Wednesday 22 November 2017

Creighton ramps up pressure on Fine Gael

Fionnan Sheahan and Sam Griffin

FINE Gael rebel Lucinda Creighton has ramped up tensions with the party leadership by pushing ahead with plans for her new Dail group.

The former European Affairs Minister accepts she will not be running for Fine Gael in the next general election.

The newly created Reform Alliance will meet for the first time today to begin formulating policies on the unemployment crisis, small businesses and welfare and political reform.

Fine Gael is offering an olive branch to the rebels – who lost the party whip over the abortion legislation – of a return to the fold if they behave themselves.

However, tensions are growing with party chiefs over the decision by Ms Creighton and her colleagues to seek recognition for their group.

The Dublin South East TD, who has said she wants to run as a Fine Gael candidate next time out, will be prevented from doing so as a result of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's stance.

"I think it's been made abundantly clear by Enda Kenny and repeated ad nauseam by senior party figures. We get the message," she said.

The Reform Alliance will hold a party think-in in Dublin today, ahead of Fine Gael's own parliamentary party think-in on Monday and Tuesday.

The new group comprises TDs Ms Creighton, Billy Timmins, Denis Naughten, Terence Flanagan and Peter Mathews and senators Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy-Eames.

Another member, Brian Walsh, left the group because he said there was a "public perception it is anti-Enda Kenny".

Ms Creighton said the group was not a political party and not the beginning of the formation of a political party.

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Speaking later on the 'Late Late Show', Ms Creighton revealed one cabinet minister texted her stating he couldn't be seen with her in public after she controversially voted against the Government on the abortion issue.

She criticised Irish politics and took a swipe at her former party by insisting politicians are "expected to be a nodding dog".

"I have always been outspoken and I consider that a good thing in politics and we don't have enough of it," she said.

"You're expected to be a bit of a nodding dog a lot of the time. Not just in Fine Gael but it's all political parties whereby TDs articulate a view but when it comes to the crunch, they really just go along with it.

"That's unfortunately the system that we have which is highly flawed and think we should demand better."

She also said Mr Kenny demanded her letter of resignation on three separate occasions immediately after she voted against the Government on the abortion issue.

Ms Creighton said she had "no aspirations" to one day become leader of Fine Gael and described her relationship with Mr Kenny as "good" despite being forced to resign, but refused to say the two were friends when pressed.

Earlier, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said he would like to see "reconciliation" with the Fine Gael rebels, but added that he was not going to speculate on whether they might return before the next general election.

"At some stage reconciliation can occur," insisted the minister.

He also said the TDs who lost the party whip over the abortion legislation could join the Dail Technical Group if they wanted speaking time.

"People are entitled to use technical groups to get speaking rights in the Dail," he said.

"Mr Bruton left the door open for the rebels' return, saying: "Fine Gael has been a family. We have a number of people who decided, for their own reasons, not to go along with a pledge they made at the time of the general election.

"But that doesn't mean we still don't have good relations. At some stage reconciliation can occur. But at this stage, as a government, we are determined to implement a set of reforms and the Programme for Government.

"We have to have people who have been elected on our platform supporting our platform. That's the way people expect governments to govern."

Rebels will be back – James Downey

Irish Independent

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