Fine Gael tensions resurface


Fine Gael backbencher Lucinda Creighton has revived tensions within her party with a sharply critical speech at the MacGill Summer School arising out of the presence of a Cork property developer at a fundraising event.

Mr Michael O'Flynn is company chairman and managing director of Cork-based O'Flynn Construction, which transferred debts approaching €1billion to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama). He was recently reported as attending as sponsor of a €1,500 fourball at a golf fundraiser at the K Club, organised by Fine Gael.

Ms Creighton said: “There can be no room in Fine Gael for cute-hoor politics. These are the politics which have defined and tainted Irish public life like an incurable cancer.

“We cannot be satisfied with low standards in high places. Fine Gael in government must be much, much more than simply ‘Fianna Fáil Light’.

“We cannot, on the one hand, condemn Fianna Fáil for entertaining developers in the Galway tent, while on the other hand extend the biscuit tin for contributions from high-profile developers, who are beholden to Nama. The Irish people expect more from Fine Gael; they demand more, and they are right," she said.

“Fine Gael cannot equivocate about the standards we wish to bring to the running of our great Republic. We need a real ‘New Politics’ - of substance rather than sound-bites.

“We need a politics that is about serving the people of Ireland, not simply about replacing Fianna Fáil," she told the summer school.

“It is time for a politics built on courage, integrity and truth. That is the politics which I signed up for and the sort of public service which the Irish people so desperately need and so badly deserve,” she said.

Expanding on her comments on RTÉ radio this afternoon, Ms Creighton called on the party to return donations that were found to have come from developers involved with Nama.

"There's no obligation, but I would believe that it would be the right thing to do," she said.

"I don't feel comfortable about it and I don't think most of my colleagues in the parliamentary party are comfortable with the acceptance of donations from a developer so embroiled in Nama.

"We all hold fundraisers, there's no question about that. Every political party does that, and they are not doing anything wrong in any sense. But I do think there is an ethical responsibility to try to clean up the image of politics, and I certainly don't think that the presence of Nama developers at any fundraiser for any political party is helpful to that process."

Ms Creighton said there was an onus on politicians from all parties to "raise their standards".

"I certainly think we need a new system of financing politics in this country. Anyone is entitled to make a donation to a political party and that's fine, but I think that there needs to be greater transparency, that the thresholds need to be lower, and I think this whole culture of coupling property developers and other walks of life with parties is damaging politics," she added.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny this afternoon said he had not seen a transcript of Ms Creighton's MacGill speech and would not comment on it until he had. However, he stated the party's activities were "all perfectly legitimate and within the law.

Referring to the political system as a whole Ms Creighton said there was an apathy among politicians.

“The lack of ambition amongst all political parties, as well as their studious dodging of courageous political positions leaves me cold,” she said.

The deputy said the ambition for most members was to conform with the party line. “For politicians with no scruples, no values and no backbone, a political party is a wonderful hiding place. It is rare that such a person will ever be exposed. They will never have to defend their position or stand over their convictions,” she said.

“Indeed they generally have no positions or convictions apart from a ‘win my seat at all costs’ mentality. They enjoy being shielded by the ubiquitous whip system, which gives fail-safe protection for the politically and ideologically impotent.”

Ms Creighton said very few politicians want a radical shift from the crony politics of the nod and the wink.

“Our system is rooted on creeping, obsequious advancement and preferment. It rewards mediocrity, a commitment not to rock the boat and a supposed 'loyalty' to the party above all else. Indeed our abuse of the term ‘party loyalty’ would have fitted well in the Soviet Union. Beliefs, values, principles and even loyalty to one’s country are deemed inferior to blind party loyalty,” she said.

Additional reporting PA