Tuesday 16 July 2019

Lucinda rising may yet be King Enda's political nightmare

POWER: Lucinda Creighton’s new party could take votes from Fine Gael Photo: David Conachy
POWER: Lucinda Creighton’s new party could take votes from Fine Gael Photo: David Conachy

John Drennan

Five centuries may separate Machiavelli's publication of The Prince from contemporary Irish politics, but few would disagree with the relevance of his warning that: "There is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things in any state.''

In spite of this warning from history, and the fate of parties as diverse as the Progressive Democrats and Clann na Poblachta, Lucinda Creighton has decided to make the leap forward from the original incarnation of the Reform Alliance as a movement of ideas to an actual party.

And despite these precedents the question haunting the more thoughtful elements of Fine Gael is, could Lucinda rising turn into Enda's nightmare?

She certainly has, since her resignation, haunted poor Enda in a manner not seen since Dessie O'Malley stalked Haughey for all those years.

Normally, the departure of a junior minister, registers somewhere around a sparrow falling from the sky during the Battle of Britain on the litmus scale of political importance.

The problem for Enda, though, was that while the axing of his turbulent priestess was easy enough, no-one hates quite so much as a woman betrayed.

It is entirely understandable that this reality would not impose itself on 'Dear Leader', for Leinster House is a bit of a lad's pad where women and their funny little ways are a peripheral difficulty.

The lads do, of course, have their little squabbles, but generally all is swiftly forgotten over a few pints in the Dail Bar.

Women though tend to take promises and betrayal more seriously.

And this is particularly the case when it comes to moral women such as Lucinda.

Before everyone gets too excited over the Catholic thing, we are not talking about church morality.

Instead we are referring to how, rather like Joan Burton, the spiritual leader of Reboot Ireland is a politician driven by faith.

Be it Europe, or reform or keeping promises, Lucinda needs to believe an intrinsic social worth applies to her existence in Leinster House.

This core value means that from the coup d'etat of 2010, through to this week at the Marker Hotel, Lucinda was on a journey with an inevitable end point.

Quite the fuss may have been made and will be made over abortion, but this was merely the deus ex machina that facilitated the break.

Significantly, for Dear Leader Enda, Lucinda is not alone when it comes to this journey.

She is instead merely the most high-profile example of the sort of Fine Gael moral voter who has been deserting the party in droves over the way Enda and the Country and Western good ole boys are doing things.

Whatever about hatred, last week Lucinda fulfilled the somewhat more progressive sexual stereotype where men talk and women do.

Shane Ross, Stephen Donnelly and even the new Independent Michael Fitzmaurice may have done a great deal of pointing, gesticulating, looking and talking.

But, it is Lucinda who, for all of the mockery about the dance of the seven-plus veils, has leaped.

In doing so, she has created a dangerous political landscape for her political nemesis Enda Kenny.

The Taoiseach is already deeply perturbed that Fitzmaurice's turfcutters' revolution will gnaw away at this rural rump to such an extent that up to 12 seats could be endangered.

Ultimately, that which creates the greatest chill among Fine Gael is the prospect that Queen Lucinda may sweep in to garner votes from the increasingly soft underbelly of the Fine Gael core vote.

For FG, the PDs have always been the albatross on the bow of their political ship.

They may have been a small offshoot, but the PDs evolved into a debilitating wound and an unlucky charm within the psyche of the blueshirts.

This means a FG party which has been leaking swathes of its core vote courtesy of Enda's Fianna Fail Lite way of doing things, will not be at all impressed by the sight of the PD spectre, dressed in Lucinda's clothes, rising from the grave to haunt them again.

It remains in the balance as to whether Machiavelli's warning that "there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to institute a new order of things'' will be borne out.

But, a great swathe of loose FG, lost PD and FF votes lies in the political field awaiting the harvest in the heavy desiring manner of September corn.

For that to occur, the new movement will need to avoid pitfalls such as being redefined as the 'posh' or the 'city folk' party.

That might not be so difficult a task, given that at heart Lucinda is a fine country girl who likes horses, farmers, dogs, the making of sponge cakes and other such rural things.

There is, intriguingly, the problem of Lucinda herself, for Ms Creighton can sometimes be too swift to temper for her own good.

Far more serious than that, however, is the danger that any new movement will consist of Lucinda and a cast of invisible political A N Others.

Lucinda is, of course, more than courageous enough to take on the world, its brother and most of the sisterhood as well; indeed, particularly the sisterhood.

But so too was Joan of Arc, and after a good start that didn't end too good.

Two other issues are of far more fundamental importance for the new party to survive.

Lucinda and Michael McDowell have been circling each other like two wary domestic cats contesting pavement bragging rights in a housing estate for over a year now.

Mr McDowell can be a hard old Grumpy Cat to love, particularly if he is patrolling your own constituency, but he is a gateway into the PD vote, the Law Library and respectable conservatism.

The former Attorney General, if he was let, would also in passing make for an excellent candidate in Dublin Rathdown.

Of course, in a classic example of how Irish politics really resides in the land of plus ca change plus ca le meme chose the main issue Lucinda faces is the eternal Catholic question.

The delicate issue of abortion represents a case of death for Reboot Ireland, for the dream of her many political opponents will be to pigeon-hole Lucinda as being the representative of some Catholic manque Popish plot to return Ireland to mother church.

Whether they like it or not Lucinda, Billy Timmins, Fidelma Healy Eames, Terence Flanagan and Senator Paul Bradford may have to pay a lot of visits to Panti Bar when the gay marriage referendum is launched.

The other great issue they face is best captured by the famous Warren Zevon song about the desirability in scrapes to "Send lawyers, guns and money".

Whatever about lawyers, which Reboot Ireland won't be short of, or guns; as in war, money is the sinews of political success.

It will not be easy, but for now, though at least when it comes to the next election, Paddy's demand for a choice has been met. It's up to Shane, Stephen and Michael Fitzmaurice to now decide just how varied the political selection box will be.

Factfile

Name: Lucinda Creighton

AGE: 34

POSITION: Enda's nemesis

IN THE NEWS BECAUSE: Despite a very lengthy gestation, Lucinda has gazumped eminences such as Shane Ross, Finian McGrath and Stephen Donnelly by being first out of the traps with a new party to "Reboot Ireland"

Sunday Independent

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