Mica 100% Redress Party seeks to make significant impact in 2024 local elections

The Donegal Mica redress campaign announced during the week that they have lodged papers with the Electoral Commission seeking to register the 100% Redress Party. 

The group have collected the names of 300 people as initial members, and they intend to run candidates in all election areas in Donegal in the local authority elections scheduled for June 2024.

The new party has said that it is in contact with Mica groups in 14 other counties with a view to forming branches and perhaps standing candidates elsewhere.  Mayo is the county other than Donegal that is believed to be most Mica affected, along with Sligo, Tipperary, Clare and others. 

However, there has been no indication of any definite plans outside of Donegal to take the Mica redress campaign into the political arena.

Gript spoke to the PRO of the 100% Redress Party, Ali Farren, who said that if candidates running in the local elections make an impact that they will consider nominating a candidate or candidates in the next general election. He also made the point that the party will be registered as a national party and therefore open to members from any part of the state.

Donegal, with an estimated 5,000 people affected by Mica, is the centre of the campaign for redress. Farren stressed that it goes well beyond homeowners and that other structures including schools, farm buildings, business premises, sports clubs and even churches have suffered from the defective materials.

In regard to the €2.2 billion that the state has put aside in response to the campaign by homeowners, Farren said that while it and the €420,000 cap on individual redress might appear to be generous that the state scheme is flawed.  He claims that as it stands it only amounts to covering perhaps 60 or 70% of the costs involved in redressing the damage.

It is also the case that the work will have to be contracted by the person, business or voluntary body affected, rather than as with the pyrite scheme where the state took a more proactive role in ensuring that repairs were carried out.

The new party has decided to contest the local elections because while the local authority will be the lead agency in the implementation of any scheme, they feel that the established parties do not obviously regard it as a priority. Farren claims that this has meant that local councillors who are members of the main parties are discouraged from taking a more proactive stance.

He also relates that to other issues within Donegal where the new party feels that there needs to be more local action and pressure on the council, and through them on the Government, to ensure that specific issues are dealt with more immediately and with greater community input than is currently the case.

Far from being a parochial Donegal party, Farren emphasised that similar action perhaps needs to be taken in other parts of the country including Dublin where the interests of communities are secondary to what the state and main parties regard as priorities. He told Gript that the intent of the 100% Redress Party as a “grassroots led party” is to push not just for the redress of the Mica situation, but that there are “lots of things in communities that need redress.”

What then is the likely impact of the new party? How, for a start might it affect the current party and  independent councillors and candidates in Donegal?  Much of the talk of late has been of Sinn Féin’s plans to capitalise on their high polling numbers, and the fact that Donegal which currently has two sitting Sinn Féin TDs, Pearse Doherty and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, might be expected to see a significant increase in the number of Sinn Féin councillors.

It is difficult to know whether the Mica issue is of sufficient importance that it might persuade enough people to vote for the 100% Redress Party in preference to any other, particularly given that all elected representatives in Donegal have publicly supported those seeking redress. However, if the flaws as perceived by Farren are shared by a significant amount of others, and if voters do see the need for more proactive independent voices then they certainly have potential.

Donegal has a strong history of electing independents both to the county council and to Leinster House, and in 2019 eight of the 37 councillors elected across the seven wards were independents. Sinn Féin in particular, whose two TDs topped the poll in the 2020 general election with 45% of the votes cast, will be hoping to greatly increase their current standing of 10.

It is often forgotten in the midst of their polling figures which have been averaging more than 30% just how poorly Sinn Féin performed in the 2019 local elections. They took just 9.5% of the votes and managed to lose 78 council seats. That was reflective of considerable local disappointment at their work on local authorities particularly, as in Dublin, where they had been part of the city or county administration.

Sinn Féin’s showing in Donegal was not as bad and they took 19% of the vote and actually increased their seat total by one to ten from 2014. They will be expecting to do far better in June 2024 and their candidate selections so far suggest that they will be hoping to come close to becoming not just the largest party on the council, but perhaps even the majority party.

To what extent the presence of the 100% Redress Party might interfere with that plan will be interesting. That is not to suggest that the Mica vote would come predominantly from existing or potential Sinn Féin voters but a sizeable vote and the taking of seats would have a significant impact on the composition of the next council, and what arrangement might follow that election.

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