Raphael Patrick “Ray” Burke, disgraced former Fianna Fáil politician, is born on September 30, 1943, in Dublin. He is a former Teachta Dála and government minister who is convicted and imprisoned on charges arising from political corruption in office. Burke is also highly influential in decisions made by Dublin County Council.
Burke’s political career commences when he is elected to Dublin County Council for Fianna Fáil in 1967. He serves as chairman of the council from 1985 to 1987.
Burke is elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1973 general election for the Dublin County North constituency, succeeding his father Patrick J. Burke, who has held the seat for 29 years. Ray Burke represents this constituency and its successor Dublin North until his resignation almost twenty-five years later.
After Fianna Fáil’s landslide victory at the 1977 general election, Burke is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. In October 1980 Burke is promoted to Minister for the Environment, a position he holds until June 1981 and again in the short-lived Fianna Fáil government of 1982. After Fianna Fáil returns to power at the 1987 general election, Burke serves as Minister for Energy, where he makes controversial changes to the legislation governing oil and gas exploration. In 1988, he is appointed Minister for Industry, Commerce and Communications.
Following the formation of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats Coalition in 1989, he becomes Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications. When Albert Reynolds comes to power in 1992, he does not re-appoint Burke to the Cabinet. Following the 1997 general election, Fianna Fáil is back in power and Burke is appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs by new Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Within months of his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs, allegations resurface that Burke has received IR£80,000 from a property developer regarding the former Dublin County Council. Burke denies the allegations but resigns from the Cabinet and from the Dáil on October 7, 1997, after just four months in office.
Having claimed since 1989 that Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) is biased against him, Burke is responsible for controversial legislation that severely limits RTÉ’s ability to collect advertising revenue and allows for the establishment of a series of local radio stations and one independent national radio station, Century Radio. RTÉ is ordered to provide a national transmission service for Century Radio at a price that RTÉ complains is far below the economic cost of providing such a service. Nevertheless, Century Radio fails to gain significant audience share and closes in 1991.
In July 2004 Burke pleads guilty to making false tax returns. The charges arise from his failure to declare for tax purposes the payments that he has received from the backers of Century Radio. On January 24, 2005 he is sentenced to six months in prison for these offences, making him one of the most senior Irish politicians to serve time in prison. He is released in June 2005 after four and a half months, earning a 25% remission of sentence because of good behaviour. He serves his time in Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.