High-profile Independent TDs to form new centre-left political party
A new political party consisting of some of the country's most prominent independent TDs and senators is to be set up within weeks, the Irish Independent can reveal.
Kildare TD Catherine Murphy is in advanced talks with TDs Stephen Donnelly and Róisín Shortall and senator Katherine Zappone, about joining forces ahead of the general election.
The five politicians are actively planning to add additional candidates to their list once they are established.
The move will come as a surprise to the Government parties, who were last night bickering over what sweeteners they should offer the electorate in October's budget.
At their parliamentary party meeting, Fine Gael TDs voted to make the restoration of the telephone allowance a key objective of the budget.
However, Labour instantly responded with junior minister Kevin Humphreys telling the Irish Independent: "It is too early for Fine Gael to be talking about budget giveaways."
Labour want the Respite Care Grant and Living Alone Allowance prioritised in the budget.
News that a new centre-left party made up of high-profile TDs and senators is likely to focus Government minds on the election even further. Last night, Wicklow independent Stephen Donnelly confirmed there were talks about the setting-up of the new party.
"There are talks going on and, at this point, I am not in a position to say who, what and when," he said.
And Senator Katherine Zappone admitted that she had been in talks with a number of TDs and senators in recent months about the prospect of a new party.
"Myself and Stephen (Donnelly) have been working together on a childhood policy and there is more work to do yet," she told the Irish Independent.
The new party will focus on economic competence, embracing enterprise, debt justice and a social democratic view of society that champions equality.
The party founders are particularly influenced by Nordic politics, where business and community are seen to go hand-in-hand. They will also seek to make political reform a key policy issue.
It comes as Lucinda Creighton's Renua party is still trying to find its feet and Shane Ross is still in discussion with potential election candidates about a loose alliance.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was in Brussels last night and did not attend his parliamentary party meeting, where members began discussions on the pre-election budget.
However, Finance Minister Michael Noonan welcomed proposals from backbencher Patrick O'Donovan for the restoration of the telephone allowance which was worth €9.50 a month to older people until it was abolished by Social Protection Minister Joan Bruton in 2013.
In response, Labour Minister Kevin Humphreys said it was "too early" for such debates.
However, he told the Irish Independent: "We are certainly looking at how we can improve the livelihoods of the elderly and the country's most vulnerable - groups we will prioritise in the budget."
He said that the Respite Care Grant and Living Alone Allowance were on the table.