Monday, 15 February 2010 15:04
Putting the record straight
Over the past few days I have heard and read many of the comments that have been made publicly about my recent resignation. I would like to correct some of the inaccurate information that has been put into the public domain in order to allow people to make their own minds up about my resignation, based on the facts.
Threats to the Green Party
Firstly it has been suggested that I made threats about ‘damaging’ the Green Party. I think most people who are familiar with my political record will acknowledge that I have always tried to act in the best interests of the party. In fact, even though I have resigned from the Parliamentary Party (and not the party itself) I am still deeply concerned about the party’s future. Before I resigned however I was very clear with my colleagues that I believed my resignation could be damaging for the party. This was a statement of fact, not a threat, and the events that have occurred since have proven the accuracy of my predictions. Unfortunately I do not believe that I had any alternative but to resign given the circumstances.
Disappointment over the Brussels job
It has also been said that my resignation was motivated by a failure to get a job in Brussels . I openly admit that the failure of my party leader to insist that our government partners honour a clear agreement they had entered into with him about a position in Brussels was the trigger for my resignation but it most certainly was not the cause. The focus on the Brussels job distracts from significant events within the parliamentary party which reflected my growing concern at the kind of decisions that we were continuing to support in government, and the treatment that we appeared willing to put up with from our government partners in order to stay in government.
These events came to a head in July 2009 when I absented myself from a vote on an opposition amendment to the Defamation Bill which attempted to delete the crime of blasphemy from the bill. When the government lost the first vote I was summoned to the Seanad Chamber and told to vote with the government in a walk-through vote. I was sharply chastised at a subsequent Green Parliamentary Party meeting and was told that if I failed to support the government in a vote again that I would lose the party whip. I was also put under strong pressure to support the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. Eventually Senator Dan Boyle and I failed to support the government on the final votes on that bill. This was because we were deeply unhappy with the way in which the Minister for Justice had dealt with the Green Party’s input to the legislation. When the Seanad returned after the summer break, I spoke with John Gormley as Party leader, and explained to him how uncomfortable I was at having to support certain upcoming government decisions. I told him that I was considering leaving the parliamentary party. From that point on he was very aware of my position regarding remaining in government.
Green Party lobbying of Brian Cowen for Brussels job
The third inaccurate claim that has been made publicly about my resignation is that my party had agreed only to lobby on my behalf with Brian Cowen in relation to a position in Maire Geoghegan Quinn’s new cabinet. In fact, John Gormley told me clearly that he had negotiated a position for a Green in her new cabinet as a basic condition of Green Party support for her nomination. The Green Party had favoured Pat Cox for the position of Commissioner, and. the two Green Ministers actively lobbied Brian Cowen to have him nominated for the post. However, Fianna Fail was insistent that one of their own be nominated, and favoured Maire Geoghegan Quinn. The Green Party eventually agreed to support her nomination subject to the condition that there be a position for a Green in her cabinet. I queried John Gormley at the time as to whether this was not a decision that the new Commissioner Designate herself would have to make. John told me that Brian Cowen had telephoned Maire Geoghegan Quinn last November and made her aware of this condition before she was officially nominated. I asked how she had reacted to the news and he told me that she had agreed because she was very interested in the nomination. This occurred last November and while there were obvious sensitivities about discussing the matter publicly before the Commissioner was appointed, there was no uncertainty about it. Any suggestion therefore that my party had merely agreed to lobby Brian Cowen for me in relation to the position is very misleading.
Research portfolio unsuitable for a Green
The subsequent news that the Research and Innovation portfolio had been assigned to the Irish Commissioner was very welcome to me. This portfolio area will be critical in assisting the European Union to achieve its most important strategic objective of becoming an internationally-competitive, low-carbon economy based on innovation in many new areas of green enterprise and technology. The broad scope of the research portfolio includes health, agriculture, energy, environment, sustainable development, transport and industrial technologies. A Green presence in that cabinet would have a valuable contribution to make to the work of the DG. John Gormley’s early insistence on having a Green in the cabinet seemed a very sensible one. However, the Sunday Business Post recently (14/2/10) described the Commissioner’s cabinet as a “praetorian guard…expected to be completely loyal to their principal…inevitably de Burca would have been seen as an outsider”. Perhaps a form of political tribalism is a more accurate explanation for the failure of our government partners to honour the agreement that was made with John Gormley last November than any concerns about the “technical ability” of the green candidate for the position. It is indicative of the weakness of the Green Party’s position in government at present that, given the opportunity to influence the momentum in the EU towards a greener low-carbon European economy, my party allowed itself to be “shafted” (to quote John Gormley). It indicates a particular attitude towards green policies that became very familiar in dealing with our government partners in Leinster House. I regret that John Gormley seems willing to allow the party to be so regularly outmanouevred in this way in the interests of remaining in government, rather than asserting the interests of the Green Party and its constituency.
Finally I would like to address the issue of my motivation in resigning from the Green Parliamentary Party and Seanad Eireann. The past few weeks leading up to my resignation were very extremely difficult ones for me. Three weeks ago a Senior Minister (who is not a Green Party member) stopped me on the corridors of Government Buildings and informed me that the position in Maire Geoghegan Quinn’s cabinet, popularly understood be held for me based on the agreement with my party leader, had been offered to another individual. This was the first indication I had that the position was not going to be offered to me. I immediately spoke to John Gormley but it took a further week to confirm that the agreement had been breached by our government partners. I encouraged him to insist on the agreement being honoured but he told me that he was powerless to do so. He told me that our government partners were willing to offer me a position as Chef de Cabinet in the European Court of Auditors. I turned the position down on the basis that I do not believe I have the necessary skills or experience to carry out the important work of ensuring that the EU Budget is correctly implemented. I was offered this position on several occasions. I made it clear to the Green Party and Fianna Fail that I was not looking for a ‘plum’ and well-paid job in Brussels but rather that I genuinely want to make a serious contribution to ensuring that the European Union leads the way internationally towards a more sustainable and responsible way of living on the planet.
I resigned from the Green Parliamentary Party without any clear plans about my future. I do not regret the decision, although I am obviously concerned about what lies ahead. I hope my resignation will cause the Green Party Parliamentary Party members to seriously rethink their role in government. If they do not, I believe they risk consigning the Green Party in Ireland to political oblivion for the foreseeable future. This would be a very real tragedy and I sincerely hope that it does not happen.
First of all I am shocked to think that this is the way jobs are doled out to party members of the current government
Why Mrs de Búrca would assume that she was even entitled to a secure job in Brussels is just sheer arrogance and a confirmation of the wheeling and dealing for jobs that goes on after every general election by the victors
This also confirms that the current crop of Minsters owe their jobs to their loyalty to the party leader and not because of their qualifications in the different areas
In other words cronyism is alive and well in lenster house and it would appear Mrs.De Burca was shafted by her own party because of her “concerns” of where the party was going!
I believe that they were glad to get rid of a non performing member and a member that was increasingly demanding better job security for herself.
This whole saga only goes to show that the Greens are out for the plumb jobs for themselves as well as the corrupt Fiannia Fall
The Greens have become just as corrupt now!