Irish Greens back bank bailout

Ireland’s Fianna Fail-led government has survived a threatened walk out by its junior partners, after Green party members on Saturday voted to back a revised policy programme.

A special Green party convention in Dublin voted by more than four to one to back the new programme for government, which its leaders had earlier negotiated with the Fianna Fail party of Brian Cowen, the prime minister.

The convention also voted down by two-to-one margin a motion to reject the government’s bank rescue plan. Brian Lenihan, the finance minister, will now have the support of the Greens' six deputies, making it almost certain parliament will pass the vital legislation setting up the National Asset Management Agency. The so-called bad bank will take over up to €77bn worth of distressed property loans to cleanse the banking sector and encourage the resumption of lending to businesses.

John Gormley, the Green party leader, hailed the new policy programme, in which Fianna Fail has given a commitment to drop plans to introduce university student fees. Fianna Fail also agreed an extra 500 teachers would be taken on in state schools over the next three years.

On the banking measures, both Mr Gormley, and Eamon Ryan, his Green party cabinet colleague, had backed the Nama legislation, and were even encouraged by Fianna Fail to claim credit for some legislative amendments during the second reading of the bill. But many activists feared it would see the taxpayer bailing out the banks and property developers.

The Green leadership had earlier threatened to quit the coalition, triggering an early general election, if the convention failed to back the new deal – or if it voted to reject the bank rescue.

However party delegates were swayed by the concessions offered by Fianna Fail. Moreover few activists relished the prospect of an election, given the drubbing the party received at European parliament and local council elections in June.

Trevor Sargent, former Green party leader, said the deal with Fianna Fail was better than many party activists had expected.

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