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Green Party support likely a close call

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Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said nothing can be ruled out, including another election, if the programme for government is not passed this week.

However, he countered this by saying he is a positive person and he believes the deal can be approved.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Coveney said this is a difficult week for Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens because there is division in all three parties in how they view the programme for government.

He said the country desperately needs a government that has a majority and the authority to make decisions and he believes the coalition can be strong and radical.

Mr Coveney said in many ways Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been defined by how they have competed against each other at election time.

This, he said, is a new form of government. Politics has changed and the party must define itself by what it wants for the future, he said.

He warned there will be political uncertainty if this deal is not agreed.

 


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Mr Coveney said this programme for government is much more ambitious on climate action than any before and is also representing change and progress in areas such as healthcare reform.

When asked about opposition to the deal voiced by Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan, Mr Coveney said that she was part of the negotiating team that signed off on the deal.

She did not get everything she wanted, he said, adding that “nor did I”.

Mr Coveney said that the target of reducing carbon emissions is one of the most ambitious of any country in the world. He said he believed it was unlikely that the target of reducing 7% emissions per annum will be reached every year, but the overall target could be reached by 2025.

Laying the foundation in the first few years, he said, will be key to reaching the overall target within five years.

It comes as a Green Party TD said it is “a close call” as to whether his party will support the programme for government, but he hopes there will be enough support to get it over the line.

Also speaking on Morning Ireland Waterford TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh said the programme is a radical and transformative one.

He said there is a lot of change in the document and he is very proud of what the Green Party has managed to produce.

Mr Ó Cathasaigh said there is no way of reducing carbon emissions, year-on-year, to reach a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 without a root-and-branch re-jig of society and how we do things.

There are quick wins in terms of cycling, walking and travelling, he said, while other things – such as retro-fitting will take longer to roll out.

Mr Ó Cathasaigh said he did not believe a no vote from the Green Party would result in a better deal at a later stage. 

He added that there are a number of legislative issues that are building up and he did not think there was time for this level of detailed negotiation to take place again.

He said he believed that a no vote would result in “a short-term cobbled-together government, followed by an election later this year”.

Green Party Councillor for Cork Lorna Bogue said that “it is on a knife edge” whether Green Party members will support the programme for government.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sarah McInerney she said the goals within the party on health and housing are “not enough”, and prevent her from supporting the document.

She said the agreement postpones Sláintecare for another two years, and does not increase nurses’ pay.

In relation to housing she said the commitment of 50,000 social houses is not enough, and she highlighted that this is 10,000 fewer homes than what was included in the Fine Gael manifesto.

“This is more of the same and business as usual”.

She said the Green Party “cannot be blamed if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael can’t come to us with a programme for government that our members won’t accept.”

Cllr Bogue said now is the time that the Green Party can “yield its most power”.

“Once our ministers sit at a cabinet table they are in the minority, and it will be the exact same thing that happened last time around. We are not going to yield that much influence at all”.

On the same programme Green Party Councillor for Cork City South Central Dan Boyle said he believed equal consensus would have to be reached by all three parties at the cabinet table if the Greens entered into government.

He said he doesn’t believe the “weight of any one party would be greater than the other”.

Being in government brings opportunities to achieve more than what is included in the programme for government.

“Once you are in government you have an opportunity to bring about legislation that perhaps wasn’t included in the original programme for government.

“It is a mission statement and it outlines goals and if properly worded as it is on the climate bill it gets the schedule and prioritises particular commitments”.

Over the weekend, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he does not believe there is any wriggle room to renegotiate the programme for government, following calls from within his party to do so.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Mr Ryan said it would not be possible or in the national interest to go back into another protracted negotiation process, adding that he does not know what would happen if the deal was not passed.

Responding to a statement issued by party members publicly not backing the deal, Mr Ryan said he listens with respect to members of his party who have differing views.

He said he did not agree with their analysis, adding that it was possible to go into government to address the climate and biodiversity crisis, but also address issues such as housing and health.

He said the deal was not perfect but when working with other parties, you need to go into talks in good faith and get the best deal for not just your party but for the country.

He said the deal aims to steer the country in a long-term direction, investing in public health, housing, transport and climate action.

He said even if the recovery comes and the books are balanced, we would still borrow for those long-term investments.

He said if the deal is not passed by the three parliamentary parties, uncertainty would follow.

Clare Bailey MLA has critised the programme for government

The leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, along with the chairperson of the party, have added their names to those calling for a ‘No’ vote in the ballot on entering government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Clare Bailey MLA and Dublin City Councillor Hazel Chu issued a statement, along with various TDs, strongly criticising the programme for government, which they say represents “an unjust recovery”.

Their intervention comes just days before Green Party members have to decide on whether to ratify the deal.

All three parties must secure membership backing but the Greens have the highest threshold with a two-thirds endorsement required.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart has said he will oppose going into government with Fine Gael and the Green Party.

He is the second party TD alongside Eamon Ó Cuiv to declare that they will vote no in the ballot.

Mr Lahart said he was dissatisfied with several aspects of the programme for government, including housing policy and the absence of a feasibility study for a Metro South.

The Dublin South West TD told the Business Post that he was unhappy with the planned 18-month extension of the Strategic Housing Development, which allows developers to bypass local planners.

Mr Lahart also said Fianna Fáil should have spoken to other parties, including Sinn Féin, about forming a government.

Former Fianna Fáil TD for Kerry John Brassil has also said he will vote no in the ballot because of the decision to halt plans for the Shannon LNG terminal.

Mr Brassil said he saw very little of the party’s footprint in the programme for government and he did not envisage that Fianna Fáil’s election manifesto would be delivered upon.

The results of all three party votes will be announced on Friday.

All three must back the deal in order for Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to be elected Taoiseach when the Dáil sits next Saturday.

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