Saturday 10 December 2016

Renua after Lucinda set for radical rebranding

Party to change name and seek out McDowell to be next leader

Published 29/05/2016 | 02:30

Michael McDowell said he had not been asked Photo: Tom Burke
Michael McDowell said he had not been asked Photo: Tom Burke

Renua Ireland is to undergo a radical rebrand as part of a move to reposition the party on the political spectrum after Lucinda Creighton stepped down as leader.

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The Sunday Independent has learned the party will drop the word 'Ireland' from its name and become known as Renua - The Liberal Democrat Party.

There is also a push from within the senior ranks of Renua to "shake off" all associations of being an orthodox or conservative Catholic political organisation.

It is hoped the rebrand will attract a new leader from outside the party who is currently a serving national politician.

Former Progressive Democrat leader and recently elected senator Michael McDowell is seen by senior figures in Renua as the ideal candidate to replace Ms Creighton.

However Mr McDowell said he has not been contacted by anyone from Renua about such a proposal.

"A lot of members are from the liberal democrat side but they are being painted as cold-hearted Catholic conservatives who are hectoring and lecturing people - it never started like that," a senior Renua source said.

The source said Renua needs to tell "orthodox Catholic conservatives" members to "get with the programme or jump ship".

"We want to attract people from the Oireachtas who are liberal democrats," the source added.

Ms Creighton, a former Fine Gael minister, stepped down as leader of the party after failing to return any candidates in the General Election.

A review of the party's election campaign has been underway for almost two months and a national meeting was held a fortnight ago in Portlaoise, where Ms Creighton officially resigned.

At the meeting, members were briefed by the outgoing leader, Offaly councillor John Leahy and Renua president Eddie Hobbs.

Mr Leahy gave a presentation on the membership's views on why the party failed to capture the public's imagination during the election.

Members blamed a lack of internal communication, flawed candidate selection and failure to explain Renua's flat tax proposal to the public for the election wipe out.

They also said the party had too many policies and their stance on social justice issues were not presented clearly enough.

Overall, members said the party lacked a clear identity and came across as elitist to the public.

There were also complaints that the party was unfairly associated with the pro-life lobby group and seen as anti-public sector workers.

"Renua came across as a prickly, snarky Catholic conservative party and that wasn't the plan at all," a source said.

It was agreed the party would move towards the centre right where most members believed Renua originally intended to be positioned on the political spectrum.

It was also proposed more work will be done on reaching out to college students.

A heated workshop debate on the party's future resulted in members proposing the name change.

Minutes of the meeting were sent to around 250 members last week. Senior figures are now saying the party will undergo a "real and authentic" change in preparation for the next election.

A tender has also been put out to hire an external consultancy agency to carry out a strategic review of the party.

"We have to get the party ready for someone like Michael McDowell or someone of that nature who can say 'there is a €250,000 income, there is a structure in place, they are off loading the orthodox conservative Catholics, this is something I could have a look at'," a source said.

Sunday Independent

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