FG and FF played the Greens well
Of the political parties, the Green Party seemed to me to come out particularly badly at the end of the political fallout from the resignation of Willie O’Dea.
From the point at whish his resignation looked strongly possible, both the larger parties played the political game well against the Green Party. During the 1989–1992 Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats government, the junior coalition party managed to secure the scalps of Brian Lenihan, when he had misremembered details of his discussions with President Patrick Hillery in the early 1980s and of Charlie Haughey when the full details of the phone tapping scandal emerged. Had the Green Party acted quickly enough, they could have got credit for Willie O’Dea’s eventual resignation.
Fine Gael anticipated this by tabling a motion of confidence, knowing that whatever the Greens did would cause embarrassment to some members of the government. They probably correctly predicted that the Greens would indeed support Minister O’Dea, clearly tying the party to the ensuing controversy. Fine Gael had done this before, calling a motion of no confidence in the government after the poor showing by both government parties in the 2009 local elections, but this proved of little value. This time, tabling the motion of no confidence did have a negative political impact for the government.
Fianna Fáil also played the Greens well by calling the vote on the matter promptly. Had Pat Carey, the government chief whip, let that fester, the Greens could have had a chance to demand the Minister’s resignation. True, by strongly supporting Willie O’Dea, all supporters of the government lost face to extent. But even if this was not the precise calculation, the time did have the effect of weakening the Greens more than might have been the case. Their protestations after the event really amount to little in the public mind, as by that stage it was clear to all the the minister’s position was untenable.
For this to happen so soon after Déirdre de Búrca’s resignation, which showed that the Green Party were not above trying, even if unsuccessful, to use a supposedly non-political position in Europe for political gain, does further damage to the party.