Ireland’s small Progressive Democrats party is set to be wound up after its members in the Dublin parliament agreed that the organisation was “no longer politically viable”.
Following two meetings in County Kildare this evening, where party members and representatives debated the future of the party, it was announced that a special conference will be held in October where it is expected the party will be formally disbanded.
The PDs have been in broad decline for several years, but they suffered a fatal blow at the last general election, when the party was reduced to just two members of the Dail. The party’s then leader, former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, was also ousted from his seat in Dublin South-East, ultimately forcing the party to put complete unknown Ciaran Cannon at its head.
Despite entering into coalition government with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, the likelihood of the party’s demise only increased with time.
The party was founded in 1985 by Desmond O’Malley, a former senior minister in Fianna Fáil governments under Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey. O’Malley was a strong opponent of Haughey and was involved in a number of leadership heaves against Haughey, who was popular and controversial in equal measure. Although conservative on economic matters, it advocated liberalisation of Ireland’s social policy.
O’Malley was finally expelled from Fianna Fáil for “conduct unbecoming” a member when he refused to support Fianna Fáil’s opposition to the introduction of contraception.
O’Malley joined with other senior Fianna Fáil members and others to set up the new party. In the 1987 general election they won 14 seats and 11.9% of the vote, becoming the third largest party in the Dail, and went on to participate in four governments alongside Fianna Fáil.
But tonight, Senator Cannon, Health Minister Mary Harney, Noel Grealish TD and Senator Fiona O’Malley announced this evening they had come to the opinion that the Progressive Democrats was finished politically.
After meeting privately for an hour beforehand, the parliamentary party agreed that the PDs should be wound up at a meeting of the full membership.
They later conveyed this opinion to a larger gathering of councillors and officials at a hotel in Newbridge, County Kildare.
Speaking after a “frank and open” meeting with his colleagues, Mr Cannon said the last few weeks and months had been “tumultuous” for the party and had created a “huge degree of uncertainty”.
“It is the opinion of the parliamentary party that the Progressive Democrats is no longer politically viable,” he concluded.
Mr Cannon said up to 4,000 rank and file members must make the final decision on the future of the organisation at the conference next month, but it is understood the larger meeting is merely intended as a swansong for the party.