Pat Rabbitte is a former leading member of the pro-Kremlin Workers Party who left it after the fall of the Soviet Union to found the more mainstream Democratic Left. In November 1994 he played a major role in bringing down the Fianna Fail/Labour coalition government when he suggested in the Irish Parliament that there was a conspiracy between the Catholic Primate Cardinal Cahal Daly and the Attorney General Harry Whelehan to protect paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth.
Although only a member of a minor party (and not its leader) Pat Rabbitte pressed for a full Ministerial portfolio in the new coalition government which replaced the one he had helped to bring down. He was placated with the post of Junior Minister with enhanced responsibilities. This allowed him to attend Cabinet meetings.
In November 2005, Liz O'Connell a Minister of State and Progressive Democrat TD made a statement to the Irish Parliament following the publication of the Ferns Report which dealt with sexual abuse of children by clergy in the Diocese of Ferns. The statement called for an end to the "Special Relationship" between Church and State and included the following:
The many battles, mostly lost, between State and Church. ........
The non-extradition of Brendan Smyth.
The related intrigue in the AG's Office, and the inactions of Official A, issues never really resolved as to any Church's involvement."
It was a restatement of Pat Rabbitte's allegations based on no evidence whatsoever but taking advantage of the public mood which was hostile to the Church. I wrote to Liz O'Donnell concerning her claims and the corresponence is well worth reading. However the best comment was made in a letter to the Irish Independent at the time from a Mr Michael Leahy:
"Ms O'Donnell's description of the special relationship that exists between the Catholic Church and the State almost beggars belief. For at least 35 years the only thing special about Catholicism in Ireland is that it is the only major religion practised in the country which politicians have felt free to deride, insult and offend with impunity and without fear of condemnation by a press as hostile to religion as it is hostile to truth."
In 2005 Ms O'Donnell was indeed as hostile to religion as she was to truth. It is a trait she shared with Pat Rabbitte who was then leader of the Labour Party. Apart from that, the Progressive Democrats and the Labour Party had little in common!