PDs facing 'huge issue' over survival, says Harney


MINISTER FOR Health and former leader of the Progressive Democrats Mary Harney has signalled that serious consideration is being given to winding up the party as speculation continues about the future of its Galway West TD, Noel Grealish.

"Let's be realistic, since the last election we have had a very difficult time.

"I don't want to have my head buried in the sand or live in an Alice in Wonderland kind of environment. I have to acknowledge that," the Minister said yesterday when asked to comment on Mr Grealish's position.

She added that the position was particularly difficult for career politicians like Mr Grealish who had sacrificed their careers or business in order to commit themselves to politics.

"Much and all as many members of the party would love to think that the Progressive Democrats could secure an enhanced number of seats in the forthcoming local elections and the general election, I think we have to be very, very realistic when it comes to our assessment and take the best advice we can and make decisions based on that," said Ms Harney.

She said there had been a frank discussion about the position at the national executive on Thursday night.

"I think above all else the party has to be realistic. Idealism is important but realism is important. If the Progressive Democrats do not have the capacity to elect people to Dáil Éireann then clearly that is a huge issue for the viability and sustainability of the party.

"These are among the issues that have to be addressed in the next number of days by the PD national executive and the wider party," she said.

The Minister said the party had suffered a major setback in 2007 when only two members were elected to the Dáil. "Clearly since that time it has been extraordinarily difficult and it is particularly difficult for the leader of the party, Senator Ciarán Cannon, who has my full support.

"He has an awesome task and he deserves the support of all his colleagues including members of the parliamentary party and the national executive and the organisation generally, and I believe it is important the vast majority of members of the party give him their full support in taking whatever action he believes is appropriate for the future," she said.

Mr Grealish in a statement described media reports about his political future as speculative and inaccurate.

He said he understood that the PD national executive was undertaking a root and branch review of the future of the party.

He said he intended to consult his constituency membership, his parliamentary colleagues and the wider party membership as part of this review.

Mr Grealish added that in the meantime he remained a member of the Progressive Democrats parliamentary party.

Mr Cannon said that he had spoken to Mr Grealish and had been assured that the Galway West TD remained an active member of the party.

Mr Cannon said he had sought and received reassurances from all parliamentary party members that they would stay with the party until after the local elections next year.

He said he had sought and secured the commitment of all members of the parliamentary party to remain "steadfastly behind the party" until after the local elections next year.

The four members of the parliamentary party - Senator Cannon, Mr Grealish, Ms Harney and Senator Fiona O'Malley - are due to meet next week.

He conceded that Mr Grealish had voiced his opinion in the past about the survival of the party. "Noel would have said to me on a number of occasions — and he has voiced this opinion publicly, that he has had doubts since our pretty disastrous general election over a year ago now about the survival of the party.

"That is one of the issues that we will be discussing at the parliamentary party next week and it is one that I hope to have clarified."

The PD leader said he dearly hoped there was a future for Mr Grealish in the party.