Monday 18 February 2019

Shane Ross to fight Lucinda for new recruits

80 councillors will attend summit

Shane Ross
Shane Ross

John Drennan

Lucinda Creighton's Renua party already faces a major turf war for control of the Independent heartland.

An alternative Independent Alliance of Shane Ross, Michael Fitzmaurice, Finian McGrath and John Halligan will meet up to 80 Independent councillors on Saturday as part of a push to establish a new political force.

The behind-closed-doors meeting in Tullamore is by invitation only. Emails marked "strictly private and confidential" were sent to an initial list of 40 councillors who have been targeted by the TDs who organised the meeting.

But after details of the emails leaked, demand to join the Independent Alliance is so strong that preparations have been made to accommodate up to 80 councillors.

The meeting was planned prior to the launch of the Renua party on Friday.

Other independents who will attend include Tom Fleming from Kerry and the recently elected Senator Gerard Craughwell from Galway.

Only Independent councillors who polled a significant vote in the last local elections have been invited.

''The priority is battle hardened veterans who can preferably fund themselves. We are seeking critical mass and big vote getters," a source said.

Deputy Shane Ross had been on the trail of targeted councillors since Christmas, but new deputy Michael Fitzmaurice will play a key role in establishing an identity in the rural heartland and make the Independent Alliance a national movement.

The Independent Alliance is still determined it will not operate like a conventional political party and will not have a whip system.

The group currently contains a former Fianna Fail candidate in Tom Fleming, a former member of the Workers' Party, John Halligan, a strong left winger in Finian McGrath and a champion of free enterprise in Shane Ross.

Independent TD John Halligan told the Sunday Independent: ''We will be united around certain issues; ending the golden circle, Dail reform, banks and personal debt but we are also united in our opposition to the whip."

Independents have been criticised for not forming organised parties, though FG research claims Independents bleed public support if they join together as a party.

Independent TD Finian McGrath told the Sunday Independent: ''I won't be walking out on to the plinth unless we have a credible number of TDs and Senators and at least 40 strong councillors.

''I want to see 40 credible community candidates running - one for every constituency. 'We are planning to have a good gender balance and we have some excellent female councillors in the mix," he added.

Mr Halligan, who will be chairing the event, told the Sunday Independent: ''When it comes to setting up a new grouping, we actually don't have a choice anymore. We are at a watershed moment. This is building from the people. It's what they want.

"The voters want an alternative and won't forgive us lightly if we don't provide it''.

It is believed the Independent Alliance still retain hopes of recruiting like-minded TDs such as Catherine Murphy and Thomas Pringle.

Mr Halligan also predicted: ''We will have a slew of councillors nationwide."

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section