Is the space for a new political party narrowing?
Analysis: Lucinda Creighton believes there is a ‘gap in the market’ in Irish politics
A file image of Lucinda Creighton speaking at a Reform Alliance conference at the RDS in Dublin earlier this year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Former PD leader Michael McDowell declared there was a “gap in the market” in Irish politics back in the summer of 2010.
A General Election came and went, but no new party emerged, despite tantalising shape-throwing from the likes of potential celebrity candidates David McWilliams and Fintan O’Toole.
Disillusionment with the so-called “democratic revolution” promised by the Fine Gael - Labour Coalition, coupled with a row over abortion legislation, led Lucinda Creighton and a clutch of other former Fine Gael TDs and Senators to form the Reform Alliance.
Today Ms Creighton echoed Mr McDowell’s description of the political “gap”, when
asked about the possibility of the group evolving into a new party.
“I do believe there’s a gap and there’s desire. I’m getting emails every day from people so I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t interest in something new emerging,” she said.
“But the Reform Alliance is just an alliance. Its objectives and agenda relate to parliamentary work.”
However, Ms Creighton said Independents who will run in the next General Election should be able to come together under a unifying banner.
“As an election comes closer it’s important that some coherent, sensible, united platform for independent-minded people who want to go forward would emerge,” she said.
“What form that will take I don’t know yet. It’ll be an evolutionary process over the next few months or year.”
If it is to evolve into a new party the Reform Alliance needs to start looking less like a rump of disillusioned Fine Gael dissidents and extend its appeal to the growing number voters who have turned away from traditional parties and have started looking for alternatives.
There is now a widespread acceptance in political circles that voters may not have to wait until 2016 to go to the polls again.
In the Local and European elections many voters looking for an alternative turned to Independent candidates.
So if the Reform Alliance wishes to run candidates in the next election it may need to move quickly.
One option would be to bring in Independent TDs in the mould of Wicklow deputy Stephen Donnelly.
Earlier this week he gave me a strong hint that he will join a political party ahead of the next General Election.
“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 said.
“Of course I would consider becoming part of something bigger. You’ve a limited capacity to change things as an Independent.”
Setting up a new party is expensive, exhausting and time-consuming.
Time may be running out.
The gap in which a new party could be created in time for the next election may be narrowing.