Idealism is not naivety

I went to, what I thought would be my last, meeting of the Progressive Democrats tonight. However, it now seems likely that the party will continue after its leader and its Oireachtas members have abandoned ship. I don't blame them for doing a runner. The Irish electorate has never rewarded straight talking. It has never rewarded people who put the country before their party and before their own political futures. The PD brand is hugely unpopular and most who run for office as a PD will not have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected.

The party leader wants to give the party a decent burial before he goes to Fine Gael. I guess he hopes the party's epitaph will list all the things the party did for Ireland and will honour its legacy. It may in time. It the short term all it will say is The going got tough. So the PDs took their ball and went home.

I believe that Ireland needs a party that is prepared to stand up to vested interests (in the private AND public sector), a party that is not prepared to use the machinery of the state to prop up monopolies and cartels, a party that is not prepared to peddle power and influence for cash and support, and a party that puts the national interest first. The only question that remains is whether or not the Progressive Democrats wants to be that party.

The meeting was quite heated. People quite rightly wanted to know what the leader knows now, that he didn't know when he ran for the job. They expressed the view that he shouldn't have become leader of the party if he didn't want to lead it into the future. He is of the view that now that almost all of the party's policies have become mainstream, it is time to call it a day. He quite genuinely believes that there are no new policy fronts on which the PDs would be able to distinguish itself from other parties. I think he is wrong. We do not yet live in a Utopia. When we do we can call it a day.

The fact remains that very few people are prepared to vote for the Progressive Democrats. However a party with nothing to lose is uniquely placed to tell it like it is and to propose radical, perhaps even unpopular, policies. With 2 members of the Oireachtas it could once again be the voice of reason and point the way forward. A seat in the Oireachtas is not a worthless thing. It is a platform from which one can serve one's country.

When Michael McDowell took his ball and went home he failed to understand one very important thing. Serving one's country is often a thankless job. Running a country is like rearing a child. You measure your success by how well the child does. Not by how grateful he is.


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