RENUA leader and local county councillor, John Leahy has stepped down from the party, leaving the faltering party with no elected representatives.
Leahy was elected to Offaly County Council last month after topping the poll in the Birr Municipal District but the party failed to get another candidate elected elsewhere in the country.
The councillor will now revert to the independent ranks of the local authority but he has already struck a deal to support Fianna Fail on Offaly County Council, securing the position of Leas Cathaoirleach on Friday last.
The party, which was founded in 2015 by then sitting TD, Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs, has been led by Leahy since 2016 after they party failed to secure any Dail seats in the General Election.
Leahy, himself secured over 2,000 first preference votes in the local elections but was the only one out of 27 candidates put on the ballot paper by Renua to gain a seat on a local authority.
And, following the disappointing results for Renua in the recent local elections, Leahy and his wife Lavinia sat down and discussed his future. “I was disappointed. I didn’t get to enjoy the fact I was elected to Offaly County Council. I was disappointed I failed to get the other Renua candidates over the line.”
Speaking to the Tribune on Tuesday last, the councillor candidly said the recent local election results got him thinking. “I had given it three years of my life. I had put in serious effort to try and get as many people to run and get them across the line. I felt I was the team manager and we played our first big championship game [the local elections 2019] after three years, I didn’t win the match.”
He continued from the party’s point of view, he felt it was only fair they put someone else in there and “see if they can bring it in a different direction or bring it forward”.
When asked about whether it was a failure for the party’s messages to resonate with voters, Leahy pointed out as a small political party it can be hard to get the message out there. “It’s always going to be a struggle,” he added.
Talking about his own poll topping performance, the county councillor reflected on the results as “perhaps being more of a personal vote. I have heavily involved in the local community,” he continued, pointing out he was in fact heading to a meeting about Cloghan playground that evening and another one to try and secure a sporting facility for Mucklagh later in the night.
Noting his time as Renua party leader, Cllr Leahy said it was a “massive learning curve. People say to me that if I didn’t join Renua at the time, perhaps I would have elected a TD in 2016. Who knows. That is just all speculation. However, I have no regrets, whatsoever. I have learned so much about how the political system works and there’s very few people, who get this opportunity or take this opportunity to be part of a new political party.”
Remarking perhaps people will now say he’s “abandoning Renua”, the Kilcormac based councillor was quick to quip he could have left the party in 2016 when “nobody else wanted it. I made the biggest sacrifice that a person can make, leaving a full time job because I said to myself I am going to give this absolutely 100 per cent and everything that I had. And, I did just that.”
Now, the councillor said he was been left in the position where he has no job and will be heading back out into the workforce. “I didn’t make this decision lightly or without sitting down with my wife to talk about what I was going to do, going forward,” he added.
There will be no change for Leahy at local level and he will continue, according to himself, to work “extremely hard” for his local communities.
Cllr Leahy also confirmed to the Tribune he would be contesting the next General Election for the third time in the last decade. “I am going to give it one last go. I do feel I have something to offer in Dail Eireann. People may like me or dislike me but the one thing people can’t take away from me is that I am not afraid to work hard.”
In a statement Renua Ireland said it would like to thank John Leahy for his hard work and dedication during his service as party leader. “We wish him all the best in his endeavours as an independent candidate in the forthcoming General Election. Renua is looking forward to bringing its policies to the Irish people and getting ready for future elections.”