06 May 2009

Another one bites the dust

So the Irish Times is reporting that Patricia McKenna is to quit the Green Party. The wonder for me is that the former MEP hasn't left sooner. Always on the left of the Party, her policies whilst once reflective of mainstream Green Party policies have increasingly seen her marginalized as the Party lurches to the right under both the influence of its partners in Government, and of a newer breed of local candidate that sees the Party as an easier route to elected office than the closed shop dynastic institutions of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

A strong opponent of the Lisbon Treaty, she was heavily involved in the People's Movement that campaigned heavily in the referendum against the reintroduction of the failed EU Constitution, and proved to be one of the more rational voices on the disparate "No" side. She has indicated that she will now run as an Independent in the forthcoming EU elections, but I wonder if this will be the first stage in transforming the People's Movement into a viable political party.

At a pre-Ard Feish party meeting in Dublin back in early January I saw a very frustrated McKenna try to raise the issue of the party's position on Lisbon II with the party leadership, only to have her concerns ignored by the assembled TDs and Senators. Her voice was but one of several raised that day in opposition to the rerunning of the referendum, and yet the very next day I heard a senior party official speaking to election workers state that Lisbon was a dead issue because of the economy, and that no-one in the party or electorate cared about it any more. His words, of course, were directly contradicted by those of rank and file party members less than 24 hours previously.

McKenna is just the latest in a list of prominent party members who have resigned this year; Dublin City Councilor Bronwen Maher and Cork City Councilor Chris O’Leary both resigned from the party a week after the Dublin conference, opposed to the Greens' continuing role in government, ongoing support of failed centre-right economic policies and abandonment of key party issues like opposition to the use of Shannon by US military and rendition flights, the Corrib pipeline, the Tara bypass and many others. The fear expressed by many members at the Dublin conference was that the Green Party was fast becoming little more than the environmental wing of Fianna Fail, and both Maher and O'Leary echoed this in their resignation statements. Government with Fianna Fail has corrupted the party, as many feared it would, and with few successes to show for their involvement their Faustian bargain may prove terminal.

As I have mentioned before I am increasingly finding myself at the outer margins of the party philosophically, and while I have not yet resigned my own membership, the loss of McKenna is a big concern for me. While I do not agree with all of her positions, her resignation shows me that the Party is no longer big enough to hold a wide diversity of opinions. What she does next, especially if it involves Maher and O'Leary, will be very interesting to watch.

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