It hardly needs to be said that being in government is the place to be. It’s the only place where a political party has any hope of getting its policies implemented.
It is also true that a small party like the Greens, negotiating from a position of weakness, could not hope to have all or even the greater part of their policies accepted.
Having said that, however, I think the Greens have made a major mistake.
Yes, they have been waiting 25 years for this opportunity, yes, it would have been very difficult to wait another five years, yes they would have lost credibility as a serious political party if they were seen as uncompromising. But at what price will power come?
They will now serve in a government intent on committing the greatest act of environmental vandalism in Irish history, the building of the M3 through the historic and immensely important Tara-Skryne valley.
They will also be complicit in Mary Harney’s co-location of hospitals. This scheme, which will cost taxpayers countless millions, will, I believe, be seen in years to come as the most disastrous health policy since the savage health cuts made in the 1980s by Charlie Haughey.
Co-location will, I believe, be seen as the moment when Ireland took the American road to health care. Those with money will receive first class care while those without will just have to make do.
The Green’s have argued that they are doing what many of their colleagues have already successfully done in other European countries – joining mainstream politics in order to advance their policies.
But Ireland is not like other European countries, it is a country that suffers to an enormous degree from corruption and there are only two ways of dealing with this corrosive disease – meet it head on and eradicate it or pretend it doesn’t exist with all the damaging consequences that that entails.
The Progressive Democrats, under Mary Harney, quickly realised that if they wanted to stay in power in a state that is intrinsically corrupt they had to compromise on their principles and integrity. In the end, they did this with remarkable ease and are now indistinguishable from Fianna Fail in every aspect but name.
The Greens will have to do the same; they will have to pretend that the raging elephant of corruption is not in the room. Indeed, they have already begun to slot comfortably into the scheme of things. Corporate donations and all other serious reforms for tackling corruption in public life are off the table.
Their spokespersons are already mouthing the tired mantra favoured by Fianna Fail:
“We will have to wait for the tribunal to report.” Or, “These are all matters for the tribunal and it behoves us all to blah blah blah.”
Ciaran Cuffe, speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne, was crystal clear on the Green’s new policy on corruption and issues of standards in public life.
“The Green Party is not the moral guardian of Fianna Fail or anybody else.”
The bottom line is that the Green’s will have to be as ruthless as the PDs in abandoning their core values in order to savour the few crumbs contemptuously thrown to them by Fianna Fail.
The general consensus seems to be that this government will last the full term of five years. I disagree. I don’t believe the general membership of the Green party have it in them to live cheek by jowl with the most corrupt political party in the county without tearing themselves apart.
I will be surprised if the present arrangement survives its first year.