A Dail reform campaign bigger than Fintan was aborted – why the secrecy?

It turns out that Democracy Now was the label for a full blown campaign to contest the next Dail election, if it had  been called even a month later, according to the Sunday Tribune lead. It was much more than a solo run by Fintan backed by a few friends , which was the impression I’d gained from his Irish Times article. The Tribune reports..

The objective was to win 20-25 seats and be in a position to hold the balance of power in the new Dáil

Finance was being organised with a number of donors lined up. It is understood that €400,000 was pledged in one day and there were advanced plans to start an internet fundraising campaign.

The agreement was that Democracy Now candidates would stand on five core principles, which included a commitment to holding a referendum on the EU/IMF bailout deal which the movement believes to be unsustainable; political reform and a public inquiry into the regulatory and governmental failures that caused the economic and banking crisis.

If O’Toole was less than fully candid, McWillliams was downright furtive. If I’m doing him a disservice and he has explained himself  I’ll correct it when the Business Post is downloaded on Monday 10 a.m. Why all the coyness about  aborting the move, guys? Surely you know better than most that the truth will out. Was it to be a campaign, a movement or an embryonic party? Was it designed to oppose the established parties or win them over? Voting according a conscience is a luxury best reserved for a very few issues, hardly a charter for reform or power sharing.

If this wasn’t the right time, when will be? After this flop, it’s hard to see how they can ever gain second wind unless the Republic’s crisis deepens. A new coalition should steal quite a lot of their thunder if not the full monty of  renegotation.   At the very least, the Republic’s voters are owed a better explanation of why Democracy Now was aborted. Until they get one, a cloud will hang over every word the movers write.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London