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Sarah Carey: 'Independent' is a good brand, but without real policies it's just a slogan

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Lucinda Creigton TD.

Lucinda Creigton TD.

Clare Daly TD.

Clare Daly TD.

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Lucinda Creigton TD.

That settles it then.

When the next election is called I'll put on my red dress for the poster; rage about how the Government has broken its promises; argue that water charges are an abomination and for real reform, you should vote for a straight talking Independent who'll implement real change.

Based on the pre-Christmas polls that showed a whopping 30pc support for Independent candidates I'll zoom into the Dail on a wave of populism and then...eh...then. Well, that's when the fun starts, isn't it? What then?

As far as I can see the collection of randomly popular people who constitute the Technical Group in the Dail have nothing in common other than strongly held views and anti-government sloganeering.

splitters

Not entirely, but that's the dominant theme. Required to co-ordinate in order to gain certain privileges, they can't decide whose going to speak next, never mind agree a policy.

If the essence of an Independent is someone who won't compromise their views, then how exactly does it work after the election?

These are the Splitters. The people who think that their view is to be preferred. They are Independent. When they're elected next time, what are their choices?

Either they remain on the opposition benches, challenging the Government but powerless to govern, or they compromise with others in order to get a job and hope that they'll be able to make some small impact. In which case they are just like any other politician.

The only difference is the timing of their compromise. Members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour and the rest, decide before elections that they'll try and work together.Independents decide after the election.

But the most important point is this: no single politician, no matter how marvellous, has ever achieved anything unless they work with others.

And working with others, especially in a democracy, requires compromise. That may sound like there's never any hope of achieving anything, but it's a truism.

The current batch of Independents and those in the Technical Group are definitely interesting people with name recognition and apparently easy solutions, but seriously; how would they agree a Programme for Government?

What on earth does Shane Ross, a shareholder activist, have in common with the Socialist Party's Joe Higgins, an unreconstructed Communist?

How does Lucinda Creighton - the woman who refused to legislate for the X case - work with Clare Daly, who wants the Eight Amendment abolished completely?

If Lucinda couldn't agree with conservatives in Fine Gael, the notion of her agreeing with the radicals of the opposition is fanciful.

But the range of opinions is only one problem. Even those who are supposed to agree can't get on with each other.

Look at those of a socialist bent. Daly, a working class woman, appears to have fallen out with former ally Joe Higgins. And don't get me started on Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd-Barrett, with their private educations and affluent backgrounds.

policies

If each of these is on the left of the Left and they can't agree, the prospect of them functioning in government is low.

That's a pity in a way, because the attitude I used to have about the Left was that they weren't very good at doing sums. 'Taxing the rich' can't pay for everything, attractive as the idea sounds.

But since it turned out that no one else, from Goldman Sachs to Financial Regulators to Central Bankers could do their sums either, I'm giving the socialists a pass on that one.

No, my point is this: Independents by their nature cannot work together. If various groupings are cobbled together with nothing more than protest to bind them, then we know what will happen.

Either they'll go native and turn out like the rest or they'll fall out with each other.

So I ask people to challenge Independents in precisely the same way they challenge political parties. What exactly are their policies? Who are they prepared to work with? Do they rule out working with anyone?

'Independent' maybe a good brand right now, but without some answers, it's just another empty slogan.


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