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You Twitter, Boyle... now the Greens look split and amateurish


The Greens are starting to wobble -- literally.

When Eamon Ryan made his feeble speech in support of Willie O'Dea during yesterday's Dail motion of no confidence, his hands shook so badly that he almost dropped his script.

That was telling enough, but it was Senator Dan Boyle's explosive intervention via Twitter a few hours later that confirmed the junior coalition partners to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Trying to say something meaningful in 140 characters is a constant challenge for habitual tweeters, but Dan managed it with ease. "As regards to Minister O'Dea I don't have confidence in him. His situation is compromised. Probably be a few chapters in this story yet."

He could have rested his thumb even more by just texting "Willie must quit", but his basic message is clear enough.

The big question now is whether Boyle represents the conscience of the Green Party or can be safely dismissed by his colleagues as just a disaffected loner looking for attention.

This is far from the first time that he has publicly disagreed with the party line -- he abstained on the Criminal Justice Bill in the Seanad and even offered his resignation last month over the Government's decision to hold the banking inquiry behind closed doors.

Never before, however, has he told Green TDs in such blunt terms that they have screwed up and need to do a U-turn as quickly as possible.

If Boyle had held onto his Dail seat at the last election, he would probably be at least a junior minister today.

Since being appointed to the Seanad by Bertie Ahern as a consolation prize, he has become much more of a lone wolf. Optimists within the Greens suggest that he and John Gormley are part of a "good cop, bad cop" routine, but recent events suggest that this is giving them far too much credit.

When Boyle's fellow senator Deirdre de Burca resigned last week, she complained that Fianna Fail were "running rings" around their partners in Government. The Willie O'Dea affair suggests that she had a point. A cabinet minister swearing a false affidavit is exactly the sort of scandal that would have had the Greens huffing and puffing in opposition, but today their only response is to close their eyes and hope it goes away as quickly as possible.

At the very least, O'Dea was guilty of bad judgment when he falsely accused a Limerick Sinn Fein councillor of being involved in the running of a brothel.

But did he make an honest mistake or was there something more sinister involved?

Dan Boyle has made it crystal clear where he stands on the matter -- and the chances are that he speaks for the overwhelming majority of ordinary party members.

So how will the O'Dea controversy develop from here? The six Green TDs were clearly bounced into voting to save him in the Dail yesterday, but it must have dawned on them by now just what a glorious opportunity they missed.

Insisting on the Minister for Defence's resignation would have left Brian Cowen seething with rage, but it would also have gone a long way towards asserting the Greens' independence -- and with both parties terrified of an election, the Government would surely have still hung together.

If any more revelations about O'Dea's affidavit emerge over the next few days, the issue could be blown open all over again.

If not, he is probably safe and the Greens may wind up looking like the biggest losers of all.

To put it simply, a party that could fit all its TDs and senators into a couple of taxis is just too small to afford splits -- and Boyle's tweeting has left them once again looking divided, amateurish and out of their depth.

Dan Boyle spent the first eight years of his life in the "Windy City" of Chicago.

If he goes on like this, his own windy performances will help to blow the Greens into the political graveyard.