Government formation: What do Wexford Greens think?

Wexford Greens have advised the GP team charged with exploring the possibility of the party going into government as follows …

From Wexford Greens meeting 19 Feb, 2020:

Should the Greens agree to enter government as a minority partner or fight from the opposition benches? Is there any party with whom we will not go into government? How do we prevent the party getting savaged by the electorate as happened last time we tried this?

What about the baggage with which a party may come encumbered? Will this impact negatively on any party associating with them?

Generally, the meeting agreed that any decision the Greens take on entering into government should be based, first and foremost, on policies and on delivering on these policies in a pre-determined time-frame. These policies should be clearly costed in advance, should be deliverable within the given time-frame and should form a central plank of government’s overall policy set. Overall, we must show that GP involvement in government does not start and stop with the Dept of Environment. From housing to health, farming to transport we have something to contribute.

The party must be constantly mindful of its raison d’être and place ‘ethics over politics’ as well as ‘policy over power’. This means that, as a minority partner in government, we must be prepared to walk if our policies are being ignored.

Paula spoke about the urgency of the climate agenda, the 10 year window, the ticking clock, and the need to work on the message, how we package it and get it out there. Killian followed with the sobering point that the 5 year government term of office is half that 10 year window. One need look no further for a robust rationale for the Green Party endeavouring, under the right terms, to be in government.

Notwithstanding the last point, any consideration of coalition with FF and FG must be treated with caution. We will suggest to our negotiating team that they consider requesting that the Social Democrats are included in any discussions as the involvement of both smaller parties might make the prospect, for the electorate, of seeing FG back in government more tolerable. It would also give the reform-minded smaller parties a stronger voice.

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Subsequent comments from members:

“I feel that some kind of understanding of what actually is happening at negotiations is important at this stage, so that members are kept in the loop.”

“What would be the benefits of being in opposition as opposed to joining an FF/FG coalition?”

“Just saw this article this morning and the Independent’s one a few days ago, and I’m very worried about how, after so much hard work nationally, the Greens are viewed as throwing away a vitally important moment to help in the fight against climate change. I’d personally like some proper clarification from Eamon and the other TD’s on their stance and some idea of why they are choosing this strategy, which I think is something We should be entitled to at this critical time?”

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“The party seems to have, publicly at least, closed off the coalition option. I think that’s a big mistake. And you’re right, this climate disaster is still the big crisis. “

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“I agree. Biodiversity and human extinction are far more important than party extinction. If needs be we would surely just regroup and re-brand.”

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“Being panicked into a deal with FFFG now would be wrong. Deal with Covid19 first. Then use the lessons from this experience to bring real change.

The key considerations should be around policies and the likelihood of them being implemented by any coalition we enter.  We should also be wary being panicked into coalition by the metaphor of a race against time in dealing with our climate and biodiversity crisis. Tying ourselves to a very slow / reactionary government would not help and could make things much worse.

The response to both Covid-19 and our climate crisis requires a strong stance on monetary policy.  The last think we need is a return to austerity policies under the guise of ‘prudence’.  Already we’re hearing arguments being made that we can’t afford to invest in the changes required, when we know well that with the right monetary policies this can be done (a modern version of the Keynesian approach).  This means lining up with our allies in Europe and demanding change at the ECB level.

This is a time of huge change.  There was a big vote for change at the last election.  The Covid-19 crisis has both brought huge change and highlighted what change is possible when there is political will.  We should be very wary of a rearguard action by the FFFG establishment to use Covid-19 to corral us back into ‘business-as-usual’.”

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“I support comments made in the notes of the meeting of 19 Feb (we will go into government with anyone as long as we get to implement our policies).”

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“… thoughts on government formation and the Green Party’s role in that.

I feel that the Green Party took a stance of a Unity/National government for the sake of stability during the time of the Covid-19 crisis. This made sense in order not to disrupt the existing working relationships between ministers and their departments but also to have a semblance of a true government based on the recent election results ie. ministers who lost their seats would not continue to hold their pre-election roles.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t seen in the same light by any other parties and so, as is the norm the media have picked on the outlier as the easy target. Whether that is down to communication of the Green Party’s approach to the media or a lack of discussion with other parties to gauge a willingness for the stance before announcing it, I’m not sure. However, it has, to a certain extent backed the party into an undesirable corner. On the one hand we are in a race against time as far as the climate emergency goes, on the other hand we have declared an unwillingness to enter government talks with Fine Gael and/or Fianna Fail, whether that was intended for the period of the Covid-19 pandemic or otherwise is unclear but the media have taken it as a stance for the current Dail term rather than the pandemic.

If we are to enter government talks, which is where I believe we should be at this time, it means that we have an extremely difficult route to navigate over a short period of time. In general (and unfairly) the media already see the Green Party as flakey. If we are to avoid the responsibility we have been striving for on climate action the question of what we truly stand for will be asked across all forms of the media. If we u-turn and enter into government talks, will we be seen as flip-flopping and indecisive, and by extension, worthy of a government role?

My preference is very much to be part of government talks and to significantly influence climate and biodiversity, transport and energy policy in a time when we are needed most. I also think that in the long term it is the lesser of the unenviable positions we currently find ourselves in. Once that decision is made it needs to be communicated very carefully and cleverly – I used to work in the media and understand how headline hungry it can be without delving into the substance. We need to come out on the right side of this if we are to have credibility outside of the core Green Party voters to take with us into government and so avoid the extinction that is described in Paula’s message.

I think we need to focus on the need for stability in the time of Covid-19 but also that the longer term issue is still the climate emergency and so, if a Unity government is not an option then the Green Party needs to enter into talks with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in order, as a rational party, to keep the current stability but also to have an eye on the future and that the recovery of our economy does not have to exclude policies that save our planet from premature extinction but that Green Party policies will enhance the recovery.

As far as the talks around government go, they should still be policy driven.”

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“1.The pandemic aside, the urgent issue for the Green party at the moment is government formation and whether or not the Greens participate. I fully supported Eamon Ryan’s proposal for a national government of unity. However, it is clear that that option is NOT going to be taken up by other parties. As a matter of urgency, I believe the Greens need to set that proposal aside now with a clear statement that we are setting it aside in recognition that it wasn’t taken up by other parties, WITHOUT apportioning blame. We need to be pragmatic and grown up about this.

2. Then we need to turn our attention to coalition, and working out our bottom lines, based on climate disaster science, for going into coalition. This reflects the views of the Wexford Greens as in the minutes of our February post election meeting.

3. I also think we should be increasing our efforts to convince the Social Democrats, the Labour Party and like minded independents, to form a solid block WITHIN a coalition government to be best placed to protect both the environment and marginalised people in the tough economic decisions that are inevitably going to come in the aftermath of the pandemic, when our economy and world economies will be on their knees.

4. There is one further reason to go into coalition: hopefully our country will emerge from this pandemic over the next few months and it is possible and the decisive early decisions taken by the caretaker government may mitigate the worst effects in terms of loss of life and shortening the pandemic here. At that stage it will be running rampant in the poorer countries of the world and in a manner that we will not witness here. However bad our post-pandemic economy is, we MUST commit money, medicines, protective equipment and, if possible, personnel to assist in those parts of the world.”

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“M. Martin is too nice a guy; nice guys tend not to cut it! L. Varadkar in my opinion (is best placed to lead a coalition), but he must first settle the left. Stability is key.”

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“I think we need to focus on the need for stability in the time of Covid-19 but also that the longer term issue is still the climate emergency and so, if a Unity government is not an option then the Green Party need to enter into talks with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in order, as a rational party, to keep the current stability but also to have an eye on the future and that the recovery of our economy does not have to exclude policies that save our planet from premature extinction but that Green Party policies will enhance the recovery.

It’s my understanding that SF did welcome moves towards Gov of Nat Unity, not to be dismissed. If change was wanted that’s what we’ve got and an environmental experiment at biggest scale possible. Plenty to build on and move forward.”

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“Whilst I fully agree that a Government of national unity is the best possible option for Ireland, unfortunately this is not going to be accepted. However I believe it is vital that the Green Party play a role in Government and look to get as many of the Green Party Policies as possible implemented in the years ahead. I think the Party will be judged very harshly, both by the electorate and by history, if we don’t engage. We cannot put forward the view that society has 10 years in which to turn a potential climatic catastrophe around and then sit on the fence.  A climate catastrophe with the attending hurricanes and flooding will be horrendous and we have to work to make all recognise this.

It is amply clear from the change in numerous policies in recent days that it is possible for Governments to play a forceful and immediate role in effecting change. Overnight all the homeless have been housed after years of watching citizens die on the street and stating we were doing our best. Similarly, we adopted a National Policy treating all equally for Covid-19.  In the past many decried the no smoking ban but it was enacted and accepted. It is now time to help shape the discourse on the type of society we wish to create in Ireland and to try to get as many Green policies as possible implemented.

A government supported by Independents could actually have the brothers Healy Rae,  climate-deniers, helping shape policy!!! It is much easier to marginalise parties who are on the outside and to not give them any say. Therefore, I believe that the Greens need to form a coherent alliance with the Social Democrats and Labour and seek to get the best possible deal for policy development on climate change and play an active part in government.”

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For what’s it’s worth though my opinion is that if a unity government is completely off the table then I think it would be wise, however uncomfortable, to go into coalition with FFFG. Departments such as Environment and Transport in particular would benefit greatly from Green policies. I read someone else here say that the political ramifications could negatively impact the party next time out at the polls. I would say, so be it. Who knows the next time the party will have a chance to get some high ministerial briefs and with 4 or 5 years to implement changes at this crucial time. The party can’t afford to sit on the sidelines until the next election in the hope of increasing seats. Where will those seats come from? They won’t come from Mayo where despite having an excellent candidate there, we still could not take a seat.”

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“Perhaps more so now than ever before in my lifetime, I consider it essential that the Greens are involved in the Government of Ireland. There is no other political force on this planet that shares the environmental objectives across borders/worldwide. I come from a business family with extensive international experience, my family are spread all over Europe (my brother spent 16 years in Shanghai). We have the good fortune to be in regular contact and apart from the multitude of languages, we share the experiences and concerns of many nationalities and cultures. Right now we are focused on the appalling crisis brought on by COVID-19. Ireland is known to punch well above its weight, we may even find a seat at the UN Security Council. We must seize the opportunity to have a strong Green voice in our Government. Failing to be part of the next Government and staying the course for 4 or 5 years would be unforgiveable.”

 

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