By Michael O’Farrell, Political Reporter
BESIEGED Green party TD Ciarán Cuffe yesterday stepped down from his position as party environment spokesperson and handed over his position on the Oireachtas Environment Committee to party leader Trevor Sargent.
The reshuffle follows revelations at the weekend that Mr Cuffe’s substantial investment portfolio included shares in numerous companies with ethically questionable practices.
Files released by the Dún Laoghaire TD show that he owns a total of $68,253 worth of shares in oil companies, Chevron, Texaco, BP Amoco, Exxon, Schlumberger, Smith International and Unocal, out of a total portfolio worth $1.37m.
Despite the Green Party’s defining stance on the environment, Mr Cuffe also held shares in numerous companies with poor environmental records, as well as firms involved in the nuclear industry.
He also owns shares in a US multinational, Sara Lee, which has been accused by environmentalists of paying poor prices to Third World coffee farmers.
In a statement released yesterday after a meeting of the parliamentary party, Mr Cuffe announced he was stepping aside from his environment portfolio. He will continue to act as the party’s spokesperson on justice, equality and law reform.
Mr Cuffe said he had been in contact with his bank and intended disposing of any questionable shares without delay. Mr Cuffe inherited the portfolio from his mother Patricia three years ago and has it managed by a US-based investment adviser in Baltimore.
Party leader Trevor Sargent fielded all media queries yesterday, saying the events of the last few days had been very difficult for Mr Cuffe and his family.
Accepting Mr Cuffe’s offer to stand aside, Mr Sargent said his colleague had never breached the law although his actions were fundamentally against the principles of the Green Party.