Progressive Democrats: Party History

A look at the history of the Progressive Democrats party

A look at the history of the Progressive Democrats party

FEBRUARY 1985:Des O'Malley expelled from Fianna Fáil for "conduct unbecoming".

DECEMBER 1985:O'Malley announces the establishment of a new party, the Progressive Democrats. He had been encouraged to set up a new party by a former Fine Gael activist Michael McDowell. Mary Harney is a founder member of the party, and other Fianna Fáil politicians such as Bobby Molloy also join. The party advocates fundamental tax reform as part of its core policies.

FEBRUARY 1987:The Progressive Democrats secure 12 per cent of the vote and win 14 seats in the party's first general election.


JUNE 1989:Support for the Progressive Democrats collapses in the general election. Only six TDs returned as the party's share of the vote falls to 5.5 per cent. The party enters talks on a coalition government with Fianna Fáil. In July, Charles Haughey is re-elected taoiseach, with O'Malley becoming minister for industry and commerce.

FEBRUARY 1992:Charles Haughey resigns shortly after allegations that he had been aware of the tapping of journalists' telephones in 1982 resurface. O'Malley had decided that the Progressive Democrats could no longer remain in his government. Albert Reynolds replaces Haughey as taoiseach.

NOVEMBER 1992:Progressive Democrats pull out of government after a serious row between O'Malley and Reynolds over their respective evidence to the Beef tribunal. The party wins 10 seats in the general election.

OCTOBER 1993:O'Malley resigns as party leader. He is replaced by Harney, who defeats Pat Cox in election for the post. The following year, Cox leaves the party and defeats O'Malley for a seat in the European Parliament.

JUNE 1997:Harney's first election as leader is a disaster as party slumps to four seats. However, it has the numbers to form part of a minority administration with Fianna Fáil. Bertie Ahern is elected taoiseach and Harney is appointed tánaiste.

MAY 1999:Michael McDowell, who lost his seat in the 1997 election, is appointed attorney general.

MAY 2002:The party doubles its number of seats in the general election to eight. Among those returned to the Dáil is McDowell. His election stunt of climbing a lamppost with a slogan "One-Party Government? - no thanks" is widely credited with depriving Fianna Fáil of an overall majority and ensuring a second term for the party in government.

SEPTEMBER 2004:Harney is appointed Minister for Health in a cabinet reshuffle.

SEPTEMBER 2006:Harney resigns as party leader. It had been revealed over the summer that there were internal party rows over the leadership. She is succeeded by McDowell. Within weeks, the government is embroiled in the row over Bertie Ahern's finances. McDowell decides to remain in government.

MAY 2007:General election a disaster for the Progressive Democrats. After further revelations during the campaign about Ahern's finances, the party appears set to pull out of government, but later opts to stay. Just two PD deputies returned to the Dáil, as McDowell and other senior figures such as Tom Parlon, Liz O'Donnell and Tim O'Malley lose their seats.

JUNE 2007:Progressive Democrats included in new three-party coalition put together by Ahern. Harney remains as Minister for Health and becomes interim party leader.

APRIL 2008:Senator Ciarán Cannon elected as party leader. However, in September, senior party members in the Oireachtas decide party has no viable future.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent