberal politicians for their "marxist economics" and inexperience in power.

Since that time, SF has become part of the governing coalition in Northern Ireland - armed struggle effectively over for good - and the global recession has happened, making fools of neoliberals who poked fun at socialists.

It might not do them any immediate electoral favours to topple FF, but hastening a general election would probably be welcomed in the Republic of Ireland - and will help in the long run.

Derek Wall said...

FF have a long history of corruption, this was definately a coalition too far.

I have been fairly critical of the German Greens going into coalition and moving to the right but they look well positively green compared to this.

I hope the Irish Greens can move out of government with FF.

Jim Jay said...

I agree Derek - and I think it's worth remembering that the German Greens, no matter what stupid decisions they may have taken, are still a positive force in German politics. I'm not sure I can say the same of the Irish Greens as we witness massive demonstrations against the very government they support as we speak.

Joseph said...

Well I agree with your comments Jim and Derek's also. As an Irish person, who is in touch with people in the Republic, there is a deep sense of disillusionment with the Greens. I attended their last conference in opposition and there were already warning signs of a move towards pragmatic ditching of principles. The leader's speech was preceded by a comedian playing a ukelele as the warm up act. Everything was dictated by the television cameras present. And there was a compulsory dress code, with bouncers at the doors. The whole thing gave me a very unpleasant feeling.

Since then at meetings with the Irish Greens via the Green Islands Network, we have raised issues of concern with them and found them very unwilling to take criticism on board. However, with a large Irish diaspora in England and Wales, and the media constantly reporting on Irish issues, they cannot just decide that decisions taken in Ireland, where they have the spotlight of government on them, do not affect the perecptions of Greens here.

However, to return to your original report. I find it deeply unimpressive that the motion calling for a review of their participation in government callss for a decision next year. This strikes me as hedging their bets and has an element of political opportunism about it. Clearly the economic collapse, which many expect will happen in Ireland, pluse the Lisbon Treaty referendum, will both have happened by then. Plus they will be closer to the date of a general election, which many think may happen before then. So they could try and distance themselves from the actions of the government, when they know that this government is deeply unpopular. No, the principled thing to do would be to hold the vote on withdrawal now.

Furthermore, Sinn Fein, and I do have some reservations about them, have called for a realignment of Irish politics with the Greens and the Labour Party to present an alternative to the neo-liberal parties of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. There has been no response whatsoever from the Greens to this.

I am afraid that this has been part of a trend for Green parties to enter right wing coalition governments across Europe as a junior partner and is something I am deeply opposed to. The other 'problem' Green party are the Czechs, who have tied themselves up with a government pushing for US interceptor missile bases in Central Europe. Thankfully progressive forces there have reacted within the party and there is now a separate faction, representing two of the six MPs, who are totally opposed to the bases and some other policies pursued by the party leadership.

There has been a real problem in both countries of too much power being given to the parliamentary party and a strengthening of the bureaucratic structures within the party which have allowed both leaders (Gormley and Bursik) to dominate the party and to quash dissent.

Jim Jay said...

Hi Joseph, whilst i agree with your impatience - which is basically down to the fact that we both thought this should never have happened in the first place - i suspect because it was an all members meeting that made the decision to go into coalition it probably *has* to be an all members meeting to take them out - which may require proper notice.

As you say the right are not the only partners we could align ourselves with.

One interesting example was in Italy where the Greens were part of the hard left grouping, but their experiences in government have actually led some to believe they should have been closer to the centre left than the PRC etc. That's a shame although I think I can see how that has come about.

I guess the question is this - how do we build into the GPEW a resiliance against opportunism that both the left and right leaning parties across the world have fallen foul to on occasion.