Sunday 25 February 2018

FF concerns over 'erratic' behaviour by Gormley

Debate on corporate donations to escalate tensions within Coalition


Concern is growing in senior Fianna Fail circles over the increasingly "erratic" performance of Green Party leader and Environment Minister John Gormley.

The latest spat between the coalition partners occurred after public fury over claims that Mr Gormley was clamping down on the occasional use of commercially taxed vehicles for domestic purposes.

Fianna Fail backbencher Timmy Dooley slammed the decision as "ludicrous and farcical" and said it represented another attack on rural Ireland. The controversy comes after the hunting ban and energy prices hikes which have been blamed on Green policy.

Eilis O'Hanlon back page

Although Mr Gormley claimed he had not known of the latest circular and that it did not represent a change in policy, the controversy has increased concern in Fianna Fail about the Green Party leader's status as "the new Martin Cullen".

Outside of the commercial vehicles furore, the Minister is embroiled in a deeply embarrassing battle with Dublin City Council and American multinational firm Covanta over the building of the Poolbeg incinerator.

Such is the level of anger over Mr Gormley's delaying tactics that it is believed the issue has been raised privately with Taoiseach Brian Cowen by the American ambassador.

In private, top-level Fianna Fail figures have been scathing about Mr Gormley's performance. In an indication of growing wear and tear in the relationship between the government partners, they also expressed impatience with Mr Gormley's "inability to listen to other points of view" and the "half-baked state of much of the legislation he produces".

Tensions within the increasingly fragile Coalition are set to escalate over two critical 'red flag' items in the Green Party agenda for government.

In a clear signal that the abolition of corporate donations will be a frontline issue for the Greens, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan told the Sunday Independent he was looking forward "to a great debate in the autumn".

It is unlikely, however, that Fianna Fail is looking forward to any such debate. Privately, it is believed many TDs within heavily-indebted Fianna Fail are incensed by the move, criticised in public by TD Bobby Aylward. But, in a remark that is likely to raise hackles within some quarters of Fianna Fail, Mr Ryan added that such a reform was "in Fianna Fail's interest too, for if any party needs to get confidence back into the political system it is Fianna Fail".

Mr Ryan also threw down the gauntlet to the Green Party's political opponents over political donations, saying it was "time for Enda Kenny, or indeed Eamon Gilmore, to argue as to why they need them.

"Politics does not need corporate donations. If there is a great desire among companies to enhance the political process, they can contribute to a central fund -- which can then be distributed among the parties," added Mr Ryan.

Something which may, however, pose a far greater threat to the long-term viability of the Government is the increasing unhappiness within Fianna Fail over Mr Gormley's plan to have an elected mayor of Dublin.

It was originally hoped to hold the election in the autumn but the Sunday Independent has learnt the Greens now expect the politically dangerous contest to take place in May or June. "There is still a lot of work to be done to sort out the legalities. In fact, I can confidently say there is an enormous amount of work to be done before it is ready," said a Fianna Fail source.

Another said: "It's an absolute joke. We are supposed to be cutting expenditure -- and we'll end up having five mayors of Dublin. London only has one."

They also warned that Mr Gormley could face "a serious tug of war with the council top brass over the powers the new mayor will have''.

Sunday Independent

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