Party leader locates a smoking gun to shoot himself in foot
ONCE upon a time, back in the olden days of Opposition, Green Party members were great men (and women) for a bit of a protest. They loved nothing better than a good picket on a Saturday afternoon, complete with kids in buggies, a packed lunch and a smorgasbord of shouty slogans.
But almost two years into their first tour of duty in Government, the Greens are now officially, and to their eternal bemusement, The Man. So the party finds itself on the other side of the barricades any time it gathers for one of its multifarious talking-shops, looking out from the inside at the various disorderly dissidents.
And sure enough, the barricades were already in place around the front of the Tower Hotel in Waterford as the Green politicians and party faithful began to arrive for the kick-off of their three-day convention.
However, yesterday the ramparts were quiet -- but it looked to be merely the calm before the ruckus. For a sizeable protest is due to descend on the convention venue later this morning, consisting of all sorts of displeased demonstrators.
The protest is being organised by the umbrella organisation, RISE! -- which stands for Rural Ireland Says Enough! -- although the dubious presence of the exclamation mark ensures the group sounds more like a pop combo on 'Ireland's Got Talent'. This pro-rural sports lobby will even be bringing stage props in the shape of a posse of horses and riders from the Woodstown Harriers and Ward Union hunts.
This powerful pro-hunting gang, who claim to have 300,000 supporters, have sent many Fianna Fail TDs in hunt-loving counties such as Meath, Kildare and Waterford into a bit of a tizzy. For large numbers of their constituents' hackles have been raised by a line which was included in last year's renegotiated Programme for Government which vowed to put the kibosh on hunting, leaving the Fianna Fail politicians stuck between a fox and a hard place.
Also lining the barricades will be protesters from the UNITE trade union who represent workers from Waterford Crystal, and also a delegation from the People Before Profit Alliance who have never met a demonstration they didn't like.
But yesterday it was all cheer and conviviality as delegates arrived at the hotel. Unlike a certain number of their senior coalition partners in Government, Green tails have been way up in the air since last Tuesday's reshuffle gifted the party two junior portfolios for Mary White and Ciaran Cuffe. And so with four out of their six deputies now toting titles, one can safely greet a Green TD in the street with "Hello Minister," and probably be correct.
The party's leader was determined that no one was going to rain on the Green parade, and most especially not a party-pooping Blueshirt such as Phil Hogan. The Fine Gael TD was in Dublin, busily weaving all sorts of connections between the Taoiseach and the tangled debacle of monumental money-wasting that was the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. But John Gormley was having none of it.
He threw down the gauntlet to Big Bad Phil. "If he can provide me with a smoking gun I'd like to see it, I really would," he declared. Just before 7.30pm, John gave his opening address. It was the warm-up for tonight when he will deliver his keynote address to over 300 delegates.
The only dilemma is that his big speech kicks off live on telly at 8.30pm, the same time Earth Hour begins, when all good green nations will turn off their lights as a symbol of the need to tackle global warming. Uh-oh. What happens if people turn off the goggle boxes during his big moment? "Well, they may turn it off anyway when they see me speak," he joked.
And maybe it was just as well that the cameras weren't rolling live last night. Wrapping up his remarks, the party leader blithely enumerated "the reasons we have gathered here in Galway".
He then hastily declared: "Wait -- we're in Waterford!" Ooops. Looks like he just shot himself in the foot. So that's where Phil left his smoking gun.