THE new non-party grouping, founded by a Loop Head community activist, has scored a major coup in getting garda whistleblower, John Wilson, to run under its banner in the local elections.
Retired garda John Wilson has joined the ranks of Independents Together (IT), which aims to provide a voice for people who feel abandoned and disillusioned by traditional party politics.
IT, founded by Jim Connolly, has now secured 17 candidates spread over nine counties.
Mr Wilson, from Cavan, a nephew of the late Tбnaiste John Wilson and a brother of current Fianna Fбil whip in the Seanad, Senator Diarmuid Wilson, was forced to retire after revealing details of penalty-point terminations.
Frustrated by his inability to have his complaints dealt with as he wished within the garda complaints system, Mr Wilson last year took his information to a number of Dбil deputies, under the Garda Sнochбna Act 2005.
He was supported by Mountnugent man, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, based in Mullingar Garda Station, who also went public with allegations of endemic preferential treatment running throughout the force on penalty terminations.
Speaking out against widespread penalty-point terminations made his career untenable, pitched him against Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, former colleagues and one-time friends.
It seems the two garda whistleblowers were vindicated when the recent Garda Inspectorate report revealed that in more than half of the penalty point cases – between August 2012 and January 2013 – there was no evidence to support why the offences were wiped out.
Mr Connolly said he was delighted and very proud that Mr Wilson made his pledge to join IT at a special meeting of independents in Athlone at the weekend, which was attended by nine other candidates.
“This is a major boost for IT. I have put huge time and energy into this new group because I believe it will work. I am not running for election myself and am happy to work as acting secretary.
“I love my country and I am doing this at the age of 76 because I think there is no other way. With one in 10 living in poverty, we are living in one of the most unequal societies,” he said.
With a renewed momentum behind the group, Mr Connolly warned that politics would not change substantially in this country until independents hold the balance of power.
Asked if this is unrealistic given the deep-rooted party political system embedded in Irish society, Mr Connolly said change could happen if people row in behind his candidates.
While members of IT must adhere to a number of core principles, no party whip applies once candidates are elected.
The Athlone meeting was organised by Independent TD, Luke Ming Flanagan, to offer advice to first-time candidates, based on his personal experience. About 100 candidates from all over Ireland attended the meeting, including 10 of the Independents Together group.
John Wilson, who had been in touch with Jim Connolly some days previously, declared his intention to run under the umbrella of Independents Together.
Michael Fitzmaurice, chairman of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, who is running for the first time in his own county, has also joined IT.