Mary Harney has announced she is to step down as leader of the Progressive Democrats, the junior partner in Ireland’s coalition government.
The key figure in the succession battle will be right-wing scourge of Sinn Fein Michael McDowell. The main centrist alternative seems to be Liz O’Donnell according to the buzz at politics.ie and Slugger.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he wants the current coalition to continue until the next election, due by July next year.
In the short term, political instability in both London and Dublin
looks like good news for the DUP, who already seem to be trying to spin
out negotiations on a deal with Sinn Fein until Gordon Brown takes
over from Tony Blair.
Having said that the peace process has traditionally been a prerogative
of Ahern’s Fianna Fail, so unless there are cracks in the coalition,
the impact may be limited.
However, if the PDs make a mess of the leadership transition, the
current coalition is unlikely to re-emerge after the next election.
That could see the opposition Fine Gael-Labour-Green alliance returned
If Fianna Fail do emerge strong enough to seek a new partner, Sinn Fein
could become a factor. However, FF will probably try to woo Labour away
from Fine Gael before considering a deal with SF, and in those
circumstances I would expect them to succeed.