Building The Foundations

January-April 1986

Deputies Robert Molloy, Pearse Wyse, along with Senators Tim Conway and Helena McAuliffe joined the Party

March 1986

Pat Cox and Stephen O’Byrnes appointed General Secretary and Director of Policy/Press Officer respectively

April 1996

Deputy Michael Keating joined the Party

24/25 May 1986

The Party’s first National Conference was held at the National Stadium, Dublin.

Conference outlined the Party’s policy priorities in the economic area to boost enterprise and employment by reducing the role of the State through cutting taxation, public expenditure and state borrowings, and also to commercialise various State enterprises and services. A tax reform programme of a 25% standard rate, with a single higher rate, and the abolition of employee PRSI over five years was outlined.

Other Policy Priorities:

Abolition of the Seanad

Public Service Reform including Government Departments, the legislature, the Local Government system and fewer TDs.

Local Authority Housing Stock to be sold to occupiers on attractive terms.

Privatisation proceeds to be reserved exclusively to reduce debt burden, to improve efficiency in the delivery of public services and to reduce calls on the State to capitalise semi-State agencies.

A Self-Assessment Tax System for the self-employed, and a concentration of revenue resources on tackling tax evasion and the black economy.

PRSI to be replaced by a flat rate 5% social security tax integrated in the wider tax system to help overcome the tax wedge between the cost of employing and paying people.

Social Welfare rationalise the massive range of welfare schemes, e.g. a single parent allowance to replace deserted wife benefit, deserted wife allowance, prisoner’s wife allowance, widow’s non-contributory pension and unmarried mother’s allowance.

The Appeals system to be totally restructured. Welfare abuse to be tackled and savings to go to those in real need

Social Employment Schemes to be extended to every local authority area to enable all unemployed people to have the dignity of work, even on a part-time basis.

Law Reform Programme Custodial sentences only as a last resort. Seize assets of drug dealers, racketeers and organised criminals.
Abolition of the Death Penalty. Suicide no longer to be considered a criminal offence. Consolidation of the criminal law in one modern statute.

Family Law Removal of Constitutional ban on divorce. Raise the minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18. Remove the status of illegitimacy. Permit adoption of legitimate children. Establish family courts and counselling services.

Northern Ireland Support Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Articles Two and Three to be redrawn to express an aspiration “for unity to be achieved by peaceful and democratic means.”

Maximum cross-border economic co-operation to be pursued

Support for non-denominational education at all levels in Northern Ireland

June 1986

Progressive Democrats campaigned for support for the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution to remove the Divorce Ban.

October 1986

Publication by the Party of major economic document “A Nation that Works – Blueprint for Jobs, Fair Taxation and Social Justice”, which elaborated on the policy outline of the First Conference.

This was the first time an Opposition Party published a detailed economic programme, including £370 million itemised in public expenditure savings to combat State overspending and redress huge upsurge in taxation levels.

Costings on 25% and 40% Income Tax Regime over five years set down, along with the abolition of employee PRSI; crack-down on tax evasion and black economy by the seizure of bank accounts and attachment of earnings; redeployment of extra personnel to Revenue; and introduction of a national identity card scheme for everyone over 16.

Reduction in numbers of Ministers of State, and abolition of Ministerial Pensions for serving TDs; accelerated tenant-purchase scheme for all local authorities; merging of various semi-State agencies and reduction of capital grants to industry.


February 1987

At the Party’s first General Election, the Progressive Democrats won 14 seats with 11.8% of the national vote. Those elected were:

Peader Clohessy Limerick East

Anne Colley Dublin South

Martin Cullen Waterford

Martin Gibbons Carlow Kilkenny

Mary Harney Dublin South West

Michael Keating Dublin Central

Geraldine Kennedy Dún Laoghaire

John McCoy Limerick West

Michael McDowell Dublin South East

Bobby Molloy Galway West

Des O’Malley Limerick East

Pat O’Malley Dublin West

Máirín Quill Cork North Central

Pearse Wyse Cork South Central


March 1987

New minority Fianna Fáil Government reverses its pre-election policies and adopts Progressive Democrat type policy to get public spending under control.

May 1987

Progressive Democrats Private Members Motion in Dáil to reform health services by protecting front-line medicine; rationalising eight Health Boards and abolishing Local Health Committees. Proper accounting and management systems also urged.

June 1987

Party supports Single European Act referendum to enable Ireland to participate fully in rapidly uniting Europe.

October 1987

Party introduces Private Members Bill in Dáil to end payment of Ministerial pensions to former Ministers who are either TDs, MEPs, Judges or President of Ireland.

Des O’Malley and Bobby Molloy surrender their Annual Ministerial pensions worth £8,800 and £7,100 respectively. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael vote against the measure.

22 November 1987

Mary Harney TD and Stephen O’Byrnes represent Progressive Democrats at Enniskillen Memorial Service on the Sunday following the Enniskillen Massacre.

January 1988

Party publishes “Draft Constitution for a New Republic” – the most comprehensive Constitutional document produced since the 1937 Constitution. Guiding principle is to build a society based on pluralism, tolerance and respect.
Published in Irish and English, with an accompanying detailed explanatory document set out the rationale for all the particular proposals and changes.
“Draft Constitution for a New Republic”.

May 1988

Progressive Democrats Private Members Bill to abandon payment of planning compensation where permission is refused to speculative developers. Defeated in the Dáil.

July 1988

Publication of comprehensive Youth Affairs Policy, “A Better Tomorrow”

November 1988

Publication of second major economic policy document, “Employment, Enterprise and Tax Reform – A Five Year Programme of Tax Reform to get Ireland Working”.

It sets out pro-jobs policy and highlights the tax wedge and other disincentives to employment creation. Restates Party’s 25% and 40% income tax policy, and sets out detailed five-year costings to achieve same.

Party proposes expanding tax base from corporate taxation, including introduction of a minimum tax; local government reform; detailed measures to tackle black economy and privatisation of some state assets, and commercialisation of others to ensure greater competition in delivery of key public services to the consumer.

November 1988

Party Private Members Bill to establish Independent Agency to disburse all National Lottery funds. Bill defeated due to the abstention of the Labour Party.

January 1989

Party publishes Bill to abolish Domestic Ground Rents.

February 1989

Party introduces Competition Bill entitled the Enterprise (Competition and Consumer Protection) Bill in the Dáil to enshrine Articles 85 & 86 of the Treaty of Rome in domestic Irish Law. This would outlaw monopolies and cartels, and provide competition laws to generate greater economic activity and consumer fairness.

Bill defeated by the opposition of Fianna Fáil and Left Wing Parties.

March 1989

Progressive Democrats select Euro-Election candidates. Pat Cox in Munster; John Dardis in Leinster; Mary Harney in Dublin and Bobby Molloy in Connacht/Ulster.

April – May 1989

Progressive Democrats in Dáil expose discrepancy between export credit insurance on beef for Iraq, and fact of it being greater than total value of all Irish exports to the country in 1987 and 1988; and virtual monopoly on such insurance by Goodman Group.

June 1989

General Election – Party wins 6% of vote, and six seats.

European Election – Party wins 11.9% of national vote. Pat Cox tops poll in Munster.