SHAUN CONNOLLY: Lucindanistas may become a nightmare on Kildare St

OH Lucinda, you had to tease us right up until the very end, didn’t you?

After being forced to publicly deny that she was little more than a “political tease”– always talking about a new party, but not producing any good – one-woman publicity machine Ms Creighton finally showed her hand – sort of.

The great media operator chose an otherwise dead-end political news day to launch her new party – but it was only the launch for the real launch as she tried to squeeze as much attention as possible out of the event.

We were teased with the prospect that two mystery co-founders would be appearing with her – but their names would be kept under wraps until they walked into the room.

It was a bit like the way I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here tries to keep viewers guessing until the curtain rises on the new season of wannabes stranded in the wilderness. The risk for Lucinda was that unless she produced a person of interest it would merely look like the launch of I’m A Has-Been, Get Me Back In The Dáil.

And at the allotted hour, in stepped Eddie Hobbs, which was just as well, as the third wheel was an independent councillor from Offaly, whose anonymity was intended to be made up for by his rusticness in a bid to show this was not just a D4 storm in a latte glass. But the swanky, fashionable hotel used as the launch pad and the banner “#RebootIreland” could not have been more D4-centric if they tried.

Teasing us yet again, Ms Creighton refused to tell us what the name of the new party actually is.

That will be held back for the real launch (relaunch?) in eight weeks time. All we were told is that it will not be known as the Reform Alliance, or the Rebooters. The latter is probably a wise move as, given the decidedly right-wing thrust of the party, unkind lefties would no doubt brand them something outrageous like the Jackbooters.

But despite telling us not so long ago that she was “Fine Gael to my core”, Ms Creighton had harsh words for her erstwhile Blueshirt brothers and sisters as she damned them for carrying out “continuity economics” which were repeating the mistakes of the past and stoking-up a future crisis.

Given that the Government’s policies have not markedly changed in the 18 months since Ms Creighton was thrown out of Fine Gael, these would, presumably, be the same disastrous economics she was such an enthusiastic cheer eader for during her two and a half year stint as an outwardly ultra loyal junior Minister.

There was also more than the whiff of hypocrisy when she sniffily dismissed Irish politics’ obsession with “personalities”– just after she unveiled TV personality Mr Hobbs as her fellow standard bearer, and said she would be announcing more “personalities” who backed the party over the next eight weeks.

Ever the tease, Ms Creighton would only add that these names would “emerge in due course”.

But whatever one thinks of Ms Creighton’s bombastic political style, and her views on a woman’s right to choose – which her opposition to the X-Case legislation proved are extremely restrictive, even by the standards of Ireland’s very conservative political elite – the Dublin deputy did show rare spine by turning her back on a seat at the Cabinet table in order to vote against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

However, her outspokenness, while at times refreshing, also makes her a divisive and polarising political figure, and a party where she is the dominant element, will find it hard to look little more than a Re-elect Lucinda Committee – especially as Mr Hobbs was particularly coy on whether he intends to run for the Dáil.

If the unnamed new party is not to be known as the Lucindanistas, Ms Creighton will have to use the public meetings she plans to hold over the next eight weeks to prove there is substance behind the soundbite, otherwise she will soon become tiresome and largely irrelevant.

Ms Creighton must also realise she is fishing in an increasingly crowded pool with fellow independents Shane Ross and rural rebel Michael Fitzmaurice both talking about creating a loose alliance of like-minded candidates to stand at the next general election.

The lefty-pendents too are threatening some new umbrella banner, but given their real talent is for political fragmentation that is unlikely to come to much.The fact that the Lucindanistas, or Rebooters, or Creightonites, or whatever they are going to be called, can command such attention shows the depth of the malaise that Irish politics has fallen into.

The left may bemoan the fact that yet another right-wing party – this one even shorn of the (relative) social liberalism of Fine Gael – is generating all the heat, but the left’s inability to unite has left space for Ms Creighton to try and seize the initiative.

The chaotic handling of water pricing saw a net 10% switch from the Coalition parties to the independents in recent polls, but ministers had taken some solace in this as, while voters were clearly angry at the Government, they did not buy the populist platforms presented by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, and were thus still in play to switch back to at the general election.

Now, Lucinda is trying to get back on the pitch with a vengance, and while Enda Kenny is desperate to cling on until the spring of 2016, the internal tensions and dynamic of the Coalition mean Labour’s need for definition in order to avoid total wipeout means a Dáil poll this autumn is much more likely.

Fine Gael do not see their highly ambitious ex-colleague as a tease. As she attacks their lightly-guarded right wing flank, to them she is Lucinda Frighten, their very own nightmare on Kildare Street.


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