On the Late Late Show a few months back I raised concerns about the Greens attitude to collective cabinet responsibility. At the time I was talking about the Greens agreeing unpopular measures at the cabinet table and then getting their tweeting colleagues and apparatchiks to create the illusion that they were really against them.
But even I, in my worst nightmares, never imagined that the Greens could do anything as corrosive and offensive to our constitutional system of government as they perpetrated last Monday week.
As I worked alongside the Greens in government I gradually began to learn that theirs is a party pre-occupied with gestures. They are not bothered by the substance of any issue, but rather by how they might be perceived in certain sections of the media.
Last Monday morning’s bizarre green party press conference was precisely that – a gesture. Its purpose, its meaning, its implications and its effect was of little importance to the Greens. All that mattered to them was how it looked and sounded at the moment.
Their mantra: think globally; act locally should now read: think scantily; act superficially.
The Greens had told everyone that they were in favour of an election and that they were going to leave government and, having told the public this, they could return to their ministerial offices and staff as if nothing had happened: feeling no sense of hypocrisy or double standards.
What they did was outrageous and was seen as such not only here, but across Europe. At a time when credibility and certainty was required the Green Ministers, TDs and Senators gathered in a pitiable attempt to save their collective hides by trying to delude the public into thinking they were now the opposition.
Even the senior management of our delusion banks wouldn’t expect the public to swallow so glaring a whopper.
It was a gesture compounded by the almost surreal sight of the Green leader and occasional Environment Minister standing alongside the Taoiseach and Finance Minister at the launch of the Four Year Plan. The fact that so few the assembled journalist directed any questions to him showed how irrelevant he had rendered himself.
It is a long, long way from the government break ups of old. When Labour left the Garret Fitzgerald government in 1987 they did so clearly and unequivocally. When the Labour Party Deputies decided to go, they went. As a FG member of that administration pointed out during the week, arrangements were made for the Labour party’s withdrawal with the minimum of damage – except the government fell.
When Labour left the 1992-1994 Government (is anyone else seeing a pattern and warning for the future emerging here?) they did so in a less organised and orderly a manner. It took a few days to find out where Labour stood, but when labour eventually made up its mind it acted. OK, it did not so much walk out of government as bounce FF out to replace them with FG and Democratic Left, but at least they did not claim to make up its mind to and then sit tight and do nothing.
What we have seen over the past 18 months is Green parliamentarians continually making sanctioned statements of Green party policy that run contrary to the position agreed by their government colleagues at the cabinet table.
But this is how the Irish Green party works – if works is the word I am looking for. When they entered government back in 2007 they said they wanted to show that the Irish Greens were capable – like some of their European counterparts – of working effectively and delivering politically in government.
Last Monday week their current leader showed how thoroughly and disastrously they have failed their own test and how they want to leave it to others to clean up after them.