Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 11:12 UK

Coalition party picks new leader

Senator Ciaran Cannon and Mary Harney
Senator Ciaran Cannon is the new PD leader

A party in the Republic of Ireland's coalition government has elected a new leader.

Senator Ciaran Cannon, 42, from County Galway, replaces the Progressive Democrats' leader, Mary Harney.

Senator Cannon narrowly beat leadership rival Senator Fiona O'Malley with 51% to 49% of the party vote.

At the Irish general election last May the party lost six of their eight Dail seats and currently have just two TDs (members of parliament).

Acting leader Mary Harney, who also serves as Health Minister, took over the post in May when the then Justice Minister and party chief Michael McDowell lost his seat.

Senator Cannon unsuccessfully contested the 2007 general election for Galway East polling just over 3,300 first preference votes.

In 2000 he was appointed national administrator and later chief executive of the Irish Pilgrimage Trust, a nationwide charity of 6,000 volunteers caring for young people with special needs.

Mr Cannon said the task of rebuilding the PDs was a daunting one.

He said despite the view it may be impossible, within the party ranks "there is passion, commitment, talent and knowledge to stage a major comeback".

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