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13 May 2004 Edition

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And then there were none

So Pat Cox won't be running in the EU Parliament elections and once again his former PD comrades have also spurned putting candidates before the public for this poll. When you add in the refusal of senior Progressive Democrats members to campaign in Michael McDowell's citizenship referendum, you evidently have a political party who don't want to participate in politics.

They do want to exercise power and it seems that being a Minister is the only job a Progressive Democrats member will deem to hold. How else can you explain the tenacity with which the party clings to office, despite endless platitudes about high standards in public office they have sat in government as Fianna Fáil TDs fall about them, exposed as either corrupt or guilty of tax fraud or both.

And last week it was the turn of Progressive Democrat Minister Tom Parlon to explain why there were multiple breaches of tendering procedures in the granting of contracts by his department during the EU presidency. Ironically, Parlon opted to join the PDs because only they could guarantee him a Ministerial post, not because of any ideology.

The Progressive Democrats once flaunted their political credentials as being a modern European liberal party, yet now they have even turned their backs on this European model of being a pro-market, pro-individual rights party that railed against the "nanny state".

They have conclusively abandoned any notion of being "progressive", whatever they thought this meant and indeed their self-imposed exclusion from elections and referendum campaigns means that they are clearly not democrats either.

Pat Cox stood out as the sole member of the original PD stable who developed any sort of European presence or policy and at some level his EU activities were driven by his exclusion from the party leadership.

This reality and the clear divisions within the Progressive Democrats over the citizenship referendum show the party up as a collection of individuals without a common ideological base.

Mary Harney and Michael McDowell devote considerable amounts of time to telling us what's wrong with Sinn Féin and republicanism in general. Last month, McDowell went as far as to tell our party we could never be true republicans.

Maybe they need to devote some time to telling the public what it is they stand for.

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