Peter Casey must get elected if he wants Renua leadership
John Leahy says he will not stand in way of presidential runner-up taking over his party
Peter Casey has threated to set up a new party called New Fianna Fáil. Photograph: PA
Peter Casey must first become an elected public representative if he wishes to seek the leadership of Renua, the party has said in answer to reports that he could be offered the leadership of the party.
The party’s constitution requires that the leader be an elected representative, meaning that Mr Casey would have to stand successfully in either the local or European elections next year if he wished to take the reins.
Mr Casey finished second in the presidential race, securing 23 per cent of first preference votes, following a series of controversial comments on the travelling community.
Renua leader, Offaly County Councillor John Leahy, said today that he had no plans to vacate the leadership, though he intends to speak to Mr Casey over the coming days to gauge his interest in joining the party.
“We’re going to make contact with him,” Mr Leahy told The Irish Times. “He’s very close to our line on tax, on law and order, on pro-life [issues]. And we’re recruiting candidates at the moment.
“I’ve no plan to stand down,” Mr Leahy said, “but if he wants to come in and help out, I’ve no difficulties with that.
“If I thought hand on heart that he could do a better job...but it will be up to the members to decide. They’d decide that for me.”
Mr Leahy said the party has an annual general meeting at which any of the 750 members could propose a motion on the leadership.
Renua was founded by former minister of state for European affairs Lucinda Creighton in 2015. She lost her Dáil seat in the 2016 General Election, having forfeited both her ministerial office and parliamentary party membership when she defied Fine Gael on abortion legislation in July 2013.
Though Mr Leahy is one of only two councillors - the other is Councillor Ronan McMahon in South Dublin - he says Renua is rebuilding and recruiting candidates .
He expects the party to run 20 candidates in the next general election and at least as many in the local elections next year.
Mr Leahy concedes, however, that it is difficult to persuade people to put themselves before the electorate.
Renua still receives some €250,000 a year in state funding, having won over the two per cent threshold in the last general election, though none of its candidates were elected to the Dáil and several, including Ms Creighton, have left the party.
The party was highly critical of the conduct of the presidential election. In a statement issued after the contest, Mr Leahy said that the “circus” of the election campaign had “brought politics into disrepute.”
“What is clear is that a dangerous coarsening of public debate has occurred where serious accusations of racism have been thrown around like snuff at a wake.
“A school of liberal fascism has emerged whose response to contrarian positions consists of a hysterical form of tyranny.
“This poses a far greater threat to Irish democracy than the contrarian and occasionally odd positions of Peter Casey,” Renua said.
Meanwhile, Mr Casey said on Monday that if Fianna Fáil did not want him as a member he would set up a new party called New Fianna Fáil.
Meanwhile, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Sean Fleming has said that Fianna Fáil is a democratic party, not a business that someone can “move in and take over the top job.”
Mr Fleming told Newstalk Breakfast that none of the main political parties is a business that can be taken over by a person. Such an approach and language was for business, “politics doesn’t work that way.”
Fianna Fáil will have to look at the 340,000 people who had voted for Peter Casey, Mr Fleming said. “There was a vacuum here. I’m quite sure had there been someone standing for the main political parties, those 340,000 would not have voted for Peter Casey.”
He defended the party’s decision not to run a candidate in the presidential election. “Micheál Martin made a clear decision. Michael D was doing an excellent job and from that point of view that was a correct decision.”
Mr Fleming also defended the PAC’s decision to examine Áras spending every year. This was not a reflection on the President, he said. There are “lots of issues that need to be dealt with.”
Senior civil servants will be asked to account for the money that is being spent in the Áras and on the office of the President. The PAC did not “step over the line. We should have been doing this every year.”