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I'm not setting up a new party, says McDowell

FORMER Tanaiste Michael McDowell has ruled out the prospect of setting up a new party.

The ex-PD leader has been consistently linked with establishing a new political movement with the likes of Lucinda Creighton.

Mr McDowell, who is a staunch opponent to the abolition of the Seanad, fuelled the speculation after being spotted having a coffee in the Four Courts with the Fine Gael rebel.

But asked yesterday about whether he was involved in setting up a new party, the former minister replied: "No, I am not, no."



Ms Creighton, who was expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party last month after voting against the abortion measures, has also ruled out setting up a new party.

Mr McDowell used a speech at the Parnell Summer School in Wicklow to slam commentators who he says "enjoy wallowing in what I have termed as a 'middle class self-hatred' of negativity".

And he continued to attack the Government over its vow to abolish the Seanad.

According to Mr McDowell, the Upper House costs Irish citizens €1.60 each per year and its abolition would represent "a crude attempt to ride the wave of public disillusionment with phony reform based on phony cost arguments".

"Do we really want now to slam the door shut on non-TD expert participants in Government such as [former minister] James Dooge?" he queried.

"Do we also want to turn down the possibility of having Northern voices such as Gordon Wilson or Seamus Mallon, or people such as Mary Robinson and Ken Whitaker in our parliament?"

Addressing an audience in Wicklow under the theme, 'Parnell & Kennedy: Lost Leaders', Mr McDowell rejected suggestions that Ireland is a "failed state".

He quoted former US President John F Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," before calling on Irish people to display a new form of patriotism.

"As Garret FitzGerald frequently observed, [Ireland] has achieved for the Irish people progress that would never have happened if [it] had remained an undeveloped western province in a post-industrial, post-imperial United Kingdom," he said.

Mr McDowell has emerged from the political wilderness in recent months to lead the campaign against Seanad abolition.

According to the practising barrister, arguments that the country cannot afford the Seanad are "false, threadbare, and illegitimate".

"The actual direct savings to the Exchequer would be about €1.60 per annum for every citizen, less than the price of a two-litre container of milk," he told the conference.

Mr McDowell announced that he was quitting politics in May 2007 after failing to get elected in the Dublin South East constituency.