Farewell to the PDs

by Henry Farrell on September 18, 2008

So it looks as though the PDs, Ireland’s neo-liberal party, are on the “way to the chopping block”:http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/0917/1221599424850.html?via=mr. While I disagreed vigorously with most of their policies, I have mildly mixed feelings about this, if only because an uncle of mine was a founding member (and the person who led them up until the disastrous election that precipitated their current state of disrepair). But mostly, I’m posting so that I can link to this wonderful extract from the current leader’s public statement on their future.

Mr Cannon said it was “far from me to pre-empt what that decision might be”. In his opinion, the party had two choices. It could “limp on” into an uncertain future, while elected members were “picked off the edge of the herd like wounded animals”. The other choice was to dissolve so that the party could say: “We have triumphed and in our triumph we are leaving the field with a degree of grace and dignity.”

Far from pre-empting, indeed …



astrongmaybe 09.18.08 at 8:15 am

Magnificent quote! The PDs fulfil their historic destiny (triumphantly!), and, like the fruit ripened fully on the branch, may now happily fall into the mulch below. Who says Irish pols don’t have a sense of history?

I could never stand the PD’s politics either, but there was something noble about some of the ideas and circumstances around their founding, and Dessie O’M. always seemed like a “decent” guy, a word often thrown around about Irish public figures, but not so often deserved.


Jacob Christensen 09.18.08 at 9:50 am

Irish politics is generally incomprehensible to foreigners, but policies aside wasn’t the PDs as much about being anti-Haughey as about being pro-anything?

With Haughey dead and gone, the party would seem to be rebels without a cause. Or?


Ben Alpers 09.18.08 at 1:16 pm

Irish politics is generally incomprehensible to foreigners…

How does that Zapatero guy fit in?


toby 09.18.08 at 5:21 pm

Stephen Collins, who wrote a book about the PDs, gives his assessment in the Irish Times.


Basically, the PDs were victims of their own success;

– Most other parties adopted their policies (business-friendly, low tax) so their “brand” suffered.
– Becoming almost-permanent Government partners to Fianna Fail blunted their radicalism.
– Forcing Fianna Fail, the largest party in the stte, to compromise on its so-called “core-value” of permanently eschewing coalition meant that Fianna Fail is now inevitably in Government. Once it recognized coalition as legitimate, Fianna Fail now has a variety of smaller parties (Labour, the Greens) and Independents to choose from. The PDs became expendable, in other words.

Few tears will be shed for the PDs – they were cordially hated by most dyed-in-the-wool Fianna Failers. They took votes from the other large party, Fine Gael, who will pick up some residual support. I have a feeling that the people who will be kindest to the PDs will be the historians.


Righteous Bubba 09.18.08 at 5:53 pm

My admiration and envy go to those who know when to quit.


P O'Neill 09.18.08 at 7:28 pm

Part of the problem was that they never got their story straight re Fianna Fail. The Haughey stuff that drove them out in the first place didn’t leave with Haughey. We know that from the tribunals. But they sat through revelation after revelation. Alternative history: McD walks out after the dig-out story first broke two years ago and says no coalition with FF until it is purged of the Galway Races tent mafia. Who’d be in power today? (and, yes, dealing with an economic shambles).


Tony 09.19.08 at 10:09 am

Some questions.

Which party will the bulk of the erstwhile PDs now join? FF or FG?

Has FF reformed sufficiently in terms of corruption and social conservatism?

Has FG gone too socially conservative? (Anti stem-cell research!)

Final question: why didn’t O’Malley simply defect to Fine Geal in the first place?


Tony 09.19.08 at 10:13 am

Also – with the National Question hopefully parked for a generation, does this dispose the PDs towards re-absorbtion into FF?


DC 09.19.08 at 10:31 am

“…why didn’t O’Malley simply defect to Fine Geal in the first place?”

Among other reasons, FG was in a coalition with Labour at the time (plus was led by the social democratic Garret Fitzgerald) – a government that was raising taxes (as well as cutting back on spending) in order to deal with the fiscal crisis. Fiscal rectitude was an anti-Haughey principle, tax cuts an anti-FG/Labour one.

It’s interesting now, because on the one hand the PDs spent the last 11 years in goverment with FF, plus most of them came from that parish anyway – but, OTOH, FG has been moving to the right since the last election (driven especially by younger types like Varadkar and Hayes, but also “Enda’s brain”, Richard Bruton) whereas the Greens are now FF’s primary partners, bringing them somewhat to the left.

But I presume local electoral calculations will be more important than ideological considerations in determining where PD refugees will find asylum.


John Smyth 09.19.08 at 3:04 pm

The PDS decline had a lot to do with McDowell’s leadership of the party – his rhetorical excesses tended to walk him and the party into trouble every time, and tended to mask the fact that the PDs were quite liberal on many issues [rather than the running dog capitalist caricature that they were occasionally saddled with].

His achievements as Justice Minister are hardly impressive either – It’s a pity because he should have been one of our better Justice Ministers but turned out to be probably one of the worst instead.


mollymooly 09.21.08 at 11:43 pm

In their early days the PDs were sold as “right wing on economic issues, left wing on social issues”. That’s a crowded market in Ireland these days.

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