Reform Alliance moves to widen base and test its appeal with first conference
Meeting seen as platform to boost credentials
While the Reform Alliance is widely perceived to be preparing to establish itself as a party, group member Lucinda Creighton insisted the conference was not a step on the way to forming a fully-fledged political party.
The Reform Alliance group of Fine Gael dissidents has moved to widen its base and test its public appeal by calling its first political conference later this month in Dublin.
The group plans to invite all Independents in the Dáil and Seanad to the event, which takes place at the RDS on January 25th.
While the Alliance is widely perceived to be preparing to establish itself as a party, group member Lucinda Creighton insisted the conference was not a step on the way to forming a fully-fledged political party.
“As I’ve said repeatedly over the last couple of months, that’s not where our discussions are at,” she said.
Ms Creighton said she hoped Independents such as TDs Stephen Donnelly and Shane Ross and senators Katherine Zappone and Feargal Quinn would attend the conference, which takes place at the RDS Concert Hall.
Fine Gael whip
Ms Creighton lost her junior ministry and the Fine Gael whip last year over her refusal to vote for abortion legislation.
All but one of her six colleagues in the Alliance lost the party whip for the same reason.
However, the conference is likely to be seen as a platform to boost credentials for the Alliance outside the narrow question that first brought it together. The attendance at the conference of established political figures outside the Alliance would help on that front.
While a broader base would be crucial for the group’s prospects if it does contest elections, the Alliance is unlikely to seek party status before the local and European elections in May.
The group has cast the conference as an opportunity for calm reflection on the lessons of the economic crisis. It will concentrate on political, economic and health sector reform.
Ms Creighton said any Independent with a commitment to reform would be welcome, as would people from other parties. “There’s nothing to prevent other party members from turning up. It’s not a party political event.”
On the first day of a trade mission to the Gulf region yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made light of the event.
“I’ve been at many monster meetings over the years in Irish politics. It’s perfectly in order for anybody to hold meetings in Ireland and I wish everybody who attends all the meetings the very best of luck,” he said.
Inviting reform proposals from the public on its website, the group said “everyone” would be welcome at the conference and added that “everyone will be heard”.
Ms Creighton declined to name likely speakers at the conference other than columnist David McWilliams.
On its website, the group said the political strand of the event would feature a panel of “highly respected and knowledgeable experts” who would engage in wide-ranging conversation on meaningful reforms within the political system.
“Despite the many promises made by all political parties before the last general election, there has been a failure to fundamentally reform how politics works in this country,” it said.
“People are understandably frustrated both at the slow pace of progress and the timid reforms proposed.
“The defeat of the referendum to abolish the Seanad demonstrates that voters want to see meaningful changes to the system and are not content to settle for window-dressing.”