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Very small split… no one remaining in the Green Party hurt (yet) January 22, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

Okay, so, what of yesterday’s events in the Green Party?

Councillor Chris O’Leary, who was co-opted to Cork City Council when Dan Boyle was elected to the Dáil in 2002 and is a long time member of the party, announced that he would be resigning (or leaving) the party and running as an Independent at the local elections.

He said: “I believe the party were following a stay-in-government at all costs agenda. In other words they were keeping their heads down, minding their own portfolios and were afraid to be seen to do anything in case they lost them.”

Mr O’Leary said he first expressed anger last October in the wake of budgetary cutbacks, claiming the vulnerable must be supported in the downturn.

“The Government lacks leadership, they seem to be very much like headless chickens.

“We’ve had crisis after crisis and all they’re doing is knee-jerking to the crisis. It seems that they [the Government] are only bailing out the developers, the bankers and the property speculators,” he added.

Interesting timing it has to be said. For the current discussions at Cabinet level on cut-backs in pay and services are likely to lead to some fairly dismal policies being enacted over the next few weeks and months.

He’s not alone. Dublin City Councillor Bronwen Maher expressed similar sentiments on Newstalk yesterday…

“I have been very unhappy and I am reviewing my position.

“There’s a lot of concern in the Green Party that we’re not achieving in government.

“We’ve been there for eighteen months, now, what have we achieved.”

Ms Maher said it is time for the party to analyse what has been lost since joining government.

“I could put up with it, if I felt we were actually going to achieve something or had achieved something. The fear a lot of us have is that this is going to be a wasted opportunity,” she added.

And this evening she revealed that she intended to hold a press conference on this matter tomorrow.

Well that can’t be good news…

As it happens I was talking about Chris O’Leary recently to someone in the GP. Their take was that he was fairly unhappy anyhow, constituency rivalries loomed large and so on and so forth.

And Green Party spokespeople echoed this analysis:

He added that Cllr O’Leary had always been a strong critic of the decision to enter Government but that personal and local factors were also involved.

Mind you, the person I was talking to also thought that O’Leary had, amongst the membership, a certain degree of influence and might be able to take that should he ever god. So it will be most interesting to see how this pans out in Cork.
Bronwen Maher has already expressed a degree of trepidation at the way in which the coalition has progressed. Perhaps quite reasonably – look at the debacle over Dublin Bus which only Ciarán Cuffe has had the gumption to say anything about, albeit in a minimalist fashion. That general silence can’t be helpful when public transport is so close to the heart of the Green Party. So this latest turn of event is not entirely a surprise.
And needless to say the Cassandra of the Northside, Patricia McKenna has weighed in again with comments on how the leadership has left the membership behind…

One of the Green Party’s most senior members said today the party appeared to be in “freefall” and that the party hierarchy appeared to be “in complete denial”, following the resignation of a councillor in Cork and the announcement by a Dublin councillor that she was considering her position.

Now, senior member, or not, and that term could do with some parsing, the Patricia McKenna of even five years ago is not the P McK of today in terms of her influence within the GP.

In fairness to her, and I’ve never been a huge fan, she could with some justification say that the party has left her and not her the party. That said McKenna’s stock inside that party has fallen so low that she wasn’t even selected as a local election candidate last year in Cabra/Glasnevin, and she has in some respects been the woman crying wolf for so long that her pronouncements have lacked impact for quite some time now. Indeed one could argue that her weighing in isn’t going to make any positive difference and could, quite feasibly, have the opposite effect.
But, even were she less vocal it would, I’ll hazard, have absolutely no effect. None at all. And neither, unless I’m much mistaken, will this current rash of defections. The Green Party is wedded to this government in a quite remarkable fashion. Or perhaps not so remarkable. Those who had the opportunity to see leading GP members close up during the lean years prior to their arrival in government will know how isolated they felt. Now they’re in… well, they’re in and they ain’t coming out. And it’s not just the leadership. Throughout the party a fascinating realpolitic has taken hold whereby everything is being justified by their agenda. Cutbacks in Dublin Bus? Well, there’s no money. Funding of the Irish banking sector and cutbacks in pay and social services? Well, there’s no alternative.
One may demur, but they’re absolutely certain this is the way forward.

Me? I’m not convinced. And neither obviously are quite a few of us.

But let’s be a little cynical for a moment. Reports back from canvassing, at least those relayed to me, generally tend to tell a positive, even a rosy, picture of a populace blaming the government senior partner and wishing the small party that could well. Those of us who have canvassed far and wide, however, know how bleeding deceitful the public can be saying one thing to your face and marking the big X in a completely different box on a ballot paper. I think, frankly, that there is every chance they’ll be sent packing at the local elections, particularly as the next round of announcements of cuts come down the line.

And I suspect that some know this, and others intuitively guess this. Hence there being no appetite to meet the public, even as a result of leaving government (not least because the damage has, in political terms, already been done, with them being open to a serious critique as to why they didn’t depart prior to Budget 2009). So… they have literally no-where to go before the next General Election, and you can also bet that short of catastrophic events – and hey, this is a time for such things, but even so – they won’t budge.

And that said no-one should harbour any illusions, any illusions at all, that a couple of Councillors resigning, or even enough of them to fill a mini-bus rushing to the exit, are going to prise the party from Government.


1. CMK - January 22, 2009

Hi, great blog and a must read every day. I was a member of the Greens from ’98 to ’04 and I took seriously their ‘watermelon’ theory of “green on the outside, red on the inside”. At least I took it seriously for my first few years until I gave in to my disillusionment and left the party in ’04. The real problems for the Green Party as a progressive force (or even vaguely left-ish) began, paradoxically, with their election success in 2002. Of the cohort returned then it was clear that the new arrivals, with one possible exception, were anything but on the left. Well, maybe on one or two issues they were, but their personal and political instincts were towards the centre or right. They were also ‘practical’, ‘pragmatists’ who ‘were neither left nor right’, who ‘got things done’ etc, etc. The 2002 cohort were strengthened by the 2007 results and the Seanad nominations. And that pragmatism had hardened into what we’re seeing now. What’s remarkable about the current turn in the Green Party is that is demonstrates clearly the degree to which a lack of ideological conviction is fatal to a small party in Coalition with FF. The PD’s were pretty focused on their agenda, and were not shy about bullying FF when necessary – to the deteriment of the Irish economy and society, but that’s another day’s work. The Green’s however seem incapable of pushing their supposed agenda. Whatever about the Lisbon Treaty, cuts in public transport and the forthcoming huge cuts in public spending that they’ll undoubtedly endorse, should push them to re-consider their position. Given the small business, inherited wealth background of nearly all of the leading elements of the Greens, they were never ever, and never will be a progressive part of Irish political life – they’re a dead end for anyone with any leftwing inclinations (no matter how ‘soft-left) and that’s why I left years after I should have. Fair play to Cllr. O’Leary and to Cllr. Maher – hopefully more will follow suit and they’ll be thrashed at the locals in June. Apologies for the long rant.


2. Jer - January 22, 2009

took a quick look at the quota’s of the respective green tds on electionsireland.org and there are a lot of them with about .5 of a quota. Some with a .6 but nobody who can weather a storm in my opinion. The problem with the greens is as you say they have no where else to go. to pull out now would move us into election territory and the maybe the greens could loose heavily (tempted to say loose about 5 seats but wont). They have to hope and pray that this govt. miracles out its full term and restores prosperity.

I am sure they know the score as well as their FF friends and Turkeys never liked Christmas.

CMK, did you decide to align to a different political group.
(bit intrusive I know but seeing as how the web in anonymous i though why not ask)


3. Andrew - January 22, 2009

One of the most frustrating aspects, as a GP member, is the expectation that we’re supposed to control FF and stop them doing any wrong. Its a uniquely Irish approach to coalitions – vote in 78 Gombeen idiots and hope that there’ll a smaller party around to keep an eye on them.
Sorry, but that’s not our job. If the Irish voters don’t want FF Ministers in office messing things up, they should stop voting for them. Our role is to implement our agenda, not fix the mistakes of Irish voters.


4. Niall - January 23, 2009

Maybe if Green Party voters don’t want FF in power, they should stop voting for the Greens. Let’s face it FF are a pretty big stumbling block to the implementation of the Green’s full agenda.


5. D. J. P. O'Kane - January 23, 2009

Did anyone see Bertie admonishing the Greens for not having the ‘bottle’ for government? Another ‘whiskey tango foxtrot’ moment.


6. CMK - January 23, 2009

Andrew’s point doesn’t stand up, but is absolutely consistent with current Green apologetics. The Greens were only ever going to be allowed implement a few fragments of their agenda. And, indeed, the credibility of parts of their supposed platform – in public transport – has actually been shredded. A Green argued to me, with a straight face, that the cuts were justified as bus services were under-utilised – “sure the buses are only half-full most of the time!”. What’s striking about the Greens, from top to bottom, is their almost Stalinist determination to twist the facts and dissimulate, coupled with a desperate need to convince themselves that they are somehow noble in their determination to tough it out. The Greens are now firmly identified as Fianna Fail’s prop, they are merely a means through which Fianna Fail’s survival in government can be guaranteed for a few more years – and they will suffer accordingly, and will, with any luck, join the PD’s in the dustbin of Irish political history.


7. ec - January 23, 2009

I made the greenies the antiheroes in a documentary film completed in January 08. They helped ‘dissent’ for a period after taking up a fair few seats in the dail – by providing a way of channeling protest into the dail. Then they cut that link – a link that was giving them momentum. WEEEEEEEE! Off a cliff.


8. coc - January 23, 2009

Clever Trevor has .68 but his running mate pulled a further .15 of a quota. I bet they won’t run both next time, but Trev is safe. The rest are toast. I still don’t think this Government will see out the year. Annihilation in the locals will spook the base and they will have no difficulty finding a pretext to walk after that. While it is a good point that poor electoral prospects might incline them to sit tight, they must realise that going the distance and facing the electorate in 2012 with no local reps on the ground would mean the end of the Green Party for at least a generation. Whilst the leadership turkeys might not vote for christmas, the poults coming up behind might well vote for this christmas, in the hope of forstalling next christmas.


9. Desmond O'Toole - January 23, 2009

There’s a little noticed GP spat taking place out here in Dublin Mid West as well, Paul Gogarty’s patch. There has been serious division in the local Green Party in Lucan with the effective deselection of an existing candidate and his repalcement by someone closer to Gogarty. The deselected candidate, Tom Dowling, has this to say of Gogarty’s local organisation:

“I had joined the Party because I believed it was based on integrity and focused on doing right by the local community. However, I believe much of the local group’s decision-making and inaction in recent times has not been in the best interest of the local community.”

He has also been very critical of the volte-face in Gogarty’s position on Education now that he is embraced Fianna Fáil as a partner in government.

With two Green candidates running in Lucan, one official and one “independent”, the chances of them retainig their existing Council seat in the face of what will be a tough electoral environment has got to be very low indeed. The negative impact on Gogarty’s ability to retain the Green Dáil seat next time round will in turn be very significant.


10. ejh - January 23, 2009

their almost Stalinist determination to twist the facts and dissimulate

not quite I think


11. Andrew - January 23, 2009

“Andrew’s point doesn’t stand up, but is absolutely consistent with current Green apologetics. The Greens were only ever going to be allowed implement a few fragments of their agenda.”

Yes, that’s true. The dye was cast on polling day – once FF/FG were given 70%, our agenda was set back and our ability to implement our policies took a major hit. The day after polling day we had to put together a strategy that would allow at least some of our agenda to be successful, so we went in with FF. Planning reform, housing standards, energy production and water treatment have all benefited from the ‘Green touch’ over the past 18 months.
I’m going to defend every aspect of this Government’s conduct – I’m not even going to defend the majority of it. Its a bad Government with two good Ministers.

Not voting Green is a silly suggestion. If you want an end to FF dominance, you have to stop voting for FF and FF-Lite (FG).


12. Nick - January 23, 2009

Those ‘two good ministers’ are members of the government, they have collective responsibility for the entire government agenda. I’m afraid the Greens can’t just point to whatever successes they might have had and pretend the rest of the governments actions are nothing to do with them


13. CMK - January 25, 2009

@ Jer

No, I did not align to another group. Labour would be my preference, but at the moment, as is possibly the same for many on the left, the days of centrist ‘soft-left’ positions may well be numbered. Quite possibly, if this crisis follows what I believe to be its natural path, we may well be in quasi revolutionary days before we are able to mentally process it.


Not quite Stalinist, I admit that perhaps I over exaggerated. But speaking to loyal Greens, having known the party in former times, the attempts to defend the indefensible leave me scrabbling for the appropriate terms. Stalinist seems most accurate to me. Although, having only a partial grip of Irish left history over the past fourty years, I realise that “Stalinist” may not be the best term to use at the Cedar Lounge.


14. WorldbyStorm - January 25, 2009

Very interesting point CMK about centrist soft left positions…

Nick, I’m no basher of the GP, but you certainly have a point.


15. irishelectionliterature - July 8, 2010

CORK-BASED former Green Party Councillor Chris O’Leary, currently an Independent, will announce today that he has joined Sinn Féin and will be available to run for the Dáil if selected in the next general election, informed sources said……



sonofstan - July 8, 2010

The Examiner report on the same story says that O’Leary was approached by the SWP and by an organisation it refers to as ‘People before Politics’ : )



Mark P - July 8, 2010

Oh dear.

A Socialist Party member in Cork I was talking to after the PBPA announced that O’Leary would be joining their ranks six months ago was bewildered by that courtship, describing O’Leary as a decent and principled individual but hardly someone on the radical left. It seems he was right.

Adding a single Councillor to SF isn’t particularly significant, although it will presumably be a morale boost for a party that’s far more used to losing Councillors between elections than gaining them.

For the PBPA it’s a more significant setback. One Councillor matters a lot more to them than to SF. They look a bit silly for effectively announcing that O’Leary would be joining them, but more importantly it illustrates the failure of the PBPA to close the deal with any of many and various Councillors it has set its cap at. Catherine Connolly seems to have disappeared from the PBPA’s agenda, Declan Bree seems no closer to signing up, and the Workers and Unemployed Action Group still hasn’t affiliated.


16. Independent Councillor joins Sinn Féin « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - July 8, 2010

[…] Sinn Féin July 8, 2010 Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left. trackback Well, that came as a bit of a surprise – and fair dues to AK for spotting the news that Chris O’Leary, former Green Party […]


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