Progressive Democrats

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Progressive Democrats
founding December 21, 1985
resolution November 20, 2009
Party seat 25 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2
Alignment liberalism
colour Dark blue, green

(As of April 2008)

The Progressive Democrats (PD, Irish: An Páirtí Daonlathach ; literally translated: The Democratic Party ) were a liberal party in the Republic of Ireland that was founded in 1985. For some years the Progressive Democrats were the fourth largest party in the republic and a member of the ELDR at European level . After a series of disastrous electoral defeats, the party decided to dissolve itself on November 8, 2008.

Chairwoman of the Progressive Democrats


The Progressive Democrats was founded in 1985 by Desmond O'Malley , a former minister in the Fianna Fáil governments under Jack Lynch and Charles J. Haughey . O'Malley was a fierce opponent of Haughey and was ultimately expelled from Fianna Faíl for "improper behavior" when he refused to support the party's opposition stance on contraception.

It was founded together with former Fianna Fáil members Mary Harney , Bobby Molloy and Pearse Wyse as well as Fine Gael members Michael Keating and Michael McDowell . All of these people felt that the course of their respective party was not sufficiently liberal, both economically and socially.

In the 1987 election, the Progressive Democrats achieved the third strongest result and straight away 14 seats (11.9%) - a result the party was unable to maintain.

But as early as 1989, four years after it was founded, the Progressive Democrats formed a coalition government with Fianna Fáil. After the poor election result of Fianna Fáil in 1992, the coalition could not be continued. Later that year, O'Malley resigned, and was succeeded by Mary Harney - and the first woman to lead one of the Republic's major parties.

Since the 1997 election, the Progressive Democrats have again formed a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, which was also confirmed in the 2002 election. According to Harney, it makes no difference to them which party you form a coalition with; The main thing is that you can move something politically.

In the 2002 election, the party was able to double its result to eight seats. It is believed that the party received votes from Fine Gael voters who wanted to prevent an absolute majority from Fianna Fáil and for whom Fine Gael's economic plans were too "ruthless". In the 2007 general election, the Progressive Democrats lost six of their eight seats, with only Health Minister Mary Harney (Dublin Mid West constituency) and Noel Grealish (Galway West constituency) defending their seats.

After the elections, the previous coalition with Fianna Fáil was expanded to include the Greens .

On April 17, 2008, Ciarán Cannon was elected as the new chairman of the PD with 51% of the vote.

On November 8, 2008, an extraordinary party congress decided with 201 to 160 votes the self-dissolution of the party, which was still actively involved in the government in Ireland.


The Progressive Democrats pursued a liberal economic policy, they supported free trade , low taxes and competition between companies. In the case of privatizations, the party decided on a case-by-case basis. While advocating the privatization of Aer Lingus (because without private capital, she saw no future for the airline), she successfully blocked the privatization of Aer Rianta , as this would have put the company's monopoly in private hands. The republic's prison system should be privatized because it was not profitable. Although the republic has the highest proportion of guards per prisoner in the world (almost 1: 1), the expenses for overtime are immense. This is a legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict , during which the guards were granted generous working conditions to counter intimidation attempts by the Republican paramilitaries.

With regard to social assistance and public aid, the party took the position “only help those who cannot help themselves” and advocated selective support, not general support.

The Progressive Democrats supported low wage taxes and low taxes in general to make work attractive. It is believed that this policy is an important part of the Celtic Tiger .

Dermot McAleese, a retired Trinity College economics professor , said in 2004 that the emergence of the Progressive Democrats in 1985 had a more positive impact on the economy than many realize, as many of today's economic regulations are part of their politics.

The party was often referred to as belonging to the right wing, but there were also various approaches in the party program that were more left-wing , e.g. B .:

  • Strong overseas development aid support
  • 2000 introduction of minimum wages (which were the highest in the EU at the time)
  • Support for free choice of university
  • Support of general agreements on taxes, salaries and working conditions - coordinated between trade unions, government and employers

The leaders of the Progressive Democrats took the view that the party could not be categorized into a fixed right-left scheme because the ideas of liberalism contained a mixture of both.

See also


  1. The Irish Times , “New PD leader Cannon pledges to rebuild party,” April 17, 2008.
  2. The Irish Times , “Progressive Democrats vote to wind up party,” Nov. 8, 2008.