On Saturday, a conference of Irish Green Party members voted to stay in government with the center-right party Fianna Fail. The vote was based on approval of a revised program for government that Green negotiators worked out last week with their much larger coalition partner. The decision comes at a hard time for the Irish Greens. Many voters on the left who supported them are angry over their participation in a center-right government, and their failure to pull out after several high-profile Fianna Fail corruption scandals. Fianna Fail supporters tend to oppose the Greens’ agenda. One thing seemed clear to everyone in Ireland – if the Greens had chosen to pull out of government and force an election, both parties in the current government would have taken a beating at the polls.
A major issue was the NAMA ‘bad bank’ (a government bank to buy toxic assets) proposal, which the Green rank-and-file had opposed. NAMA was renegotiated so that if it operates at a loss, temporary tax increases will recoup taxpayers’ money. Among the other concessions Greens won are: a carbon tax to be introduced in 2010; charges for water use (free basic allowance for each household, with charges for excess use); heavy investment in the green economy; no university fees; more primary and secondary school teachers; a national climate change adaptation strategy; an end to corporate donations to politicians and parties; 2:1 spending ratio on public transit vs. roads; a civil partnership bill and legal recognition of transsexuals; and major animal rights victories including a ban on hare coursing and stag hunting, and a 3-year phase-out of fur farming. See this article for a thorough look at what the Greens got from the revised program for government.