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Six months in, where stands Renua?

Analysis: Lucinda Creighton’s new political party held a think-in today, but what progress has it made so far?

3/9/2015. Renua Autumn Think-In. L to R. Eddie Hob Source: Eamonn Farrell

IT SEEMS A long time ago that Lucinda Creighton ended months of speculation by launching a new party with the promise of new politics, governing in the sunshine and a new way of doing things in Ireland.

Renua Ireland’s launch was met which much scepticism, particularly as there wasn’t ‘the big name’ many observers felt it needed to get off the ground.

Instead, we were left with financial guru Eddie Hobbs and the unanswered question of whether he was going to run for the party. He’s definitely not, he confirmed today.

In the six months since its launch Renua has been recruiting members, setting up constituency organisations, selecting election candidates, raising money – although possibly not much – and has also competed in its first by-election, where Patrick McKee acquitted himself admirably.

But the party is facing a number of problems right now.

Candidates and policies

One of them is finding enough candidates to run in the general election. Renua has selected just 11 of the at least 40 candidates it wants to run in every Dáil constituency and is well-behind the mainstream political parties.

Creighton’s call for Enda Kenny to immediately go to the country is somewhat puzzling when one senior party future admitted today that Renua is not ready for a general election.

When we put this to Lucinda, she was dismissive, insisting:

We’ll be ready, don’t worry about us.

But the simple fact of the matter is that Renua would be scrambing to get names on tickets if the election was called tomorrow. To some extent Creighton’s bravado sums-up another of Renua’s problems.

Efforts to scrutinise the party and its policies are met with broad and sweeping statements about how that’s ‘the old way of doing things’ and typical of an establishment of begrudgers in Leinster House and the media.

When Fianna Fáil’s legal advisor Jim O’Callaghan pointed to flaws in Renua’s proposal to make all of the attorney general’s advice to government public, Creighton reverted to criticising his views as being typical of the establishment way of doing things.

All that said we can’t accuse Renua of not having policies. They smartly took advantage of the August silly season to put out a rash of policy papers that garnered the level of media coverage they wouldn’t normally have got.

The trouble is that all the policies in the world haven’t yet established a coherent message that easily defines Renua’s identity and what its about. Labelling the party as Fine Gael-lite isn’t, at this moment, an inaccurate assessment.

Even with the policy-less Social Democrats we at least know they are committed to an economic model not unlike that in some Nordic countries. That’s a big idea that Renua lacks.

Thinking

Today, Renua held a think-in ahead of the return of the Dáil later this month. Unlike other parties this was entirely open to the media to report on, a welcome development for those who hung around beyond the opening speeches.

There were wide-ranging discussions on the economy, rural Ireland, homelessness, water and health. But they were all too typical of what you might hear at a summer school.

There’s lots of talk about a better way of doing things and big ideas are put forward without any roadmap for how they are actually implemented.

In his address to the assembled crowd former Libertas leader Declan Ganley – who likes Renua but isn’t running for the party – said:

I love start-ups, this is a start-up with a bold vision and idea… I hope it will succeed in upsetting the status quo.

In Creighton’s words, this start-up is looking at “shaking up the political system, rattling a few cages and hopefully winning a signifiant number of seats at the next election”.

She also described her party as “the epitome” of ambition. There’s no doubt about that but fulfilling it will be a challenge that, on the evidence of the polls, the party has not yet managed to do.

For their own sake, Creighton and Renua should be hoping the election is a few months off yet.

Lucinda: Fine Gael wanted me to be a good girl

Read: How does this old-school fundraising chime with Renua’s new politics?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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