The latest Sunday Business Post opinion poll shows the PDs down to an all-time low of 2%. They must surely be facing melt-down in next year’s general election unless something dramatic happens in the interim to improve their prospects.
When Dessie O’Malley founded the PDs in 1985, one of the party’s main selling points was a commitment to decommission the gombeen in Irish politics. Then they foolishly recruited Tom Parlon in 2002. I need say no more.
In the past couple of years, Michael McDowell has become increasingly belligerent, climaxing this year in his hysterical attack on Richard Bruton when he clearly lost all sense of proportion and went totally over the top. This has raised serious question marks over his suitability to hold senior Government office, particularly in a very sensitive ministry such as Justice.
McDowell’s recent leadership spat with Mary Harney has further damaged both himself and the party. He seems to have shot himself in the foot as far as future leadership of the PDs is concerned. On top of all this, his authority in cabinet has been systematically undermined and he’s been forced to make a number of high profile policy changes, most recently on the issue of private gambling clubs. It’s hard to see a man of his ego taking such public humiliations for long. A return to the Law Library should not be ruled out.
Then there’s Mary Harney herself. Few people doubt her integrity or work ethic, but her competence is now being called into question by her apparent inability to achieve significant improvement in the health service or to break the hold of the powerful vested interests - the consultants, nurses etc - in that service. Unless there’s a material breakthrough before the general election, her decision to take the Health portfolio will be officially categorised as “brave but politically naïve”.
As things stand, the PDs are in the Dail A&E and the prognosis is not good. Pray for them - either for a recovery or a happy death - depending on your political outlook.
Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent. Also, the opening section on Tom Parlon was aired by Rachel English on RTE's 5-7 Live radio programme and drew an instant rebuke for RTE from the PDs.
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