Lucinda Creighton's 'Monster Meeting' in RDS
McWilliams, Ed Molloy to speak at rally to gauge appetite for new party
THE Reform Alliance will stage its first 'ard fheis-style' rally this month as it seeks to convince high-profile candidates to join the State's newest political force, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
The one-day gathering at the RDS will be the first opportunity to gauge the appetite for a new political party.
The Alliance has been secretly planning the event over the past two months away from the glare of the media spotlight.
"We thought, 'New Year, new political ideas'. The timing seems right," Ludinda Creighton told this newspaper last night. She added: "This is not about any one individual, but about being a vehicle for new thinking."
The Alliance is currently made up of seven former Fine Gael party members; TDs Ms Creighton, Denis Naughten, Billy Timmins, Peter Mathews and Terence Flanagan and senators Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy Eames.
However, Ms Creighton hopes to convince a number of independent TDs and former Fianna Fail politicians to join the Alliance.
The former minister for European Affairs confirmed that the Alliance had spoken to "a few independents" about the event, which she said was "wide open for Oireachtas members" to attend.
Leading economist David McWilliams and public sector expert Eddie Molloy are among several high-profile figures who are expected to address the conference, which has been organised from Ms Creighton's office.
The Alliance has identified three main policy areas which will be discussed at the conference; political, economic and health sector reform.
It is understood that RTE rugby anchor Tom McGurk will chair the discussion on political reform.
Mr Timmins said last night that the purpose of the event was to focus in on crucial issues which he claimed had been ignored in recent months. "The HSE service plan dropped the day the Dail broke up, so there was no discussion on it. There was no debate on the bailout exit strategy and no real debate on what to do with the Seanad. The conference will address that," he said.
The Alliance has already been in contact with up to 200 interested figures, including a host of high-profile public personalities and independent politicians. A crowd of at least 400 people, including speakers and members of the public, is expected to attend the 'Reform Conference' on Saturday, January 25.
The move is the clearest signal yet that the Alliance intends to formally set up a new political party.
Last week, the Sunday Independent revealed that the Alliance had registered as a third party with the Standards in Public Office Commission.
After the RDS event, the Alliance plans to hold a series of smaller local meetings across the country throughout the year, ahead of the expected official launch as a political party in September.
The Alliance does not receive State funding as they are not yet a fully fledged political party.
However, it has deeply criticised the retention of the State allowance by Fine Gael and Labour for those members who have been expelled from their former parties.
Among those big names to be invited are independent TDs Stephen Donnelly and Shane Ross. Mr Donnelly has been a leading voice for political reform since entering the Dail and Ms Creighton has said that his views are "at one" with those of the Alliance.
Sources within the Alliance said they "hoped" that former Tanaiste and Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell would make some contribution at the event.
The Alliance will also run a live Twitter stream of the reform ideas put forward at the conference which in turn will be used as the basis of "further conversations on reform in local meetings around the country in 2014".
The Alliance was last week warned of the perils of establishing a new party by Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe.
He said: "Setting up a new party, as the Taoiseach has said, requires a huge amount of hard work, and more hard work and more hard work, and financial assistance -- but that's up to themselves if they want to do that."
DANIEL McCONNELL Political Correspondent