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Green means go as a new era beckons

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Green Party leader Eamon Ryan

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan

Five days before we know for sure, it may seem presumptuous to suggest that a new coalition Government is all but over the line, but we'll make the assumption anyway. The Green Party must surmount the higher bar of a two-thirds' majority among eligible members to sanction the Programme for Government, but it is surely inconceivable that this deal could be rejected by even a one-third minority, plus one.

The Greens' negotiating team of the Green Party has done exceptionally well. True, they went into the talks with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail holding decent cards, but it required skill, resilience and perhaps a touch of ruthlessness to extract value from them. It helps, of course, when you're negotiating with a party desperate to do business - and Micheal Martin's Fianna Fail certainly matched that description, whatever about its erstwhile foes in Fine Gael.

How, then, are we to view the not insignificant opposition from within the Green Party to the idea of going into Government on a platform that would surely have been well beyond the wildest imagination of the most fervent among them only six months ago, a deal that is being envied by Greens across Europe?

How do you square this reluctance to seize the opportunity to put a Green agenda into the heart of Government, at a time when climate scientists insist that the planet cannot wait any longer for radical environmental change? The answer is not easily - in fact, not at all. We do not doubt the sincerity of those Greens against the deal, among them the well-regarded Neasa Hourigan who has concerns beyond environmental matters, but there was something perverse about their conclusion that no bread is better than at least half a loaf.

It seems clear enough that the well received and measured contribution of Catherine Martin, a formidable challenger to the leadership of Eamon Ryan, was the decisive moment in last week's special party conference to debate the deal.

The likeable if gaffe-prone Ryan - a certainty for one of the three Cabinet seats offered to the Greens - may find that being deposed by Martin would not be such a crushing disappointment. Come October and the inevitable difficulties of agreeing a Budget in this calamitous year, a torrid time awaits the Green leader, whoever it may be. Ryan may be best off out of it: he has seen the party unravel before when faced with the brutal realities of recessionary times.

Unless there is a political earthquake, Leo Varadkar will leave the Taoiseach's office within the week, on the back of an extraordinarily high approval rating. He does so as the country continues to exit the lockdown, in a careful manner that has met with the approval of a clear majority of people in this country.

Whether that popularity endures long enough to pay a dividend come the next election remains to be seen. Unpopular choices lie ahead for the new Government in waiting, and Sinn Fein may never have a better opportunity to put itself on the brink of power. And yet, in the new fractured political space, it should not be assumed that the people will punish this three-way coalition next time out. All we know for now is that the Greens have left the negotiating table with plenty of chips in hand. All bets are off on what comes next, as we enter a new period in Irish political life.

Sunday Independent