A comprehensive analysis of the policy positions of Renua Ireland's candidate in the Carlow-Kilkenny byelection confirms the party is to the right ideologically, with its views closest to Fine Gael.
The analysis has been conducted by Dr Rory Costello from the politics and public administration department in the University of Limerick.
It was conducted on foot of a comprehensive survey on the views of the candidates, carried out by UL in conjunction with The Irish Times.
The candidates were asked for their views across 11 policy areas, with a view to allowing voters identify which candidate’s views were closest to their own on the whichcandidate.ie website.
All but two of the 13 candidates participated in the survey, which allows readers to compare their views on major national and local issues in Carlow-Kilkenny.
The Renua candidate is Patrick McKee, a councillor who formerly represented Fianna Fáil.
The byelection on May 22nd is the first electoral test of the new party, which is led by Lucinda Creighton.
The analysis of McKee’s responses to the survey by Costello reinforces the general sense that Renua is positioned on the right.
“I calculated how close Renua was to each of the other parties, based on the answers to all questions, and overall the Renua candidate is closest to the Fine Gael candidate,” said Costello.
Of the party candidates, only Renua and Fine Gael did not support rent control, opposed capping mortgage interest rates and also opposed a free healthcare system paid through general taxation.
In addition, Renua was the only party to oppose a significant increase in the minimum wage.
McKee also said he did not support any reversal of public sector pay cuts.
In terms of general policy, the Renua candidate prioritised deficit reduction over tax cuts and spending increases. McKee did not express opposition to water charges.
Said Costello: “On social issues, the Renua candidate is also leaning right. He is opposed to allowing asylum seekers work, and the only party candidate to support greater restrictions on immigration; he opposes abortion on demand, although interestingly supports abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities. Like all the other candidates, he supports same-sex marriage.”
The website seeks to make the voting decision easier by asking candidates to clearly state where they stand on each issue and enabling voters to easily see which candidates share their views.
The 11 policy areas covered were: taxes and spending; water charges; mortgages and rent; healthcare; education; infrastructure (wind farms, pylons, roads); ethical issues (such as abortion and same- sex marriage); immigration; wages and employment; crime and policing; and political reform.
The most commonly cited issue among the 11 respondents was water charges, with five candidates focusing on water charges and austerity in their main message. They were Sinn Féin's Kathleen Funchion, two from smaller left- wing parties and two Independents.
The mainstream parties (Fine Gael's David Fitzgerald, Fianna Fáil's Bobby Aylward and Willie Quinn of Labour) focused on jobs and extending the economic recovery beyond Dublin in their main message.
On several issues, significant differences emerges between the positions of the two Government party candidates and the rest.
There is a high level of agreement on many economic issues between Sinn Féin, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit and several of the Independents.
On some issues there was unison between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Renua.
All three opposed a higher tax rate for those earning over €100,000, a proposal most associated with Sinn Féin.
To compare the views of byelection candidates, see whichcandidate.ie