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Ireland's Progressive Democrats vote to wind up party

Ireland's Progressive Democrats vote to wind up partyThe PDs will disappear from Ireland's political arena after party conference vote to disband.
The PDs will disappear from Ireland's political arena after party conference vote to disband.

A special conference of the Progressive Democrats have voted for the party to disband after the leadership stated the party was no longer "politically viable".

The special conference was held in Mulligar, Co Westmeath, on November 8th, 2008, following bad election results and months of speculation about the future of the party.

Progressive Democrat party member and Minister for Health Mary Harney said "In order to have a viable political future, one has to have the capacity to elect people to the National Parliament, particularly to the Dáil, and clearly in last year's general election we did not have that capacity."

The vote of the party had been in decline since 1985, but the PD's worst results ever came in the 2007 general election with six out of the party's eight TDs losing their seats, including party leader Michael McDowell.

At the PDs special conference in Mullingar, the 400 party delegates heard party leader Ciarán Cannon, Minister for Health Mary Harney and the other Oireachtas members to bring the party to an end.

Progressive Democrats' founder, Des O'Malley, who did not attend the conference, wrote a letter to the delegates asking them to "face the facts and wind up of the party."

Minister Mary Harney told the delegates that it was not "dishonourable" to open a new chapter and called for a dignified end to the party.

At the end of the conference, the party delegates voted 201 to 161 to disband.

Speculation begins about political future of PD orphans

The Progressive Democrats are currently in the process of being dissolved pending "legal issues that have to be addressed in terms of the cessation of a political party and have to be addressed over the coming months," according to PD Minister Mary Harney.

However, speculation has already begun regarding the future of the PD's two TDs, two senators, 14 councillors, and hundreds of party members.

Political analysts expect most PDs to return back to Fianna Fáil, where many originally came from, with some party members joining Fine Gael and some others simply retiring from politics.

The Minister for Health Mary Harney said she will not be joining any other political party and will remain in Government as an independent member of the Dáil.

PDs instrumental in Celtic Tiger success

Created in 1985 by liberal politicians coming from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, The Progressive Democrats / An Páirtí Daonlathach took the Irish political arena by storm in the 1987 general election by winning 14 seats in the Dáil and surpassing the Labour Party as Ireland's third-largest party.

The PDs participated in coalition governments with Fianna Fáil between 1989-1992 and 1997-to date, becoming the second party with most government experience in the history of the Republic of Ireland.

During their 14 years in coalition government with Fianna Fáil, the PDs pushed forward the business agenda of low-taxation, privatisation and liberalisation that made possible the Celtic Tiger economic boom of the 1990s and 2000s.

In recent years, the PDs had been suffering a slow but continuous decline in the polls, which was worsened by the retirement of the party's key figures and by a number of defections to rival parties.

In the 2008 Irish general election six out of the party's eight TDs lost their seats, leaving the Progressive Democrats with just two TDs and two senators, and opening an internal debate that culminated with the decision to wind up the party.

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