Renua Ireland will make impact, but how much and for how long?

Ideologically, there’s little surprise it will be positioned on right of political spectrum, but not obdurately so

As Renua Ireland was launched in 2015 Harry McGee followed the key players behind the scenes to watch a new party being built. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

The new party, Renua Ireland, will undoubtedly have an impact on Irish politics.

The questions are:

How much?

And for how long?

The party led by Lucinda Creighton is well organised, highly-motivated and focused. The targets that it has set itself are ambitious; candidates in each constituency; a double digit return of Dáil deputies after the next election, as well as being prepared to enter government.

Ideologically, there is little surprise it will be positioned on the right of the political spectrum, but not obdurately so. It has some policies (especially on child care) that left wing parties would not cavil with. But generally, it will be pro-business, pro-enterprise, and in favour of small government.

The most contentious policy of the 16 it unveiled was its promise to shake up the public service.

There is little ambiguity about its stance: Merit rather than tenure should be the basis for promoting across the public service its policy document says. Also it wants measures introduced to “deal with serial underperformance”, which means sanctions. You can take it that public sector unions would be rushing to affiliate with the new party.

As expected, Renua is also majoring on reform and open-ness.

Creighton had the best lines of the day when she said: “We intend to govern in the sunshine. We should trust Irish citizens with the truth.”

That said, parties have been promising radical reform in their political manifestos for over 200 years but the realities of government severely dilute those heady aspirations. Renua wants to publish the minutes of every Cabinet meeting within 48 hours and also to publish the opinion of the Attorney General. It also wants limits set on the time a minster can serve.

The promises sound laudable.

But you wonder how they might work in real life situations as opposed to in dress rehearsal:

Will Ministers find other ways (perhaps an informal chit-chat meeting) of keeping something quiet?

Will it have a cooling effect?

If a particular minister is very good at her or his job, is it not right for to continue on, even if it is over a period of years?

The party’s policy development is a work in progress. It listed 16 policy items on Friday, but other than business tax reforms, it has not yet produced its policy papers on the big-ticket items for the next general election: the wider economy; health and education.

The party is up-front in saying that these are a work in progress. Creighton and the party’s policy director Ross McCarthy have said they are not in the business of publishing policy on the back of envelopes. So we will have to wait until later this year to see what is unveiled on these major areas that could make or break the party. They promise something major: we will have to wait and see.

Where it might have difficulty is in attracting candidates. The party has three TDs, a senator and a handful of councillors. There are some interesting additions from the world of business (Eddie Hobbs and Jonathan Irwin) and from the caring professions (Shane Dunphy) but there is a sense that the party will need to attract strong candidates with an established profile if it is to make the breakthrough it wants.

Hobbs remains undecided on running which sends out mixed messages. Until he plump one way or the other, the party will continue to be seen very much as a Creighton vehicle. Given her own very assured performance yesterday, there is little doubt about her abilities as a politician and as a potential political leader. But unless others big hitters emerge, the personality of the party will be subsumed in to Creighton’s.

The PDs created a huge impact 30 years ago when arriving on the scene. But like a comet, it all began to fizzle out after a while. Renua’s big battle won’t be the next 12 months - it will be trying to sustain the project into the future.

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