Green Party compliance has allowed Fianna Fáil to get away with doing whatever it likes.
Willie O'Dea has nothing to fear over that perjury matter. If Fianna Fáil were in partnership with, say, the late, unlamented PDs or the Labour Party, maybe even Sinn Féin, yes, problems.
But since Fianna Fáil is in government on its own, pas de problème. Nobody will be asking for heads, not even for an apology. If Willie doesn’t want to explain himself, that’s okay too.
But the Green Party are in government with Fianna Fáil, I hear you say. Are they? What’s the evidence? They are in office all right, but in government?
When the programme for government was negotiated in June 2007, Fianna Fáil pulled a little ruse. They copied the environmental bits of their own election manifesto, and told the Greens that as a concession to them they would paste it into the programme for government. The Greens were delighted.
Then there was the renegotiation of the programme for government. Another chance for a good laugh, and, let’s be frank, Fianna Fáil needs a good laugh these times. “Whatever you are having yourself,” they told the Greens. And then they bought them some lemonade and Tayto crisps. Thrilled they were. The Greens that is. Fianna Fáil breaking their sides over in Foleys after the deal was done.
“Whatever you’re having yourself,” was the line of the night. Loads of pints. A few bars of the Mountains of Mourne, a la Bob Dylan. The Fields of Athenry, rounded off with Legion of the Rearguard. “Another three years,” they chanted as they made their way down Baggot Street at 4.13am, looking to get into Toners.
The Greens were told there would be a full public open inquiry into the banking crisis. And they believed it. A full public open inquiry? No way José. A small, private, shut inquiry was all the lads would give, and the Greens thought that was a triumph too. And just wait until the formal terms of reference are drafted – and imagine the ruse that will be pulled then!
Funny in a way. But very unfunny really.
There was nothing funny about the cuts in social welfare, and to hear Ed Walsh et al on RTÉ the other night rehashing the Colm McCarthy line – that there were no real cuts in social welfare because the fall in prices covered the nominal reduction – was infuriating. Infuriating because the real cut in social welfare exceeded the drop in prices, when the ending of the Christmas bonus is taken into account along with the price level relevant to social welfare recipients. But even if it did represent a real increase, are marginal improvements in relative incomes of the poor to be a justification for cutting them?
There’s nothing funny either about the slash and burn campaign against equality agencies: the Equality Authority (43 per cent cut in its core budget), Combat Poverty (emasculated), the Irish Human Rights Commission (24 per cent cut from budget).
Nothing funny about the destruction of community development programmes. These, according to their sponsoring department (that of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs), were “about promoting positive social change in society, in favour of those who benefit least from national and global social and economic developments . . . seek to challenge the causes of poverty and disadvantage and to offer new opportunities for those lacking choice, power and resources”. They provided an infrastructure in communities to support people who needed help with education, childcare, healthcare, even just living. They gave local employment, and now they have been devastated.
These moves are the most cynical, devious, and iniquitous of anything Fianna Fáil has done, and that is saying something. And the Greens did nothing. They did nothing about the cut in the carer’s allowance; the cut of 4 per cent in the disability allowance; the cut in half of unemployment assistance to jobless young people, thereby requiring them to rely more on their disadvantaged families; the cut of €600 million in the non-pay areas of the health service, which necessarily will mean longer waiting lists and withdrawal of many services entirely, all impacting primarily on poor people; the cut in dental treatment entitlements under the Treatment Benefit Scheme.
Meanwhile, billions have been shovelled out to the banks with tens of billions more to come, all accounted for by the State in the same crooked way that Greek accounting has got Greece into such trouble, except we have got EU approval.
Then there’s the one about Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. Fianna Fáil actually led the Greens to believe Máire would go along with appointing Déirdre de Búrca to her cabinet in the European Commission.
Is it true that every time there is trouble with the Greens in Cabinet, there is a group hug and the Greens are okay? Imagine Willie O’Dea in a group hug with the Greens, and what he would be thinking. Anyway, Willie has nothing to worry about.