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When asked why Fianna Fáil, Stephen Donnelly says 'we need new thinking'

Donnelly was elected in 2011 as Fianna Fáil were decimated in the polls.

Updated at 7.30pm

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

STEPHEN DONNELLY SAID that the reason he joined Fianna Fáil was because “we need new thinking”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime he said his departure from The Social Democrats (the new party he founded) was unfortunate but it “wasn’t going to work”.

“[I was] faced with a very simple question. I’m on the Independent benches, and I can stay there, advocate as best I can and hopefully have a few wins, like with the vulture funds. But in spite of everyone’s best efforts, you’re always going to be at the margin.

Or, at a time of national crisis, where we’re being hit from all angles by Brexit, by Trump, by extremism, by Europe and the European Commission, [I can join a political party].

When asked, “why Fianna Fáil?” Donnelly answered:

Well what’s important to me is we need new thinking, the centre needs to hold, it needs to have a better way forward that’s much more inclusive and sustainable, we’re going to have to have a lot more ambition.

The party confirmed that Donnelly’s application to join was approved at a parliamentary party meeting this morning and that he was their new Brexit spokesperson.

The party confirmed the move in a statement today:

“This morning, the Fianna Fáil Whip Michael Moynihan TD received a letter from Stephen Donnelly applying to join the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party.

“The application was discussed at this morning’s meeting. Stephen’s admission was then formally proposed and approved unanimously.”

Party Leader Micheál Martin welcomed Donnelly to the party.

I would like to welcome Stephen Donnelly to the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. As part of our rebuilding process over the last number of years, Fianna Fáil have made it clear that we welcome new people and new ideas. That message has resonated across the country and in the 2016 General Election we saw the election of an energetic and talented Fianna Fáil team to both Houses of the Oireachtas.

DONNOLLY 060_90501720 Stephen Donnelly with Fianna Fail party leader Micheal Martin Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Donnelly, who was elected in 2011 in the midst of a backlash against Fianna Fáil, said that he was pleased to join the party.

I was motivated to enter politics to make a difference in my community and to try and help change the direction of the country. I am very concerned at the various challenges facing our country and believe I can best play my part in addressing them as part of the Fianna Fail team whose policies reflect what I have advocated for.

“Over recent years I have watched how Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil have developed a suite of constructive, progressive policies that have emphasised fairness and investment in public services and I look forward to playing my part in moving those policies forward.”

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Support from Wicklow voters 

Speaking to the media at Leinster House this afternoon, Donnelly said that he has received overwhelming support from his constituents.

No matter what you do, whether I stayed as an independent there would be some people that are happy, there would be some people disappointed.

Donnelly said he asked his Wicklow constituents over the last number of months what party he should join.

The overwhelming sense is, which is what a lot of people have been asking for in Wicklow for some time, is they said it’s great what you’ve been doing, be it the vulture funds, or recently ticket touting – it’s great you have been doing those as an independent, but you have got to join a party. The country is in trouble, there are really serious troubles coming our way.
What I asked them over the last couple of months was which party. The majority of them said Fianna Fáil – it is the clearest political fit for you.

Blaming Fianna Fáil in the past 

When put to Donnelly by TheJournal.ie that he was elected primarily on the basis that he was not a member of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael and went so far as blaming the party he joins today for the economic crash in 2008, he said he would tell those that voted for him during the last general election the following:

Which would you prefer – would you like me to sit nice and safely on the independent benches advocating for change on the side or would you prefer me to be working with a strong team as a Fianna Fáil TD to basically try and shift this county in the right direction and pretty much all of them [his constituents] have said yes we would prefer you working with Fianna Fáil in the Fianna Fáil team.

6049 Stephen Donnelly_90501705 Source: Sam Boal

A long list of criticisms levelled at Fianna Fáil over the years by the Wicklow TD were also recited to the new Fianna Fáil TD.

“Certainly I am not going to retract any of the statements made about mistakes that were made in the lead up to the crash – it is all on the record and we know what happened,” he said.

However, Donnelly said it is time to focus on the present.

“What is important is what is happening to Ireland today. Yes we can look at the past – but Brexit is happening here today, US protectionism is happening today, the rising extremism is happening today.

“The decision for me was very simple – who is the most closely aligned to my politics who I believe are taking these challenges very seriously, who are coming up with ideas to take on these challenges and opportunities.”

Social Democrats

A Harvard-educated business analyst by trade, Donnelly became a household name after his election in 2011, leading numerous charges against current and former governments.

In July 2015, he was a founding member of the Social Democrats and was joint-leader along with Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy.

Image uploaded from iOS (1) Source: TheJournal.ie

He left the party in September 2016 and repeatedly refused to rule out joining another party. He denied suggestions by his former party colleagues that he had left because he is not a team player or had shied away from the work involved.

Additional reporting Christina Finn and Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: Taoiseach Jack Lynch confronted Prime Minister on torture claims in Northern Ireland

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