independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Alliance identifies key candidates to join a new-style political party

Potential members include high-profile rebel politicians and public figures, writes Political Editor John Drennan

THE Reform Alliance has identified 40 key candidates to target with a view to setting up a new political party to challenge the Government, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The 40 consist of high-profile rebel politicians and key public figures who might attract the many 'undecided' voters who have grown disillusioned with the mainstream political parties.

To date the Reform Alliance has continued to insist in public that it has no intention of becoming a new political party.

But one senior figure within the new group told the Sunday Independent: "We are watching and we are waiting. We believe there will be a space for a new party among those who don't like the way Fine Gael have become the new Fianna Fail.

"The referendum shows us there clearly is a mood for change in the country; with independents at 30 per cent there is an evident desire for something different."

It is believed that those who are being targeted include a group of high-profile independent TDs such as Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly. A warm relationship also exists between the Alliance and the former Labour junior minister Roisin Shortall.

An approach to the high- profile hospital consultant and senator John Crown has also not been ruled out.

One member of the Alliance said: "Crown is a bit like Michael McDowell or Marmite – half the country love him and the rest hate him – but the country needs politicians like that."

The Reform Alliance is also believed to be considering candidates from outside the political process.

A source said: "We don't just want to pick from the same failed political pool. There needs to be a civic society element involving new figures like Diarmaid Ferriter, new people, new politics."

The Reform Alliance is also examining ways to raise funding and looking at how a new political party can be set up under the "current ethics rules".

However, key figures within the group insist there is no need to rush to fill the political vacuum.

Once source warned: "We are not moving in a hurry, we don't want to make the same mistakes as the PDs – they were amateurs; we intend to be professional about this."

In a separate indication of the growing momentum for a new party, Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly told the Sunday Independent that he could not see himself remaining as an independent.

"It is a limited role, I'm not in here to make flowery speeches, I'm here to make substantial change," he said.

"It would be a peculiar thing to be here and not want to be in Cabinet. The idea of spending 10 years of your life simply commenting on decisions made by other people is not appealing."

And he added: "There are quite a number of independent and ex-party TDs who are now thinking in this way."

Former Labour junior health minister Roisin Shorthall also hinted that she is prepared to join the new party.

She told the Sunday Independent: "The one thing all the polls show is that there is a real gap in the market for a new party."

Independent TD Shane Ross is another political heavyweight waiting in the wings.

"There has never been a more opportune time for independents to make a radical move to finally challenge and break up civil-war politics," he said.

Significantly, he added that "moves in that direction are taking place".

Any such "moves'' may be hastened by angry exchanges that have broken out between the Reform Alliance and the Fine Gael hierarchy.

The most recent occurred between Lucinda Creighton and Fine Gael General Secretary Tom Curran after he told the chairman of the Fine Gael Dublin Bay South constituency, John Hogan, that she could not sit at the top table at constituency party meetings.

Mr Curran also said that Ms Creighton was not entitled to attend any branch meetings except her own, that she does not have any speaking rights at constituency meetings, save that as a member, and that she "is not entitled to present herself as a Fine Gael TD''.

However, in a letter to Mr Curran, Ms Creighton slammed ongoing attempts to reduce her role within Fine Gael as representing an "offensive, egregious and contemptuous'' breach of the party's constitution.

Ms Creighton said these attempts were disappointing given her "continuing commitment to Fine Gael'' that the only aim in recent weeks from "the Fine Gael hierarchy and Fine Gael headquarters seems to be to try and punish me and those closely associated with me''.

Punishment, she said, was "normally meted out to people who have done wrong. I have committed no crime, I am guilty of no sin''.

Ms Creighton also criticised the damage being done to Fine Gael by these "petty and cynical'' acts.

Sunday Independent

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