Push for an early election backfires on Greens
Published 03/12/2010 | 05:00
The Green Party will have to ease off on its general election deadline of the beginning of next year if it wants some of its top priorities passed by Government.
The junior coalition partner's plan of calling an early election appears to have backfired as the party still has a number of major pieces of legislation to pass, with little time to do it.
The Greens are publicly insisting a number of their key aims in power -- such as a new Dublin mayor, a climate change bill and banning corporate donations -- will still be passed before the election next year.
They initially said they wanted a general election by the end of January, and later shifted their position to February. But they are currently doing a "stock take" to see if their plans can be passed before the election.
Fianna Fail sources said the deadline may have to be pushed even further back if the Greens want their projects passed -- and the longer run-in would suit the larger party.
In their stock take, the Greens are likely to be balancing staying on longer to pass legislation that would please their own supporters against staying on too long and risking a backlash from the wider electorate.
"It's a balancing act," one Green source said. "We said what we said but we didn't mean to be taken too literally. But that doesn't mean we'll let Brigid's Day become Patrick's Day and on and on."
But Fianna Fail sources say they wouldn't be surprised if the Greens stay on longer to achieve their policy aims.
"Sure who really cares if it is February or March? The longer it goes, the more it suits us, although April might be pushing it a bit," one source said.
"If they want the legislation, we'll have to sit longer. I don't know why they tied themselves to a January or February date. If they stick to that, they may get some but not all of it through."
It comes after the Friends of the Earth environmental group this week warned a generation of environmentalists would "never forgive" the Greens if they did not pass a climate change law before leaving office.
The Greens had mooted the idea of the Dail returning from its Christmas break before the scheduled date of January 19 to pass legislation such as the Finance Bill but Tanaiste Mary Coughlan yesterday refused to give a return date.
Ms Coughlan also refused to say exactly when the Finance Bill will be published, insisting it would be after Christmas.
The completed climate change bill will be published before Christmas, and the bill banning corporate donations is also due in the coming weeks.
The Dail yesterday sent the mayor legislation to committee stage, with Labour leader Eamon Gilmore saying it was "absurd" to be spending time on a "consolation prize" for the Greens.
Labour's environment spokesman Ciaran Lynch said the mayor was a good idea, but the bill should be deferred until the economy improves. The opposition says it will cost €8m a year but Mr Gormley claims it will save money.