Demise of the PDs
Bye, bye Progressive Democrats, it would appear. At least according to the media. I think we’ve all known they were on the way out since the last General Election. It was just a matter of timing. Harry McGee also writes a bit more about this on the Irish Times Politics blog (a great source of some more opinionated writing from the IT‘s political staff).
What will this mean for Irish politics? Well, as a Labour Party man, it’ll be disappointing to lose our ideological opponents. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael manage to sit on the fence most of the time, or vacillate from one side to the other depending on who’s speaking (in FG’s case) or what the latest opinion poll said (in FF’s case). Whatever you thought about the PD’s policies, at least they had an ideological backing.
There has also been speculation that Mary Harney will be appointed European Commissioner next year, when the current Commission’s term expires. Deaglán de Bréandún (to whom I’ll forever be indebted for his brilliant profile of the Dublin South East constituency [subs req’d] ten days out from the 2007 General Election – he predicted Ruairi Quinn to lose out, which was great fodder for me to both rally the troops and convince voters that Ruairi wasn’t safe) has just blogged about Harney’s potential European move, among other things. While it seems like a nice way out for Mary Harney herself, it doesn’t appear to be in Fianna Fáil’s favour. It has two downsides for them – one, giving a cushy job to a different party rather than someone who’s soldiered for years for FF and now needs to be put out to pasture (not that that’s what we should be doing with the Commission, or that Ireland will necessarily have a Commissioner next year, but those are debates for another day); and two, forcing an FF Minister to take on Health.
Fianna Fáil have had the luxury of plausible deniability in relation to health in recent years. Ever since Mary Harney took over the job, they’ve been able to apologise to voters on the doorsteps – “Sure I think the hospitals are in a dreadful state, but it’s those damn PDs. What can I do?”. See, for example, Micheál Martin’s objections to a co-located hospital in his own constituency. Sending Mary Harney to Europe would mean a Fianna Fáil Minister in the Department of Health. While the plausible deniability might last for a few months, eventually, and certainly by the next General Election, FF would have to face up to the mess that they created through a lack of bravery and a decision to allow the market solve the health system’s problems.
Deaglán also mentions the debates about who’ll go where. Ciaran Cannon seems to be eyeing up Fine Gael, while Noel Grealish has been all but a member of Fianna Fáil for a year now. Various Councillors will spread themselves among FG and FF, perhaps with one or two going Independent or joining Labour and the Greens (it’s happened before – don’t rule it out). Fiona O’Malley might be an interesting case. She would be classified as more of a social liberal than an economic right-winger, so a home in any of the parties would be possible. Labour and the Greens would seem to be closest to her social policy opinions, but Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would seem to offer her the best chance of a return to the Dáil in the future. A run as an Independent in the European elections next June or the Dublin South by election before then may also be a possibility.
I think we can expect lots of fun and games over the next few weeks as more and more PDs run for the liferafts. Women and children first? Well, the market will solve that problem.