The big political talking point at the start of December was the decision by Independent TD and former Labour Party Chairperson, Colm Keaveney, to join Fianna Fail. While there are numerous examples of TD’s changing their political allegiance the news of Colm’s move did take many by surprise.
Within minutes of it being announced social media was buzzing with examples of Colm’s less than favourable comments about Fianna Fail previously. It is a huge move for him and understandably people are asking if Fianna fail is really that different a party than before? In one sense Colm Keaveney and indeed many new Labour and Fine Gael TD’s were elected because the electorate wanted Fianna Fail out. It remains to be seen whether the voters of East Galway will support Colm Keaveney in sufficient numbers to allow him keep his seat.
The decision to leave a political party is not taken lightly. I myself made the decision to resign my membership of the Labour Party in 2012 as I felt too many promises were made during the general election campaign that were subsequently broken. The Labour Party were making the kind of decision in Government they would have been outraged at in opposition. I felt this was completely hypocritical. The inclusion of a number of unfinished estates on the property tax register was ultimately the final straw for me. The Labour Party had sought support from people on the basis that it would provide fairness in Government. However cuts to the carers allowance, education and a health service that still does not function has meant this commitment has rung hollow.
I was certainly not alone and the Labour Party has seen a significant number of elected representatives and party members leave. As an Independent it is more difficult to get your message across. You no longer have access to the resources of a political party. However what is positive is the freedom to develop your own ideas and ultimately being able to commit to promises made. No political party candidate in next May’s local election will be able to guarantee they can keep their promises .
As we head towards the new year there again has been much talk about a new party with the Reform Alliance registering with the Standards in Public Office Commission as a “third party”. While in my view there is certainly an appetite for a new political party for the Reform Alliance to be successful it will have to broaden its appeal. It is still seen as a Fine Gael rump and while the Independent TD Stephen Donnelly would be a significant addition it needs to avoid being seen as a reincarnation of the Progressive Democrats.