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Greens go on offensive in reshuffle 'stroke' fury

SENIOR Fianna Fail and Green Party figures continued to clash yesterday over Taoiseach Brian Cowen's botched Cabinet reshuffle.

Former Green leader Trevor Sargent claimed the Taoiseach was told that a plan to parachute in six new ministers after late-night resignations would "go down like a lead balloon".

The Dublin North TD claimed Energy Minister Eamon Ryan warned Mr Cowen a reshuffle so close to an election would be seen as a political stroke.

"It was very, very strongly stated that this was not a good idea, [that] it was a mistake. And later on, if it did go to a vote, we said we could not support it," he said. "You can't get much clearer than that."

But Government Chief Whip John Curran argued Mr Cowen had not been told the Greens would not support new appointments if it came to a vote.

"Yes, the Green Party did indicate that there were issues of perception that they were uncomfortable with," he said.

"But at no time did they say they would not support it. They gave no indication they would not vote for it."

Green Party leader John Gormley said the Taoiseach was misguided as he planned to install a new Cabinet.

"Everyone was quite astounded by what had occurred," he said. "I have said it was misguided. Maybe he was under some sort of misapprehension."

Mr Gormley added: "It may not be the Taoiseach, there may be others of the view that this was a smart thing to do. I just can't comprehend how anyone would see that.

"We in the Green Party knew immediately this was a very bad idea. It would be seen as jobbery. It would be seen as a political stroke and it shouldn't be done. We made that clear."

Junior Minister Conor Lenihan compared the last few days with a car crash.

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He claimed the Taoiseach was aware last Saturday -- as he consulted with Fianna Fail TDs over whether to remain as party leader -- that the Greens did not want new cabinet ministers parachuted into empty portfolios.

"I think everybody was shell-shocked, not just me," he said. "It's no exaggeration to say that it was akin to somebody who had been through a car crash -- the trauma that people experience after an incident of that kind."

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