Power key to keeping partners on board
Published 24/03/2010 | 05:00
FOUR out of six Green Party TDs now hold key ministerial positions in exchange for continuing to support the unpopular Fianna Fail-led Government.
Despite being the junior coalition partner, the Greens last night obtained an additional junior ministerial position, following protracted negotiations with Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
That comes on top of its two senior ministries and one junior ministry secured when the Coalition was formed in 2007.
But Fine Gael claimed party leader John Gormley is now more focused on "jobs for the Greens rather than jobs for all", while Labour claimed the focus of the Greens had been entirely on "jobs for the boys".
The new position means that five of its six TDs have now had an opportunity to be a junior minister or senior minister -- the only exception being Paul Gogarty, who is chairman of an Oireachtas committee.
Backbencher Ciaran Cuffe, who is an architect by profession, will now have responsibility for sustainable transport and horticulture.
The area of horticulture was previously overseen by Trevor Sargent, who recently resigned as a junior minister.
Deputy leader Mary White will take charge of equality and integration as a junior minister, while Mr Gormley will continue in the Department of Environment and Eamon Ryan will remain in the Department of Energy and Communications.
As negotiations on the reshuffle reached a climax over the weekend, the Greens repeatedly insisted that a 2007 agreement with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern must be honoured.
Back then, it was agreed the Greens would get a second junior minister mid-term.
"A deal is a deal and that's the argument we stuck to," one Green source said.
The successful negotiation of the second junior ministry came despite some Fianna Fail backbenchers urging the Taoiseach to face down the Green Party's demands.
However, it will now provide the leadership with a massive boost ahead of this weekend's annual ard fheis, which comes in the aftermath of the high-profile resignations of Senator Deirdre De Burca and Trevor Sargent.
The Taoiseach will hope that in granting the Greens an extra slice of the reshuffle spoils, it will keep them on board until the end of the Government's five-year term and discourage talk of any walk-outs or exit strategies.
Mr Gormley, who had been at the subject of intensive speculation about a 2007 rotation deal, has returned to the Environment Department under last night's reshuffle.
Mr Cuffe, who would have taken his position there had the 2007 deal been honoured, has now obtained the new junior ministerial post.
"We are now in a space where we can implement very effectively the innovative renewed Programme for Government which places its emphasis on unemployment and dealing with that problem," Mr Gormley told the Dail.