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Progressive Democrats
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Progressive Democrats

This text is part of the Liberalism series (III)
Liberalism in countries / Liberal parties
LI / ELDR (ALDE) / CALD
Timeline of liberal parties in:
Africa - The Americas - Asia - Europe - Oceania
- Liberal thinkers
The Progressive Democrats (in Irish An Páirtí Daonlathach) is a small more or less liberal party in the Republic of Ireland founded in the mid-1980s. The PD's are member of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party.

The PD's policies are based upon liberal economic policies such as free enterprise, competition, privatisation (on a case by case basis) and the belief that economic and social growth go together. They also have a liberal social outlook, making them unusual in the sense that they have right-wing economic policies and liberal social policies.

In terms of social welfare provision they believe in selective rather than universal benefits, working under the ideal "help only the people who cannot help themselves". Thus they have increased old-age pensions while in government while not increasing unemployment assistance.

The core policy that defines their economic outlook is low tax. Low income tax because they believe it encourages people to work and rewards them for their effort. Low corporation tax because they believe it encourages business growth.

The party was founded by Desmond O'Malley, a former senior minister in Fianna Fáil governments under Jack Lynch and Charles J. Haughey.

O'Malley was a strong opponent of Haughey and was involved in a number of leadership heaves against the controversial and popular Haughey, and was finally expelled for conduct unbecoming a member of Fianna Fáil when he refused to support Fianna Fáil's rejection of the introduction of contraception.

O'Malley, joined with Mary Harney, Bobby Molloy and Pearse Wyse, Fine Gael TD Michael Keating and former Fine Gael activist Michael McDowell, to set up the new party. In its first election it won 14 seats becoming the third largest party in the Dáil but has so far not been able to repeat this success.

The party has served in Irish coalition governments four times, all with Fianna Fáil (1989-1992; 1997-2002; 2002-2007). Although its party leader Mary Harney has said it makes "no difference" if they are in government with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael as long as they can get policy implemented, "[they] do not want to be in government for the sake of it".

After the collapse of Reynolds' first administration, O'Malley retired from the leadership of the party. Mary Harney became the new leader -- the first woman to lead any of the major Irish political parties. Harney currently serves as Tánaiste (deputy prime minister).

The party's tax policies contributed significantly to the mix of circumstances that brought about the sudden growth in the Irish economy known as the "Celtic Tiger".

The party was predicted to suffer badly but doubled its seats in the 2002 election. Despite being a highly popular government before 2002, many broken election pledges from Fianna Fail, and its own failure due to economic circumstances to bring about its proposed increase in the number of police have made its new administration extremely unpopular.

Although unable to regain the 14 seats it won in the 1980s, the party is said to "punch well above its weight at government level" and it remains to be seen if the party's influence will grow or diminish as time goes on.

See also

List of political parties in Ireland

External Link

Official web site

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