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A new beginning,a new Ireland.?

Green Party Chairman John Gormley TD's address to Convention 07


Mayor O Brolcháin, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends

It's great to be back in Galway. I came down on the overcrowded train. We'll get that fixed when we're in government. But what was remarkable was the number of people from Galway who came up to me on the train who said Niall O' Brolcháin was doing a great job. And I think we can all agree that Niall is doing a great job. And I think we can all agree that Niall will be a TD in eighty days time.

It was wonderful to hear Renate Künast this morning. Many years ago another German Green, the late Petra Kelly, used to say: "We only have one planet and there are no emergency exits". It's a phrase that resonates with Greens and increasing numbers of people throughout this country. But it means absolutely nothing to the PDs and Fianna Fáil. Because they live on another planet.

It's called Planet Bertie. And Planet Bertie is a very strange place. On a green version of Star Trek they might say: "It's life, Jim, but not as we Greens know it." On Planet Bertie you can sign blank cheques – because everyone does it, apparently. On Planet Bertie you can spend the average industrial wage on make-up. On Planet Bertie you can get loans from people – that you don't have to pay back. On Planet Bertie you can save €50,000 – without a bank account. And on Planet Bertie, climate change doesn't exist. All that stuff is made up by Trevor Sargent.

On Planet Bertie there's a strange cult called Fianna Fáil, a type of religion without vision or values; and every year in August they go on their annual pilgrimage to one of their sacred sites, the tent at the Galway races, where they pay homage to their gods and the gods bestow them with gifts for doing their bidding. Oh yes, it's a strange place Planet Bertie. So strange and so alien to our sensibilities, that it's a planet that we Greens would like to avoid. For let there be no doubt, we want Fianna Fáil and the PDs out of Government.

We want change. Michael McDowell wants things to stay the same. The man who said 'no thanks' to one party government has now become its mainstay. As you know, Michael's popularity is soaring – with Fianna Fáil voters. It doesn't matter what Bertie says or does, Michael will stick with him. The PD enforcer has become the Tammy Wynette of Irish politics, standing desperately by his man Bertie. Who would have thought it possible that the PDs would call for an end to tribunals enquiring into corruption? Or who would have thought that they would refuse to speak on the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal? Michael has gone native – more Fianna Fáil than the Fianna Fáilers themselves.

The
Green Party wants high standards in high places; not because we are particularly virtuous, but because strong ethical standards improve the quality of our democracy. We do it because we recognise that there are now three Governments in this country – the permanent Government, which is the civil service; the present Government, if you can call it that, consisting of the PDs and Fianna Fáil; and the real Government which are the gods in the Ballybrit tent. These people have inordinate influence on how our country is governed.

We have seen their malign influence in so many areas, particularly in relation to planning. And it has to stop. With the Greens in government it will stop. We will introduce the strictest ethical standards ever seen in this country. We will curb spending not just at election time but between elections. We will severely cap personal donations and ban corporate donations. We will introduce a register of lobbyists to curb the influence on policy. These measures will improve the quality of our democracy and make it easier for citizens to participate and create a much more equal society.

One area where inequality is so visible in our society is in the health service. Any society where medical treatment is given the basis of the person's ability to pay and not on medical need is a sick society – a society in need of healing. We reject the two tiered health system, which has been further entrenched by tax incentives for private hospitals on public land.

In government, the
Green Party will stop these tax incentives and stop the privatisation of our health service. In her right-wing ideological zeal, Mary Harney seems to believe that hospitals are like supermarkets where you can shop around and get a luxury health service if you're rich. And if you are poor you can get your 'yellow pack' service. We would remind Mary Harney that the only similarity between supermarkets and our hospitals are the lines of trolleys.

The A&E crisis will not be solved until the Minister for Health and Brendan Drumm of the HSE recognise that we have a bed capacity problem. I spoke to member of staff in St. James's this week and she told me that patients are waiting in that hospital for up to four weeks for an operation because of a shortage of ICU beds. Not only is this deeply upsetting for patients, it is demoralising for the dedicated medical staff.

In government the
Green Party will provide the 3,000 acute beds, and the necessary step down facilities, which the Government promised back in 2001. An increasing population means that we need more consultants, we need more GPs and we need more nurses. And we need to be able to retain these nurses. Nurses are the backbone of our health service. The Green Party recognises their legitimate grievances. We call on the Government to engage fully with them. Nurses are overworked and undervalued and they deserve and have our respect and our gratitude.

Isn't it extraordinary that in the bad old days – when this country apparently had no money – we had clean hospitals and now when private contractors are paid to do this work our hospitals are in a filthy condition. Yesterday, the Evening Herald printed this photograph which first appeared on my website a number of weeks ago. It shows a room full of builder's material where a cystic fibrosis patient was placed. Mary Harney; this is not acceptable.

The high rates of MRSA are not acceptable. Dealing with MRSA will be a priority for this Party in government. We will ensure the highest hygiene and cleanliness in our hospitals but, more than that, we will introduce measures to ensure that there are proper curbs on antibiotic prescribing in general practice and in our hospitals. Prevention will always be better than cure. That's why we want to get the early years right by investing in primary care and providing free primary care for the under sixes.

We will implement the recommendations of the taskforce on obesity. Let's get rid of the vending machines out of schools, let's stop the advertising of junk food to kids. These sensible measures will save us money later on by preventing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We will implement the recommendations of the taskforce on alcohol, a problem which costs this country a staggering €2.65 billion every year.

And let me say this on this very important sporting day. Alcohol and sport don't mix. We will introduce measures to stop the sponsorship of sporting events by the alcohol industry. Tackling obesity and the alcohol problem will save this country money. Other parties can tell you how they are going to spend your money. We'll tell you how we can save it for you.

I would ask Mary Harney to tell us how you can have a world class health service – which she promised – if we continue to help the wealthy through further tax cuts. This election, my friends, has, regrettably, turned into a race to the bottom. The politics of the lowest common denominator, are irresponsible, they insult our intelligence and demean us all. Remember: "Other parties promise you the sun, moon and stars, but only the Greens guarantee the earth".

But in reality we won't be guaranteeing anything unless we're in government. We want to be in government. We see ourselves as a party of government but, we are also an unusual Party in that we are a Party of conviction with conviction politicians. Prospective coalition partners need to know this. If they are into power for power's sake, or if it is just about gimmicks and hype, then they should think again about knocking on our door. But if they are serious about providing a better society then they will find in the
Green Party dynamic dependable people who want to provide this society with better leadership.

I cannot bear the thought of another five years in Opposition. In the early years of this Party we talked about changing the values of society, changing the mindset. We talked about the need for a paradigm shift and sometimes when I look across at the Government benches I ask myself a deeply disturbing question. How would
Dick Roche and Martin Cullen and Tom Parlon shift a paradigm? Possibly with a JCB and without planning permission.

The gombeenism has to end, my friends. This is it. We have an unprecedented opportunity to change this society for the better. We have the policies, we have the people, but there can be no substitute for hard work. You can make it happen. You can end the nightmare of Planet Bertie in the summer of 2007. Radical, realistic, responsible and ready for government. The best is yet to come for this party.