GREEN party leaders last night faced down grassroots anger and insisted they would back education cuts.
A crunch meeting of the party’s TDs, senators and more than two dozen councillors decided to continue in government despite concern about the impact of the emergency budget on teacher numbers.
Environment Minister and party leader John Gormley defended the move, insisting he would be seeking a rollback of the cuts over the longer term, but that the current financial situation left the cabinet with no choice as the country “faced into an economic abyss”.
Opposition was still apparent, though, as Dublin City councillor Bronwen Maher announced she would use the party’s national convention next spring to demand a vote on the desirability of staying in government as the Greens seemed to have no “bottom line” for their support to Fianna Fáil.
“For me, the withdrawal of frontline funding for primary school education is an example of poor policy. The Government sent a clear message to the electorate that it would protect the vulnerable while taking the tough decisions on the economy and then did the exact opposite by targeting the old, the low paid and the young.
“It failed to tackle the elephant in the room which is our spiralling public sector pay bill.
“It is vitally important that the Green party does not lose its identity and dilute core principles just for the sake of a seat at the cabinet table,” she said.
Mr Gormley said the meeting had seen a frank exchange of views.
“Our elected representatives expressed real concern about the type of cutbacks in this year’s budget. We are looking for changes in education on an ongoing basis particularly in the short term.
“What was very clear was that people are very committed to our ongoing participation in government,” he said.
Mr Gormley said the party’s education spokesman Paul Gogarty would play a part in drafting a Government Dáil motion backing the budget cuts to counter a Labour one demanding they be scrapped.
Mr Gogarty insisted the Greens had a long-term policy of ensuring schools received the resources they need over the longer term.
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