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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

Meet the self-styled radical independents who don't agree on everything

The Independent Alliance says decisions will be made by consensus, but there are disagreements on some issues.

CYg-JDgWQAAeRA8.jpg-large The Independent Alliance at the launch of its charter for change in Dublin today.

WHEN IS A group of election candidates who appear together at a press conference under one name, with one logo, and one document – that they’ve all signed up to – not a party?

When it’s the Independent Alliance.

Today the grouping of independent election candidates, which is not a registered political party, published a charter for change with the promise of ‘radical, but responsible’ politics.

It has no leader and makes decisions by consensus, but for all intents and purposes, the high-profile Dublin South TD Shane Ross appears to lead the grouping.

Shane Ross at the launch of the Independent Alliance charter today Source: Eamonn Farrell

He was acting as its principle spokesperson at a lively press conference in central Dublin today.

“We all, as individuals, are remaining independent… We haven’t compromised our independence in anyway,” he insisted.

The alliance has so far signed-up 20 election candidates in constituencies all across the country. Five of these are female or 25% but, as it’s not a party, the alliance is not subject to the 30% gender quota rule.

The candidates include several councillors such as the former Green Party TD and occasional pop singer Paul Gogarty, who’s running in Dublin Mid-West.

Also involved is Offaly councillor John Foley who became an internet sensation in 2009 at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis when he appeared – and then disappeared – behind RTÉ’s David Davin-Power:

Source: AssetTracker/YouTube

The Independent Alliance’s latest addition is another former Fianna Fáil councillor in David McGuinness who signed up to the principles at today’s press conference.

He is running in Dublin West where he’s already lost two by-elections with his former party.

He replaces councillor Lorna Nolan who has decided not to run as she is caring for a sick relative.

Today, the alliance published a set of 10 principles which it says will guide any negotiations for government after the next election.

It has promised to back any government it agrees a deal with on votes of confidence in the Dáil, but retains the right to amend and, if necessary, veto legislation and to vote against Budgets if there is no agreement on measures.

Ross argued that government legislation should be allowed to be amended and that defeat of it in the Dáil should not necessarily mean the fall of the government. He said laws should be passed subject to the will of the Dáil and not the cabinet.

“We will keep them in government if they keep the radical policies that we put to them,” he told journalists at the Royal College of Physicians, near Leinster House.

Members of the alliance will not be subject to a party whip and will have freedom to vote whichever they wish on Dáil votes.

That’s except, of course, when it comes to votes of confidence in the government, unless of course the alliance, or some of its membership, lose confidence in that government.

Still with us?

The 10 principles cover broad areas including: ending cronyism, Oireachtas reform, addressing the needs of rural Ireland, reform of the banks, ending discrimination, prioritising small business, transparency in public life, remaining in the EU, protecting the most vulnerable and tackling crime.

Shane Ross pledged repeatedly that the group would be “radical, but responsible” and said that nothing like this had ever been done before in Irish politics.

By the membership’s own admission there is not unanimity on all issues.

When the 20 candidates on stage were asked for a show of hands on who would like to be in cabinet, only one, Ballyhea anti-bondholder campaigner and Cork North-West candidate Diarmaid O’Flynn, put their hand up.

Ross then claimed that there wasn’t anyone on stage would wouldn’t want to be in cabinet. But councillor Deirdre O’Donovan, who is running in Dublin South-West, said she wouldn’t want to be a minister, citing her two young children.

The grouping was also asked if there is any party it would not go into government with. Ross stated the importance of any party honouring the principles in the ‘charter for change’.

But he said that Sinn Féin would require a “Pauline conversion to democracy” in order for him to countenance governing with Gerry Adams’s party.

That view was not shared by O’Flynn who said he’d worked well with the Sinn Féin MEPs in the past and indicated he would do business with them.

Ross said that candidates are funding themselves and as a grouping there is around €1,000 in the bank.

Elsewhere, Ross said that none of the 10 points in the charter are being prioritised over others. But Finian McGrath, who the charter says “works longer hours than the Taoiseach”, said he would be prioritising principles 5 and 9 on discrimination and protecting the vulnerable.

Finally, on abortion, the candidates were asked for a show of hands from those who are in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

But journalists were told that candidates would have to be asked individually.

At one point during today’s press conference, Louth councillor Kevin Callan claimed there were “no egos in the room”.

The campaign and any subsequent post-election negotiations with other parties will test that claim.

Read: Fianna Fáil says it’s ready to govern again, has a go at Sinn Féin and Fine Gael

Read: An election is around the corner, but will Enda be Taoiseach again?

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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