Greens ready to move on deal-breaking donations ban
THE Green Party is setting up the promised ban on corporate donations as its crucial battleground with Fianna Fail, which may be the breaking point for the Coalition.
It would prevent builders or bankers, for example, from giving any money to political parties. Green Party leader John Gormley has been calling for such a move since he was in opposition and he has recently promised that it will be the most radical piece of legislation on political funding ever.
But there is also a view in the party that it may provide an ideal "exit strategy" if the pressure of remaining on in government becomes too much to bear.
It would allow the party to take the high moral ground, claiming it had to pull the plug because Fianna Fail was too keen on still taking donations from big builders (even though they no longer have much money to give).
Green Party TD Paul Gogarty was quoted last month as saying that Fianna Fail would need to "play ball" on the corporate donations issue or risk the collapse of the Coalition.
There was a specific commitment in the revised Programme for Government last October to introduce the legislation, but there has been no sign of it so far.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen was vague when he was quizzed about it in the Dail last month, saying the issue of donations was "being proceeded within the context of overall electoral reform".
In his now infamous speech to the Greens' national convention in Galway before the 2007 General Election, Mr Gormley hit out at what he called the real Government -- "the gods in the Ballybrit tent".
"We have seen their malign influence in so many areas, particularly in relation to planning. And it has to stop. With the Greens in government it will stop," he said.
Mr Gormley repeated a similar message at his party's national convention in Wexford this time 12 months ago.
But this time he could not include any reference to the Fianna Fail fundraising tent at the Galway Races in Ballybrit -- it was taken down by Mr Cowen.
Fianna Fail has claimed that it has no issue with the restriction on corporate donations, as the profile of its donors has changed.
A party source has stated that 75pc of all donations to the party are now of an amount of €100 or less from individual donors.
The easiest way for the party to prove this, of course, is to co-operate with Mr Gormley's planned legislation.