The price of a couple of heads and chairs

It really is fascinating to observe the Green Party wrestle with its conscience over the Seanad election scandal.

We now know that political parties have been breaking the law for years by manipulating how councillors vote in Seanad elections. It was Green Party councillors themselves, to their credit, who brought this illegal activity to light.

That, however, has caused a major ethical problem for the Greens. The core of that problem is very simple. Do they abandon their principles and become partners in crime with Fianna Fail or do they stand by democracy and risk losing power?

All the signs are that they are frantically searching around for something heavy that will sink their integrity to the darkest depts.

They are already trying to impose a media blackout until the matter can be ‘resolved’ internally. In other words, the deal must be kept secret; breaking the law in public can be very damaging for a party’s credibility.

And breaking the law is exactly what the Greens are intent upon as they make clear in their latest email to councillors (sub required).

“Comments from councillors that they will vote for Fianna Fail councillors of their own choice will completely undermine the deal.”

(My emphasis)

Clearly, if the deal is to work, Green councillors must agree to vote as instructed by their masters and not by free democratic choice. In addition, Fianna Fail must, in some way, be assured that the deal was fully adhered to.

The law is crystal clear on such matters. (My emphasis)

Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1947 82.—(1) The Seanad returning officer and every officer and clerk concerned in the issue or the receipt of ballot papers or the counting of votes under this Act and every candidate or other person present at such issue, receipt, or counting shall maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of the voting at the election and shall not, before the completion of the election, communicate, except for some purpose authorised by law, any information as to whether any elector has or has not voted at the election or as to the official mark, and shall not at any time communicate to any person any information obtained at or in connection with such issue, receipt, or counting as to the candidate for whom any elector has voted or as to whether any elector has or has not voted or as to the number on the back of any ballot paper.

(2) A person shall not interfere with or attempt to interfere with the receipt, marking, or return of the ballot paper of any elector at an election under this Act.

(3) A person shall not directly or indirectly induce any elector at an election under this Act to display his ballot paper after he has marked it so as to make known to such person or to any other person the name of any candidate for whom he has marked his vote on such ballot paper.

(4) A person who acts in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to imprisonment for any term not exceeding six months.

The Greens cannot avoid the stark reality they are facing – break electoral law or risk the wrath of Fianna Fail, they cannot have it both ways.

And what glittering prize is Fianna Fail offering for cooperation in this act of political skullduggery? – Extra staff and office space.

Hardly a wet day in power and the Greens are about to sell their souls for a couple of heads and chairs.

One thought on “The price of a couple of heads and chairs”

  1. What I find most odd about all this is the fact that while FF itself can’t herd its own councillors that effectively towards particular candidates that it feels ok about suggesting to the Greens (according to the reportage in the press July 12th) that they might not get their two Seanad nominees from the Taoiseach if they don’t play ball.

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