Wednesday 21 March 2018

David McWilliams rules out joining Alliance despite role at rally

David McWilliams at Kilkenomics last year. Photo: Dylan Vaughan.
David McWilliams at Kilkenomics last year. Photo: Dylan Vaughan.

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

ECONOMIST David McWilliams is going to chair discussions at the Reform Alliance's rally for free as a favour for Lucinda Creighton -- but has no interest in joining the alliance.

His participation in the group's forthcoming 'ard fheis-style' rally in the RDS prompted speculation that he would be signing up.

Mr McWilliams said he was only chairing a session because Ms Creighton had helped him out by turning up for a 'New Party, New Politics' discussion at the Dalkey Book festival.

"I'm there returning a favour. Equally, I wish everyone well," he said.

He said he has no plans to join the Reform Alliance because his own political positions were fundamentally different.

"I am a dyed-in-the-wool pro-choice liberal. I'm on the liberal end of liberal," he said.

In contrast, the seven former Fine Gael TDs and senators who make up the Reform Alliance were all opposed to the Government's abortion law. And they are all generally supportive of the EU -- an institution Mr McWilliams believes is "past its sell-by date".

"I regard the EU as an anachronistic historical idea that is a relic from the 20th Century," he said.

It is understood that RTE rugby presenter Tom McGurk will chair the meeting while public sector expert Eddie Molloy is also expected to take part.

Reform Alliance TDs are paying for the rent of the RDS Concert Hall out of their own pockets as they ramp up their challenge to Taoiseach Enda Kenny's Fine Gael party.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly, who is wanted by the Reform Alliance, told the Irish Independent that he had not made up his mind about attending.

Members of the public are being asked to send in policy ideas of 300 words or fewer which will be streamed live during the conference in the RDS later this month.

It has been described as a "monster meeting" similar to those held by Daniel O'Connell but the RDS Concert Hall generally holds around 300-350 people with room for more if required.

Speaking during his trade mission to the Gulf, Mr Kenny downplayed the significance of their meeting.

"I have been at many monster meetings over the years in Irish politics, it is perfectly normal for everybody to hold meetings in Ireland. I wish everybody who attends all meetings the very best of luck," he said.

The Reform Alliance has set up its own website and is going to register this week as a third party with the Standards in Public Office Commission, so that it can accept donations.

However, TD Terence Flanagan said it was too soon to say if the Reform Alliance would register as a political party.

"We've decided to do something, not to be just irrelevant. We want to hear what people have to say," he said.

Another member, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames said the response so far to its forthcoming public meeting had been very positive.

Irish Independent

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