In fairness 2016 was not a good year to be a member of Renua Ireland. As a party you started it with three TDs, two senators and three Councillors, the talk was of the price at which the party might consider entering Government and redlines being drawn. If with hindsight they were not about very much, they seem ambitious now. The year ended with no TDs, no Senators, two Councillors left. One TD has slunk back into Fine Gael, the Party Leader forced to resign by an absurd rule, and the Party President, well, just gone really. The Party advertised for a new Leader through the newspapers offering a salary of €65,000 with very few takers, a small amount of dignity salvaged by the election at least of an actual party member.

Truth told 2015 was not much better, horse trading the party name around the country, for candidates of convenience, to be snubbed, sometimes with great ostentation, by people whose names no one knew before, and no one can remember now. 2014 was the year of hope and launch, though for three days it was unclear whether the party logo was a bird or a flower and to look at it honestly it’s still not that clear, (flowerbird maybe?), though bird it was declared. Onward and upward.

Back in 2013, it was a Junior Minister forced to resign on a profound issue of conscience, a widespread recognition that Irish people were heartsick of “old politics” and while there was any shade of Red you wanted on the Left, there was barely a centre, never mind a Right. All things seemed possible.

There were mistakes made, too many, a failure to define, then a self-definition that was clumsily presented. Water under the bridge now, there was a much greater fundamental problem, the constituency the party was targeting didn’t exist. No opinion on the issue that had caused the expulsions from Fine Gael, a Euro-Federalist stance that was already over occupied, and more important in many ways a sense that everything had been thrown together in a very slow haste, and that really at the core there was nothing to believe in.

Nonetheless 2.5{73593b307e001f5edd2e742b67bc8903c5a04d57d94dcd7b266977f3d0528720} of the vote nationally is 2.5{73593b307e001f5edd2e742b67bc8903c5a04d57d94dcd7b266977f3d0528720}, it was something, and indeed it was enough to secure significant State funding for the life time of the present Dail. Soul searching began, rebranding, new leadership and finally “six pillars”, a clear declaration of belief. As the term “pillars” would suggest this was the basis upon which the renewed Renua would stand or fall. How solid are they? Credit where due, three of them have some substance, I would call them Pro-Life, with caveat, Euro-sceptic, with caveat, and subsidiarity, without definition. The others are Santa Claus and free ice cream, all in favour say “Aye!”.

The substantive three incidentally are all covered in the National Party’s Nine Principles, without caveat, and with definition. In fact there is an uncanny impression of copy, paste, water down, though that’s deniable.

In this, given limited space, I wish to address just one issue. It has led to the description of Renua in at least one newspaper as “the only Pro-Life Party”, and more than one pro-life organisation applauding, if not implicitly endorsing the party. Mind you Renua extracted the substance of such an endorsement from David Quinn before the General Election when the then Deputy President was of the opinion that “We were pro-life and pro-choice”.

Renua now “strongly supports the 8th amendment”. No doubt this reflects the strongly held view of the vast majority of the membership and may be regarded as genuine in itself. How pro-life is it though? It does not commit to a repeal of the 2013 Abortion Act, in fact there is no mention of abortion in the Pillar at all. It does not commit to overturning the Supreme Court’s obtuse judgement in the X Case, either by the appointment of judges who read the Constitution as written, or a referendum to restore the original purpose of the 8th Amendment as it was almost universally understood, even by opponents, prior to 1992. And that was the minimum litmus test for being regarded as Pro-life until relatively recently.

The National Party insists that no law should permit the provision of Abortion in Ireland.

National Party Principle Number 8

Were we to take it at face value then the position is insufficient for those who believe in the right to life of the unborn child equal to the right to life of the mother. It is not so much pro-life as it is relatively pro-life, the bar set low by the current establishment parties or the vicious fringes of the Left. And even then the nagging doubt, does the party believe in even this limited position, really, deep down, in a way that can be trusted? Or is it an electoral ploy?

The members believe it, of that I am as convinced as a person can be. You have not disappeared into the ether as might have been expected, nor have you simply slid back into the establishment parties. There’s courage in that, a degree of determination, a real sense that you are people of moral substance. It is to you I appeal.

Your party leader did not believe it when he took up the leadership. Now let’s be clear, I know that people can change their minds and indeed that sincere people do so often when presented with contrary convincing evidence, only a fool imagines his first thought on any matter is absolutely correct and true for all time and in all situations. I’ve made enough mistakes and have enough regrets to be certain of this. But if the mistake is basic and the regret is genuine, it only comes with time and quiet reflection. If the mistake is public and political in nature that time is best spent out of the public and political sphere. Not a quick u-turn on a dual carriage way into oncoming traffic.

John Leahy is a decent man insofar as I can make him out. However, he is on public record, and recently, in support of making abortion available in Ireland in the cases of “Fatal foetal abnormality”, rape and incest. Tough situations I’ll grant but still ones in which you can only come to the conclusion that it’s alright to kill human beings because they are sick or kill the innocent for the crime of the guilty, if you are barbaric, or if you are confused, uncertain, or positively wrong about the humanity of the unborn child.

 

John Leahy is a decent man, so it can’t be the first reason, it must be one of the others. But the 8th Amendment prohibits abortion in those circumstances and it is really hard to believe that he has changed his mind so completely in that space of time, and even if he has, does he have much credibility in having done so? Doesn’t it in fact topple the first of the pillars supporting the renewed Renua to have a party leader whose support for one of the Six Pillars is questionable at best, and has all the look of politically expedient marketing?

Where is the Flat Tax or the Three Strikes rule? All gone, not believed in anymore? Or believed in and hidden so as not to appear “extreme”? Let’s not pretend Renua is mainstream. If it ever was it isn’t anymore. The media and the Liberal/Left have labelled you right wing and mad dogs don’t differentiate.

I don’t believe in any party, not even the National Party, as an organisation. But that’s not all it is or can be, it is the constitutionally provided means of association for a purpose. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour’s purpose has changed many times and will change many more, Sinn Féin have become unironically a moving target, and the other ragtags well….

The National Party’s purpose is to serve as the political vehicle of the National Idea, not dated or dangerous, but timeless and unyielding, for an Ireland “not Free merely, but Gaelic as well; not Gaelic merely, but Free as well”. The Irish people first and last, Ireland always and only. The Nine Principles of the National Party are the enactment mechanism of the Idea, they too are unchanging and unyielding. And yes, uncompromising.

Principle No. 8 declares “The National Party insists that no law should permit the provision of Abortion in Ireland.” This goes far beyond a commitment to a Constitutional subsection, though it is that too in the most immediate sense, but to the core of the thing. We don’t want abortion in Ireland, we will campaign against in in any referendum, we will legislate against it in any Government, and we will never give up or give in.

I have given the greater part of my adult years to defending the right to life of the unborn child, equal to the right to life of the mother. It’s no passing phase and there is no political expediency about it. I will never think or act otherwise, if I were the last person in the world to believe it, I would believe it still. That you can trust.

I believe in the Nine Principles of the National Party, absolutely and unconditionally, as the practical expression of the National Idea and necessary to get this country back on track. That you can trust.

Wouldn’t you just simply prefer to be a member of a party whose leader you can trust?

— Justin Barrett
Uachtarán An Pháirtí Náisiúnta

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