From Socialist Voice, November 2008

And good riddance!

The ultra-right Progressive Democrats are finally about to bite the dust, and there are very few across the whole political spectrum—barring the Unionist parties in the North and, of course, IBEC—who will shed a tear.
     Born out of Des O’Malley’s personal but probably rightful hatred of the Fianna Fáil heavyweight Charles Haughey, the PDs promoted the brash and harsh right-wing policies that have unleashed rampant and unbridled capitalism in this country. While they originally vowed never to do business with a Government headed by Haughey, their selfish and relentless pursuit of extreme neo-liberal, narrow-minded and inhuman policies saw them ditch their Haughey hate clothes and re-embrace the PD nemesis as they entered into a coalition Government with Fianna Fáil in the late 80s.
     Successive electoral campaigns that appealed to their sectional Thatcherite electorate afforded them Dáil and governmental influence beyond their dreams and served to steer Ireland further and further to the right. The flea party wagged not only the tail but the very dog that was Fianna Fáil. There are those who would suggest, and not without good reason, that the Fianna Fáilers were delighted to have the governmental PD buffer to drive a wedge between them and their party’s grass roots and historic ideological support as they sought a more ring-wing agenda.
     The Harney “Boston or Berlin” speech in 2000 effectually drove the current laissez-faire capitalist economic policy that we are now suffering for as Boston and its influences crash around us.
     Harney’s performance in Health, the former Fine Gaeler McDowell’s repeated arrogant rants, alongside his fundamentalist right-wing legal personal plaything that was the Department of Justice, and the bungling former IFA President Tom Parlon were the final despairing figures in a party that has been gradually sucked back to its embryo.
     Their distaste for anything republican (despite repeated media pronouncements by McDowell that he was everything a republican should be, and proud of it, his crowning glory a New Year jaunt in the Sligo-Leitrim mountains in honour of a long-dead republican relative) was more than demonstrated in their contributions to the North’s peace process. McDowell, more than most, senselessly and insensitively appealed to the unionist ideology, taking the time to make repeated swipes at the nationalist-republican politicos. His utterances and rants were akin to the Paisley sackcloth-and-ashes preachings, and when relevant documents are eventually disclosed for public consumption we will fully appreciate how negatively influential he was in the same process.
     As leader he demonstrated an utter contempt for his party and colleagues, breaking the line daily and simultaneously sounding the PDs’ death knell as he egotistically used the media to announce his retirement as leader of the PDs immediately after admitting defeat in the last round of elections.
     As the PDs electorally imploded, the knives were out, but McDowell and others ran for cover, which in his case was the courts. At least he can be remembered for doing one good thing: more than most, he led the absolute destruction of one of Ireland’s vilest political parties and, hopefully, eras.

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