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Saturday 23 March 2019

Support for new party is growing, claims Ganley

Libertas founder and 'core group' including household names buoyed by turnout at rallies

Declan Ganley
Declan Ganley

JEROME REILLY and JOHN DRENNAN

A new political party which will contest local and European elections next year is now a real prospect.

Libertas founder Declan Ganley has held his third rally, similar to those that spawned the Progressive Democrats, to gauge support.

Buoyed by the reaction, he plans to hold several more in the coming weeks.

Mr Ganley confirmed to the Sunday Independent that a core committed group, including a number of household names and members from other political parties, is on the verge of founding a new party – if it is believed there is enough grassroots support.

"There is no time frame. We are not there yet," he said. "But of course the local and general elections next year would be an opportune time if Ireland is to get a serious option of a new party that has got serious staying power and has got a genuine grassroots support."

He added that any serious political alternative for Ireland is "going to need to run candidates at every stage of elected office from local authorities, town councils to national and European level".

Mr Ganley said he did not necessarily see himself heading up a new political entity.

"It would not necessarily need to have me as a leader at all," he said. "If personal circumstances allowed – and that is a major caveat – I would be very interested in being actively involved in such an initiative.

"I am not interested if there isn't a significant proportion of people out there who are interested. Why waste your time? If there is real appetite among the people, then so be it.

"People think I have a gra for being in politics. I don't. It's so much bullshit. But God knows, the country needs something. All we are being sold is bullshit and spin."

Mr Ganley's three meetings – in Dublin, in the backyard of the Taoiseach in Castlebar, Co Mayo, and in Cork – attracted huge crowds, but he admitted that at least half were broadly of the pro-life movement.

"Probably 50 per cent of those crowds had a pro-life motivation because they have been abandoned and betrayed by everyone else, and 50 per cent of them were not. That other 50 per cent had other concerns – the economy, job creation, emigration and rural decline," he said.

He admitted that a central aim of the meetings was to test public support for a new political movement, and he believed that support existed. He also said there was a core group of people behind the initiative.

"There is a wide group of people involved in discussions," he said. "I call it a brains trust, and that has been happening for some time.

"These are people who have got differing views on social issues but recognise these are issues of conscience, and unlike Enda Kenny we don't think people should be excommunicated because they have different views.

"These are people who want to get stuff done on the economy, on job creation and other issues. Yes, there are people who are putting their hands up. I've been getting calls from people, names you would recognise, saying, 'this sounds great', and asking how do they get involved."

The high-profile businessman and pro-life supporter will have been encouraged to make a return to domestic politics by opinion poll data that indicates there are seats for independent candidates in both Galway West and Galway East.

Although Galway is Mr Ganley's political heartland, the current independent TD and Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney will also be encouraged by the recent Red C poll in the Galway Advertiser.

It reveals that independents across the Galway East and West constituencies are at 22 per cent in popular support.

The latest data also confirms the findings of a series of national polls that Labour is in deep electoral trouble beyond its current Dublin heartland, with regional variations suggesting the Labour vote in Connacht-Ulster is as low as 3 per cent.

The Galway Advertiser poll shows the party on a dismal six per cent support rate. The results must carry the caveat that the sample of 250 was small, but it reveals the party's support across Galway has halved since the 2011 General Election, when it scored 13 per cent in Galway East and 12 per cent in Galway West and Colm Keaveney and Derek Nolan were elected to the Dail.

Mr Keaveney became the first Labour TD to be elected in the Civil War party heartland of Galway East, while Mr Nolan retained the Michael D Higgins seat in Galway West.

Outside of Labour (6 per cent) and independents (22 per cent), Fine Gael were on 33 per cent, Fianna Fail on 24 per cent and Sinn Fein on 15 per cent after "don't knows" were distributed.

The figures suggest the coalition parties would lose three seats across the two constituencies, with Labour losing both in its Galway bridgehead. Fianna Fail will merely retain its present position, while Sinn Fein, in line with its nationwide surge, is poised to gain a seat.

Significantly, the figures indicate that a high-profile independent would pick up a seat in both constituencies.

Irish Independent

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