Pastures New for Politics?

I vote Fine Gael. Always have, always will. My family have an ingrained history with the party and it would have been next to impossible to avoid this as a child.

This said, I’ve been following the recent by-elections and have seen my party lose out, twice. They’re not losing out to Fianna Fáil or Labour, so who are they losing out to?

Never, since the inception of our state, has a new political party withstood the test of time and had a lasting affect on our political landscape without later imploding. The Progressive Democrats (PDs) and The Green Party have fallen while in government. But do the people of Ireland want a new party again?

A poll conducted by The Irish Times in December 2012 stated that just over half of voters wouldn’t welcome a new political party, with another poll from earlier this year finding that 72 per cent of voters agree with this sentiment.

Regardless of whether we actually need a new one, I do believe that at least one new political party will be formed between now and Easter 2016.

However, if there is to be a new party, candidate selection would be an issue. Recruiting serving politicians would of course be a bonus, but too many could look dated, not to mention be viewed negatively by the public, due to their associations with the unpopular policies of previous parties.

Back in the 1980s, the PDs managed to overcome this same old same old stigma by taking on a fresh and welcome anti-Haughey stance. But who would serve as the big bad wolf this time?

At the moment, the Reform Alliance, fronted by Lucinda Creighton, seems the odds on favourite to form a new political entity before the next election. Creighton was kicked out of Fine Gael following her refusal to vote for the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act last year. She was subsequently sent into the political abyss and nobody expected to hear from her again.

This was until she formed the Reform Alliance (RA), along with five TD’s and two senators, including her husband Paul Bradford. Each have been ousted from Fine Gael since they took power in February 2011. Five of the above joined Creighton in losing the party whip over the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act.

In my opinion, if the RA did form as a political entity, they would merely represent another centre-right Civil War political spin-off, resembling something similar to a watered down Fine Gael. So what other options are there?

Independents and smaller parties such as Direct Democracy Ireland (DDI) and the Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) have all shown themselves to be strong contenders in recent by-elections. In May 2013, Ben Gilroy of DDI exceeded all expectations when he came fourth in the Meath East by – election with 1,568 first preference votes. With all due respect to Gilroy’s campaign team however, I can’t help but put this favourable result down to a protest vote.

More recently, the coalition respectively lost the Dublin South West (DSW) and Roscommon South-Leitrim by-elections to Paul Murphy of the AAA and Michael Fitzmaurice, an independent. In fact, the coalition parties only garnered 17 per cent of first preference votes in DSW.

If Ireland is leaning towards a new party, the AAA would seem to fit the criteria. However, taking on that level of power for the AAA would be difficult to say the least.

In all honesty, I can’t help but be sceptical regarding the proposed differences that any new political party could bring to our island in this current era. So while it’s true that there is a thirst for something new, in my opinion, it will be a long time before any new political party can bring about real change.

Finnian Curran

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