‘We will take down the government’ – Green Party members promised drastic action if promises are broken

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All three parties are balloting their members on the programme for government and are expected to announce the result on Friday week.

‘IF FIANNA FÁIL or Fine Gael seriously breach the programme for government the Green Party can bring down the government.’ That is one of the messages being communicated to grassroots members of the Green Party in a bid to get them to back the coalition deal.

All three parties are balloting their members on the programme for government and are expected to announce the result on Friday 26 June.

The Greens arguably have the hardest task, with party rules meaning they need the approval of two-thirds of their membership.

Matters for the party have not been helped by one TD who was part of the negotiating team for the programme for government abstaining on the vote.

Neasa Hourigan, the Green Party’s finance spokesperson, has said she can’t fully endorse the deal yet as it does not do enough in terms of housing and deprivation.

Speaking to The Tonight Show on Virgin Media this week, the Dublin Central TD said she would have to re-read the document before deciding if she will support it.

Hourigan also criticised the Taoiseach and Tánaiste for saying the emissions reductions targets set out in the 126-page document would not happen until the second half of the decade. (Leo Varadkar said this was because infrastructure and capital spending was needed – tasks to be undertaken in the next five years.)

She is not the only one in the party to have concerns. Four members of the parliamentary party refused to back the deal before it went to wider party on Monday.

At a time when the party is trying to build consensus, dissent is taking a front seat.

Minutes before the registration deadline for the Green Party Special Convention yesterday, party leader Eamon Ryan told TheJournal.ie he hopes the membership will endorse the programme for government.

He said a recent poll indicated that a large number of Green Party voters supported the deal – and said he expects the membership to agree.

“Chatting to people on the street I think they do [want the Greens to enter government], I hope that will be reflected,” he said.

Parliamentary TDs have been tasked with trying to convince the membership that going into government with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil won’t be a 2008-style catastrophe. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Dublin West TD Roderic O’Gorman said “ultimately if we see a serious breach in implementing [Green initiatives in the programme for government] or trying to do something different we can leave, we can bring the government down”.

“In 2008, we didn’t have the numbers to bring it down”, but the two larger parties now need the Green Party to stay in, he said.

“It is not a threat you make idly, but it is an important one to have,” said O’Gorman, indicating that such an assurance is needed in order to get the deal over the line.

“There is worry among members about going into government with the two larger parties,” he said.  

O’Gorman added that members are “wondering if we are strong enough to stand up to the two parties or are we at risk of what happened in 2007 happening again”.

He said he is advocating for the deal, and that he is telling members that the Greens have more knowledge of being in government.

“We have learned things from 2007,” he said.

The majority of members can see “it is a solid” programme for government and one of the best Ireland has even seen in terms of climate action, according to O’Gorman. 

The party secured a 2:1 funding for public transport versus roads, with cycling infrastructure and pedestrian infrastructure each getting 10% of the budget, respectively.

An increase in the carbon tax to €100 per tonne by 2030, and a 7% average per year reduction in emissions has also been committed to. The programme for government also promises a ban on the importation of fracked gas.

O’Gorman, like many other Green Party members, are ringing around members before the special convention today. He took part in three Zoom meetings on Tuesday, he had two yesterday – one with his one constituency group, he said

“The mood is positive. I think a lot of people are surprised at the extent of the green policies we got in,” he said, stating there are a lot of areas where the party is “moving things forward” in both climate action and social justice issues.

There is “massive jump forward in transport, in energy, climate but also in the justice and equality”, he said, pointing to the commitment to end the Direct Provision system and also the registering of undocumented migrants, which he said is a “big leap forward”.

When asked about the party’s reaction to Hourigan not endorsing the agreement she helped negotiate, O’Gorman said he couldn’t speak for her, but added the proposed programme is stronger for her having been involved.

It is no secret that she was not in favour of the party entering the negotiating process a number of weeks ago, he added.

Ultimately, “each person has to make their own call”, he said.

O’Gorman said he agrees with some of the concerns that Hourigan flagged.

“I am conscious about the issues she raised but I am not as concerned as she is about them,” he said.

He is satisfied the programme for government has a strong commitment in investment, and a stimulus package “which will ensure we don’t risk going into an austerity spiral”.

The Dublin West TD said he “certainly won’t be supporting an austerity Budget if one is proposed later in the year”.

If one is put on the table, the party could “bring the government down” if Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael “flout” the commitments made, and pursue measures that are “punitive to the most vulnerable”.

The Green Party leader told TheJournal.ie that he doesn’t see Hourigan speaking out as  breaking ranks: “If there weren’t differences, you would be worried.”

He said one cannot have absolute certainty one way or the other, but that it is important for a party leader to “heed the differing view, heed your critics… listening to differences is where you start in politics, if you have any brains”.

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“If you didn’t have that discourse or argument you would go blind with all the sweetness and light” only to get a “rude awakening”, he said.

When asked if it has damaged the task at hand of getting the deal passed by members, he said:

“I don’t think so, the questions she is asking are good ones – how do the economics of this work – that was the question she was asking continuously [in the talks]. You want people asking those questions.”

When asked about threats to bring down the government if there is a breach, Ryan said:

“I think it is a relationship, it is not just based on numbers and political fighting.”

He said the negotiations do not “just stop once you sign the agreement”.

Entering into a coalition government means “ongoing negotiations”, said Ryan, stating that “things change” and delivering upon a programme for government you “always have to adapt”.

That requires constant engagement with political parties, but also the public, he added.

“One thing that encourages me to try our best is that I saw our own team doing well in negotiations, having real strength and decency. Now is about convincing colleagues this is the right way to go, not beating them over the head with it,” he said. 

Ryan said no one has absolute control over the Budget or the timeline in delivering some of the promises, but added that he has confidence in the Green Party‘s parliamentary party in driving the direction. 

When asked if he is concerned about being a buffer between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, Ryan said the culture has to start from the top.

There is a system in place to ensure the party leaders can meet once a week to iron out any issues, something O’Gorman said is also reassuring to Green Party grassroots members.

Ryan said you can never be too confident, and should never presume anything.

There should be a “respectful approach” in trying to convince members, and you should try and put your best case forward, he said. 

“That is what I am doing,” Ryan said. 

“It is up to members to make up their own mind,” he concluded.

The Green Party’s Special Convention webinar will be held today from 1pm.

Parliamentary party members and members will contribute to the debate, which will last about eight hours. The party leader will end the convention with his pitch as to why he believes the Green Party should endorse the programme for government and enter into power with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. 

Catherine Martin, Neasa Hourigan and Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan.

Catherine Martin, Neasa Hourigan and Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan.

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