#GE16 Analysis: Amid taunts and boos, Lucinda Creighton’s Renua falls at the first hurdle

Lucinda Creighton saw fledgling party fail to return a single seat, writes Political Reporter Elaine Loughlin.

#GE16 Analysis: Amid taunts and boos, Lucinda Creighton’s Renua falls at the first hurdle

FROM the start there were problems with the name — was it taken from the Irish Ré Nua? How to pronounce it? What was the meaning behind it?

But perhaps the lowest point in the party’s short existence came when Renua leader Lucinda Creighton — facing elimination from the race — was greeted by taunts and boos as she arrived at the RDS count centre on Saturday.

Founded less than 12 months ago Renua, a strongly conservative party that put forward a flat 23% tax rate as one of its main proposals, never really seemed to get off the ground — and it has now failed to return a single person to Leinster House.

Before the election, its best hopes rested with Ms Creighton and outgoing TDs Billy Timmins in Wicklow and Terence Flanagan Dublin North–East. There was also great hope for Offaly candidate John Leahy.

Last night, party members remained adamant that the Renua experiment continue. “There is an anxiety within the party that lessons be learned and that we continue,” said a spokesman. “The argument would be that we surpassed the 2% threshold. The ball bounced against us on the day, on another day perhaps we would have had the same result as the Social Democrats.”

Also launched less than a year ago, the Social Democrats fared considerably better in the elections, retaining their three leaders, Stephen Donnelly, Róisín Shortall, and Catherine Murphy. They will hope to build on this in the local elections and return even greater numbers in the next general election, whenever that may be.

The Renua spokesman said members would be meeting in the coming days and weeks. “It’s too early to decide on whether or not there will be a dissolution, but many of the members want to continue,” he said.

As ballot boxes were opened across the country on Saturday morning, it became clear that the party’s hope of a breakthrough would not be realised. Before midnight on Saturday it was announced that Ms Creighton, a former Fine Gael minister had lost her seat in Dublin Bay South.

On being elected to Leinster House for her former party, Ms Creighton was seen as a rising star in Fine Gael and held the portfolio of European affairs minister. But she was expelled from the Fine Gael party in 2013 for opposing the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill — she set her sights on founding Renua.

The fledgling party enlisted the help of consumer champion Eddie Hobbs as its VIP mouthpiece on launching, but he failed to commit to run for the Dáil.

Come January, the party saw its fifth candidate drop out before an election had even been called: Desmond J Hayes, an accountant and tax consultant who was to run in Limerick City, stepped down after appearing on the tax defaulters list.

Cavan-Monaghan’s Mary Smyth had already withdrawn as a candidate after she labelled the Vatican “the Antichrist”.

In October, Shane Dunphy, a Wexford hopeful, decided against running for a Dáil seat while remaining a member of the party.

There were two withdrawals in August. Jonathan Irwin, the founder of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation, had put his name forward in Kildare South, but cited health problems after his cancer treatment as a factor. A week previous, Galway West hopeful James Charity left the party over water charges policy.

Ms Creighton and her party remained upbeat — selling itself as a party willing to enter government and one which would implement strong changes, including a three strikes rule for repeat offenders. It also pledged to introduce a Fiscal Responsibility Bill to prevent “the boom-and-bust politics that has plagued our economy”.

Things fell apart quickly in the end when the party faced the reality of not seeing a single candidate elected.

Ms Creighton — who received just 4,229 first preferences — left the RDS count centre before the count was decided.

Before leaving, she said members had taken the decision “not to take the easy route”.

“It would have been the easy route to run as Independents, we have come together to give people a new positive platform for change. It will be a long weekend; I am glad we did not take the easy option. Renua is a party for the future, we are going to work to build on the results. It is the first step. It is a benchmark. It is the first of many electoral contests, I hope,” she said.

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