Should they stay or should they go? With just 11 days to polling day, speculation is mounting over the sustainability of the government, should Fianna Fáil and the Greens have a disastrous 5 June elections.
It is exactly two years ago today since the 2007 general election. The Greens' position has been regularly questioned since they went into coalition. But they have also been lauded for their loyalty and ability to stand over unpalatable decisions regarded as being in the best interests of the country.
The spotlight has again focused on the party in the last week after an Irish Times/TNS MRBI opinion poll showed the Greens at just 3% – at around the same level as the PDs were before that party collapsed.
Just hours after the poll was published, party chairman Dan Boyle suggested the programme for government should be reviewed after the forthcoming elections. In a stinging criticism of Fianna Fáil he said, "Too many policy errors remain that have not been admitted to, areas where responsibility has not been taken."
While Boyle's criticisms of Fianna Fáil have been commonplace over the past year, some divisions within the party have developed in that period. The party has lost some diehard members such as councillor Bronwen Maher, while others such as former councillor Donna Cooney have remained loyal. Maher is now standing as an independent and Cooney as a Green in the Clontarf area for the Dublin city council election.
The Sunday Tribune accompanied Maher on the campaign trail last Wednesday and Cooney the following day to gauge public opinion towards the loyalist and the dissenter as they battle for Clontarf.
"Trust the one you know" is the slogan blazoned on Maher's election posters. She left the Greens last January citing among the reasons for her departure the party was no longer standing up for the vulnerable in society.
She now has 15 volunteers on her campaign team and three of them are ex-Greens. She claimed that "a number of other Greens wanted to help but I have been told they were given a directive from the party not to help me".
Four ladies accompanied her on the trail on Wednesday night around a picturesque village housing scheme in Killester that was built to house returning world war one soldiers.
The dissenter said, "I am not going to say that the Greens have sold out because I have a lot of friends in the party who I know have not sold out, but they have dumbed down a little. I definitely think that the Greens need to take a very long hard look at what they can potentially achieve in this government and what they could achieve in another government.
"I think that Fine Gael and Labour, for example, would be interested in a coalition with the Greens. All the messaging coming from the other parties is that there is huge interest in the policies the Greens are promoting."
Maher is glad she left the party when she did as she was "feeling out of sync" with the way the TDs were repositioning the party and taking it in a different direction.
Maher is eager to win a new mandate for the next five years as an independent and while one woman blasted, "No politicians here", the reception was overwhelmingly positive towards her.
At one door in the Abbeyfield cottages, a dog jumped out when the door opened but the owner said, "The dog won't touch you. He only goes for Fine Gaelers for some reason. He went for Richard Bruton one evening. I wish I could train him to go for Fianna Fáilers."
Another man answered the door to tell Maher she was interrupting his viewing of the Uefa cup final. Before returning to the TV he said, "I'll vote for you. It is really important that you have left the Greens."
Another lady asked, "You left the Greens didn't you? I will give you my number one."
Like local election candidates all over the country, Maher has sensed a huge desire for a general election at the doors with a lot of people saying, "We need to get them out."
She said, "People are so angry and frustrated and not inspired by the government and I would say that includes the Green party. Worse than that, the Green party is seen as irrelevant in the whole scheme of things, which is appalling considering they have such a huge opportunity when they are in government."
Maher's decision to leave created an opportunity for party activist of 15 years Donna Cooney to stand in her native Clontarf.
The mother of four served on Dublin City Council for the nearby Donaghmede area for almost three years when she was co-opted onto a seat from 1996 to 1999. She works as an artist and was previously chairperson of the culture committee on the city council, where she was behind a campaign to develop the Red Stables artist studios and food and crafts market in Clontarf. She campaigned there with Deirdre de Burca yesterday.
Accompanied by two long-time Green canvassers, Cooney did a door-to-door canvass in Clontarf on Thursday afternoon.
An elderly man answered his door and told Maher, "I have voted Fianna Fáil all my life and now I am going to vote for Labour after what this government has done. I might give you my number two as you are local."
Another lady shook hands and politely greeted Cooney but added, "I won't be voting for you. I have always voted for the Greens but I am not happy with this government. I have written to the party to let them know how angry I am but they never even replied to me so I won't be voting for them."
There appears to be little animosity between Maher and Cooney, who said, "People are not asking where Bronwen has gone at the doors. I think people are more concerned with voting for the Green party and the issues they represent than particular personalities. It's a Green vote and not about personalities."
Despite torrential rain, Cooney's bubbly personality never darkened and she dealt with people at the doors with ease, whether it be advising an apathetic adolescent to "go out and vote" or convincing a concerned mother with a house full of 'chicken poxed' children that "they are over the worst".
Both loyalist and dissenter were critical of Dan Boyle's comments in recent days. Cooney claimed, "They have been a bit of a distraction and I don't think that should have been said until after the local elections. The local elections are about local issues and local candidates and these comments are only a distraction."
Similarly, Maher added, "I think that the latest steps Dan Boyle has been taking are very unfortunate… There is a general feeling among people that we have a serious situation here and this is not the time to be playing politics."
So how long can the government last? Should they stay or should they go?
The loyalist said, "I think the party just wants to evaluate the programme for government as it was made in different economic circumstances. I don't see us making any rash decision where we would jump from government. Our party is very democratic and everything goes down to grassroots level, so any decision will be made after a long and thoughtful process."
The dissenter, on the other hand, was more pessimistic as she believes the government has "a very tenuous mandate".
She said, "How long can they continue in that mode? Will it just become so untenable that they have to call for an election? The Fianna Fáil backbenchers will tip it. I don't see the Greens doing it and that is what is disappointing me. I think that there was a bit of brainwashing going on there and I think that the Greens were not out there talking to people until very recently.
"Suddenly they are out canvassing and finding out how the rest of the world sees it. When you are in Leinster House, you move in a very small circle and unless you get out at the doors on your own you are not seeing the way it is for everyone in the rest of the country."