From one resignation (you can read Lindsey’s account chez Alex) to another, as we look southwards. I skipped out on covering Gorgeous George Lee’s political suicide, fun as it was, because it had already been done so well elsewhere. But what do you know, here comes a resignation letter from Green Party Senator Déirdre de Búrca. Déirdre sez:
I am writing to inform you of my intention to resign from the Green Party Parliamentary Party and from Seanad Eireann with immediate effect.
It is with great sadness that I tender my resignation, having served as an elected member of the Green Party for eight years on Wicklow County Council and for a further two and a half years as a member of Seanad Eireann. During that time I have worked faithfully on behalf of the party to try to advance its political agenda in order to put this country on a more sustainable path.
I regret to say that I can no longer support the Green Party in government, as I believe that we have gradually abandoned our political values and our integrity and in many respects have become no more than an extension of the Fianna Fail party. I have had a number of conversations with you as Party Leader over many months now about my growing discomfort with the decisions that the Green Party has been supporting in government. You have been very aware of my frustration with the fact that despite the Green Party holding the balance of power in this government for some time now, our willingness to try to exercise that influence appears to grow less with every passing week.
As a party, we seem to have been paralysed by the electorate’s rejection of many of our candidates (including myself) in the local and European elections last June. Any suggestion that we challenge Fianna Fail, or face it down over important issues, seems to bring up a great fear in us that we will have to leave government. In fact staying in government appears to have become an end in itself now for the Green Party. While I was always aware that our political inexperience as a party would leave us vulnerable to being manipulated by Fianna Fail in government, what I hadn’t predicted was the strong attachment to office that appears to have developed since we became part of government.
It is with regret also that I must also inform you that I have lost confidence in you as Party Leader. The Parliamentary Party has had almost daily meetings now since well before Christmas at which we have discussed the very real problems we are experiencing in getting Fianna Fail to co-operate with us in implementing policy initiatives that were agreed as part of the original, and the revised Programme for Government. From stonewalling us and trying to unravel key aspects of our policy initiatives being implemented, to ignoring our input into the preparation of new legislation, to reneging on two key agreements made between Party Leaders, the Fianna Fail Party continues to ‘run rings’ around us and to take advantage of our inexperience and our very obvious fear of facing the electorate.
Despite the fact that you have been asked on many occasions over the past few months by the Parliamentary Party to take a stronger line with Brian Cowen and the Fianna Fail party in relation to certain core issues, you have clearly been unable, or unwilling to do so. Unfortunately the effect of this unwillingness to act is that the Green Party has been slowly haemhorraging support because of a growing public perception that we have lost the courage of our convictions and have become no more than an obedient ‘add-on’ to Fianna Fail. For example, I am aware that you as Minister have a key report in front of you from Dr Niamh Brennan on the issue of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. I’m afraid I lack the confidence that the findings of this report will be acted on in the timely and appropriate manner that the public interest requires.
I believe that in your role as Party Leader you have done a disservice to the Green Party and to its members in allowing this ‘drift’ to occur. It would appear that holding onto office and to seats have become more important to the party than holding on to its fundamental political purpose. We have lost our way as a party and I am sad to say that it has reached a point where I, and most of the people I know, will be unable to vote Green in the next election.
I don’t take this decision to tender my resignation lightly. I am very clear however that I do not want to be part of what the Green Party is continuing to support in Government.
Ouch! But, of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye. The obligatory reference to the founding principles of the Greens may raise a chuckle or two amongst observers of our intrepid senator, but funnier still is Déirdre’s dig at the Gormley camarilla’s determination to cling to office. For few people in the GP had keener to shaft the party’s radical wing in pursuit of office, and none had been as naked in their personal ambition. An astute spinner of the media, despite her failure to be elected a TD she enjoyed a higher media profile than party colleagues with a more substantial mandate – which is why it wasn’t a surprise to see her appointed to the Seanad once her party had coalesced with Fianna Fáil. You didn’t have to pay much attention to her to hear her being tipped for great things, even an eventual run at the presidency. (One suspects much of this tipping came from sources close to Déirdre.) Recently, the word on the grapevine was that she’d be heading off to Brussels to join Máire Geoghegan-Quinn’s cabinet, but if the current Phoenix is to be believed (usual health warnings apply), Máire has decided against retaining her services, precisely on the grounds of such spinning.
Ah yes, and there was the run for Strasbourg. Having relocated into Dublin from the less promising East constituency, not only did she fail to be elected, she lost her deposit, came close to bankrupting the GP and, worst of all, was handily beaten by Patricia McKenna. It would be fair to say that this was the cause of almost as many smiles on the Dublin left as Joe Higgins being elected.
Now, as to her charges against the GP leadership and Gormley in particular… they are not without merit, but she’s not necessarily the best person to make them. Has the GP ditched its principles? Yes it has. Has it become a political flak jacket for Fianna Fáil, much like the Desocrats of blessed memory? Why yes madam, you’re absolutely right. Now tell us how you helped it get that way.
One wonders, you know, what is the point of the Green Party these days. McKenna and the party’s left wing are gone, though there are still occasional resignations from party members around the country who wake up one morning and wonder whatever happened to their radicalism. (These would be the same people who turn up at conventions to vote against the leadership.) There was a curious statistic – I can’t find the reference or remember the exact numbers – to the effect that since the GP had entered government it had lost 500 members but gained 700. It’s hard to see who would join the present Green Party, and it’s tempting to see a trend of crusties being replaced by yuppies, which would not bode well for any real Greens remaining.
Just about the only reminder of the GP’s past is its hyper-democratic constitution, which requires conventions to be held (on a monthly basis it seems) whenever anything needs to be decided. So for one weekend a month the government of the state is put on hold until we discover whether Gormley can bamboozle a couple of hundred vegetarians into voting against what they believe in. After all this practice, he’s getting rather good at it.
However, it could be argued that de Búrca’s departure should worry Gormley more than that of people like McKenna who left on ideological grounds. A dynamic and ambitious politician of this sort would only resign for one reason, that she doesn’t believe the Green Party has a future. So that poses not an ideological but an existential question.
And then there’s the question of what next for ex-Greens. It’s possible that we could see Labour, or possibly leftish independents, hoovering up their historic electorate. And it’s possible that there could emerge a refounded Proper Green Party, built out of the People’s Movement, the Donegal splitters and whomever else can be rounded up. But I seriously doubt that Déirdre de Búrca would be part of it. Don’t worry though, I’m sure she’ll land on her feet.
More on this, as ever, at Cedar Lounge.