Renua Launch: Hobbs says pay cuts should not be reversed

Renua co-founder gets new party off to a controversial start

New political party Renua got off to a controversial start as co-founder Eddie Hobbs insisted public sector workers should not have their pay cuts restored.

At the launch of the centre-right party, the financial pundit said previous pay levels for such workers had helped tip the country into financial crisis.

Public Sector Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has said he will begin talks with public sector unions to look at increasing salaries now that the financial emergency is at an end.

However, Mr Hobbs, who backs Renua’s position to abolish the top rate of USC for the self-employed, warned returning the public service to pre-crash pay levels would be a mistake.

“The answer is no. It shouldn’t happen because we have very scarce resources and they shouldn’t be wasted restoring something that actually was one of the outcomes that contributed to the economic collapse of 2007 and 2008,” Mr Hobbs told RTÉ.

Party leader and former Fine Gael minister Lucinda Creighton said Renua needed to raise €500,000 to keep going and would rely on the “goodwill” of ordinary people to achieve that goal.

The launch of the party was light on policy detail, with the key political battlegrounds of health and education largely ignored.

A policy document did deal with the political process, stating ministers should be given time limits for their tenure and the Dáil whip system be loosened.

Cabinet minutes should be published with 48 hours for a meeting, apart from in exceptional circumstances, the party stated.

“I would refer to this new policy as government in the sunshine, a completely open policy where there is no need for cabinet confidentiality, except of course for security issues.

“I think it will have a massively positive impact. The idea that the masses can’t be trusted with information is nonsense,” Ms Creighton said.

The Dublin South TD denied the party amounted to little more than a “Re-Elect Lucinda Committee” as she said it would field at least one candidate in each constituency at the next election.

Ms Creighton insisted she was offering a new type of party, which would engage in politics “liberated from the burden of negativity”.

Renua wants to ease the cost of childcare and transfer maternity leave into paternity leave, but Ms Creighton could not give details of how this would be funded.

Renua is to give its public representatives a free vote on conscience issues, such as termination rights and euthanasia.

Ms Creighton stressed the need for higher standards of ethics for TDs and senators, and insisted party candidates would be rigorously tested to ensure they fitted the bill for public life.

The party says 180 people have offered themselves as candidates, and around 60 of them will be selected for the next Dáil showdown.

The only party Ms Creighton ruled out coalition with was Sinn Féin, but Taoiseach Enda Kenny would not be drawn on the prospect of sharing power with his rebel former TD.

“I did say in the past constructive suggestions that have come from a number of independents can be worthy of being considered, why wouldn’t they be if they’re about job creation and ways of improving the lot of people. It’s the duty of government and that’s what we do all the time, so my focus is on the return of this government,” Mr Kenny said during his visit to the US.

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