Dempsey: talks

TALKS have taken place between the PDs and Fianna Fáil about a deal that would see PD Oireachtas members, councillors and support staff joining the main government party.

While the PDs are publicly stressing this weekend that "a phase of analysis" is taking place to consider the party's future, senior figures – including all four members of the parliamentary party – privately accept that the party has no future.

It is understood they may even have reached agreement on this point a number of weeks ago, prompting the beginning of talks with Fianna Fáil. The Sunday Tribune has learned that the party hierarchy has already sought legal and financial advice on the implications of winding- up the party.

The parliamentary party is due to meet tomorrow and there will be a crunch meeting between parliamentary party members and PD councillors in Newbridge on Tuesday night to effectively decide the fate of the party.

While a number of councillors are keen for the PDs to continue, and are angry at how they have been left out of the loop, sources say it would be unthinkable for the PDs to continue without its Oireachtas members.

"It's absolutely over. The PDs are over," one senior figure told the Sunday Tribune.

While other party figures are reluctant to acknowledge this even privately to the media, it is understood that health minister Mary Harney bluntly told last Thursday night's meeting of the PD National Executive that the party was over and it was time to face up to reality.

Informal talks have taken place with Fianna Fáil – in particular with transport minister Noel Dempsey – and the outline of an agreement has been drawn up that would see party figures join Fianna Fáil. However, PD sources stressed that each individual in the party will be free to make up their own mind about their future.

However, they expect Noel Grealish, Fiona O'Malley and possibly leader Ciaran Cannon – who is said to be uncertain about what the next step should be and who may also be wooed by Fine Gael – and a number of councillors to join Fianna Fáil.

Former leader Mary Harney will not join Fianna Fáil but will remain on as an independent minister and will be allowed to choose her time of departure from the cabinet.

It is understood Harney secured an agreement from Taoiseach Brian Cowen that Grealish would not be unveiled as a Fianna Fáil TD at the FF parliamentary party get-together in Galway tomorrow.

But it now appears certain that when Grealish does join Fianna Fáil, it will be as part of a group of PDs, effectively subsuming the party into Fianna Fáil. A number of party figures feel Grealish has been unfairly blamed for the current situation, pointing out that other senior figures have believed for some time that the party had no future.

The desire of the party hierarchy to have a dignified and orderly wind-up of the party may yet be challenged by councillors at Tuesday night's meeting.