Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Demise of the PDs

A lot has been said about this in the lead-up to what, over the last couple of months, could only be described as an inevitable event.

Despite the detractors, and despite the party's synonymity with Fianna Fail and big business over the past number of years, there is something sad about the dissolution of the PDs.

The party was formed out of ideology, and, almost uniquely over the past decade, actually stood for something for a time. Whether you agreed with that something is a different matter, but at least you knew what you were (or were not) voting for. Policies.

Irish politics has a sad lack of actual policies and ideologies. Perhaps this is because we are a national of 'realpolitikos'. Or perhaps it's because we don't really care.

Where the PDs fell down, in my opinion, was in recruiting celebrities to their cause, who had no real affiliation with the party's ideology or background.

Tom Parlon, for instance. From 'committed' farming representative... to 'committed' PD junior minister... to 'committed' head of the CIF. The only thing Tom Parlon believes in, clearly, is himself. He is a career lobbyist. Yesterday's commitments from FF to taking action in the housing market would indicate that he is a bloody good one, too.

Colm O'Gorman was another. Well-known for his founding of One in Four, Colm O'Gorman stood for the PDs in a General Election. Although he did not win, he was appointed a Senator. As a 'name', perhaps he was entitled to this. And, with his NGO background, perhaps he lent some perspective to the Seanad. For the time Colm O'Gorman was on the books of the PDs, so was gay marriage. A friend of mine even spoke at their conference on the issue. We have heard very little of that from them since.

The biggest 'name', and cod, of all, was probably Michael McDowell. While he'd been around longer and shown more commitment to the party, that wasn't much in evidence when he chose to sneak out the back door after his ignominious defeat last May. A real leader, with real passion for his party, would have stuck around and rolled up his sleeves. Harney did that. McDowell couldn't be bothered. He makes better money in the Four Courts.

Those who chose, last night, to announce the party's winding up, are those who worked at keeping it going. They were unsuccessful, but at least they tried.

Mary Harney is clearly exhausted - she has given much of her life to the party at the detriment of her own health, and is now trying to do the same for that very department. Fiona O'Malley stuck around even when it was apparent there was not much to be done, for love of the party and out of family pride. Noel Grealish, quite the man of mystery, never wanted to be more than a backbencher. It is his curse that he was left to the end - he never wanted to be a hero, and was never going to be one. And Ciaran Cannon, perhaps the saddest. Full of misguided optimism, Cannon really thought he would do it. A man of some conviction, he did not have the experience or the cynicism to do what was required and make the call at a dignified time. It is particularly unfortunate for him that his first role on the national stage will always be known as a failure.

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