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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Lucinda Creighton holds fresh discussions on forming new party

Flannery warns this autumn is 'window of opportunity' to form

Fionnan Sheahan 
and John Drennan

Published 27/07/2014 | 02:30

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Lucinda Creighton. Photo Ray Ryan
Lucinda Creighton. Photo Ray Ryan
Lucinda Creighton at Leinster House
Lucinda Creighton at Leinster House
Lucinda Creighton

LUCINDA Creighton's Reform Alliance (RA) has held fresh talks with a leading international political strategist as the group of Fine Gael rebels edges closer to forming a new party.

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The discussions were described by a member of the RA as a "political stew".

But funding is still viewed as the biggest stumbling block to the creation of a new party by the RA.

Ms Creighton dropped further strong hints last week that she may form a new political party. Her comments have resulted in speculation that the RA will be a party before the Dail resumes.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery said September of this year is the "key window of opportunity" for any party wanting to contest the next general election. But he also warned funding would be the major obstacle.

"Any new party would face serious difficulties in fundraising. The system is hardwired against new parties in that regard," he said.

Writing in today's Sunday Independent, Independent TD Stephen Donnelly says a new party may be required to bring about reform. The existing system will continue to resist change because those in high political office "don't want to share power", he writes.

"So it's incumbent upon other politicians to fight for change within the existing parties, and if necessary to form new ones."

Members of the RA group met with Philip Blond, a British political strategist, philosopher and head of the ResPublica think tank, in Leinster House 10 days ago.

Columnist and broadcaster Tom McGuirk also joined the group for lunch. Mr Blond spoke at the RA's so-called monster rally earlier this year, in a session chaired by Mr McGuirk.

RA members were coy about the contents of the discussions with Mr Blond.

Ms Creighton said Mr Blond merely came in to meet a few of the members and she invited Mr McGuirk for lunch, as they had met at the conference in January.

But sources said the RA is moving closer towards the formation of a party.

"Blond has been back and forward to Ireland. It was an informal get-together. But there probably will be a new political party. People are sick of hearing about it maybe happening, so until such time as it happens, there's not much to be said," a source said.

RA Senator Paul Bradford said the gathering with Mr Blond and Mr McGuirk was a "political stew".

"We are discussing politics and the political spectrum with lots of people because it is so fascinating. I have never seen so many people interested in politics and fascinated by it," he said.

Ms Creighton has been consistently accused by political foes of engaging in 'a dance of the seven veils' over whether she will create a new party.

But members of the Reform Alliance are openly conceding that the option of continuing on as a loose association of TDs was becoming increasingly untenable.

"It's a case of 'events dear boy', as the current political dynamic may leave us with no choice. The mood is certainly changing," a source said.

In a speech at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal last week, Ms Creighton appeared to be bracing herself to make the final leap from semi-independence to the creation of a fully fledged party.

Ms Creighton said the great economic crisis had "generated in some parts of Europe, albeit in small degrees, visionary political leadership".

But she said it was "extraordinary" that in the aftermath of the economic catastrophe experienced in this country, "no really radical and inspiring vision and leadership has emerged".

Significantly, Ms Creighton added the critical caveat that this development had not happened ''yet''.

The Reform Alliance's de facto leader also conceded it was clear the "conditions for fundamental change exist". She said people must soon "stand up and be counted".

Ms Creighton also warned that when it came to such changes ''the window of opportunity will not be there forever". The Dublin South-East TD also used her speech to set out a clearly defined template for a new political party.

She pointed to the role small niche parties, such as the PDs, had played in leading to substantive changes in how all parties viewed tax and expenditure.

Sunday Independent

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