Setback for new political alliance

Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 01:01

The rejection by Independent TDs and Senators of overtures from Reform Alliance to attend a “monster rally” at the RDS later this month has all but scuppered the prospect of a broadly-based political party being formed. Given the months of careful planning and judicious media interviews involving former minister of state Lucinda Creighton, the refusal by Stephen Donnelly, Shane Ross, Katherine Zappone and Feargal Quinn to lend their names to the event was a devastating development. A further blow was struck when former PD leader Michael McDowell, who had campaigned for the establishment of a new political party, said he would not attend. Ms Creighton had hoped a number of former Fianna Fáil politicians would join Reform Alliance but that eventuality now appears unlikely.

The Reform Alliance group, made up of former Fine Gael TDs and Senators who were expelled for breaches of party discipline, are offering potential supporters “a vehicle for new thinking” and have nominated the economy, political reform and healthcare as areas for discussion. The issue that unifies them, however, is their rejection of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, designed to protect the lives of women in crisis pregnancies. In doing so, they were responding to a campaign led by Cardinal Sean Brady that specifically targeted Fine Gael TDs and Ministers.

This focus on personal conscience has led to suggestions that the base of a new party would be excessively narrow. Seeking to broaden its appeal, the group campaigned against abolition of the Seanad and criticised Government policy on economic and health issues. It has not been sufficient to attract sceptical Independents. They will have paid close attention to the Government’s commitment to legislate for same sex marriage this year; the Catholic Church’s fierce opposition to such a development and the likely voting pattern of Alliance members. A new party may eventually emerge, but not in the form that was anticipated.