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Saturday 16 December 2017

Andrew Lynch: Lucinda Creighton's Renua may already need to renew itself

Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs pictured at the launch of her new political party, Renua at the Science Gallery, Pearse Street, Dublin this morning
Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs pictured at the launch of her new political party, Renua at the Science Gallery, Pearse Street, Dublin this morning

Lucinda Creighton was already a political nerd at the age of six. She probably remembers that shortly after Des O'Malley and Mary Harney launched the Progressive Democrats in 1986, one opinion poll gave them 25pc support.

At the general election a year later, they got less than half of that - and it was pretty much downhill all the way from there.

This is why Lucinda would be wise not to get too carried away by yesterday's poll showing that 8pc are "very likely" and another 14pc "fairly likely" to vote for her new party, Renua Ireland. In fact, she should be mildly disappointed that the figures are not even higher.

Right now, Renua has what Barack Obama has called "that new car smell" - and we all know that new cars go down in value as soon as they leave the showroom.

Creighton certainly has some cause to feel proud of her political baby's first few days. The launch in Trinity College last Friday was slick and professional, confirming that Renua has a small army of marketing experts behind it.

True, the name sounds very much like an anti-wrinkle cream - but then who can deny that Irish politics urgently needs a facelift?

Like any creature taking its first steps in the big, bad world, Renua has had teething troubles. Terence Flanagan's "brain freeze" during an RTE radio interview could have happened to a bishop, but it did allow cynics to claim that the party's principles are a bit hazy even to its own TDs.

Renua's intended Facebook page is being squatted on by spoofers and the website contains many mistakes, with one sentence accidentally suggesting that people on social welfare should be put in prison.

Another tricky issue can be summed up in two words: Eddie Hobbs. The celebrity accountant looks very much like Renua's co-leader, to the extent that he even sat by Lucinda's side during their fairly tense appearance on last week's Late Late Show.

However, Eddie still will not commit to being a candidate in next year's general election - and that sends out mixed messages about his long-term involvement in the party.

Lucinda's main problem, of course, is much more fundamental. Despite three days of saturation media coverage, most people would find it impossible to sum up the point of Renua Ireland in a single sentence.

It looks suspiciously like a triumph of style over substance, a colourfully wrapped Easter egg with nothing inside - and already in need of some renewal itself.

Renua's most eye-catching policy so far is a proposal that the minutes from Cabinet meetings should be published within 48 hours. Whatever about the merits of that idea, it is hardly the sort of thing that causes heated debate down the pub on a Saturday night.

Most voters are slightly more interested in tax, health, education and social welfare - so why does Renua's 18,000-word policy document contain virtually no concrete ideas about any of these subjects?

Lucinda's dream team is also worryingly low on 'star power'. One of their few recognisable candidates is Jonathan Irwin, a co-founder of the Jack and Jill foundation, who describes himself as "not a politician, just a grumpy old man".

He also declared over the weekend that Eddie Hobbs will soon "fade into the background" - a prediction which you suspect came as news to Eddie himself.

Credit

All this carping aside, Lucinda and her colleagues deserve huge credit for sticking their heads above the parapet. As Sunday's opinion poll indicated, many voters are prepared to at least give them a chance.

Creighton's ambition is to win over 20 Dail seats in a year's time, but even half a dozen might be enough to hold the balance of power - raising the delicious prospect of Enda Kenny going down on bended knee to her in order to save his job.

After some initial confusion, Renua Ireland have confirmed that their multi-coloured logo is supposed to represent a bird. Only time will tell whether it turns out to be a phoenix rising from the flames - or just another version of Monty Python's dead parrot.

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