Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Greens drinking the soup

Trevor Sargent

Under pressure in 1973 from the White House Press Corps, including CBS News' Dan Rather, as the Watergate scandal engulfed the Nixon Administration, Press Secretary Ron Ziegler retracted previous statements that were proved to be false by saying: "This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative."

It's not news that politicians would like to have past statements declared inoperative.

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in the Dáil in October 2006: "You have lost moral authority... Do the decent thing and resign."

Eight months later with more unanswered questions having arisen about Ahern's byzantine financial arrangements in respect of the renting and subsequent purchase of his house in the 1990's, it was Sargent who resigned and then seconded the nomination of Ahern as Taoiseach in the new Dáil.

The late Ron Ziegler had said on the tangled web of Watergate: "If my answers sound confusing, I think they are confusing because the questions are confusing and the situation is confusing."

Confusing is the word indeed.

During the General Election campaign, there were only two parties that directly raised the issue of Ahern's explanations about his finances - the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats. They are both now in Government even though the issue of a possible lodgement of $45,000 that was made at the Mahon Tribunal on May 28th - 4 days after the General Election, remains to be clarified.

Sargent resigned as leader of the Greens because he had said that he would not go into a government with Fianna Fáil but he will be a Junior Minister in the new Fianna Fáil-led administration!

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has also disclosed that he plans to increase the number of Junior Ministers to 20, to facilitate the addition of Trevor Sargent while allowing Ahern himself greater leeway with political patronage.

At best, there is a case for 5-6 Junior Ministers but adding 3 to the 17 that were mainly occupied by non-entities in the last Dáil, is at least consistent in the unreformed public sector.

Section 11 of the Green Party Manifesto:

"[The Green Party] will reduce the number of Government Ministers from 15 to 12 and reduce proportionally the Ministers of State."

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte said in the Dáil this week that the word ‘review’ appeared in the programme for government 56 times, the word ‘examine’ appeared 23 times and the term ‘consider’ made 14 appearances.

The Irish Government has spent up to €400 million on management consultants since 1997. So there's more scope for the industry in the years ahead.

Bertie Ahern operates more as chairman than CEO and other than the Northern Ireland peace process, does not take an active role in pushing issues like for example the way Tony Blair operates.

The Green Party should look at the very limited impact that the Progressive Democrats (PDs) had in government over a decade.

When the PDs were proposing that Dublin Port be relocated to North County Dublin, agreement could not be reached for years on providing a modern airport service in Dublin.

When Trevor Sargent referred to the 1973 Kenny Report on development land as one of the key issues for the Green Party, he was being more an optimist than realist.

Time will surely show how much.