Friday 23 August 2019

Lucinda and Renua 'brought to book'... by their own spindoctor

John Drennan ‘pulls no punches’ in his new book – least of all about the Renua party set up by Lucinda Creighton
John Drennan ‘pulls no punches’ in his new book – least of all about the Renua party set up by Lucinda Creighton
John Downing

John Downing

Doubts about Lucinda Creighton and her party, Renua Ireland, have emerged from an unexpected source - her own public relations man.

Political journalist turned spin-doctor, John Drennan, says the lack of speed with which Ms Creighton's new party was formed, over 15 months from January 2014 to March 2015, "left the HSE looking proactive".

In a book, written before Drennan's departure from the 'Sunday Independent' and political journalism to his current role as Renua communications and political strategy director, he casts a very cold eye on all of the political parties and Independents. But he does not pull punches about his soon-to-be bosses' new political venture.

He argues that high among Renua's shortcomings is an over-reliance on the former Fine Gael junior EU affairs minister and points to a lack of strength in depth.

"Lucinda is good, but she cannot be the goal-keeper, full-back, centre-back, centre-forward, full-forward and supply the ball," he writes.

Competition from Shane Ross's Independent Alliance, who might have been prime Renua members, and others poses a big problem. The lack of grizzled political veterans in the party's ranks poses other impediments.

This gives Renua Ireland the air of a naive "children's crusade". That comment could make for some interesting moments at the party's strategy meetings.

One chapter is entitled 'The Real Truth About Lucinda and How It May Well Be Trouble'. It sketches Renua's slow origins, and it prompts the damning comparison with the Health Services Executive, which is now one of the most unpopular institutions in the State's history.

Drennan also contends, rather helpfully for his bosses but contentiously for many general readers' take on politics, that Ms Creighton's break with Fine Gael had little to do with the July 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy legislation, which provided the occasion of her resignation and that of half a dozen of her party colleagues.

He argues that it was part of a continuous ideological war which has bedevilled the party since the mid-1960s, with more radical members seeking commitment to fundamental reform.

The problem here is that the 1960s reformers in Fine Gael would very likely have backed the July 2013 legislation which Lucinda and Co voted against.

But for Drennan, Lucinda Creighton was distressed by Fine Gael becoming "Fianna Fáil light" a phrase she used at the MacGill summer school in July 2010, to the anger of party elders.

"Lucinda's decision to walk the gangplank had been informed not so much by Fine Gael's stance on abortion as by Enda's decision to rule by group-think," he argues.

But he makes it clear that the tardiness with which Renua emerged proved something of a public passion-killer.

He says their "leisurely progress" saw them being nicknamed "the Tea Party", a play on their principals' fondness for pondering plans over slow pots of tea in the Dáil bar.

"Meanwhile, the Irish people waited, patiently at first, and then impatiently."

She gave occasional media interviews making valid points about the need for politicians to address a new political landscape.

"But simply saying that was not enough. The voters wanted a new circus to replace the old clowns."

The author yesterday brushed aside suggestions that his book will cause embarrassment to the fledgling party and/or strain relations with his employers.

He said his book reflected the state of politics in Ireland up until last summer, which was around the time he finished it, and soon afterwards he took up his post as head of political strategy and media relations with Renua Ireland.

"Time, tide and even the state of political parties can change," he told the Irish Independent.

John Drennan's 'Great Betrayal' is published by Gill & Macmillan, price €16.99.

Irish Independent

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