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The end of the road for the Independent Alliance 'experiment'

The defeat of Shane Ross marks the end of the Independent Alliance.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE, the collection of Independent TDs who propped up the Fine Gael government after the 2016 election, is largely no more. 

Out of six candidates elected four years ago, none remain part of the alliance today. Two left mid-way through the Dáil, while a combination of retirements and losses on election night seem to spell the end of the grouping. 

Shane Ross, sports minister and the most high-profile member of the alliance, suffered an early defeat in Dublin Rathdown, while in Longford-Westmeath Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran also seems to have lost out. 

Ahead of the election, ministers Finian McGrath and John Halligan announced that they wouldn’t be contesting the vote – decisions that considerably diminished the power of the alliance even before a single vote had been cast. 

The poor election day seems to spell the end of the Independent Alliance, which at its peak had representatives across the country from Galway to Dublin. 

Rise and fall 

The last election saw unprecedented success for Independent candidates, with one in every six votes cast for a non-party politicians. 

With a record 23 independents elected on various platforms, one small group emerged in dominant to prop up Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael after its disastrous performance in 2016. 

The decision to join government caused the first split in the Independent Alliance, with Micheal Fitzmaurice opting to leave the grouping after refusing to vote for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. 

Then in 2018, Sean Canney left the alliance – though he still supported the government on budgetary matters. 

‘Experiment’ 

Shane Ross was circumspect when speaking about it on Newstalk on Sunday. The first candidate elected in 2016, Ross was one of the most colourful ministers, forever fighting for his own personal projects such as judicial reform and the re-opening of Stepaside Garda station.

He said the Independent Alliance had set out to be “radical but responsible” when they went into government with Fine Gael.

“I think we did achieve a fair amount in government while not actually rocking the boat,” he said.

Ross said he believed the “experiment worked”. 

“We also had failures as all politicians do but all-in-all I think the experiment was good,” he said.

Moran seemed to take the potential defeat less equivocally. Even before any count had been completed, Moran was complaining that he had been “let down” by the people of Longford and Westmeath. 

As things stand on Monday, Moran still faces a struggle to keep his seat. 

There have been exceptions for the former members of the alliance. On Sunday night, Fitzmaurice was elected on the first count in Roscommon-Galway, while Sean Canney was also successful in Galway East. 

The declining fortunes of the IA is somewhat mirrored across the country, as the vote share of independents seems set to drop from the peak in 2016. 

It remains to be seen what party will make up the next government, but the experience of the Independence Alliance may chasten other independents from following suit and sitting around the cabinet table. 

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