Donnelly hints at joining political party before next election

Wicklow TD says capacity to implement change limited as Independent

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly has given a strong hint that he will join a political party ahead of the next General Election. Photograph : Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly has given a strong hint that he will join a political party ahead of the next General Election. Photograph : Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 08:20

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly has given a strong hint that he will join a political party ahead of the next General Election.

The Wicklow deputy, who announced he was quitting the banking inquiry at the weekend, said his capacity to implement change was limited as an Independent.

“The freedom of being an Independent for this Dáil term has been incredible, but you get into politics to change things for the better for your country and there’s only so much of that you can achieve on your own,” he told The Irish Times.

“Of course I would consider becoming part of something bigger. You’ve a limited capacity to change things as an Independent.”

Mr Donnelly is currently a member of the Dáil Technical Group, composed of small party TDs and Independents who came together to secure speaking rights.

The group is entitled to challenge the Taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions, with each member free to support or oppose the government as they please. Mr Donnelly has described himself as neither pro- nor anti-Government.

Speculation in political circles had linked Mr Donnelly’s name with the Reform Alliance, a group of former Fine Gael parliamentarians who were expelled from the parliamentary party for voting against the whip.

The most prominent member is former minister of state for European affairs Lucinda Creighton. The group launched a policy document last week but refused to say if they intended to form a new party.

Mr Donnelly declined to attend the group’s first conference in January. However, a repeatedly-published photograph of Mr Donnelly taken recently enjoying an ice cream with Ms Creighton has rekindled some speculation.

Last December, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore predicted in the Dáil that Mr Donnelly would join Fianna Fáil. Mr Gilmore claimed Mr Donnelly would be “wearing the Fianna Fáil jersey” at the next General Election. Mr Donnelly said this would not happen.

Separately, a group of left-leaning Independent TDs considering another alliance sent a copy of its draft charter to Mr Donnelly last February.