Thursday 27 October 2016

Lucinda must take risks to make Renua relevant

Gerard O'Regan

Published 06/06/2015 | 02:30

Leader Lucinda Creighton at the launch of Renua in Trinity College, Dublin, back in March. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Leader Lucinda Creighton at the launch of Renua in Trinity College, Dublin, back in March. Photo: Gerry Mooney

It was a whirlpool. All those who drifted even near the edges of the turbulence of recent days were sucked into a stop-go controversy. Every question and every answer seemed to beget yet another question and yet another answer.

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For conspiracy theorists, it was a kind of dream come true. So much known - so much unknown. And then finally - as was probably inevitable from the very beginning - we tumbled towards having the inevitable inquiry.

But whether this will provide any absolutist conclusions, as to what was right and wrong, back when deals were done during the high points of Ireland's financial Armageddon, is indeed a moot point.

Will not the ultimate defence be that those involved took decisions on money matters, which they believed were best for the taxpayer at a particular point in time? Will they not say that - for good or ill - that is what they were charged to do? And they will argue the cards they had to play with were limited? Meanwhile, beneath the radar of all that sound and fury and political point-scoring, lurked one easily forgotten reality. Renua - the newest political party on the block - seems lost in a sea of indifference.

Its leader, Lucinda Creighton, who is beginning to look increasingly politically forlorn, did try to join the Government's tormentors, and rattle them with a few well chosen barbs. But her solo performance - born of necessity - was a reminder once again that her fledgling party desperately lacks a real presence in the national arena.

Meanwhile, the soft whispers gather pace. Will Enda and Joan "cut and run'' and bring the general election date forward to some time later this year? If this happens there is surely a real risk Renua will be caught completely flat-footed.

Other than the hype surrounding its decision to declare itself to the nation, little has happened in the interim which would help brook the new party on to the popular consciousness.

The whole idea underpinning its formation, is still too much bound up with the image of Lucinda as a woman scorned by her erstwhile colleagues in Fine Gael. As long as that brand identity remains, it is difficult to see how this new movement can gain any real traction.

And time is surely not on its side. As we are regularly told, the Coalition is cheered by a number of factors - most notably a discernible improvement in the economy. But as this week has shown, when events outside its control gather a traction of their own, it can suddenly look very jittery.

Often those in power can't be trusted to trust themselves. Should unplanned events conspire in a certain way, the momentum for an earlier-than-planned election, could become unstoppable.

All it takes is for both parties to convince themselves that, say, a post-budget feelgood factor in the autumn might be as good as it gets, and then Enda will be bound for the áras to dissolve the Dáil.

No doubt, behind the scenes the Renua inner sanctum is a hotbed of feverish activity. But trying to get a new national political movement off the ground is an awesome task. The quest for suitable general election candidates continues apace. And we are assured the party is "working on policy'' across a range of topics which will be unveiled in the future. We can only hope it does not use the phrase 'new politics'.

But the biggest task of all is to try and ensure that, as an organisation, it is not overly bound up with the undoubted talents of its leader, and more importantly her all-too-recent political past. Lucinda Creighton is a politician of some courage and conviction - but at times it's impossible not to think she is now leading this recently born political movement almost by default.

The crucial question remains. If there had never been the great falling out between her and Fine Gael, would she this week have been a strident defender of the Government, secure in her role as a Junior Minister, while being sometimes touted as a future party leader.

Now she is ploughing the lonely furrow of spearheading a political amalgam going by the name of Renua. It's still too early to say if the name choice was an ingenious invention, or something incomprehensibly naff. In a way, it's a kind of a metaphor for the party itself. It just might tap into some unknown Zeitgeist of discontent with the established order. Or it may never really get off the ground.

Much will depend on the quality of the general election candidates it can present in the coming months.

Inevitably, there will be a few "celebrity" names in the mix; but experience has shown experimenting with well known "personalities'', and often outsize egos, more often than not ends in tears for all concerned.

We know that Renua will, by Irish standards at least, be a right-of-centre party, having more than a nod to the old can-do virtues of initiative, hard work and enterprise. But much else remains vague.

Also drowned out by the cacophony of the past week, was the announcement by Eamon Gilmore, that he is calling it a day as a member of the Leinster House club.

There have also been some mutterings that the curmudgeon of the current Dáil, Pat Rabbitte, may be considering likewise.

Like Deputy Creighton, they also cut their teeth in student politics and would surely have a tale or two to tell about the tribulations of starting a new political organisation.

In their case, it has certainly been a long and circuitous route, from their time in the old Workers' Party and its flirtation with Soviet-style communism, to nowadays sharing power with the once-dreaded "blueshirts'' in Fine Gael. But that's politics.

In the case of Renua, it really needs to start making its mark. As of now, it's all too bland and worthy. At its launch, Eddie Hobbs, the Corkonian champion of the consumer, and outspoken financial guru of our times, was in full flight.

As those southern vowels became ever more strident, there were those who feared his pull-no-punches style just might be a political accident waiting to happen. Would he say something completely untoward?

But maybe we need to hear from freewheeling Eddie again. Renua should start taking a few chances - and consider a leftfield approach to certain matters. It surely needs a whiff of sulphur. Badly.

Irish Independent

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