17 February 2008

How to lead a dead Party

It is a very cold morning here today, with roofs and cars covered in lovely white hoar frost. But the Sun is already coming out, and it promises to be a very nice and sunny - though quite cold - day.

It might be even a bit colder for the Progressive Democrats (PDs), the smallest party in our current government (with just two deputies, one of them the Minister for Health, Mary Harney).
Since the PDs were almost wiped out in the last general election (in May 2007), losing six of their previously eight TDs, including their leader Michael McDowell, the party has been languishing in the dolldrums. No one wanted to be the new leader - not even Mary Harney, who is currently and reluctantly functioning as caretaker - and it is pretty obvious that the PDs are more or less a spent force in Irish politics.

But, as it seems, reports of their complete demise might be a little bit premature, because the PDs have now changed their rules for leadership. Previously the party leader was always a TD, but in a three-hour long meeting of the party's general council it has been decided to change that rule. Now any Senator, Councillor or even any ordinary party member with the support of 20 other members can contest the party's leadership. This is certainly a new opening for fresh blood, but if it will be enough to revive the PDs remains doubtful.

For now the party's two remaining Senators, Fiona O'Malley (above) and Ciaran Cannon (right) have put their hats into the ring and declared their interest to become the new leader of the PDs.
Senator O'Malley, daughter of the party's founder and first leader Desmond O'Malley, has certainly a strong personal interest to carry on her father's work and keep the party alive. But if she will have enough support remains to be seen.
Senator Cannon, one of the younger PD politicians, is so far rather an unknown quantity, and even though he might have strong ambitions and ideas, one wonders what difference he could make to an almost dead party, whose grassroot support has melted away like snow under the Sun since the massive defeat in last year's election. It will be interesting for political observers to see what will happen next, but a revival of the PDs to their previous strength is more than unlikely.

The Emerald Islander

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