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Everything you need to know about Ireland's next new political party

“I’m not a professional politician. I’m an average plonker that’s trying to do his best.”

ruddcropped UnitedPeople founder and leader Jeff Rudd. Source: United People/Jeff Rudd

IRELAND’S NEXT NEW political party is run by an IT teacher, former barman, and father of four who calls himself “an average plonker trying to do his best.”

Jeff Rudd, from Drogheda, started UnitedPeople this year, after leaving his post as National Chairman of the controversial Direct Democracy Ireland party (DDI), which contested European and local elections in 2014.

On Tuesday, the Registrar of Political Parties formally announced he had proposed that UnitedPeople (UP) be added to the register of political parties, with official confirmation usually being a formality.

They don’t have a manifesto yet, or any elected representatives or candidates, but their leader claims “some serious politicians” have expressed interest in running under the banner of UnitedPeople.

TheJournal.ie caught up with the party’s 47-year-old leader, to get a sense of what UP stands for, and what it hopes to bring to an already crowded political landscape.

Policies

Source: UnitedPeople/YouTube

The clearest conclusion about UP’s policies so far, is that there are a lot of them, as shown in the promotional video above.

A chart on the party’s website lists no fewer than 55 specific issues, and Rudd says “that’s nothing” compared to what will be included in their manifesto (“It’s actually going to maybe shock people, how much stuff has gone into it.”)

UnitedPeople’s constitution contains 17 articles and almost 8,500 words, including many somewhat ambiguous statements of general philosophy, such as:

“Open Democracy” incorporating participative democracy shall be further instigated through any legitimate process that consists of going to the people within Ireland borders and beyond if necessary, in order that the public are greater informed as to its positive aspects.

Some phrases and principles that are consistent, however, across the party’s website, and in Rudd’s description, are “democracy”, “accountability” and “transparency” – a fact that will inevitably draw comparisons to DDI.

A cornerstone policy for both groups is the introduction of what DDI calls “direct democracy” and UnitedPeople calls “participatory democracy” (according to Rudd himself, “it’s the same thing.”)

That is: less parliamentary mediation, and more decision-making by voters; citizen-initiated referendums; and recall elections (removing politicians from office before the end of their terms).

So what exactly is the difference between UnitedPeople and DDI, apart from the personalities involved?

The focus of UnitedPeople is a lot wider, a lot more extensive in individual areas. Its members are from the Left and the Right.
I don’t want to be seen attacking them [DDI], because there’s good people in it, but what they’re doing is a small piece of a larger jigsaw.

talented Source: Jeff Rudd

Pat Greene, current leader of DDI, told TheJournal.ie there had been a clash of personalities between Rudd and others within the leadership last year, and that:

There was a difference of opinion at the time and Mr Rudd and DDI both felt it was better for him to resign from the party.

Rudd says he intends to apply that commitment to democracy and accountability to the party itself, as well as in politics and government.

We’ve been a pain in the backside about it, to make sure everything we do is accountable.

He points to a provision in the UnitedPeople constitution that states “It is incumbent that members of UnitedPeople report ANY wrongdoing within the organisation.”

For all the general statements of philosophy in UP’s constitution and literature, they do have some concrete, specific policies, including:

  • Abolishing Irish Water and returning control of water services to local councils
  • Opposing water charges and water metering
  • Opposing the EU/US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
  • “Balancing” parental rights
  • Constitutionally guaranteed access to the internet
  • Ending the Universal Social Charge (USC)

UnitedPeople Logo Source: Jeff Rudd

TheJournal.ie asked Rudd to take a stance on a few other important political issues.

The refugee crisis

We’d like to see the issue addressed, but on an equal basis – we want to see as much urgency put into Irish people who are homeless, not more or less.

Same-sex marriage

We were all for it, and we were delighted to see it pass.

Taxation

We’ve included details on taxation in our manifesto, and we don’t want to reveal too much before we make a public announcement.

Abortion

We don’t have a stance yet on it. We’re still getting feedback from the members, and at our next AGM we’ll have a vote on this.

Left-Right Orientation

TheJournal.ie asked Rudd to place UnitedPeople’s ideology on a scale of 1 (far left) to 10 (far right). “Between four and five”

Asked to condense the party’s identity and purpose into one soundbite, Rudd said:

A meeting of minds on Left and Right, using proper, professional procedures.

The motto included on the party’s logo – which Rudd says is derived from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – is “Better Democracy and Clearer Transparency.”

‘When they start making victims of our kids…’

dakota Jeff and Joanne Rudd's daughter, Dakota. Source: Jeff Rudd

Rudd says he was never involved in politics (apart from “a year or two” in Fianna Fáil as a teenager”), until his wife Joanne gave birth to their daughter Dakota, in 2005.

Dakota has scoliosis, an incurable curvature of the spine, and required consistent and regular treatment and check-ups, and at the time, was being treated at Crumlin Hospital in Dublin.

During the time the economy went bust, services at Crumlin Hospital were being cut left, right and centre, so my daughter’s appointments were being cancelled.
My feeling was, if a government is going to attack the people, attack adults, fair enough – the adults can in some way, hopefully, peacefully argue and fight back.
But when they start making victims of our kids – that made me angry.

He joined a group of parents who protested to save services at Crumlin Hospital in 2009, and went from that to DDI after he “went looking for something that would help to make things better for the country.”

I didn’t see any party that would make a difference – they weren’t addressing the real issues or holding themselves accountable. I then saw DDI…

Prospects

Rudd says UnitedPeople has already attracted 400 members, from every county except one, with particularly strong support in Galway, Donegal, Limerick, Dublin and Louth.

After we become a party, hopefully people will see the extensive lengths that we’ve gone to in a lot of topics, and think ‘By God, these are not just a bunch of cowboys, and they can actually back up their stuff.’

Rudd, who’s not sure whether he himself will run in Louth at the General Election, claims to have “ex-TDs and present TDs” who have expressed an interest in “further getting involved” with UnitedPeople.

I’m not a professional politician. I’m an average plonker that’s trying to do his best.
But I’ve no skeletons in the closet, and basically that’s what this country needs at the moment.

Read: BAI reject complaint by Direct Democracy Ireland alleging unfair treatment>

Read: Just how many new parties are we going to have before the next election?>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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