WHETHER Lucinda Creighton’s Renua Ireland has the impact its supporters imagine it might have remains to be seen, but yesterday’s launch in Dublin was more an underwhelming, long-flagged formality rather than a spectacular challenge to the status quo.
The gauntlet may have been thrown down, but not with the threat needed to provoke even a moderately excited mobilisation among the established parties.
Political stardust was in short supply and the kind of inspirational, energetic leadership figures — battle- hardened, parliamentary warhorses — needed to reshape a deeply embedded political culture were more notable by their absence than their participation. Though a noble set of guiding principles was outlined, the enormity of the task involved in making them real was underlined by the fact that not even one political heavyweight had defected from the main parties to join Ms Creighton and her colleagues in their Herculean task.
Unlike the Progressive Democrats — launched 30 years ago this December — Renua Ireland seems more a widely based coalition of the disenchanted, rather than a group of the most senior and experienced politicians brought together almost by one issue; their implacable opposition to Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey and his corrosive influence on our public life. Renua members will quickly tire of comparisons to the defunct PDs but how they must wish for a Haughey figure to act as a rallying point for their ambitions.
It is far easier to wonder if Renua have the personnel to achieve their ambitions than it is to question the policies offered yesterday, even if those policies were described in only the broadest terms. Renua’s aversion to the culture of secrecy that has contributed so much to discrediting our political life is easy to admire but far more difficult to implement in an honest way. A commitment to free parliamentary votes on matters of conscience is another high ideal but one that might exacerbate the fragmenting of the Dáil, anticipated after the election.
It is of course easy to point to the challenges facing Renua but that so many people are prepared to commit to a project dependent on optimism, endless energy and often thankless effort suggests our political system is not as bankrupt as its detractors might suggest. Those who stepped forward to try to play a positive role must be congratulated and supported, even if their policies might be criticised. It must be recognised too that Renua would not have been established if the Government had the courage to deliver even half of the reform projects it promised before it was elected.
As a centre-right party, Renua will have appeal in a conservative society but Government figures probably paid more attention to poll figures that showed a rise in support for Fine Gael 26% (+2); Labour 9% (+2) and the ongoing difficulties faced by Sinn Féin over the latest but probably not the last sex abuse scandal to damage that party. If, against that background, Renua can be a catalyst for positive change then its arrival is a very welcome development.
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