Is a vote for Paul Sommerville a vote for an Independent?Posted by in Campaign Diary
There is a lot of good will towards Independents right now, and certainly those running as non-party candidates will benefit from that good will. Independents are going to be extremely important in this election, and many new faces will become new TDs. But in recent days, I’ve become concerned about the neutrality of an independent in my constituency, Paul Sommerville.
Paul Sommerville is a bright man running on an important single issue with some good ideas. But there is little public awareness of his policies unrelated to the economy, and his rhetoric about marching into meetings in Brussels and telling the Eurocrats who’s boss isn’t very realistic. I’m not convinced we need economists as TDs. We certainly need them in the Department of Finance, but not necessarily in Dáil Eireann.
This week, the director of elections for Fine Gael in my constituency of Dublin South East, Paddy Hayes, emailed Fine Gael activists (see yesterday’s article in The Irish Times) to tell them to encourage voters to give preferences to right-wing independent Paul Sommerville, an Independent candidate in the constituency. Mr Hayes said Mr Sommerville is “closest to the party in terms of policy and thinking.” Volunteers on my team have also been told by people on the doors in the constituency that Fine Gael canvassers have been telling voters that if they don’t want to vote for Fine Gael, then vote for Paul Sommerville, or if they are giving a vote to Fine Gael to also give Paul Sommerville a preference. If Fine Gael are canvassing for Paul Sommerville in this constituency, is he still an Independent candidate?
While I was approached by several alliances asking me to affiliate with them in the run up to the campaign, I wanted to remain fully Independent. Many alliances of like-minded Independents have formed since then, and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that people with similar interests want to band together and work together and gain strength in numbers, but I felt that I could only truly trust my own ideas. And I believe that if alliances need to happen, they should happen after the election, when Independents with similar policy viewpoints can then come together to build towards a greater influence in the Dail, namely to secure speaking rights, without the constraints of having to answer to a whip. So for now, with the support of a team of 110 volunteers ranging from 18 to 62, we have built a truly Independent campaign.
Even after the election, the legacy of the last government will linger on, so when Ireland sends its delegation to re-negotiate our debts with the EU and the IMF, it must be united in its purpose – to get a better deal for Ireland. No other agendas – party, domestic or political – can be allowed to distract from that central purpose. Too much is at stake for Ireland to send a divided delegation into the debate.
The incoming Minister for Finance must use his government’s new mandate to secure a better deal than the last, divided, weakened and fatally undermined Fianna Fail, Green, Independent government managed. The last government was simply too weak to negotiate from any position of strength. We are living with the consequences of their weakness and division.
In Dublin South East, Paul Sommerville has reasserted his interest in attending those meetings if elected with the support of Fine Gael voters. Fine Gael seem happy with that. It’s not clear what role he sees for himself either in politics or in the delegation to the IMF. Only the Minister for Finance can lead that delegation and direct public officials. Only the Minister for Finance can negotiate and sign the agreement. Whatever deal Sommerville may make with FG, the chances of him becoming Minister for Finance to wield the claims of influence he will have are slim to none. So where Paul Sommerville – Independent, according to his literature - fits into this delegation, is unknown.
If Paul Sommerville wants to be part of the government’s negotiating team, he must do it from within the party of government. The challenge for Mr. Sommerville now is to tell the electorate exactly what relationship he wants to build with Fine Gael. The stakes are too high for Paul Sommerville and Fine Gael to enter into any side agreements when there is more important work to be done. We all know what happened the last time Fine Gael romanced an economic expert. He didn’t last the pace. His name was George Lee.
What I can pledge my supporters is that when elected, I will remain independent, voting for good government and against bad decisions irrespective of the party proposing them, based on my own principles and unsullied by any deals with political parties.
If, as it seems, a vote for Paul Sommerville is a vote for a Fine Gael-supporting TD, then in the interests of transparency, we need to know this before Friday.
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