Independents fail to get on the same page

“Don’t argue in front of the visitors” is obviously a warning which Shane Ross and his motley crew of independents never received as children.

The dysfunctional family of “radical, but responsible” candidates who will run under the Independent Alliance (IA) banner in the upcoming general election yesterday gathered to launch their ‘Charter for Change’ — but even before the grand unveiling had finished cracks began to emerge.

The 21 candidates of the IA — which main speaker and predominant personality Mr Ross was eager to state does not have a leader — were unable to even agree on the 10 vague principles contained in their charter.

At times during yesterday’s launch, it felt as though the media had been allowed into a party meeting as the members of the alliance thrashed out various aspects of policy, possible coalition partnerships and the leadership issue — all in front of cameras, microphones, and recorders.

The document produced includes aspirational proposals such as ensuring the needs of rural Ireland are addressed; prioritising small business; protecting the most vulnerable; and developing functioning rural broadband.

Other points highlight some of the gripes of Mr Ross — who as non-leader was clearly given the majority of speaking time while repeating his ambition to have a seat at the next cabinet — including ending cronyism in political appointments and reforming the banks.

When pressed on the rural issue, Michael Fitzmaurice of Roscommon-Galway said broadband should be delivered within the next five years, however, this was quickly countered by Wexford’s John Halligan who said the grouping would not be making any promises.

Michael Fitzmaurice
Michael Fitzmaurice

Although the alliance wishes to go into government, there were also differences on their partners in power.

Mr Ross said: “Sinn Féin would have to have a Pauline conversion to democracy to convince us.”

However, Diarmuid O’Flynn of the Ballyhea Says No campaign said he “wouldn’t need that much convincing” on going into power with Sinn Féin.

“I suppose this is where the divisions are and we are entitled to our own opinions,” said Mr O’Flynn, who will run in the Cork North-West constituency.

Diarmuid O’Flynn of the Ballyhea Says No campaign
Diarmuid O’Flynn of the Ballyhea Says No campaign

One thing the alliance does seem to agree on is the fact that they should remain disparate.

Mr Ross described the 10-point charter as “an attempt to introduce a new formula into politics” but, apart from denying serial offenders bail and introducing a veto on nominees to the posts of Attorney General and Minister for Justice, that formula seemed lacking in substance.

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