Thursday 30 March 2017

Celebs 'all talk' on new party plans, say recruits

Kevin Keane

PLANS for a new political movement involving some of the country's best-known commentators have been heavily criticised by some of the very people it was trying to recruit.

The Democracy Now alliance was to feature personalities from sports, business, the voluntary sector and the media.

It was hoped the group would be made up of Independent candidates who would push for radical electoral and financial reform if elected to the Dail.

But now its organisers -- economist David McWilliams and journalist Fintan O'Toole -- have come in for sharp criticism following admissions that they had left it too late to line up sufficient candidates.

Almost half of the 20 figures approached by Democracy Now in the past fortnight were unable to commit to the campaign and ended up sinking the movement before it began.

Independent TD Finian McGrath, who was among those approached, said he was "very, very surprised" the plan had fallen through.

"It just shows that some of the so-called celebrities and some of the famous people in the media and in economics are all talk and are a bit windy when it comes to putting their name on the ballot paper," Mr McGrath remarked.

Irish Rural Link chief executive Seamus Boland said he was first asked to run for the campaign only eight days ago.

"I have to say I expressed my own concerns at the time that this was seriously too late but I made some enquiries and I discovered that there was an appetite and that I could muster a campaign.

"But while I was doing that they came back and said no it's not possible, the election is about to be called and that made me think what am I doing here?

"They shouldn't have left it so late, but I suspect the likes of Fintan O'Toole were actually resisting it for too long and when they did give in to think about it, it was already too late," Mr Boland said.

He added that he would come to a decision on whether to run in the election later today,.

Another of Democracy Now's prospective candidates, former Kildare North Independent TD Catherine Murphy, said she was very disappointed, adding that the group was a real opportunity to change the political system.

Adviser

Mr O'Toole had been planning to give up his job as deputy editor of 'The Irish Times' to contest a Dail seat, but will now remain with the newspaper.

Mr McWilliams, a columnist for the Irish Independent, who had already dismissed speculation he would stand in the general election, intended to act as an adviser to the group.

Other figures who it was hoped would agree to contest Dail seats as Independents under the Democracy Now banner were Independent Senator Shane Ross, journalist and football pundit Eamon Dunphy, cystic fibrosis campaigner Orla Tinsey and former Wexford hurling manager Liam Griffin.

A large proportion of funding had already been pledged to Democracy Now.

Irish Independent

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