Greens feel heat to get concessions from FF

THE Green Party is coming under increased pressure to secure a wide range of concessions from Fianna Fáil as negotiations on the revised Programme for Government (PfG) enter the final two days.

Opposition parties and special interest groups ratcheted up the pressure on the Greens yesterday on everything from NAMA to climate change.

However, the leadership has been boosted by the indication from the Greens Against NAMA (GAN) splinter group they will not explicitly target the Programme for Government at a vote on Saturday.

At the special policy conference the small but significant rump will instead look to the evening-time vote on the NAMA plan. This would require two-thirds support of the membership effectively to bring down the Government. Spokesman Arthur Doohan said its primary concern was getting the vote out for NAMA and not cynically trying to derail the PfG.

A handful of key members of GAN left the splinter group yesterday to concentrate on rallying the vote against the PfG. Defeating this would only require one third support.

Separately Fine Gael and Labour once again criticised the Government’s plan for NAMA, which will see the new State agency purchase €47bn worth of property loans from the banks at a cost of €54bn.

The goal is to ensure banks have enough funding to resume lending to businesses and get the economy moving again. But both Fine Gael and Labour believe the Government is making a mistake in overpaying for the loans.

Both parties pointed to comments made by US Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who told RTÉ on Monday that the principle of overpaying for bank loans was “criminal”.

Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton said NAMA was a “massive gamble” that should be ditched.

Labour TD Liz McManus conceded the Government was intent on implementing NAMA regardless of what the opposition said, but called for a number of safeguards to be provided.

“Provision should be made for a whistle-blower’s charter to cover staff in NAMA, covered institutions, debtors, advisers and service providers to ensure the highest ethical standards,” she said. “Accountability needs to be stitched into the bill [establishing NAMA]... to ensure that ministers cannot use NAMA for their own purposes.”

At Saturday’s conference, if the Green leadership does not get the required support for both PfP and NAMA, the party will collapse the Government. The Fine Gael and Labour comments appear designed to play on members’ NAMA fears ahead of the conference.

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