Renua could "never understand" its right-wing image, says leader

The party has spent the months since its election defeat working on new policies - which do not include a flat tax

Renua could "never understand" its right-wing image ahead of this year's general election, said leader John Leahy.

It was one of several reason he outlined to explain the party's implosion at the polls in May, where all its three sitting TDs lost their seats.

"Time was utterly against us," he said, and two years was simply not enough to build support while formulating policies and scouting candidates. He identified a "swing against some of our policies" and said it "suit[ed] political parties to call us right wing... and that stuck for some odd reason."

Leahy, a local councillor in Offaly, succeeded Lucida Creighton as leader in September this year. Speaking to Moncrieff on Newstalk, he outlined the future of Renua.

A proposed flax tax of 23%, one of the pillars of Renua's economic policy, will be scrapped, said Leahy, though it will retain "the concept of trying to reward work and make work pay."

The flat tax policy was widely-maligned during the election campaign. A tax calculator on the party's website was removed due to "technical issues" shortly after users noted the proposed system would greatly benefit higher-income earners while minimum wage earners would lose around €800 a year.

"We're the only ones that are brave enough to actually look at the tax system," Leahy said, adding that some people stay on welfare because "it doesn't pay them to work" due to benefits like the Christmas bonus and access to medical cards and the housing list.

Leahy denied Lucinda Creighton was a liability to Renua because of her stance on abortion. As a junior minister, Creighton broke with Fine Gael when it proposed legislation to address the X Case.

"She was very brave... she stood up for her principles; she never inflicted that on the party," he said, pointing out the Renua's stance of allowing a free vote on matters on conscience, which he hopes other parties will adopt.

In recent months, Renua has been consulting with professionals, lobby groups and academics to hammer out new policies in housing, health, economics, crime and other areas. These will promote the party's overall vision of promoting self-reliance and removing barriers to personal growth.

Policies will be evidence-based, said Leahy. "When we bring policy forwards it'll be in a situation where we know we can stand 100 per cent behind it."