Taoiseach expected Greens to back changes

Thursday 20 January 2011 22.09
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John Gormley - Knew nothing about Cowen's statement confirming that several members of the Cabinet had resigned
John Gormley - Knew nothing about Cowen's statement confirming that several members of the Cabinet had resigned
Brian Cowen - Said it was important for him to appoint ministers from his own party
Brian Cowen - Said it was important for him to appoint ministers from his own party
Conor Lenihan - A huge disservice had been done to the name of Fianna Fáil
Conor Lenihan - A huge disservice had been done to the name of Fianna Fáil

The Taoiseach has said he was entitled to expect support from the Green Party for the appointment of new Fianna Fáil ministers today.

Speaking on RTÉ News, Mr Cowen said that the Greens were under no illusion earlier this week about what Fianna Fáil wanted to do about Government appointments.

But he said this morning Green Party leader John Gormley did not agree to any appointments by Fianna Fáil.

Brian Cowen's statement / Green Party statement

Mr Cowen said it was important for him to appoint ministers from his own party.

He only wanted to do what any other leader in a coalition is entitled to do, he said.

Fianna Fáil has to ensure that it has people who can battle for the party in the election, he said, including people from a new generation.

Brian Cowen also said he would lead Fianna Fáil into the General Election.

Greens knew nothing of Cabinet changes

Also speaking on the Six One, Mr Gormley said that there was no contact with his party overnight about rumours that changes in Cabinet were about to take place.

He said that at a meeting with the Taoiseach yesterday, Brian Cowen mentioned names of those whom he intended replacing as members of the Cabinet.

He said Tony Killeen was present at the meeting with the Taoiseach and the Green Party.

He said that at the meeting, the Green Party insisted and made very clear it was opposed to the proposal.

Mr Gormley said he knew nothing in advance about a statement released by the Taoiseach last night confirming that several members of the Cabinet had resigned.

The leader of the Greens said that he knew nothing about the resignations at all.

He said that he met the former Health Minister Mary Harney last night and she did not mention she was to resign.

He said his wife told him that Ms Harney had resigned.

Mr Gormley said he met with the Taoiseach several times today and at all times said clearly the Green Party was not in a position to support a vote to appoint new Cabinet members.

He said that the party told the Taoiseach that it was a bad idea.

Commenting on a Fianna Fáil statement that the Greens had been made fully aware of the changes that were proposed, Mr Gormley said the party assumed there would be further contact with their coalition partners before decisions were made.

Mr Gormley said there are also ministers on the Fianna Fáil side who thought it was not a good idea to appoint new members of Cabinet.

He said the Green Party was forceful in its opposition to the proposal and such a move would be a 'final insult.'

Asked if trust between the Green Party and Fianna Fáil had evaporated, Mr Gormley said when a lack of communication develops it does erode trust and is not easy.

Mr Gormley said he would have accepted that the Green Party position would have been respected and had no idea appointments to Cabinet were about to take place.

Election date

However, he welcomed Mr Cowen's announcement that a General Election will take place on 11 March.

Mr Gormley said the Green Party did not know the exact date of the election before it was announced by the Taoiseach today.

He said discussion about the date had taken place but it had not been confirmed.

Asked if the Greens considered pulling out of Government today, Mr Gormley said all options were considered by the party.

Mr Gormley said the party had always tried to be polite with its partners in Government and he said meetings with Mr Cowen today were tense.

He said that ministers are talking to one another and the Green Party is a beacon of stability and calmness.

He added that the Government will continue despite today’s events, which he said are regrettable.

Conor Lenihan wants Cowen to quit

Minister of State Conor Lenihan has said the Taoiseach should resign.

Mr Lenihan said events over the last 24 hours have raised an issue about his leadership once again and he said quick action was needed by senior members of the party.

The Taoiseach should look at the situation, he said, and the effect his approach has had on the party and its supporters over the past number of days.

Conor Lenihan said Mr Cowen's authority and credibility has been eroded over the last few days and many people who voted confidence in him are now thinking quite the opposite.

Mr Lenihan said he was angry and embarrassed for supporters of Fianna Fáil who were looking on in horror at what was happening.

A huge disservice had been done to the name of the party, he said.

Conor Lenihan said Brian Cowen has lost the confidence of the country and he said the only way the Fianna Fáil leadership issue can be resolved is if Mr Cowen thinks about the position in which he has placed the party.

It would be in the best interest of the party if Brian Cowen moved on because he said it was not working out, he added.