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'Ireland is the best little country in the world in which to run as an independent'

A new alliance of TDs, calling itself Independents’ Network , gathered in Dublin today to give advice and support to non-party candidates running in the local elections in May.

Dublin Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan is one of those involved with the Independents' Network.
Dublin Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan is one of those involved with the Independents' Network.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES RUNNING in the local elections were told that Ireland is the “best little country in the world” in which to run as an independent at a workshop event in Dublin today.

Independents’ Network, a nascent alliance of independent, left-leaning TDs, gathered at the Teachers’ Club in Dublin to give advice and support to dozens of local authority candidates running in the 23 May elections with just over 40 people attending today’s event.

The group includes deputies Catherine Murphy, Thomas Pringle, Maureen O’Sullivan, John Halligan and Finian McGrath. Former Labour TD Patrick Nulty had also been involved prior to his resignation from the Dáil after he was found to have sent inappropriate messages to constituents.

Deputies Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly were both represented with right to die campaigner Tom Curran, who is running for the council in Wicklow, there on behalf of Donnelly.

Indpendent MEPs Nessa Childers and Marian Harkin were also in attendance. The group currently has around 37 members and expects this to increase to around 50 in the coming weeks. TV presenter Duncan Stewart was also at today’s event, but stressed he was not part of the network.

“One in every four people are voting independent, so there are a sizeable amount of people turning away from large parties and whether we like it or not you can’t get away from that,” Halligan, a TD for Waterford, told TheJournal.ie

He insisted that this was not the beginnings of a political party, adding: “I don’t think people here want a political party. Do we need another political party? Look at the ones we have… There’s more than enough political parties.

‘In theory it wouldn’t work’

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Peter Connell addressed attendees at the workshop on the ins and outs of election counts. Pic: Hugh O’Connell/TheJournal.ie

Those involved have formally signed up to the principles laid out in a document entitled ‘Independent Thought – United Vision’ which outlines areas where it is envisioned the alliance can cooperate on issues such as equality, personal debt, human rights, community and local government.

Dr Liam Weeks, a political expert from UCC, said Irish people had come to accept political parties as they believed life with independents would be too difficult.

“The people who attack independents, they say: ‘In theory it wouldn’t work’. But they haven’t found any evidence of what would happen,” he said.

Paraphrasing the Taoiseach, he added: “Ireland is the best little country in the world in which to run as an independent.”

Kildare North TD Murphy gave practical advice to candidates about ensuring they make it on the ballot paper on 23 May. She said candidates tended to waste a lot of money on campaign material and urged those running to stick to a budget and to make lists to help plan and organise their campaign.

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Attendees at today’s workshop in the Teachers’ Club in north Dublin today. Pic: Hugh O’Connell/TheJournal.ie

She urged candidates not to fear political parties and their electoral machines. “I would have knocked on more doors than the Labour party would have,” she claimed.

“It shows you that they’re not all they’re cracked up to me. Very often, people feel more comfortable to work with an independent because they don’t feel like they have to sign up to anything.”

Aspiring politicians were also given advice on media strategy and on developing their social media accounts.

They were urged to think of their interviewer on radio or TV as a constituent on the doorstep and to be concise and avoid waffle. On social media they were urged not to engage with people who are being unreasonable or abusive.

Read: Six TDs will launch a network of independent election candidates later this month

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