Exclusion of Independents ‘political snobbery’ says McGrath

Main parties ‘will have to chew their words after the election’ says Dublin Bay North TD

The main political parties are suffering from “intellectual and political snobbery” in its refusal to talk to Independents, says Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath.

He said all the major political parties needed to “get over themselves” and “respect the mandate of the people in all elections”.

They had an “attitude problem” that was “hostile to Independents”.

Accusing the parties of intellectual snobbery, the Dublin Bay North TD warned the political parties who refused to talk to Independents, that “they will have to chew their words after the election”.


He was commenting on remarks made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he would not talk to Independent Michael Lowry or any Independents about a possible coalition government.

Mr McGrath was speaking at a press conference in which UCC academic Dr Liam Weeks said that "a reliance on Independents does not imply instability".

He said when Independent TDs were needed they provided support to governments in 84 per cent of Dáil votes, four times the level of support they provided when they were not needed.

Dr Weeks, a politics lecturer in UCC Department of Government, pointed out that “Ireland has more independents in parliament that all other western democracies combined. This reflects the healthiness and openness of our system”.

Stressing that his was an “entirely independent view”, based on his research into independents in parliaments internationally, he pointed out that on average internationally, governments with independents lasted an average of three years.

He cited Australia as a comparison and said Independents there at state level had established charters for good government set up as a precondition for Independents to support party government.

When it was put to him that this was at state or regional level rather than national level, Dr Weeks insisted it was still a good comparison and state populations in Australia mirrored Ireland.

Independent Waterford TD and member of the Independent Alliance John Halligan said one in four people in Ireland voted for Independents. He said that "Independents are here to stay" whether the main parties liked it or not.

Commenting on potential government he pointed out that “the only group of people who have said we will speak to anyone are the Independents and I think that says it all”.

Former Green TD and Independent councillor Paul Gogarty said "it's all waffle until the numbers add up".

Independent Alliance councillor Deirdre O'Donovan said there was a group of independents working effectively together on South Dublin County Council and they raised 42 per cent of all questions in the council and had proved a coherent grouping.

Independent Alliance leader Shane Ross said the party had come up with its own charter for good government entirely independently of the Australian model.

He said they were doing something “totally different, something radical and totally responsible”.

They were not going to be a “mudguard” or “propping up a government”.

They would be asking any potential government: “Put those principles in place and we will back you,” in reference to the principles in its charter for government.

They were not going to be in a normal coalition view, but would be bringing power back to the Dáil, where legislation would be properly debated with no whip on Independents as to how they would vote.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times