Tuesday 18 June 2019

Lucinda, Donnelly to talk on new party

'Reform party' registers to fundraise ahead of likely launch in September

Lucinda Creighton pictured in Claremorris yesterday evening (Saturday). Photo Ray Ryan
Lucinda Creighton pictured in Claremorris yesterday evening (Saturday). Photo Ray Ryan
Stephen Donnelly

The Reform Alliance, headed by Lucinda Creighton, has taken a major step towards becoming a fully fledged political party by registering with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

Following their expulsion from Fine Gael, there has been much speculation about the intentions of the Reform Alliance. But it is now expected that the new party will officially be launched next September, after the local and European elections.

It has also been confirmed that Ms Creighton and high-profile independent TD Stephen Donnelly have "chatted" in recent weeks and are "at one" in their views about political and economic reform.

The Reform Alliance has registered as a "third party" with SIPO in order to allow it to raise funds for political research and policy development in the coming weeks.

The group is made up of Ms Creighton; her husband, Senator Paul Bradford; TDs Billy Timmins, Denis Naughten, Terence Flanagan, and Peter Mathews; and Senator Fidelma Healy Eames.

It does not receive any State funding at present and the ramping up of political activity, and its clear attempts to shake off its pro-life image, after the abortion saga are seen as highly significant.

"It is early days but it is about being fully compliant with the rules should we fundraise in order to carry out political research and develop new policy. We want to be a vehicle for new thinking in the Dail and Seanad," Ms Creighton told the Sunday Independent.

Crucially, Ms Creighton also refused to rule out the possibility of ultimately establishing a fully fledged party, saying: "I can't say what the future holds."

In a further hint at what direction the group was heading, the Dublin South East TD also said she never wanted to be an independent, adding she was a big believer in party politics.

"You have freedom in what you can say as an independent, but there is also strength in numbers. I am a great believer in party politics," she said.

It has also emerged that the new party is likely to retain the name "Reform" in its title with some suggesting it will be named either The Reform Alliance Party or The Reform Party.

For his part, Mr Donnelly has in recent weeks spoken of his frustration at being an isolated independent TD in opposition. His financial expertise and career experience in public sector transformation, added to his thirst for driving political and economic reform, make him an ideal fit for not only the Alliance but also Fianna Fail.

Yesterday, several members of the Reform Alliance spoke very warmly about Mr Donnelly's pedigree, and he in turn paid handsome compliments to several members of the Reform Alliance.

Ms Creighton said: "In terms of what he wants to achieve, there is a lot of common ground. On reform, I share a lot of Stephen's views, there is a lot of shared ground.

"In the coming months, I am happy to co-operate with him and definitely there is an opportunity for us to work together."

Speaking yesterday, Mr Donnelly said he was very much open to having formal discussions with the Reform Alliance about possibly joining forces.

"I would entertain a discussion. I am not sitting here waiting, but I'll listen," he said.

"There is most undoubtedly a need for a new party, the current system is so old, stale and so badly in need of reform."

He said they have to move away from the pro-life agenda and he said their stance on the Seanad was important.

"They are going to have to work hard to get away from the pro-life single issue, but they have some seriously smart people. Lucinda is very smart. The only question is will they achieve a critical mass or will some of them go back into Fine Gael," he said.

Mr Donnelly has also moved to distance himself significantly from claims that he is contemplating a move to Fianna Fail.

The focus on Mr Donnelly's political intentions has intensified after Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore predicted that he would be "wearing the Fianna Fail jersey" by the next general election.

Mr Donnelly, though, anxiously moved to dispel any notion "that I am talking to Fianna Fail. Micheal Martin and I are not having pints in Doheny and Nesbitts every week trying to sort the world out."

But affirming his desire for a new party, Mr Donnelly said: "There is a political cartel in Ireland and having a new party to challenge the cartel is a good idea."

He added: "The establishment protects itself very well in Ireland, it's a very closed system in terms of elites, it would be healthy for democracy if a new party challenged our vested interests".

He also warned this "cartel" had created the scenario where "huge swathes of the public sector and the political system are stuck in a 1970s style time-warp".

By Daniel McConnell and John Drennan

Irish Independent

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