Gormley dodges the question on Greens' cabinet seat row
THE Green Party's attempt to put an end to the cabinet seat rotation controversy descended into farce last night.
Party leader John Gormley refused to directly answer questions about the deal he agreed in 2007 to hand over his cabinet seat to his party's Dun Laoghaire TD Ciaran Cuffe in a mid-term reshuffle.
He urged people "not to jump to any conclusions" about what would happen just hours after his cabinet colleague, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan, had effectively confirmed the existence of the rotation agreement.
"The fact of the matter is that I, as party leader, will make recommendations and it is the constitutional prerogative of the Taoiseach to act on that. And that is it, and anything else is sheer speculation," he said.
In an attempted show of solidarity last night, both Mr Ryan and Mr Cuffe were standing beside Mr Gormley at the launch of 'The Greenhouse', an environmental information outlet for young people in Dublin's city centre.
In an effort to stop further leaks from his party about the rotation deal, Mr Gormley warned that any conversations he had on the party's national executive council were "absolutely confidential".
"Please, I would ask you to respect that, because frankly it's becoming boring for most people," he said.
But Mr Gormley's comment means that there is continuing political uncertainty over his future in the Cabinet.
The party is now pinning its hopes on Mr Cowen's cabinet reshuffle in two weeks' time to extract itself from its difficulties.
If it got a super-junior ministry, this would allow Mr Cuffe to sit at the cabinet table and Mr Gormley to retain his position as Environment Minister.
The Irish Independent has learned that the Greens are arguing strongly for the boost in their ministerial numbers because they believe they were duped by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 2007 -- who increased the number of junior ministers from 17 to 20 without informing them in advance.
A Green Party source said Mr Ahern had given the party one junior ministerial position with the promise of another after a mid-term cabinet reshuffle.
But he did not tell the party of his plans to increase the number of junior ministers, which allowed three more Fianna Fail TDs to be promoted.
Although Mr Cowen has since cut down the number of junior ministers from 20 to 15, the Green Party is arguing that it is still entitled to an extra junior minister given what happened.
A spokesman for Mr Ahern last night declined to confirm or deny the junior ministerial deal.
Mr Cowen was asked yesterday what he would do if Mr Gormley asked him to put Mr Cuffe into his job as Environment Minister.
"These are matters for discussion. But I don't want to get into any speculation on cabinet formation.
"The important thing is that Fianna Fail and the Greens are committed to working together, to meet the challenges we face," he said.
Earlier Mr Ryan admitted the matter had to be sorted out in the forthcoming reshuffle. He agreed the controversy over the rotation deal had made his party look ridiculous.