'Example is not the main thing in influencing others -- it is the only thing.
-- Albert Schweitzer
John Gormley should take note of this quote from Schweitzer. Presumably, when the Green Party decided to go into government they hoped to make a difference in Irish society. It seemed like, at last, a partner in government had a clear agenda. An agenda that was hammered out in the Programme for Government and reiterated in the renewed Programme for Government only eight months ago.
Why then does John Gormley have a dilemma? Because he undoubtedly has a dilemma which has already done his reputation and electability irreparable damage. His dilemma being the Poolbeg incinerator in his back yard.
Now, over in Fianna Fail in recent times, Mary Wallace also had a dilemma. Hers was stag hunting in her back yard. Mary's electorate, family, friends and neighbours are members of the Ward Union Hunt, the only stag hunt in the country.
This left her uniquely exposed electorally when it came to last week's vote on the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill.
In much the same way, John Gormley is exposed electorally should he grant the foreshore licence for the water-cooling system that would enable the Poolbeg incinerator to proceed.
The key difference between the two is that Mary Wallace is a parliamentarian, one who understands that if you want to make a difference you accept how parliamentary politics work. You have to -- that's how business gets done. Mary Wallace knew this, and so, having strongly voiced her objections to the bill, she accepted the majority rule and voted in favour of the bill.
John Gormley seems to have missed that bit of the civics lesson, and is playing an odd, oblique delaying game. It's time he woke up and smelt the coffee. He is a minister in a coalition government. Being a minister carries responsibilities. Collective responsibilities. Decisions need to be made. Hard ones. Easy ones. The deal is that a minister makes both. He cannot cherry-pick.
The time to make a stand on the incinerator issue was when the Greens were negotiating with Fianna Fail on the Programme for Government. Surely if the Poolbeg incinerator was so abhorrent to him it should have been a deal breaker. Or was the lure of power too much even for our sanctimonious Mr Green?
It is government policy to build incinerators. That, in case he missed it, is the Government in which he is a minister, not an independent TD supporting the Government, but a full-blown minister. It is certainly within his power to halt progress on an agreed government policy. But is it the proper parliamentarian's approach? I think not.
The Poolbeg incinerator has been approved by An Bord Pleanala, the Environment Protection Agency, the National Development Finance Agency and his own Department of the Environment. By withholding the foreshore licence he is, in fact, preventing the project from going ahead.
To me it smacks of Nimbyism (Not In My Back Yard): the abandonment of policies and of the national interest in order to keep the local electorate happy -- particularly when he could grant a permit for the controversial Shell Corrib project only last week. But then, that is not in Dublin South East.
Oh dear, parish-pump politics is alive and well even in the Green Party.
You know, Mr Gormley, I thought the opening quote from Albert Schweitzer would have applied to you. I had high hopes for the Green Party in government. I believe in protecting the environment.
I, like most of the population try to play my part, not with grand gestures, but in the little things like conserving energy, separating my waste, driving a hybrid car. (I haven't a clue about cars but I believed you when you said that it was more environmentally friendly.)
Right now, I can't help but wonder if, in your effort to appease your constituents, you have forgotten the big picture?
We the taxpayer will pick up the tab should fines be imposed by the EU for our continuing breach of an EU directive on landfills.
We the taxpayer will pick up the tab should Covanta Energy (the US developer in the Poolbeg project) decide to take you, the Minister for the Environment, to court in order to obtain the foreshore licence.
I'm sorry, Mr Gormley, but you cannot close the door after the horse has bolted.
If you made a mess of your negotiations in the Programme for Government, that's not our fault, you just have to live with it.
Welcome to the real world.
Of course there is one other thorn in Mr Gormley's side. The new political grouping concerned with green and social justice issues An Fis Nua. This is a group, according to one member, that is 'based on the same principles' as the Green Party.
Its membership is made up largely of former members of the Green Party the most prominent of which is former MEP, Patricia McKenna.
It is one thing to lose votes in your constituency because of unpopular decisions but quite another to lose votes and members to a new grouping because of the perceived abandonment of core values.
This is no longer parish-pump politics, this is party political survival politics.
Politics really is like a chess game and do you know the sad thing, folks, we are the pawns.
Mr Gormley, it's your move.