was a socialist political party
active primarily in the Republic of Ireland
, but also in Northern Ireland
between 1992 and 1999. It came into being after a split with The Workers Party
and, after just seven years in existence, it merged into the Irish Labour Party
Democratic Left was formed after a split in the Workers Party
, which in turn had its origins in the 1970 split between Official Sinn Féin
and Provisional Sinn Féin
. A large minority of the Workers Party left the party in 1992 after their attempt to amend its constitution (to break all alleged links with the Official IRA
and replace its democratic centralist
structures with parliamentarism) fell just short of the required two-thirds majority at a special congress. The members who left included the party leader Proinsias De Rossa
and five more of the party's seven members of Dáil Éireann
, Eamon Gilmore
, Eric Byrne
, Pat McCartan
and Joe Sherlock
). The party's President for most of the previous 30 years, Tomás Mac Giolla
refused to join the breakaway and remained with the Workers' Party. The new party was provisionally named New Agenda
until its founding conference adopted the name Democratic Left. Proinsias De Rossa became leader of the new party.
Electoral history and participation in government
The party's first contest was the 1992 UK general election
, in which it stood in two Northern Irish constituencies and polled 2,133 votes. The election was fought under the "New Agenda" label.
In the North the party contested elections 1996 for the Northern Ireland Forum but with less than 1% they failed to get any members elected. On the foundation of the Party they did inherit a number of Councilors, Seamus Lynch lost his Belfast Council seat in 1993, G.C. Cullen had been elected for The Workers Party in 1989 in Dungannon Town and Gerry Cullen was elected to Dungannon Borough Council for the Dungannon Town ward in 1993 and 1997 local elections.
In the 1992 Irish general election the party lost two of its six Dáil seats (Eric Byrne narrowly following a week of counting and recounting, Pat McCartan and Joe Sherlock losing their seats, and Liz McManus winning a seat in Wicklow), gaining 2.8% of the vote compared to 5% for the pre-split Workers Party in the preceding general election.
The party subsequently won two seats in by-elections, Eric Byrne regaining his seat in Dublin South Central
and Kathleen Lynch in Cork North Central.
After the collapse of the Fianna Fáil-Labour Party coalition government in 1994, Democratic Left joined the new coalition government with Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Proinsias De Rossa served as Minister for Social Welfare, initiating Ireland's first national anti-poverty strategy.
Merger with Labour
In the 1997 general election
Democratic Left lost two of its six seats, gaining 2.5% of the vote. In 1999, the Democratic Left merged with the Labour Party keeping the name of the larger partner, but excluding members in the Northern Ireland
from organising. This left Gerry Cullen their councilor in Dungannon Borough Council
in a state of limbo
elected for a party he could no longer seek election for. The launch of the merged party
was in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.. Labour Party leader Ruairi Quinn
became leader of the unified party, while De Rossa took up the largely titular position of party president. In 1999 De Rossa successfully contested the European Parliament
election in Dublin
. He held his Dáil seat until 2002, but did not stand for reelection that year. He successfully held his European Parliament seat in 2004.
In 2002, the former Democratic Left TDs Pat Rabbitte and Liz McManus were elected as Labour Party leader and deputy leader respectively. Of the 20 Labour Party TDs currently in the Dáil, 6 (Pat Rabbitte, Liz McManus, Ciarán Lynch, Seán Sherlock, Eamon Gilmore and Kathleen Lynch) are former members of the Democratic Left. When Rabbite stepped down as Labour leader after the 2007 general election, Gilmore was elected unopposed as his successor.