I wonder about the possibility because with one seat vacant due to the death of Seamus Brennan, now a resignation by first time TD, Joe Behan, the incorporation of the PD’s into the FF fold now numerically brings Fianna Fail back to where they originally were numberswise. The reality that Finian McGrath and Michael Lowry are now semi-detached on the issue too leaves the Green Party playing the role which Michael McDowell played in Election ’07, will they jump won’t they jump and if so who cares? Under our law if a government falls on a budgetary measure it must resign. True Jackie Healy Rae remains on board but if the combined opposition were to vote in favour of the Fine Gael motion on medical cards there would surely follow a confidence motion. What then? A rearrangement or election? In the 80's Garret Fitzgerald fell from office when Jim Kemmy refused to back a budget plan to put VAT on shoes. This lead to the disastrous GUBU government
The Green Party’s credibility on this issue has been damaged because they are seen responding to FF back bencher pressure rather than concerns that they raised themselves in the run up to the budget. In every coalition there arrives a crunch issue for the smaller party when they stare into the abyss, For Dick Spring it was food subsidies and Reynolds passport’s for sale, for O’Malley being called a liar, for McDowell it was Ahern’s finances and for the Greens it’s the grey’s. How you handle this in the eyes of the electorate dictates your standing for the rest of that Dail.
The recent past showed how McDowell’s party imploded when he wanted to pull out during the campaign. This is surely weighing heavily on the minds of the greens as they appeal very much to middle class voters slightly younger than those who followed McDowell. As Labour found out in 1997 the middle class can be very unforgiving when it comes to crucial issues. I don’t think they’ve changed and indeed if anything the rapid changes in society show there are now many more out there in the long grass waiting as the middle class is significantly bigger than in the 90’s.
As Jackie Healy Rae once said when he threatened to walk out on FF, it may be time soon to get the bicycle clips! One way or another we're facing a fascinating week, if the government gets through it intact some one will have to back down. I'll cast my eye over the budget next week but in the meantime discuss and vote above!