Saturday 23 February 2019

Fitzmaurice and Ross to form alliance ahead of the election

Michael Fitzmaurice
Michael Fitzmaurice
Shane Ross

Brian Byrne and Daniel McConnell

A NEW political alliance will be on ballot papers at the next general election after independent TDs Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice announced plans to form a political grouping.

It comes days after former Fine Gael juinior minister Lucinda Creighton said she will launch a new political party in the spring.

While the new group was described as a "broad-based alliance", there is already discussion of running TDs in each constituency in the next election - suggesting a more formal party structure is planned.

Dublin South's Mr Ross, who has ruled out joining Ms Creighton's party, said: "What we are going to do is combine our forces and work in the interest of reform, work in the interests of the people, and work to absolutely uproot politics in this country in a very radical way."

Mr Ross denied any new alliance would be unable to agree on a single policy platform.

Independent TDs who have put their names forward so far include Stephen Donnelly, Finian McGrath, Noel Grealish, John Halligan, Mattie McGrath and Tom Fleming.

And at least one Government Oireachtas member has also expressed an interest.

Mr Fitzmaurice said that he had been in discussions with Dublin South TD Mr Ross and that "I believe that we can work something together".

The Oireachtas's newest TD, for Roscommon-South Leitrim, revealed that he already had 12 potential candidates on board.

The alliance aims to have at least one candidate in each constituency ahead of the next election, and will even welcome constituency rivals.

Among these is Mr Fitzmaurice's constituency rival Denis Naughten.

"On principle I would be interested in it. It's something I have discussed with many of the other independents in Leinster House in 2011 and 2012."

Some 94 opinion polls since the last general election have showed Fine Gael and Labour suffering huge losses in support.

Fianna Fail's support peaked in 2013, but slipped back again last year, while Sinn Fein's popularity has more than doubled and independents have also surged, according to analysis by RTE's 'Prime Time'.

Meanwhile, a "fearful" Fine Gael is to hold a 'mini think-in' in Dublin next Tuesday, the Irish Independent has learned.

Party think-ins are normally held at the start of the new political year in September, so this event represents a break with tradition.

TDs and senators have been invited to attend the "special meeting of the parliamentary party" to discuss the party's strategy for the new term.

Amid growing fear of Fine Gael suffering heavy losses at the next general election, the gathering has been called in a bid to halt the party's slump in opinion polls.

"Well, there is a real sense that we dropped the ball this time last year. We want to avoid that so close to an election. People are fearful that we could pay the price come the election if we mess up again," said one senior party member.

Backbenchers are also expected to use the event to voice criticisms of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his ministers and warn them to avoid a repeat of the mistakes of 2014.

Discussions around the controversial Universal Social Charge (USC) will dominate the agenda at the event. It will be held in the Davenport Hotel, close to Leinster House.

Irish Independent

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