Crunch time for Lucinda Creighton
The young Fine Gael politician has had a meteoric rise, but her views on abortion have left her standing on a precipice. How she votes could change her career
In February 2000, she was the person who explained Young Fine Gael’s adoption of a motion calling for the introduction of a “legal marriage” for same-sex partners. “The Government must introduce a civil contract to recognise the inheritance, insurance and taxation rights of same-sex and unmarried couples.”
Still, her opposition to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill could be an important swaying factor for supporters of anti-abortion people.
Creighton could also align with businessman Declan Ganley, who wants to start a new political movement which respects legislators’ conscience on questions such as abortion. Some of her colleagues question this analysis, however, arguing that Creighton and her Fine Gael pedigree have greater appeal than Ganley to conservatives.
Then there is the question of economic policy, on which she is ultra-liberal. Could this open up an alignment with her old rival McDowell? His political appetite is back but he has no organisation.
Other observers question how many political figures would actually follow Creighton into a new splinter party. Creighton is well respected for her work rate and her ability to marshall an argument but she is not seen as the best of team players.
Her inner circle is small. It includes Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan, and her husband, Senator Paul Bradford, a former Fine Gael TD for Cork East who has been in Leinster House since 1987. Her special adviser Stephen O’Shea left last week to take up a journalism job in Doha.
A separate analysis suggests expulsion now from Fine Gael and a quiet period out in the cold might provide an opportunity for her to gain later within the party. The sense is that Kenny is unlikely to bring Creighton into his next Cabinet, keeping her well behind ministers Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar who are in the vanguard of her generation of senior Fine Gaelers. Waiting in the wings for a few years could give her greater freedom to cultivate grassroots activists.
Yet another theory is that she has simply tired of the political fray, cannot find a way around her reservations about the Bill and has resigned herself to doing something else eventually. In an interview last February, she declared she would not stay in the Dáil “for ever and ever” and may return to the legal career she set aside to pursue politics. It was duly noted at the top echelon of Fine Gael.
All of this must be seen through the prism of Creighton’s outspoken character, her high ambition, her stridency, her caustic view of political opponents and her zeal. “The tragic flaw is impatience,” says one Government figure. “Fifteen per cent less effort would lead to 50 per cent more effectiveness.”
No one doubts her relentless appetite for work. In the unforgiving words of a fellow TD, her uncompromising style recalls one George W Bush – “You’re either with her or against her.”
Another critic agrees, saying there is an inclination to reduce everything to questions of principle. Pragmatism is not a strong point of hers, and some colleagues find her penchant for infighting too much. “It’s as if she’s trying to follow the latter part of Margaret Thatcher’s career. But Margaret Thatcher was very wettish for the first 30 years.”
Creighton likes to be in the thick of political debate. She can be a fount of quotable lines too, saying uncomfortable things for the party hierarchy that might well result in retaliatory discomfort for herself. Her “loose lips” are a talking point in their own right. Last year, for example, she said the Coalition should not invite businessman Denis O’Brien to another economic forum in Dublin due to the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal. A Government spokeswoman described this as a personal view. One week previously, O’Brien and other Irish business figures appeared with Kenny when he opened the New York Stock Exchange for St Patrick’s Day.