Independents alliance ‘keeping options open’ ahead of election

Meeting in Tullamore told new grouping could back a government on confidence votes

An alliance of Independent TDs attending an event in the Bridge Hotel, Tullamore on Saturday

An alliance of Independent TDs attending an event in the Bridge Hotel, Tullamore on Saturday

 

Independent TDs in a new alliance will not strike any individual deals with political parties in exchange for supporting a government, Dublin Rathdown TD Shane Ross has said.

Mr Ross also said the new grouping could back a government on confidence votes but would not write a “blank cheque” for every piece of legislation.

Dublin Bay North’s Finian McGrath said the alliance is keeping its options open, and may support a minority government or negotiate for Cabinet positions. Mr Ross and Mr McGrath, as well as deputies Michael Fitzmaurice, John Halligan, Tom Fleming and non-party senator Gerard Craughwell hosted a meeting in Tullamore today to test the appetite for a national movement of Independent election candidates.

They all insisted they will not form a political party and will contest the next election as Independents.

Around 100 people, including an estimated 65 councillors, attended the event in the Bridge Hotel. Many of those present have yet to commit to the group, with a number of councillors saying they will not join anything which would jeopardise their non-party status.

Mr Ross said the group would support a government in confidence measures but would examine legislation on a case by case basis, a so-called confidence and supply approach.

The Independents have outlined ten core principles, the most important of which is a rejection of the whip system. Others include a promise to strip politicians of the power to make “political appointments”, measures to “challenge Brussels” and moves to promote small businesses and rural Ireland.

A more detailed mission statement and a name for the group are expected to follow. “We will negotiate with any incoming government on the basis of an agreed implementation of those priorities and principles,” Mr Ross said, adding that he personally would not rule out dealing with any party.

While Mr Ross accepted parties could try and tempt individual Independents with special deals — similar to those offered non-party deputies in the past — he insisted the alliance is “not intent on playing that game”.

“Any incoming government would attempt to do that. That’s the game that they play but we are certainly not intent on playing that game with them. We are united behind the principles.

We’re not looking for doing special deals and there is no question of any special deals.” He said a lot of the group’s principles are similar to those originally set out by Fine Gael and Labour.

However, he claimed the Coalition has since abandoned these values and accused Fine Gael and Labour of “endemic cronyism”. When asked if the members would pool the individual €41,000 leader’s allowance given to Independent TDs, Mr Ross said: “We haven’t actually considered that at all.”

The councillors in attendance included former Green Party TD Paul Gogarty, John Foley, once a Fianna Fáil running mate of Brian Cowen, Emmet O’Brien, another former Fianna Fáil member from Limerick and Dún Laoghaire’s Victor Boyhan.

Sunday Independent journalist Carol Hunt, activist Glenna Lynch and well known libel lawyer Tony Williams were also present. A number of councillors expressed concern about how the group could affect their Independent brand.

Marcia D’Alton, a Cork county councillor, said being an Independent is her strongest selling point and she did want anything to impinge on it. A statement from the Oireachtas members said the meeting is the start of a “great adventure”.

“We have explored the potential to widen the alliance of like-minded Independent TDs to bring fundamental change to Ireland. “There are no other radical, but responsible, forces for change in today’s Oireachtas. We intend to fill that void.

“There were more councillors, hungry for change, here in Tullamore today than there are Labour party councillors in the whole country. Local representatives from 20 of the 26 counties were present.

We are a united behind agreed principles to transform Irish politics.” Mr Craughwell said the alliance would also ensure it elected Independent senators to the next Seanad.

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