From Socialist Voice, July 2007

Green Party accepts neo-liberal agenda

It has been said of the Labour Party that it wrestles with its conscience and its conscience always loses when it goes into government to prop up the establishment. The same appears to be true of the Green Party, which recently became one of the legs of the three-legged stool of a coalition Government, the other legs being Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.
     The Green Party agreed a programme for government with the main party in the coalition, Fianna Fáil, which covers in the main environmental issues. The party got two full and two junior ministers, while the PDs got one full minister.
     The main policy areas that the Greens secured in the programme for government were
• a carbon tax and the target of a reduction of 3 per cent per year in greenhouse gas emissions
• the establishment of a commission on climate change
• a commission on tax reform
• new building standards to ensure increased energy-efficiency
• an increase in the use of alternative energy sources
• a reform of local government
• an independent electoral reform commission.
     At the meeting of the Green Party membership that voted to go into government, many of the proposals in the programme for government were presented as victories. But policies in areas that the Greens had argued before the election were priority issues were couched in such terms as “will be considered,” while Fianna Fáil’s policy objectives are carved in stone.
     Issues that failed to be included in the programme for government include any change in the use of Shannon Airport by the US military, the Corrib gas field and the struggle of the people of Rossport, as well as such issues as the M3 motorway, political donations by corporations, and, most importantly, the policy adopted by the outgoing Government of building private hospitals on public hospital lands.
     In relation to “extraordinary rendition” flights passing through Shannon Airport, the Government would “encourage and support” the Garda Síochána to investigate this. Perhaps they will provide better training for the Gardaí in spotting people in chains on aircraft landing at Shannon.
     The main plank of the previous Government’s transport policy remains intact, with its heavy emphasis on roads and motorways. Public transport, either bus or rail, is not a priority. The reopening of existing railway lines, never mind the building of new ones, is not a priority either.
     Trevor Sargent stated during the election campaign that he would not lead the Green Party into a Government headed by Fianna Fáil and would sooner resign as leader, yet during the debate he welcomed the agreement with Fianna Fáil as a historic development and subsequently became a junior minister—surely a transition from the sublime to the ridiculous.
     What emerges from the whole process is that the Green Party has bought in to the neo-liberal agenda being pursued by the political establishment and the European Union, with its heavy emphasis on the private over the public. The programme for government has exposed the Irish Green Party, just as it has done throughout Europe, where Green Parties have entered governments that are not anti-capitalist or anti-monopolist but rather reinforce most of the individualism and fragmentation that flow from the imposition of neo-liberal polices.
     It appears that the democratic collectivism and social solidarity inherent in the politics of the labour movement run counter to accepted Green philosophy. Many of the important questions—such as Shannon Airport, Rossport, public ownership of natural resources, and public versus private medicine—are add-on policies and are not central to their ideology.

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