Ireland crisis deepens as coaltion Green party calls for general election
The Irish Government was thrown into crisis today after the Greens, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, called for a General Election.
John Gormley, leader and Environment Minister, said he wanted a date for the vote to be set some time in the second half of January.
The dramatic call comes less than 24 hours after Cabinet ministers agreed to ask the International Monetary Fund and Europe for a multibillion bail-out - a plea described as humiliation for the country.
The announcement was made in Leinster House, Dublin after party representatives and officials met.
Brian Lenihan, Finance Minister, was reportedly unaware of the decision up until half an hour before it was made public.
Mr Gormley said, since entering government in 2007: "It has been difficult. We have taken tough decisions and put the national interest first.
"We cannot go back and reverse the property bubble and the reckless banking which we consistently opposed. Nor can we control the market turmoil which has afflicted the Euro area.
"We have taken extensive measures to recognise the losses and stabilise our banking system. However, it is now clear we need further measures to give market confidence about our banks and public finances."
Mr Gormley said he wanted the current coalition Government to achieve three things before going to the public.
- Produce a credible four-year plan to show they can make the Budgets balance by 2014, expected this Wednesday.
- Deliver a Budget for 2011, due on December 7.
- Secure IMF/EU funding respecting vital Irish interests and restoring stability to the euro, expected in several weeks.
He said the Greens wanted to spend the next two months working on these crucial issues to "safeguard the future prosperity and independence of the Irish people".
The election call exposed a total breakdown in relations and communication between the Greens and Mr Cowen's much larger Fianna Fail party.
Mr Gormley disclosed that he felt the Government was not being completely open with the public and that he was effectively operating under orders.
"I believe that there was bad communication within the Government," Mr Gormley said.
"We were given an official line, both (Green cabinet colleague, Communications Minister) Eamon Ryan and myself, which was itself a mixed message."
The Government, and Mr Cowen in particular, has been repeatedly accused of speaking in riddles and refusing to openly discuss ministerial approaches to the IMF and EU.
The Green ministers were told to stay on message with the line "discussions were taking place but no negotiations" if asked about an IMF intervention, Mr Gormley said.
Officials in Brussels were leaking details of talks a week before Mr Cowen conceded that a bailout loan was a possibility.
"I regret very much that the country is in the hands of the IMF and I think I and my colleagues are deeply upset by what has happened but we believe that we had to stay in government at all times to act in the national interest," Mr Gormley said.
The statement by Green Party in full:
"The past week has been a traumatic one for the Irish electorate. People feel misled and betrayed.
"The Green Party believes three things must be done in the coming two months to safeguard the future prosperity and independence of the Irish people.
"Producing a credible four-year plan to show we can make our Budgets balance by 2014.
"Delivering a Budget for 2011.
"Securing funding support from the EU and IMF which will respect vital Irish interests and restore stability to the euro area.
"We have always said that our involvement in government would only continue as long as it was for the benefit of the Irish people. Leaving the country without a government while these matters are unresolved would be very damaging and would breach our duty of care.
"But we have now reached a point where the Irish people need political certainty to take them beyond the coming two months. So, we believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011.
"We made our decision last Saturday after a long series of meetings.
"Since entering government in June 2007, we in the Green Party have worked to fix and reform the economy. It has been difficult. We have taken tough decisions and put the national interest first.
"We cannot go back and reverse the property bubble and the reckless banking which we consistently opposed. Nor can we control the market turmoil which has afflicted the euro area.
"We have taken extensive measures to recognise the losses and stabilise our banking system. However, it is now clear we need further measures to give market confidence about our banks and public finances.
"We are now discussing ways of restoring stability to the banking system with the support of our European colleagues and the IMF. We have to ensure that the terms of any such support are in the interests of the Irish people and the wider euro area.
"The timeframe for achieving a four-year plan, Budget 2011 and a good outcome from IMF/EU talks is very short. These matters must at this stage take priority ahead of everything else.
"Despite our difficulties and disappointments, I believe we can get out of this situation. We must all work together to ensure the best outcome for everyone."