COMMENT: Unlikely pair form alliance to tap into anger at political establishment

As political bedfellows go, few make a more unlikely pair than turfcutters’ champion Michael Fitzmaurice and bombastic city-slicker Shane Ross.

And yet as the kaleidoscope of Irish politics is shaken once more into flux, the duo have formed an intriguing rural-urban alliance intended to tap into the mood of national despair and disillusionment with established parties.

Ballot papers look set to groan under the weight of all the new groupings that are emerging to do battle at the next election.

The as yet unnamed party which Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs are organising under the Reboot Ireland banner promises a full launch at the end of next month, while Richard Boyd Barrett and other Lefty-pendents are also seeking to put aside the fractionalisation that has dogged them in the past and create a united front for the next election.

With polls showing the independents now the biggest block with the support of nearly a third of voters, non-aligned, or loosely connected, candidates could transform into about 40 Dáil seats if the anger at the established parties refuses to dissipate before Taoiseach Enda Kenny is forced to go to the country some time before Spring 2016.

The coming together of Luke “Ming” Flanagan’s bannerman and successor, Mr Fitzmaurice, with self-styled pro-business economic guru Mr Ross caught many off guard as the two had been planning to set up separate collectives for several months.

But their joint grouping suddenly has momentum in a crowded field, and even a publicity-seeking missile like Ms Creighton will have to raise her game to remain relevant and be heard above the clamour.

Mr Fitzmaurice’s constituency colleague, Denis Naughton, who quit Fine Gael over broken election promises on Roscommon Hospital, has expressed an interest in joining his block, and other independents such as Stephen Donnelly, Finian McGrath, John Hannigan, Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath and Tom Fleming look set to climb on board.

In a canny attempt to keep up interest in the group, rumours are being whispered in Leinster House that at least one Fine Gael TD is ready to defect.

The new groupings certainly have a lot of personalities, all that they really lack is any policy cohesion — or indeed, any policies at all.

But at least one bookies is taking advantage of the vagaries of the current climate and offering bets on Ms Creighton’s entity being called the Monster Raving Lucinda Party, or You Won’t Believe It’s Not Fine Gael.

But this may not be to the liking of Mr Hobbs, who has tried to stress that the party will have left-wing leanings in areas like the living wage. How this while chime with Ms Creighton’s neo-liberal thrusting-Thatcherite agenda is anyone’s guess.


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