Sinn Féin would need ‘Pauline conversion’ to gain backing - Ross

Party must boost democratic credentials to gain Independent Alliance support, says TD

Leading Independent Alliance TD Shane Ross has said Sinn Féin would need to undergo a “Pauline conversion to democracy” before his group could support the party in government.

He said Independent Alliance representatives would be allowed a free vote on every issue.

They would put their principles before any parties aspiring to be in power, and would support them in votes of confidence if they were prepared to substantially implement the group’s programme.

“We will keep them in government if they implement the radical proposals which we put to them,” he said.

‘Charter for Change’

However, when asked at the launch of the Independent Alliance's "Charter for Change" if the group could support Sinn Féin in government, Mr Ross said that party was a special case.

“I’ve a personal view about Sinn Féin which I think is shared by a number of my colleagues - and that is that Sinn Féin would have to have a Pauline conversion to democracy to convince us that they were suitable partners for us.”

However, Diarmuid O'Flynn of the Ballyhea Says No campaign, who will contest the election under the Independent Alliance banner in Cork North-West, said he disagreed.

“I wouldn’t need that much convincing on that, and I suppose this is where the divisions would come in.”

Former Fianna Fáil councillor David McGuinness was unveiled as the Independent Alliance's new recruit at the event.

Mr McGuinness resigned from Fianna Fáil last April after failing to win the party nomination to contest the election. Jack Chambers is the Fianna Fáil candidate.

Running mate

Mr McGuinness unsuccessfully contested the 2007 general election in Dublin West as the late Brian Lenihan's running mate, and two subsequent byelections in the constituency.

Mr Ross also announced that Cllr Lorna Nolan, who had been the Independent Alliance’s candidate in the constituency, was withdrawing from the general election because a family member was ill.

Broadcaster Eamon Dunphy, a prominent supporter of the Independent Alliance, attended the event in Dublin on Tuesday.

The Independent Alliance currently has 20 candidates going into the general election, including TDs John Halligan, Finian McGrath, Michael Fitzmaurice and Tom Fleming.

Former Green deputy Paul Gogarty, now a councillor in Dublin Mid-West, businessman James Morgan and Sunday Independent journalist Carol Hunt are also involved.

Other councillors are Kevin "Boxer" Moran (Longford Westmeath), Deirdre O'Donovan (Dublin South-West), Kevin Callan (Louth), Sean Canney (Galway East), Mick Finn (Cork South-Central), John Foley (Offaly), Niamh Kennedy (Donegal), Tony Murphy (Dublin Fingal), Marie Casserley (Sligo-Leitrim) and Maeve Yore (Louth).

‘Serious disillusionment’

Mr Ross said there was “serious disillusionment” with the main political parties.

“We are totally and utterly different from any other body or entity in Irish politics. We are doing something very adventurous, very new but also, we believe, very practical.”

The group has promised not to do any special constituency deals as a price for going into government, and to take decisions by consensus.