Meaningless name and lack of policies suggest this new party will be aimless. The launch has raised Creighton’s profile in the run-up to the general election, but this is not the heralding of a new dawn in Irish politics, writes Shaun Connolly
HAS Lucinda Creighton launched a new era, or just another platform from which to hear her?
The heat-seeking human self-publicity missile that is Ms Creighton insisted her much-anticipated party, Renua, was not a vanity project, but a landmark moment in renewing Irish politics.
Renua sort of sounds like ‘New Era’ in Irish, but we were repeatedly told at the swanky launch, at Dublin’s Science Gallery, that it could stand for whatever you wanted it to — which was rather fitting, given the circumstances.
It could have been far worse, as other names on the final shortlist for the party included Citizengage, and Citizen I. Presumably, I, Lucinda was considered too close to home for comfort.
After pre-launching the party in January, under the less-than-exciting banner of ‘Reboot Ireland’, the real name was the subject of speculation, though much of it scornful.
Given that the Lucindanistas, sorry, Reboot Ireland, sorry, Renua, stands at 1% in the opinion polls, The Margin Of Error Party might have been an option as a name, but the launch organisers did show some self-awareness by listing other, less-than-flattering alternatives on a display at the gallery.
These included Fine Wail, A Terrible Rebooty Is Born, The Regressive Democrats, and The Anti-Anti Austerity Alliance, but sadly omitted Papal Before Profit.
Given that this launch was not all about Lucinda and raising her personal profile ahead of the general election, it was funny that the first person to speak in the short promo video for the party was her husband, and another candidate quoted Ms Creighton as her inspiration for standing for election.
With the former Europe minister’s co-founder of the party, Eddie Hobbs, still refusing to say whether he will stand at the election or not, the political stage was rather dominated by Ms Creighton.
But Jack And Jill Foundation chief, Jonathan Irwin, did make a rather unusual pitch for votes with the disarming slogan: “I’m not a politician, I’m just a grumpy old man.”
How delightful for grumpy old men across the country, who now know that their new era is nigh.
The launch was light on policies, with rather bland statements on reform of taxation, and a rather Thatcherite-sounding thrust on welfare. This, coupled with its obvious distaste for trade unions, gives a clear rightward hue to the enterprise.
However, the party was big on bringing a new transparency to politics, as Ms Creighton insisted that candidates would have to undergo “full fitness and probity tests,” which sounded suspiciously like Lucinda might be planning to send them to (Re)Boot camp.
But, of course, this is not all about Lucinda at all, which must be why Ms Creighton only really came to life at the launch when this column pointed out that Renua has no meaning in English, and, without the fada, has no meaning in Irish, so was it not just really the Re-Elect Lucinda Committee?
Ms Creighton was having none of it, as she insisted, repeatedly, that the party was all about openness and certainly not a cult of personality. The very idea.
When asked if she was not really just like David Beckham at LA Galaxy — the only player on the pitch — the press-handler cut Ms Creighton off from answering.
So much for openness.
A strange mixture of bubble mentality and the banal then dominated events, as the new party showed far more concern for the intricacies of Dáil politics — withdrawing the oppression of the whip, setting term limits for Cabinet ministers, etc — than real world issues, like the health service.
The vagueness was highlighted when Ms Creighton was asked how much money the party needed, and replied with the tired old cliche: “How long is a piece of string?”, to which the questioner responded: “How long is a piece of string, Lucinda?” We never did learn said length, and neither did we learn much at all about what the party would actually do in power, once the proposed political earthquake erupted beneath us.
Ms Creighton claims to have lit a fire under the political establishment. But with statements such as “we believe a State without strong families is a broken reed. We commit to supporting families of all types in a practical, caring fashion,” it is a bonfire of the banalities and the party’s colourful little bird logo is not a phoenix rising from the flames of a torched, out-of-touch, system.
This is something of a shame, as Ms Creighton is a figure of political substance. Whatever one’s opinion of her opposition to the X-Case legislation, she walked away from a near-certain Cabinet post, and possible future leadership of Fine Gael, to stick by her principles on the issue and that showed rare political spine in this down-trodden Dáil.
Branded everything from a wannabe Southside Evita to Blonde Ambition, by male rivals who lack her ability and presence, Ms Creighton has struggled for political relevance outside the embrace of Fine Gael and has now created a new party in her own image.
Following ‘The Lucy Show’, sorry, the launch of Ireland’s new landmark political party, one of the upcoming events advertised at the Science Gallery is called ‘Trauma’, which is described in the blurb as “A sudden, stressful and disturbing event...trauma can be short-lived or long-lasting...”
Despite the vagaries of the occasion, and given Ms Creighton’s proven ability to command attention, trauma must be the very thing Fine Gael top brass are going through at the prospect of Lucinda eating into their base from their poorly defended right flank.
While Renua may sound like a skin-care cream for grumpy old men, it could well also revitalise Ms Creighton’s standing in the public consciousness — but the dawn of a new political era in this country it certainly is not.
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