REMEMBER when you were a child? Everyone had a parent or grandparent who tried to convince them that the black or bruised bits on the banana were good for you.
The Green party was given a metaphoric banana with the revised programme for government last weekend. There are a lot of ripe bits there – no third level fees, a commitment to public transport spending, and bans on fur-farming and corporate political donations. But there are also a lot of black bits – Nama being the most difficult one for any dyed-in-the-wool party loyalist.
Despite the 'bad bits', the reality is that the consensus among the Greens is to agree with party leader John Gormley's statement last weekend that the new programme represents "a win win for the Green party".
With the Greens content to remain cemented in coalition, one of the few potential threats to the lasting power of the government comes from within Fianna Fáil.
After a tumultuous 16 months in power, Taoiseach Brian Cowen is on a good run of late. His government secured a Yes vote in the second Lisbon Treaty referendum, successfully renegotiated a new programme for government and Nama is well on its way through the Oireachtas.
Despite scaling these hurdles, largely unscathed, Cowen and his government know that the biggest hurdle comes on 9 December with the Budget.
Keeping Fianna Fáil backbenchers on side for crucial votes on a budget that has to make cuts of up to €4bn is going to be one of Cowen's biggest challenges to date.
So what is the mood among Fianna Fáil backbenchers? Is it one of impending mutiny or staunch loyalty in the storm?
"Obviously tough decisions have to be made in relation to the budget," Wexford TD Sean Connick told the Sunday Tribune. "Probably some horrendous decisions will have to be made so I would prefer if we were to make four or five awful cuts rather than 24 or 25 bitty things. I was self-employed and I am worried that we are not doing enough to stimulate the market. We need to look at initiatives that will stimulate the market as these do not cost too much."
Connick believes the government needs to look at ideas such as a small reduction in VAT to stimulate the retail sector. He also suggests it should buy cheap flights from Aer Lingus, Aer Arann, and Ryanair and give them away to people across Europe so they will fly here and spend money.
He stressed the need for efficiencies in the running of government departments and, "as alcohol has become so cheap in supermarkets and off licences, we should have new off-sales tax".
"We are very concerned about any cut in the old age pension as it is sacrosanct. After that everything is up for grabs and we will have to accept the harsh realities of what we are facing into," said Connick.
Cavan-Monaghan TD Margaret Conlon added, "We had four main hurdles. They were Lisbon, Nama, the new programme for government and the budget. We have got over Lisbon and the programme for government and have Nama to second stage in the House so we just have the budget now.
"I don't get a sense within the party that any of the backbench TDs will jump ship after the budget. We all hope that the budget will seek to protect the most vulnerable people in society as there are a lot of people in dark places."
While Connick and Conlon are quietly confident that the budget will go through, another backbencher reckons that there is a more pressing issue that has the potential to lead to up to three TDs leaving the party.
Drink driving limit row
For some months now, a row has been boiling within the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party over transport minister Noel Dempsey's plans to introduce a new lower limit for drink driving before the end of the year. Rural backbenchers are up in arms over plans to reduce the legal limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg, as they believe that this will stop people from having even one drink and people in that bracket are not the predominant cause of road deaths.
"I think the big issue for a lot of us is the reduction in the blood alcohol limit," said one Fianna Fáil TD. "It will keep some of the backbenchers happy if it was not implemented.
"The new programme for government makes reference to the fact that the road safety strategy will be implemented in full. This means that the blood alcohol limit will be reduced. There was no need to refer to it in the revised programme for government.
"The question for us is: why is Noel [Dempsey] so intent on forcing an issue in the most difficult of times when you need people onside? If he wants to keep people like Mattie McGrath and others on side, he should think twice about this plan."
Another TD said: "There is a broad acceptance starting to dawn on everyone that nothing is sacrosanct. TDs are concerned that we don't have another issue like the medical card issue in last October's budget. Once this budget is well thought out and we don't have any issues like that we will vote it through."
Another big issue for Fianna Fáil TDs is that some move be made to prevent the foreclosure on the homes of people who have just lost their jobs. There is a widespread desire for legislation to be framed to help people out in this regard.
"A moratorium on repossessions is one option but we should also look at a fund to help people out," said one TD. "That sort of fund would have to have certain conditions. It would not be there to help people who have taken pay cuts, it would be for people who have hit a stone wall and lost their job. We would have to apply that methodology."
Dublin North TD Daragh O'Brien said, "There are three areas that I would like to see protected. They are the disabled, carers' allowances and old age pensions.
"We will also have to be careful to protect people who have recently lost their jobs. Social welfare will have to be cut. When everything was going well, increases in social welfare payments above the inflation rate were given so they will have to be rowed back now. Tough calls will have to be made across the board as we have to get the public finances under control."
"Adjustments of around €4bn will have to be made but we have to be fair and that has to be the thrust of the budget. There is a lot of work going into this budget and I don't envisage another medical cards issue. If you state areas that have been ring-fenced against cuts, nobody can argue with that."