‘Weekend of the Independents’ looms as think-ins take place

Some of the new forces in Irish politics will hammer out their programmes this weekend for the looming general election.

The Independent Alliance, Social Democratic Party, and People Before Profit, which has just announced a hook-up with the Anti-Austerity Alliance, will each hold meetings aimed at getting them ready for the Dáil poll, which is expected early next year, but could come as soon as November.

The Independent Alliance, a loose political umbrella put together by non-party TDs Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, and Michael Fitzmaurice, has invited broadcaster Eamon Dumphy to speak at their conference.

They will meet in the Midlands under the banner ‘Is it the day of the Independents?’ as the grouping examines common areas of concern.

Ireland’s newest political party will also being putting together its policy platform this weekend. The Social Democratic Party, which is jointly headed up by former Labour junior health minister Róisín Shorthall, and ex-Independent TDs Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donelly, is meeting in Dublin tonight to set its direction for the looming general election.

The centre-left grouping has invited 180 people who have expressed interest in the party to the event, which will look at major areas of policy. Writer and journalist Fintan O’Toole will deliver an address to the gathering, which will act as the party’s equivalent of a ‘think-in’ before the Dáil resumes next week.

Policy areas will be looked at during a series of round- table discussions to look at the direction of the party.

Mr Donnelly’s inclusion in a centre-left grouping drew questions when announced, as he has been associated with a more free-market approach to the economy.

However, the Wicklow TD, insists he has strong areas of agreement with his joint party leaders. People Before Profit is to hold a three-day open policy conference called ‘A Radical Alternative Vision For Ireland’ in Dublin.

TDs Richard Boyd Barret and Independent TD Clare Daly, who left the Socialists after clashes with party leader Joe Higgins, will address the gathering.

People Before Profit has joined with the AAA to form a “political force”, but they stress the alliance will not be a formally merged party, but a joint policy platform for the general election.

The grouping hopes it will return enough TDs to be given greater speaking rights in the next Dáil.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny must call a general election by the beginning of April.


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