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Thursday 8 December 2016

Independents unite in talks to set-up a new political party

Senator Katherine Zappone
Senator Katherine Zappone
Catherine Murphy
Stephen Donnelly, Independent deputy for Wicklow at Leinster House

A NEW political party featuring prominent Independent TDs and senators is set to be established within weeks.

Dublin TD and former Labour junior minister Roisin Shortall is in advanced talks with TDs Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donnelly and Senator Katherine Zappone, about joining forces ahead of the general election.

The four politicians are actively planning to add more candidates to their list once they are established.

A new centre-left party made up of high-profile TDs and senators is likely to focus Government minds on the election.

Last night, Wicklow TD Mr Donnelly confirmed the four were in talks about getting the new party up and running.

"There are talks going on and, at this point, I am not in a position to say who, what and when," he said.

And Senator Katherine Zappone admitted that she had been in talks with a number of TDs and senators in recent months about the prospect of a new party.

"Myself and Stephen (Donnelly) have been working together on a childhood policy and there is more work to do yet," she said.

The new party will focus on economic competence, embracing enterprise, debt justice and a social democratic view of society that champions equality.

Influence

The party founders are particularly influenced by Nordic politics, where business and community are seen to go hand-in-hand. They will also seek to make political reform a key policy issue.

The news of the new grouping will come as a surprise to the Government who have already begun bickering about what sweeteners will be available in October's Budget.

The opening shots between the Coalition parties were fired as to what social welfare payments should be restored in the run-up to the General Election.

Fine Gael deputies used their party's meeting last night to demand the restoration of the €9.50 telephone allowance to households, which was abolished by the Coalition in 2014.

But the Labour Party moved to shoot down the proposal, instead revealing for the first time that it is considering restoring the Respite Grant and improving the Living Alone Allowance.

"It is too early for Fine Gael to be talking about Budget giveaways," Labour minister Kevin Humphreys said.

"We are certainly looking at how we can improve the livelihoods of the elderly and the country's most vulnerable, groups we will prioritise in the Budget.

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