President Mary McAleese and former Taoiseach Charles Haughey are among the many people to pay tribute at the funeral of Kerry North Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) and former minister, Tom McEllistrim, on February 27, 2000.
Born in Boherbee, County Kerry on January 15, 1926, McEllistrim is the son of the Fianna Fáil politician and Irish War of Independence veteran, Tom McEllistrim. He succeeds his father when he is elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for the Kerry North constituency at the 1969 general election. At the 1977 general election he is elected along with his running mate Kit Ahern. This is the first time that Fianna Fáil wins two seats in the three seat Kerry North constituency. McEllistrim, who is given much credit for this feat, is disappointed not to receive a promotion to a Minister of State.
McEllistrim becomes disillusioned with the Taoiseach and party leader Jack Lynch from then and begins to believe that Charles Haughey is the right candidate for the party leadership. He believes that Lynch is about to retire and is particularly uncomfortable at the thought of George Colley succeeding Lynch. Like his father before him he believes Colley is not right for the role of leader of the party. He is particularly vocal with regard to party policy towards Northern Ireland and, as he sees it, Lynch’s apparent lack of sympathy towards the northern nationalist community.
McEllistrim is a member of the so-called “gang of five” along with Seán Doherty, Mark Killilea Jnr, Jackie Fahey and Albert Reynolds who start a lobbying campaign in favour of Haughey on the backbenches of the party. After Lynch loses two by-elections in his native County Cork he resigns as party leader in December 1979. The leadership contest is called two days later and is a two-way race between Haughey and Colley. Haughey wins the leadership contest by a decisive margin and McEllistrim is rewarded by being appointed Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works. He serves as a Minister of State again in 1982, this time at the Department of Fisheries and Forestry.
McEllistrim loses his seat at the 1987 general election by four votes to Dick Spring. After being nominated to Seanad Éireann he regains his seat at the 1989 general election but does not retain it at the 1992 general election when he loses to constituency colleague Denis Foley.
McEllistrim dies aged 74 on February 25, 2000. His son, Tom McEllistrim, is a TD for Kerry North from 2002 to 2011.