Friday 24 March 2017

Left-wingers band together to seek more clout in Dail

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

INDEPENDENT left-wing campaigners have won a record number of Dail seats and are now poised to put the incoming government under pressure.

The left-wing Independents are expected to kick-start talks today about forming a technical group which would give them special speaking rights and question time in the Dail.

Only one technical group can be formed and it may require the solid agreement of 10 or more Independents, Socialist Party and People Before Profit TDs.

The overall mix of Independents includes Michael Lowry, Shane Ross and those with previous Fianna Fail links such as Michael Healy-Rae and Tom Fleming in Kerry South.

Some 233 Independent candidates ran -- the highest number yet -- and last night they were set to take a minimum of 17 seats.

It is thought unlikely that Fine Gael will approach Independents about doing deals as it seeks to secure an overall voting majority in the Dail.

Independents such as Mr Lowry and Finian McGrath who supported the last government retained their seats, as did Maureen O'Sullivan.

But Joe Behan, who resigned from Fianna Fail at the height of the medical cards controversy, was last night struggling to retain his seat in Wicklow.

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett last night insisted a technical group of left-wing Independents is possible.

Among those who might feature in such a group are Finian McGrath, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle, Seamus Healy and Catherine Murphy.

Coalition

They could put immense pressure on the Labour Party if it goes into a governing coalition with Fine Gael.

"There are quite a few options for us to form a technical group," Mr Boyd Barrett claimed after taking the last seat in Dun Laoghaire.

Independents took a record number of seats on the back of a situation in which some TDs scored deals in the last government and amid speculation that Fine Gael could bring them into the fold. But their record vote also points to voters' distrust of the established political parties.

Waterford Independent TD John Halligan, who left the Workers' Party in 2008, said there must now be an end to "gombeen politics".

TDs must put the interests of the country first, he said. If the government was doing "something right", he would not oppose it for opposition's sake.

The Socialist Party's Joe Higgins and Independents Catherine Murphy and Seamus Healy were among those who won back seats they lost in previous elections.

Policies

The Socialist Party now has two TDs in the Dail, on foot of Clare Daly's success.

Besides Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit also has Joan Collins.

Independent candidate and economist Stephen Donnelly was also in contention for a seat in Wicklow last night.

Former senator Shane Ross insisted he didn't want a job with Fine Gael but was open to trying to "work with" the party. However, he stressed that this depended on whether there was common ground on policies.

"I think the situation is, if Independents had a key number of seats, I would certainly be prepared to talk to them about implementing policies, but I'm not interested in joining a government," he said.

Irish Independent

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