Friday, June 15, 2007

The Pied Piper
the cute wee hoor

There is nothing that chills the blood of the average politico, of any nation, level or age more than fear of electors in a snit:
At last the people in a body
To the town hall came flocking:
"'Tis clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation—shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin! ...
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"
That comes round in the UK on something like a quarter-century-long cycle. It may well be the mood in the US, too, come November 2008. It was, to the surprise of some gurus, not the mood in Ireland in 2007. Irish voters were, on the whole, complaisant in their lot, didn't ask very much except the recipe as before; but, even so, got a lot less than they asked for with the accession of the Green Party into the coalition government.

It would appear that the Greens rolled over, had their bellies rubbed, got up, trooped off to Áras an Uachtaráin, collected their seals of office, and discarded every principle on which they had stood at the election.

Every party now, with the exception of Sinn Féin (and even they not for want of trying and offering), has had a seat on the coalition roundabout

Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering.
So Malcolm now ticks off those broken Green pledges. Others, whose mileage may vary, might prefer to undertake a similar exercise: the Green manifesto is still on line. Here's the Irish Times (as doing a run-down of the FF-Green corcordat for government:
  • Iraq-bound United States military flights will continue to use Shannon airport. Dáil approval will be required before any non-United Nations mandated military flight will be allowed to land, but this will not interfere with the Americans' current use of the airport, since they now operate on a UN mandate.
  • All new roads planned by the outgoing Government will go ahead.
  • Harney offered Foreign Affairs, but refused, and will continue as Health Minster.
  • M3 to go ahead.
  • No concessions on corporate donations.
  • Carbon tax to be introduced over the next five years.
  • Proposed FF tax cuts to go ahead.
  • Extra €50 million to be spent on education.
  • Greens have demanded two senior cabinet posts, but have been offered one cabinet ministry, one minister of state and one 'super junior'.
  • Greens have asked for Transport and Environment, but these portfolios have yet to be assigned.
Malcolm now attempts to pick a few bones out of that dog's dinner. The first item looks significantly different to the Green manifesto pledge:
  • end the use of Shannon Airport by US military forces involved in the war in Iraq;
  • insist that any aircraft suspected of involvement in illegal movements of prisoners must be searched.
The guarantee that existing road plans will be pursued is a double blow. First there is the Green manifesto commitment straight into the bin:
The Green Party will ... respect existing road contracts but, where there is concern about potential damage to communities, environment or heritage, will investigate how this can be minimised within the scope of the contract or through renegotiation.
Second, the road programme notoriously provides a conveyor belt of contracts to the commercial supporters of Fianna Fáil. This was, after all, the unspoken rationale behind the Greens' "ethics" pledge:
Action is badly needed to restore public confidence in a political system that is widely seen to be operating on the basis of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.
The Green Party will ... ban corporate, institutional or foreign-based donations.
Add in the curious case of the bitch that barked in the night. Mary Harney ought to have been the ultimate stumbling block, for the Greens had made her an explicit target:
In government, the Green Party will ensure that Mary Harney's plans for the building of private hospitals on public land are scrapped. By halting the slow privatisation of our health service and through targeted investment in our public health system, we will deliver a health system which is more efficient, more equitable, and with better outcomes for patients.
Bertie Ahern needed those two PD votes, and because he has power, he has magic powers of attraction:
He advanced to the council-table:
And, "Please your honours,'' said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!"
The charm he offered Harney was a move to the foreign affairs brief. She stood firm. She kept her health post "to complete unpopular, unfinished business" (as today's Irish Times leader puts it). Ms Harney/Mrs Geoghegan is some tough cookie. The Greens, with less backbone, simply folded.

But surely it is better to have half-a-loaf than none? Well, let's see what that means in education. The Green manifesto pledge was:
Invest €1 billion in additional current and capital funding for education for the first year of the next Government’s term of office, to front-load educational priorities.
Provide 2,400 extra teachers at primary and secondary levels.
Now let's check that: no, not €1B: come, sir, let's call it €50M:
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!
Not so much half-a-loaf, more a pathetic crumb.

And then there's Tara, otherwise known as the M3 stitch-up. If there was one issue on which the Greens came closest to the public mood, this was it. If Bertie's flutings were to be double-stopped, it surely would be at the Hill of Tara, particularly when excavations threw up new treasures:
Great was the joy in every breast.
"He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop
And we shall see our children stop!

When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed...
And what happened?

Well, Bertie gave the Greens the two Ministries they wanted: Environment, Heritage and Local Government (for John Gormley) and Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (for Eamon Ryan). But the cute wee hoor had already got there and put in the fix: Gormley discovered that one of Dick Roche's last signatures, as outgoing Environment Minister, had been to approve the line of the M3 past Tara. So that leaves only the Shell terminal, at Rossport in the County Mayo, to be sorted. Any bets on whether principle wins out out capitalism?

The Greens have been piped up the slippery slopes of Mount Bertie, and are now in the belly of the beast:
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
The fate of the Greens is in the pattern established by the elimination of the PDs. FF, under the present piper or the coming-man, Brian Cowan, have the Greens muzzled, and on a short leash: or is it a choke-chain?

One day, perhaps the next election, after the economic down-turn, when the balance of trade has shifted, the Irish electorate may suffer their snit. Then will not be the time to be in government, or to be remembered as being complicit therein, for the reaction will be violent:
"Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!"
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Anonymous said...

You went with the inaccurate Irish Times shit-stirring I see. We got 350 million extra in education, not 50 million.

So which colour are your partisan politics?

Malcolm Redfellow said...

That you for clarification: so the Greens sold out for a third of the required mess of pottage on education, and let's quietly omit all the other "demands".

As for the colour of my politics, well if the pseudonym isn't a clue, perhaps you should study the rest of my profundities.

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