It's looking increasingly likely that Lucinda Creighton will take the plunge in the new year and set up a new political party.
She may be talking about a new type of politics, but any kind of politics costs money.
At a fundraiser for her re-election campaign in Dublin on Thursday, guests were invited to contribute to her war chest and told they could donate up to €600 – the maximum amount an individual can give to a candidate without having to declare it.
Leo Varadkar, Lucinda's estwhile Fine Gael colleague, was none too impressed when he heard of her plans and the silent collection.
“So much for new politics and root and branch real reform. Hard to see what a new party would offer that is actually new in anything other than in a superficial way,” he remarked.
But the former junior minister and leader of the Reform Alliance group of independents looks determined to forge ahead.
A crowd of about 180 people attended her cheese-and-wine reception at the Royal Irish Academy. The Dublin South East TD spoke very carefully about the possibility of a new “movement”, steering clear of any mention of the word “party”.
In a novel twist – perhaps sensing the electorate’s frustration with existing parties, Creighton is proposing a different type of organisation. Its Unique Selling Point would be a limited lifespan – 10 years was mentioned. It will be established with the aim of radically reforming how Ireland operates.
Presumably, the idea is that they will get into government, carry out their radical reform of State and political institutions and then leave the stage.
Covered in glory, no doubt.
Why is it that we can’t do anything right in this country, Creighton asked her audience. She says it’s because areas such as the Civil Service and our electoral system need to be overhauled before progress can be made.
Creighton stressed that she was not from a political background and had no time for TDs who viewed politics almost as a family business. She’s not looking to build a dynasty.
Proposing a political party with built-in obsolescence could appeal to voters who think established outfits are set in their ways, past their sell-by date and far too concerned with looking out for their own interests.
Journalist Tom McGurk conducted a question and answer session, giving Creighton the chance to expand on her vision for Ireland. Big Tom also took the opportunity to exercise his personal vision, with questions nearly as long as Creighton’s replies.
On the way into the gathering, the star attraction smiled down from a large campaign poster for the Dublin Bay South constituency. The words “Honesty and Integrity” were writ large.
At the end of the evening, a supporter from Lucinda’s hometown of Claremorris took to the stage and told the audience he used to be a member of Fianna Fáil.
But he’s seen the light.
He’s a Creighton man now. He said it cost money to run elections and reminded everyone of how much they could donate before the cap kicked in. Between €200 and €600 would be lovely, although pledges of support were equally welcome.
Interestingly, apart from Lucinda’s husband, Senator Paul Bradford, no other Oireachtas members were present. The crowd comprised supporters from her constituency and some who had travelled from Mayo for the event. Not even a sign of Michael McDowell, whose anguished wails could be heard all the way from Ranelagh, where he was chained to a radiator for the night.
While the event was styled as a local fundraiser, Creighton – who announced she is working on a “clear charter” for a possible new political movement – left few in doubt that she has set her sights beyond constituency success.
Taoiseach Albert Reynolds once famously dismissed Fianna Fáil’s coalition with the Progressive Democrats as “a temporary little arrangement”.Next year, Lucinda Creighton will almost certainly launch a new party designed to appeal to voters for that very reason.
It’s a clever USP that might just work: a political party that kicks itself out. *****
Ted’s political bible almost, but not quite, infallible
Fond tributes were paid in the Dáil to the late
, the former Fine Gael TD for Sligo, who died at the beginning of this year.
Donegal’s Dinny McGinley, who soldiered with him, mentioned his “Nealon’s Guide” to politics, “the bible” for anyone in the business.
“I remember being abroad a number of times, including at British-Ireland parliamentary meetings, where people always had a biographical note of who we were and where we came from, which was always taken from Nealon’s Guide.
“I will make a confession to this House that there was one inaccuracy in that guide, of which only Ted Nealon and I were aware. Ted is gone to his eternal rest but I am still here.
“I suppose, at this stage of my political career, it’s not worth divulging what that mistake was . . .” Dinny said.
He’s still not telling and would neither confirm nor deny that the mistake was age-related.
If so, McGinley is in good company.
Albert Reynolds’s age was wrong for years in the guide until an enterprising journalist checked his birth cert and found the soon-to-be taoiseach was rather more youthful than the document suggested.
Ted Nealon, who wasn’t a man to get his facts wrong, graciously conceded that Albert’s age was a “clerical error” and corrected the entry.
Our own Stephen Collins, who edits the guide now, tells us it’s not unusual for TDs and Senators to become a little confused about their age, while others steadfastly refuse to supply any date at all.
He tells us that, contrary to clichéd belief, male politicians are just as guilty as their female counterparts in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach trotted out his favourite Nealon yarn for the benefit of the Dáil.
He recalled when Ted was made minister for state for agriculture – a big deal at the time, particularly in the west.
“He was invited to speak in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar – where Michael Davitt held many of his meetings after the Land League was founded – to speak on the vista that lay ahead for agriculture. And he gave a strong presentation on what was in store for Irish farmers. And the chairman on the night, at the end of the minister’s contribution, called for questions.
“And the question wasn’t about anything to do with the minister’s presentation on the agricultural vista that lay up ahead, it was about: would the minister be in a position to reinfect the rabbits in Ballyglass with myxomatosis as they had eaten all the ditches in the surrounding parish?” *****
Can one believe one’s eyes?
The Dáil record is a curious creature. What you may have seen or heard in the chamber is not always what you get from the official Oireachtas log.
Instead, the utterances of our TDs are polished up and tweaked for posterity. Grammatical errors are corrected, incoherent contributions made intelligible and the language of blazing rows often reduced to a polite exchange of views.
This is what the Oireachtas tells us: “The Official Report is the authoritative record of public proceedings in the Houses of the Oireachtas and parliamentary committees ... It is substantially but not strictly verbatim because it is accepted that the spoken word must be lightly edited for a readership rather than a listenership.” A marvellous example surfaced last week after Seán Crowe’s contribution to the debate on Irish Water.
The Sinn Féin TD, a proud Tallaght man, is not in the habit of speaking like Prince Charles. Here he is from last week, pondering how people might cut down on water usage: “If one does not flush the toilet one might save some water. One could avoid running the bath and skip having a shower the odd day . . . When washing one’s teeth, do not rinse.”
When one met Deputy Crowe in the canteen early this week, one was most disappointed to see him tucking into his dinner, as opposed to cucumber sandwiches. Does Seán actually talk like that when addressing the Dáil, embracing the Queen’s English, so to speak?“Of course one doesn’t,” he replied.
But that’s not verbatim.