Letter published in Irish Independent with (reasonable) editing.
The shocked crowd gathered around the body. It was obvious that there was no hope, that there was no possibility of putting the parts together again.
The head lay at some distance from the body; it wasn’t even looking in the same direction. It seemed to be preoccupied with something else, some other mission. It seemed to have lost any interest in reconnecting to the main body.
The body itself had obviously suffered heavy damage; there was clear evidence of a recent beating and it had shrunk to an almost unrecognizable size, obviously starved of what had previously kept it healthy.
Various limbs lay scattered around looking lost and unattached, some desperately attempting to connect themselves to other bodies. Incredibly, one limb seemed to be having some success in attaching itself to a nearby putrid but amazingly healthy body.
There was a wide divergence of opinion as to the exact cause of death but everybody agreed that a complete lack of guts was a major contributory factor.
Clearly, a number of those present had had a close relationship with the recently departed. Some became hysterical, refusing to accept the awful reality. A Mr. Paul McKay repeatedly called on the body parts to reassemble, to continue as before; he was led away sobbing.
A Mr. Cannon made a desperate call for help in breathing new life into the corpse but his pleas fell on deaf ears as the ever diminishing crowd drifted away to make funeral arrangements.
It was clear that the Party Departed was permanently redundant.
The most positive political event of 2007 was the implosion of the Progressive Democrats. Mary Harney is still in power, still busily building a two tier health system but at least Michael McDowell, the most dangerous right wing politician in Irish history is – history.
And judging from a report in today’s Irish Examiner, it looks like the party is well and truly over.
Fiona O’Malley, the only remaining high profile name in the ring as a potential leader, was running a mini-marathon in Milan when the party was meeting to change the rules that would have allowed her to assume the mantle. So, not much interest there.
Ms. O’Malley was unavailable for comment because she’s in Bali for the UN climate change conference – Guess who’s paying for that trip?
Professor John Crown, consultant oncologist, was interviewed on Today with Pat Kenny (Tuesday) about the disgraceful state of cancer treatment in Ireland.
Prof. Crown is one of those rare people who say exactly what they mean with passion and without regard for the sensibilities of official or political egos.
When some listeners suggested that there was a political agenda behind his strong attack on Mary Harney and the Progressive Democrats he replied:
“Don’t question my motives, they are clear. I detest everything the PDs stand for. I grew up in the 1980s in the Haughey era of Irish politics.
I was one of the people who shouted hurray when the PDs came to light as the new voice for principled politics in Ireland, principles which they have systematically abandoned year by year.
I was delighted to hear the good news this morning that deputy Grealish was thinking of joining Fianna Fail. I wish they would just fold up the tent, go into Fianna Fail and stop acting as stalking horses for Fianna Fail.”
I couldn’t agree more. The interview is well worth listening to.
In a functional democracy the participation of a party like the Greens in a coalition government is usually workable. Such coalitions have worked very well in a number of other European countries.
It’s another story, however, in a dysfunctional democracy like Ireland. Parties with high ethical standards have two choices when they get into bed with an intrinsically corrupt party like Fianna Fail.
They either maintain their standards even to the point of giving up power or, do what the Progressive Democrats have done under Mary Harney, abandon all ethical standards in exchange for achieving some of their political aims.
The Greens have clearly opted for the latter strategy. Only a couple of months in office and they agree that;
It’s acceptable to illegally manipulate (Seanad) elections.
It’s acceptable for the Prime Minister to appoint his friends to State boards.
It’s acceptable for government ministers to accept large amounts of cash from businessmen.
It’s acceptable for the Prime Minister to give conflicting and patently unbelievable answers to a tribunal established by the Oireachtas.
It’s acceptable to insult the intelligence of Irish citizens by faithfully parroting (2nd item) the gombeen utterances of ethically blind Fianna Fail politicians.
The Progressive Democrats were wiped out because they abandoned their core principles on corruption and high standards in public life, the Greens are on the same road.
Progressive Democrats President Tom Parlon has announced he is to leave politics to head up the Construction Industry Federation.
Asked in an interview on RTEs News at One (1st item) how it came about he made no bones about blaming an ungrateful electorate.
“It’s fallout from the loss of my seat in the election. I put in a very active five years in politics, worked very hard for my constituency, felt I had a massive campaign, spent a lot of money and had a lot of support and got a right kick in the backside when the electorate made their decision.”
The question can be asked; why did the electorate give Parlon and the other PD TDs ‘a right kick in the backside’? The answer, I believe, is Michael McDowell.
On the 7th September 2006, after Mary Harney resigned her leadership I sent the following email to John Higgins, General Secretary of the PDs.
Dear Mr. Higgins,
The people of Ireland can only hope that Michael McDowell is elected
as the new leader of the Progressive Democrats.
His arrogance, incompetence, giant ego and extreme right wing views are sure to cause the PDs even more damage.
The passing into history of the PDs can only be a good thing for the people of Ireland and especially for the quality of Irish democracy.
For a party that started out with such high ideals and integrity it has been sad to witness its descent to Fianna Fail levels of tolerance of sleaze and dishonesty.
Parlon’s resignation is just the latest consequence in the continuing disintegration of the PDs since they lit the fuse on the time bomb that was Michael McDowell.
Every self respecting democracy in the world operates under the rule of law. Electoral law is particularly important because it is based on the authority of the people. Any interference, any sly manipulation of such law seriously dilutes the quality of that democratic authority.
Stephen Collins, political editor of the Irish Times, explained on RTEs News at One (4th item) yesterday how Irish politicians have been breaking the law for years by supervising how councillors are voting in Seanad elections.
This illegal activity is to make sure that the councillors are voting according to deals worked out between the political parties.
The United Nations frequently sends teams of inspectors to emerging democracies around the world to ensure that such vote tampering does not occur; Irish politicians are often invited to join these inspection teams.
They must feel odd to find themselves strictly enforcing electoral laws that they have been openly flouting themselves for years.
The post concerning the PDs and integrity was also published in Letters to the Editor in the Irish Independent on June 21st last. It drew an interesting response from a founding member of that party.
Like Mr. Peers, I’m sure there are many serving and former party members who are disillusioned by the total abandonment of the party’s founding principles in order to accommodate the low standards of Fianna Fail. Here’s Mr. Peer’s letter.
I am glad I left the PDs
Saturday June 23 2007
Anthony Sheridan excellently sums up the Progressive Democrats as a Party (Letters, June 21).
Paul MacKay, honorary treasurer, must be a slow learner after ten years of the PDs having been in Government with Fianna Fail as he finally realises his party is too close to Fianna Fail.
Like Paul I was a founder member and candidate for Dail and Council elections. I resigned ten years ago because of the issues that Paul is now raising, and in particular when Mary Harney stated she trusted and respected Bertie Ahern, a man who supported the crooked Haughey, Burke and Lawlor. Also at that time I was angry that members of the party were not given the opportunity to vote on going into Government with Fianna Fail or not. At least the Green Party gave their members a vote to decide or not on this occasion. The PDs were virtually wiped out in the election because instead of being watchdogs they became lapdogs of Fianna Fail.
Equally and unfortunately the Green Party will be decimated in the next election if they last in government.
I understand the Progressive Democrats are having a meeting on Sunday. A proposal should be put forward by the membership to resign from Government and Mary Harney should rejoin Fianna Fail. I am glad that I had the intelligence and savvy to resign from the PDs 10 years ago and not have it on my conscience that I assisted what has now become a dictatorship of Fianna Fail.
Mary Harney and Joint Honorary Treasurer of the Progressive Democrats, Paul Mackay, were taking a stroll on the beach.
They were discussing Paul’s worry that the PDs were getting too close to Fianna Fail. Suddenly, Paul spotted a very bright and shiny object on the sand.
Wow, I’ve never seen anything like it before, what is it Mary?
You have seen it before, Paul; it’s a lump of integrity.
Integrity? But it couldn’t be Mary, it’s bright and clean, nothing like the lacklustre integrity we have back at party headquarters.
That’s because our integrity is not real, it’s made from recycled brown paper envelopes.
But.., but why Mary.., Why?
Well, Paul, it’s simple. When we decided to board the Fianna Fail boat ten years ago it was already overloaded with developers contracts, jobs for the boys, promises to ‘friends’ etc. Our heavy integrity would have sunk the whole operation so we dumped the lot overboard; I suppose that’s one of the pieces that washed up.
Anyway, we could hardly go public on what we had done so we created a new lightweight type of integrity, specifically designed to keep the boat afloat. It was made up of an endless supply of brown paper envelopes from Fianna Fail headquarters. You have to admit, it fooled you for ten years and, until recently, most other Irish citizens.
Oh Mary, Mary, how could you? You mean it’s all true? Haughey was really corrupt and not a patriot to his fingertips? Bertie really does have questions to answer? Dick Roche is not leaving office to work on the streets of Calcutta. Oh Mary, please, don’t tell me that Martin Cullen is not really my fairy godmother. How could you betray me like this?
Pull yourself together Paul, the Great One is pleased with our performance, that’s why we’re back in power. And the really good news is that from now on we don’t have to bother with all that integrity stuff.
The Green’s have arrived with truckloads of it; I think they made it from a combination of recycled Green policy papers, muck from the Tara/Skryne valley and the tears of all those eejits who voted for change.
C’mon, I have a health business.., er, health department to run…
It hardly needs to be said that being in government is the place to be. It’s the only place where a political party has any hope of getting its policies implemented.
It is also true that a small party like the Greens, negotiating from a position of weakness, could not hope to have all or even the greater part of their policies accepted.
Having said that, however, I think the Greens have made a major mistake.
Yes, they have been waiting 25 years for this opportunity, yes, it would have been very difficult to wait another five years, yes they would have lost credibility as a serious political party if they were seen as uncompromising. But at what price will power come?
They will now serve in a government intent on committing the greatest act of environmental vandalism in Irish history, the building of the M3 through the historic and immensely important Tara-Skryne valley.
They will also be complicit in Mary Harney’s co-location of hospitals. This scheme, which will cost taxpayers countless millions, will, I believe, be seen in years to come as the most disastrous health policy since the savage health cuts made in the 1980s by Charlie Haughey.
Co-location will, I believe, be seen as the moment when Ireland took the American road to health care. Those with money will receive first class care while those without will just have to make do.
The Green’s have argued that they are doing what many of their colleagues have already successfully done in other European countries – joining mainstream politics in order to advance their policies.
But Ireland is not like other European countries, it is a country that suffers to an enormous degree from corruption and there are only two ways of dealing with this corrosive disease – meet it head on and eradicate it or pretend it doesn’t exist with all the damaging consequences that that entails.
The Progressive Democrats, under Mary Harney, quickly realised that if they wanted to stay in power in a state that is intrinsically corrupt they had to compromise on their principles and integrity. In the end, they did this with remarkable ease and are now indistinguishable from Fianna Fail in every aspect but name.
The Greens will have to do the same; they will have to pretend that the raging elephant of corruption is not in the room. Indeed, they have already begun to slot comfortably into the scheme of things. Corporate donations and all other serious reforms for tackling corruption in public life are off the table.
Their spokespersons are already mouthing the tired mantra favoured by Fianna Fail:
“We will have to wait for the tribunal to report.” Or, “These are all matters for the tribunal and it behoves us all to blah blah blah.”
Ciaran Cuffe, speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne, was crystal clear on the Green’s new policy on corruption and issues of standards in public life.
“The Green Party is not the moral guardian of Fianna Fail or anybody else.”
The bottom line is that the Green’s will have to be as ruthless as the PDs in abandoning their core values in order to savour the few crumbs contemptuously thrown to them by Fianna Fail.
The general consensus seems to be that this government will last the full term of five years. I disagree. I don’t believe the general membership of the Green party have it in them to live cheek by jowl with the most corrupt political party in the county without tearing themselves apart.
I will be surprised if the present arrangement survives its first year.