08 November 2008

Progressive Democrats decide to quit

The last ever conference of the remnants of the Progressive Democrats (PDs) took place in a hotel in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath today and decided to bring the withered party to an end.

After a discussion that lasted over four hours, the 362 delegates voted by holding their registration cards aloft. The final tally was 201 votes to 161 against a motion to continue with the party.

The organisation will now be officially wound down, and not a moment too soon.

The Minister for Health declared that she would not be joining any other political party and will remain as an independent member of Dáil Éireann.
Yesterday Mary Harney had said that she would have "to reflect on her position in the PDs" if the members voted to keep the decimated party in existence.

Earlier, the party's founder said "the PDs could not expect to continue as a political party".
In a letter to the meeting in Mullingar, Des O'Malley (right), who was not present himself, wrote that "realism and common sense demand that party members have to face the facts". He added that the only realistic step is to commence the wind-up of the party.

The letter was read to the conference by former PD Senator John Dardis at O'Malley's request.

At the meeting, some of the remaining members have put forward a motion to keep the party going, although the unfortunate and unlucky new party leader, Senator Ciaran Cannon (left), made it quite clear that he believed it was now time to bring the Progressive Democrats to an end.
He was supported in his argument by the Health Minister Mary Harney and the two other remaining PD members in the Houses of the Oireachtas, TD Noel Grealish and Senator Fiona O'Malley, the daughter of the party's founder and first leader Des O'Malley.

Going into the day-long conference, Senator Cannon said that members should "vote with their heads and not their hearts" in bringing the party "to a dignified end".

Mary Harney, who was the party's leader from 1993 to 2006, received a standing ovation after she delivered a strong speech to the conference. She said that "people needed to be pragmatic in deciding the future of the organisation" and added that the party was failing to attract voters and thus was "no longer viable".

Galway West TD Noel Grealish (right) said that he hoped undecided delegates would be "convinced after today's debate that the way forward is to fold the PD tent".
He acknoledged that since the party was formed in 1985 the vote for the PDs has consistently gone down.

In the 2007 general election the PDs were almost wiped out and lost six of their previously eight TDs, including the then party leader, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell (left). The party's deputy leader Liz O'Donnell and the party president Tom Parlin also lost their seats in the Dáil.
After the election disaster McDowell resigned immediately as leader - and from politics altogether - and Mary Harney took over again as temporary leader.
But ever since the PDs have been in political no-man's land and in steady decline.

Then, in April of this year, Senator Ciaran Cannon was elected as new leader of the PDs, narrowly beating Senator Fiona O'Malley (right), who had been the only other contestant for the position. (see my entries of February 17th and April 17th)
Fiona O'Malley has meanwhile declared that she would consider joining Fianna Fáil if the PDs are dissolved.

At first Ciaran Cannon was optimistic and hoped to revive the ailing remnants of the party. But it soon became obvious that this was "one bridge too far", and that the PDs were a spent force in Irish politics, with no future and no new members coming in.
Just over seven weeks ago the new leadership of the PDs came eventually to the conclusion that the party is no longer politically viable and needs to be dissolved.

This was done today, and there will be a loud cheer all over Ireland on receiving the news.

Even though the Progressive Democrats - to mention the name for a last time - were originally founded by Des O'Malley as a truly progressive party and force for reform, under the leadership of Mary Harney they mutated into a smaller and even more rigidly right-wing version of Fianna Fáil, with whom the PDs were in government for most of the past two decades.
Once the party had lost its political identity, it was only a question of time when it would also lose its electoral support. And when this happens to a party, there is no way back. So today's decision to dissolve the PDs was only a logical and - long overdue - decision.

Another right-wing politician, the late British MP Enoch Powell, said in one of his many famous speeches that "all political lives end in failure", and he was of course right.

For Ireland, and especially for the government, there is now the question what to do with Mary Harney (right), who was re-appointed as the Minister for Health in 2007 as the representative of the PDs in Cabinet.
Now that the party no longer exists, there is no justification to keep her - as a simple independent TD - in the Cabinet and in charge of one of the most important government departments, with an annual budget of over € 16 billion.
Given the fact that she is very unpopular and responsible for an incompetent and failing health service, the Taoiseach should seize this golden opportunity and get rid of her.

It might not earn him a lot of brownie points in the current political and economic crisis, but it would at least send a positive signal to the country, showing that the government is willing to improve things, and that the Taoiseach is still in charge of it.

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

Peashooter said...

It's a great joy for the whole of Ireland that those chancers are gone for good now.

When I heard the news I gave indeed a loud cheer. Yeah!!!

O'Malley might have had a good idea and good intentions when he broke away from FF, but as soon as Mary Harney took over, the PDs became a semi-independent branch of FF again.

I hope she won't be staying in the Cabinet and in charge of Health.
It's time for some changes, and to remove Harney from government would be a good start.

Post a Comment