1998 – An historic union between Labour and Democratic Left is agreed.

Unveiled by the two top negotiators, Labour’s deputy leader Brendan Howlin and DL Deputy Eamon Gilmore, the merger proposal will go before Labour’s General Council and DL’s Executive for ratification.

In the 1997 general election Democratic Left lost two of its six seats, both of its by-election victors being unseated. The party won 2.5% of the vote. The party also was in significant financial debt because of a lack of access to public funds due to its size. Between 1998 and 1999 the party entered discussions with the Labour Party which culminated in the parties merger in 1999, keeping the name of the larger partner but excluding members in Northern Ireland from organising. This left Gerry Cullen, their councillor in Dungannon Borough Council, in a state of limbo, representing a party for whom he could no longer seek election. The launch of the merged party was in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Labour Party leader Ruairi Quinn remained leader of the unified party, while De Rossa took up the largely titular position of party president. Only 10% of Democratic Left delegates at the special conference had voted against the merger. In 1999 De Rossa successfully contested the European Parliament election in Dublin. He held his Dáil seat until he stood down at the 2002 general election. He successfully held his European Parliament seat in the 2004 election and 2009 election.

In 2002, the former Democratic Left TDs Pat Rabbitte and Liz McManus were elected as Labour Party leader and deputy leader respectively. Of the 38 Labour Party TDs currently in the Dáil, 6 (Pat Rabbitte, Ciarán Lynch, Seán Sherlock, Eamon Gilmore, Eric Byrne and Kathleen Lynch) are former members of the Democratic Left. The independent TD Catherine Murphy is also a former member. When Rabbite stepped down as Labour leader after the 2007 general election, Gilmore was elected unopposed as his successor.

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