A decision taken by the Progressive Democrats party at the weekend to disband after 23 years in existence has been widely welcomed.
At a special ‘swansong’ meeting of the party in Mullingar, County Westmeath on Saturday, members voted by 201 votes to 161 to defeat an amendment calling for the party to continue in existence.
The meeting was described by its former leader Mary Harney as the “saddest political day” of her career, but generally acknowledged as inevitable.
The vote, which was closer than expecte, came after four hours of debate at a meeting attended by an estimated 500 remaining party members.
The meeting heard a number of speeches for and against the party voting itself out of existence. The party leadership, including its two TDs and two Senators, argued that the Progressive Democrats had no viable future. However, many disaffected members had simply stayed away, ensuring the vote would be closer than expected.
The party will be removed from the parliamentary register of parties next month or early in the new year and then cease to exist.
Ms Harney confirmed she would not join any other political party “either now or in the future”, leaving a question mark over her position as Minister for Health in the coalition government cabinet. The party’s other TD, Noel Grealish, is expected to join Fianna Fail.
Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said the demise of the Progressive Democrats was welcome in that a negative element in Irish politics had been removed, but the reality was that PD policies “are alive and well in Fianna Fail”.
Deputy O Caolain said, “Their anti-republicanism and there opposition to social and economic equality meant that they were neither truly progressive nor truly democratic.
“With the PDs over the past decade Fianna Fail presided over a taxation system that allowed the wealthiest to pay little or no tax. They were responsible for a totally market driven housing policy that failed to meet housing need, inflated property prices, allowed wreckless lending and massive mortgage debt.
“That FF/PD approach has led directly to the current economic recession,” he said.
A number of PD members have expressed interest in joining the new political party which is likely to be set up by high-profile Lisbon Treaty opponent Declan Ganley.
He is to decide within a month whether he will run in the European elections under the ‘Libertas’ banner used by his anti-Lisbon campaign organisation, and may go on to form a pan-European political party to oppose the centralisation of power in Brussels.
Ganley shocked and infuriated the main political parties in the 26 Counties when he hosted the President of the Czech Republic at a special political dinner on Tuesday night.
President Vaclav Klaus has, uniquely among EU leaders, trumpeted Ireland’s ‘No’ vote against the European Union’s controversial Lisbon Treaty. The Treaty increases the power of Europe’s larger nations at the expense of smaller nations while expanding the EU to the east.
Opponents of EU centralisation, anti-abortion campaigners and prominent figures in the Irish news media featured on the guest list for Tuesday night’s dinner in honour of President Klaus, which did not include Sinn Féin representatives.