John Drennan: Time has come for Lucinda to leap before she looks
THE most un-noticed referendum in the history of the State provided us with one of the most dramatic finishes ever as the Government's campaign collapsed faster than Devon Loch.
Ultimately, although Fianna Fail were smiling for the cameras, the real winners of the Seanad referendum were Lucinda Creighton and the Reform Alliance.
Such a claim might seem strange, given that the Alliance played the slightest of roles until Lucinda trotted belatedly into the campaign.
However, timing in politics is everything and – unlike SF's Gerry Adams, who leapt for what he thought was a winning bandwagon and missed – Creighton paced her intervention perfectly.
The real reason why the Reform Alliance were the big winners is that the one clear message to emerge from a semi-moribund campaign was the desire of the voters for a new political party of ideas.
Mr Kenny's well-marshalled political stormtroopers might have dominated the media aspect of the Seanad campaign to such an extent that one member of the No campaign noted that, in terms of resources and organisation, "we were like the Polish cavalry charging the German tanks in 1939".
However, despite the poor quality of the raw material, namely the Seanad itself, the campaign did throw up one intriguing development – a new group of figures, who were previously seen to be apolitical, fought harder than any of the conventional parties to save the Seanad. Some of the more high- profile 'apolitical' members of the No campaign, such as Feargal Quinn and John Crown, did have some skin in the game – but neither of those two gentlemen was fighting out of self-interest or to preserve their pay and perks.
However, the role played by the Diarmaid Ferriter and Glenna Lynch generation of thirty-something achievers represents an even more significant new development.
They, and the thousands of people who contacted Lucinda Creighton after her loss of the Fine Gael whip, are symptomatic of a growing trend whereby Ireland is being roused out of its endemic apathy by the sheer uselessness of its governing class.
Michael McDowell, who, in the wake of his Dail Inquiries triumph, played no small role in sinking a second government referendum, has for some time claimed that there is a "market in the political gap" for a new party.
The opportunity and the danger that the Reform Alliance must examine is whether Mr McDowell is right and, if so, is it the party to fill that gap?
So far, the Alliance has played it safe – but for all their protestations of innocence some members now admit that they are "waiting, watching and biding our time".
To date, the plan is to avoid running as a party in the local and European elections but to use both elections "as a clearing house'' to find future candidates amidst the ranks of those who "don't like the way Fine Gael have become the new Fianna Fail''.
'Ireland is being roused out of its endemic apathy by the uselessness of its governing class'
The Reform Alliance may have to change its schedule, though, for the one clear message coming from this referendum is that an ache for real change, whose first symptom appeared in the destruction of Fianna Fail, now exists in this beleaguered country.
And this itch for a better and more honest way of doing our political business has not in any way been scratched by the current Coalition of King Enda and the Invisible Mr Gilmore.
Our Reform Alliance, that strange political party that (cough) is not actually a political party at all, is still moving cautiously.
However, whilst generally it is wise in politics to look before you leap, sometimes whether you like it or not, you have to take your courage into your hands.
And if Lucinda leaps before looking, she may find that outside of her former Fine Gael colleagues, other Independent TDs such as Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly will be waiting to catch her.