Former Fianna Fáil senator John Hanafin and a handful of Independent TDs have held talks about setting up a new political party before the next general election, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.
The new party would focus on retaining the Eighth Amendment, promoting rural issues, and preventing drink driving reforms.
Cork South West TD Michael Collins confirmed that he, Mr Hanafin, Mattie McGrath, Michael Harty, and Noel Grealish have discussed the potential move and contacted the Standards in Public Office Commission about how a new party could be established.
Reports yesterday said the new party has been under discussion since September due to claims of bias against pro-life and rural views.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Collins said the possibility of setting up the party before the next general election remains and that its policies will be based on retaining the Eighth Amendment, rural issues and preventing drink driving reforms: “Pro-life and rural issues are being overlooked completely in the Dáil.
“I’m open to discussion on everything and I’m happy to remain as an Independent by myself, and I wouldn’t shut the door on anybody.
“But it would be difficult for someone who is totally opposed to the views we stand for to join us.”
Mr Hanafin — the father of former Fianna Fáil education minister Mary Hanafin — held a meeting with Mr Collins, Mr McGrath, Mr Harty and Mr Grealish last month about the possibility of setting up the party.
While Mr Grealish has since cooled on the prospect, the other TDs remain open to the idea and believe they will be able to entice others to join them.
The TDs are believed to want to base the potential new party on the Independents4Change group, which is registered as a party but remains a loose coalition.
A party formation would allow any new group to receive additional state funding and to highlight differences from the existing Rural Independents Group in the Dáil of whom Mr Collins, Mr McGrath, and Mr Harty are already members.
However, it would also mean the new organisation would have to meet strict gender quota rules for general election candidates.
This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.