To be fair they’ve had achievements; Harney banned smokey fuel, Liz O’Donnell raised ODA, Bobby Molloy deregulated taxis. McDowell defended Mary Robinson when she was the victim of a crass attack by Padraig Flynn. Their support for divorce, O’Malley’s stand by the republic speech was important. But in recent years the decision to accept Justice & Health in the 2004 reshuffle seemed to have promoted the terminal decline. Co-location defined them and a Fianna Fail that is happy for the PD’s to take the flack for the HSE. They also provided the cover for FF to drive privatisation, tax cuts and to prioritise economic activity at the expense of societal activity.
What intrigues me is that recently they are in negotiations with Fianna Fail and reports are that they will merge with FF. In the unlikely event of these breaking down where will they go? Whatever about the PD’s what does this say about Brian Cowen? This is the politician who told the FF faithful “When in doubt leave them out”. Now it seems that soon we’ll see a permanent temporary little arrangement. Where does this leave Fianna Fail?
What does Fianna Fail actually get? Happy to facilitate the demise of a party that doesn’t threaten it, allowing Mary Harney the plum job of commissioner, perhaps gaining about 20 council seats and the post of Health Minister, the very department that Brian Cowen once described as Angola because there were so many landmines. I must admit to being bamboozled as to why the 2 parties are in negotiations. What is there to talk about from a Fianna Fail point of view? In 2004 FF did so poorly they surely cannot go lower in 2009. So why do they need to merge potentially upsetting FF candidates with new running mates when they could hope to see them off in the election. As any Labour member will tell you a merger doesn’t mean that the voter will follow the party they supported before the merger.
I suspect that while the parliamentary party may want to merge that ordinary members will be reluctant to go into FF. I understand how they might feel. I think the charade engaged in by Noel Grealish makes ordinary members less enthused about merging. For any member of a party that’s in its death throes the final obsequies should be their own business, however would ordinary ex-PD members be welcome in Labour? If they were happy to support our policies, I could live with that and wouldn't loose my head. Unlike poor old Mary Queen of Scots!