How will Renua Ireland avoid the same old fate?

Challenge...Lucinda Creighton at Renua launch.
Challenge...Lucinda Creighton at Renua launch.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

There have been but three constants in the history of Irish political parties since the 1920s – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

Over the years, dozens of other parties have come and gone. Some have looked like their star would be in the ascendant forever. But as time has told, all have been comets – shining brightly for a while before burning themselves out.

We have had Clann na Talmhan, Clann na Poblachta, the independent farmers, the Workers Party, Democratic Left and the Progressive Democrats.

All have shared one common feature… and that was eventual extinction.

Look at the PDs. They stormed into politics in 1987 taking over a dozen seats and thwarting Charles J Haughey’s hopes of a majority government. But within 20 years they were all but gone, have been essentially fully subsumed into Fianna Fáil.

The same happened with the Workers’ Party/Democratic Left but in a slightly less dramatic fashion. There was a split in the party where the progressive wing opted for a less hardline form of socialism.

In short order, the ideological distance between it and the Labour Party was reduced to a hairline. When they came out of the Rainbow Coalition in 1997, the merger of the two parties was inevitable.

So what are we to make of Renua Ireland, the party launched by Lucinda Creighton last week. Of course, it is already being compared to the PDs, because there are many ideological similarities, even though the party is more conservative.

I spend some time before the launch interviewing the behind-the-scenes people, including Salthill man Noel Toolan, a marketing expert who developed the party’s branding, and indeed was the man behind its unusual name which falls halfway between Irish and English.

Sure, there were some teething problems. It didn’t bag its Facebook name in time. One of its three TDs, Terence Flanagan, had a brain freeze and gave a disastrous interview on radio.

Eddie Hobbs spoke a lot – maybe too much – and got embroiled into a big ‘will he stand/won’t he stand’ controversy with the media.

Hobbs is a divisive kind of character who rubs some people up the wrong way. Strategically, he is seen as important. He is a liberal with very different views, for example, on abortion to Creighton, Billy Timmins and Flanagan.

For the party, his presence will help reduce that image of a bunch of politicians who are centre right on the economy and morally conservative.

For her part, Creighton has been truly impressive. Whatever you think of her views, she is a very capable politician, who is highly motivated and focused.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.