Thursday, June 14, 2007


by Eamon Quinn
(The New York Times, Thursday, June 14, 2007, p. A6)

DUBLIN, June 13--The leadership of Ireland's Green Party agreed Wednesday to support a deal with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern that could make it a part of the government for the first time.

The party leaders said Mr. Ahern made concessions on issues like climate change, education and political reform of local government in exchange for entering a coalition with Mr. Ahern's party, Fianna Fail.

But the deal faced obstacles before the expected vote on Thursday in Parliament, including a vote by 1,000 party members requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. Eamon Ryan, one of the party's six members in Parliament, called the deal "a hard sell," and political commentators noted that some party members questioned whether Fianna Fall had made enough concessions.

In national elections held three weeks ago, Fianna Fall, with 78 seats, remained by far the largest party in Parliament but was still left needing the support of smaller parties like the Greens to achieve the majority in the 166-member chamber. Mr. Ahern, who has governed in coalition since 1997, has said that his goal is to establish a "stable government" that could last another five years.

Political analysts sais another major issue for the Green Party was the use of Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland. The party has opposed the use of Shannon by American troops en route to Iraq and elsewhere, and it contends that the airport has been used by the C.I.A. in taking people it seizes either to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or to secret prisons elsewhere.

Green Party leaders said they had been told Wednesday that there would be "specialized training" for the Irish police to monitor possible instances of stopovers in connection with the seizures.

"The Green Party had always been against the use of Shannon and wanted U.S. troops using Shannon to end altogether," said Sean Donnelly, a pollster and political analyst. "But there was no way that Fianna Fall would give in to that. Ireland is pro-American, and there are many American businesses here."

Michael Marsh, professor of political science at Trinity College, Dublin, said the key for Greens would be how much real influence they would bring to bear in the government.


Anonymous said...

AP reports this morning that the Irish GP has voted in a meeting of
its membership by 441-67 (2/3 required) to join what the article
calls the center-right government of Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and
his Fianna Fail party. The Greens have 6 seats in the parliament
while the Fianna Fail party has 78. They needed the extra six to have
a majority in the 166 seat parliament. The two parties had negotiated
a common platform. It would be interesting to see that platform. The
article does not mention anything about its contents.

The article describes how Ireland has had major economic growth
during Ahern's 10 year's in office, but that it has resulted in a lot
of environmental problems.

> Greens boost Irish PM to third term
> Jun 13, 2007 08:09 PM
> DUBLIN?Ireland's Green Party voted overwhelmingly on
> Wednesday to back a coalition deal that puts it in
> government for the first time and guarantees a third
> term for Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.
> "This, my friends, is the proudest day of my life,"
> Trevor Sargent, who will step down as party leader
> after brokering the deal, told fellow Greens.
> They voted by 441 votes to 67 in favour of joining a
> government dominated by Ahern's centrist Fianna Fail
> party.
> "It is a day when courage won out over caution. It is
> a day when huge change won out over the status quo,"
> said Sargent.
> Fianna Fail emerged largely unscathed from May 24
> national elections with 78 legislators in the 166-seat
> Dail (lower house of parliament) but needed new allies
> after its pro-business Progressive Democrat coalition
> partners suffered big losses.
> Backing from six Greens will give Ahern a slim
> majority when parliament votes on a prime minister on
> Thursday. He is likely to bolster support to 90 by
> keeping on two remaining Progressive Democrat
> legislators and bringing in four independents.
> That will also dilute the influence of any one partner
> and ensure that while the new government will have a
> greener flavour, Fianna Fail's long-standing dominance
> as Ireland's biggest political party will likely be
> little impaired.
> The Greens had been tipped to join the main opposition
> Fine Gael party and left-leaning Labour after the
> election in a "rainbow coalition" designed to end
> Ahern's decade in power.
> In the event the three parties did not win enough
> seats between them to form a majority and the Greens
> opted to talk to Ahern in the hope of getting some of
> their policies implemented.
> Having repeatedly criticised Ahern over his
> environmental and social record during last month's
> campaign, Sargent said on Wednesday he would honour an
> old pledge to step down as party leader if his party
> ended up in government with Fianna Fail.
> Although the Greens had to shelve some key policies in
> order get their first taste of power, including
> opposition to the use of Irish airports by U.S. troops
> bound for Iraq, Ahern has agreed to adopt some of
> their environmental priorities.
> A draft of the programme for government agreed between
> the two sides, seen by Reuters, showed commitments to
> cut greenhouse emissions by 3 per cent a year, phase
> in a carbon levy, improve building standards and
> promote renewable energy.
> "We have a better chance of doing what we have set out
> to achieve in government rather than remaining on the
> opposition benches for another five years," said
> pensioner Neil Hurley after voting in favour of the
> coalition deal.
> But some felt betrayed by the decision to share power
> with a party the Greens so vehemently opposed in the
> election.
> "They have sold out for a Mercedes with a nice leather
> interior," said 41-year-old John O'Driscoll, who works
> for one of the multinationals drawn to Ireland by its
> thriving economy.
> "They have sold us down the river," he said.
> "Everything they campaigned for in the election was
> rejected tonight."
> Ahern has yet to say which ministries he will hand
> over to the Greens in return for their support but
> party officials said they wanted those responsible for
> the environment and transport.
> Finance Minister Brian Cowen is set to keep his job
> after consolidating his standing in the election as
> the most likely successor to Ahern, who has said this
> will be his last term.

Jason Nabewaniec said...

World News
Green Party votes to join new Ireland government, extend Ahern's 10-year run

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? AP
2007-06-13 23:19:59 -

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) - The environmentalist Green Party, radical outsiders
in Irish politics throughout its history, voted Wednesday to join Ireland's
next government and extend Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's 10-year run in
Green leaders won a surprisingly easy ratification for their pact with
Ahern's long-dominant Fianna Fail party following a daylong conference of
activists. After reading and debating the 90-page government platform agreed
Tuesday night by both parties' negotiators, the Green grass roots backed the
deal in a lopsided 441-to-67 vote.
?It is the proudest day in my life. After 25 years of struggle ... the
possibility is there to see our policies implemented in government,? said
Green leader Trevor Sargent, who also announced he would resign soon as
leader, citing his own campaign pledge not to cooperate with Fianna Fail.
The outcome means Ahern is certain to be re-elected prime minister when
parliament convenes Thursday following a May 24 election. His own party's 78
lawmakers, combined with the Greens' six, will give Ahern a majority in the
166-member chamber.
The landmark deal involved generous concessions by Fianna Fail, which
offered the Greens two Cabinet posts and a raft of promises, including a
carbon tax on polluters and to pursue aggressive targets for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions.
While a vociferous minority demanded that the Greens retain their
traditional hostility to Fianna Fail, Ireland's party of the pro-business
establishment, leadership figures won the debate by pointing to the chance
to get at least some Green visions turned into reality.
?I never thought I would see a document with Fianna Fail's name on it that
would make real commitments on climate change,? said Green lawmaker Ciaran
Fianna Fail's chief negotiator of the pact, Finance Minister Brian Cowen,
welcomed the Greens' acceptance of a deal that, just a few weeks ago, was
written off by most political analysts as highly unlikely, given policy
conflicts between the two parties.
Even more surprisingly, the agreement is proceeding despite Ahern's
determination to include his long-standing right-wing coalition partners,
the Progressive Democrats, in the next government.
The Progressive Democrats _ whose focus on tax cutting and wooing foreign
investment heavily colored Ahern's past decade in power _ were virtually
wiped out in the May 24 election, retaining just two lawmakers, insufficient
to help Fianna Fail stay in power.
Nonetheless, Ahern has convinced the Greens to share a Cabinet table with
Progressive Democrat leader Mary Harney, whose commitment to encourage
private investment in Ireland's overloaded hospitals is bitterly opposed by
the Greens. Harney is expected to remain health minister when Ahern unveils
his new Cabinet on Thursday.
Giving the Greens a share of power is likely to mean significant policy
shifts in Ireland, which has a poor energy-conservation record and a
car-dependent culture.
Since rising to power in 1997, Ahern has driven a center-right government
that promoted tax breaks for big business, the biggest roads-building
program in Ireland's history and Europe's most sustained property boom. The
so-called Celtic Tiger boom has produced soaring employment, living
standards and immigration _ but also grueling commutes, overloaded schools
and hospitals, and a poorer quality of life for many.

Fianna Fail negotiators said the Greens had secured elements of their agenda
for promoting wind, solar and tidal energy and boosting public transport.
But the compromise pact also required the Greens to stomach many policies
they oppose, including Ahern's willingness to let U.S. troops use Ireland _
an officially neutral nation _ as a major refueling point en route to and
from Iraq.
Fianna Fail _ pronounced ?FEEN-uh fall? and meaning ?Soldiers of Destiny? in
Gaelic _ has won the most seats in parliament in every national election
since 1932, and has led governments following the last five elections dating
back to 1987.
Greens have helped govern five other European countries since the mid-1990s,
most notably Germany, Finland and Sweden, but have never been involved in a
government here before.