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Green insist: We're staying to finish the Budget

John Gormley confirms that the Greens will remain in government to ensure that the Finance Bill is passed before they go.

John Gormley speaks to the media at the Greens' think-in this lunchtime, as Ciaran Cuffe (L) and Niall Ó Brolcháin look on.
John Gormley speaks to the media at the Greens' think-in this lunchtime, as Ciaran Cuffe (L) and Niall Ó Brolcháin look on.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

GREEN PARTY leader John Gormley has insisted that his party will not be pulling out of government over Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s relationship with former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick, saying the Greens would remain in power to ensure the enactment of the Finance Bill.

In a statement released this lunchtime, Gormley said the Green parliamentary party had met to discuss the weekend’s reports about Cowen’s meetings with FitzPatrick, which took place in the months before the government introduced its bank guarantee.

After the meeting, the party had decided that although Cowen “should himself have put these matters into the public domain much earlier”, the party had been “unable to find any evidence” of any impropriety in Cowen’s meetings with FitzPatrick.

As a result, the party’s earlier plans to remain in power so that the Budget could be finalised remained intact, and that the party would “remain in government until the Finance Bill is passed.”

The Greens’ attitude has been criticised by Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter, who said Gormley was ignoring the allegations that Cowen had withheld details of his March 2008 phone call with the now-deposed Anglo chief from a Garda investigation.

It was reported in the weekend’s Sunday Times that the two had spoken while Cowen, as finance minister, was touring Malaysia for St Patrick’s Day in 2008, and had discussed the possibility of Anglo’s share price plummeting while developer Seán Quinn prepared to sell his 10% stake in the then-public bank.

The threat of a major fall in Anglo’s share price ultimately led to the bank lending significant sums of cash to ten major borrowers – known as the ‘golden circle’ – who then bought shares in the bank with their loans, thereby artificially propping up the bank’s share value.

The two had also played golf together in July 2008, after Cowen had become Taoiseach, and just weeks before the guarantee was introduced in September 2008.

Cowen released a statement on the meetings last night, insisting there was no impropriety to them, and is set to make a further statement to the Dáil tomorrow when it returns from its Christmas recess.

‘Determined to fight’

Other leading Greens said that the party meeting – which took place in Malahide, where the Greens are staging their pre-Dáil think-in – had galvanised the party’s resolve to hold its seats in the forthcoming general election.

That election looks likely to be held in the last week of March, after Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan last week said he expected the Finance Bill – which, along with the Social Welfare Bill, forms the bulk of the measures included in the Budget – to be passed through the Seanad on February 26.

Green chairman, Senator Dan Boyle, insisted that the party wanted to be “a vital and influential part of the next Dáil” and that the party still hoped it could gain on the six seats it currently held.

“The election is not a foregone conclusion,” Boyle insisted. “The political space is incredibly volatile right now… Some pundits have written off the Green Party. But the pundits are almost always wrong.  In any case the ‘underdog’ status suits us. People know that the Greens are fighting for our survival.”

Drumm rejects Seán FitzPatrick’s version of Anglo role >

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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