Friday 13 December 2019

The country was crying out for something new - but it seems that Renua wasn't it

Lucinda Creighton of Renua Ireland at the count in the RDS, where she lost her seat on Saturday. Photo: Tom Burke
Lucinda Creighton of Renua Ireland at the count in the RDS, where she lost her seat on Saturday. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

It did not take long after Lucinda Creighton quit Fine Gael before there were suggestions she would form her own party.

The country was crying out for something new. Somebody strong enough to deal with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael but human enough to represent us at home and abroad.

The death of the Progressive Democrats left an obvious opening for a 'smaller party' and for many analysts Ms Creighton fit the bill to be leader.

Perhaps the idea seemed all the more enticing for political anoraks, as the storyline was straight out of the Danish TV series 'Borgen' where the protagonist Brigitte Nyborg becomes the first female prime minister of Denmark.

In January 2014, Ms Creighton assembled a vibrant list of speakers for a "monster rally" in the RDS as she dipped her toe in the water.

It took until the following January for a 'launch before the real launch' to take place - at which point the name was unknown and the policies were non-existent.

There was, though, an unexpected character thrown into the mix. Television presenter and financial adviser Eddie Hobbs stepped forward to be part of the project - although his role, at least in public, wasn't entirely clear.

Eventually in March we were introduced to Renua Ireland. The name caused some confusion but most people were willing to give it a chance.

If nothing else Ms Creighton had stepped off the 'independent' sideline and onto the pitch. She wanted to play with the big boys.

She had convinced Terence Flanagan and Billy Timmons to be part of the team, along with her husband, Senator Paul Bradford - but nobody else of note.

In an effort to show that they wouldn't just be an urban party, the launch was attended by unknown Offaly councillor John Leahy.

She was trying to cover all the bases - but there were obvious issues from the start.

The fact that Roscommon TD Denis Naughten wouldn't join was a major blow.

There were policy gaps too, and where there were ideas, they seemed too radical for a country refusing to accept recovery was under way. A 23pc flat tax sounds attractive but while Irish voters often talk about change, history suggests they don't rush into it.

Then day one was overshadowed by Mr Flanagan's 'brain freeze' on radio. Asked how Renua was going to be very different, he replied: "We're going to ensure that obviously what happened...what happened ... emmm...will ensure..." before stopping mid-sentence.

The election campaign threw up two big issues for Ms Creighton.

One was questions over a complaint to Sipo that she got reduced legal fees as part of a High Court defamation case.

Despite describing the Sipo case as "frivolous", she refused to produce the invoices that would have instantly cleared her name.

The other thing going against her was Fine Gael's determination to smother her brave new world.

Businesswoman Kate O'Connell was sent out to effectively be the 'new Lucinda' in Dublin Bay South.

So back at a packed RDS on Saturday, Ms Creighton lost her seat and passed more than 1,500 transfers to Ms O'Connell and her former colleague Eoghan Murphy in the process.

Renua's big problem was it hinged almost entirely on Ms Creighton. She was the founder, the leader, the face and the spokesperson.

Ironically, having fought the election with no State funding, the party is now entitled to money from the exchequer having achieved 2pc of the national vote.

Renua is dead, long live Renua.

Irish Independent

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