Harney studies economics at Trinity College Dublin and is the first woman auditor of the College Historical Society, popularly referred to as “The Hist.” After graduation she spends a year teaching mathematics and economics at Castleknock College in Dublin. In 1977, her political career begins when she is appointed to Seanad Éireann, becoming the youngest ever member of the Seanad in Ireland. She continues to make history throughout here 34-year career in politics.
Ever ready to challenge the status quo, Harney’s entire political life is characterised by a passion for reform, innovation and enterprise. After seventeen years in government, she reaches the height of her career. She serves as Tánaiste from 1997 to 2006, becomes the first woman to lead a political party in Ireland and holds many important ministerial portfolios. She is also notably the longest serving female Government minister and Teachta Dála (TD) in the state’s history.
Harney’s work in environmental protection leads to major improvement in the air quality in Dublin as she tackles the problem of smog in the capital by making Dublin a smokeless fuel city. By founding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) she leads a unified response among all 31 local authorities in their responsibility towards licensing and monitoring environmental standards. She establishes the first recycling initiative in the country.
During her tenure as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (1997-2004), Harney promotes indigenous industry and foreign direct investment in the country and leads many trade and investment missions to various parts of the world, working with both national and international companies. She works particularly to enhance the presence of high technology companies both indigenous and international in Ireland. She leads a major drive to increase employment in Ireland through a combination of activation measures for unemployed people and improving incentives for people to take up jobs. She pioneers the first ever major programme of investment in basic research in Ireland through Science Foundation Ireland based on internationally peer-reviewed projects. She establishes the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, avoiding unnecessary legal intervention and in turn dramatically cuts the cost of insurance in Ireland, notably in the areas of Employers’ and Public Liability and Motor Insurance. She strengthens competition law and enforcement and establishes an independent office for corporate enforcement.
As Minister for Health and Children (2004-2011), Harney begins the move towards a unified Health Service by replacing a number of politically-dominated Health Boards with the Health Service Executive (HSE). She establishes an independent Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to provide an independent inspector of the delivery of health services in Ireland and leads the reform of cancer services by consolidating them to eight specialist centres. She introduces “Fair Deal,” a financing mechanism to deliver nursing home care for the elderly. She reforms the regulation of the Medical and Pharmacy Professions, introducing statutory requirements to maintain professional competence. She introduces, for the first time, a lay majority on the boards of the Medical Council of Ireland and of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI).
Harney wins a number of awards as employment minister and for promoting science and innovation. She serves as president of the Council of the European Union during Irish presidency and is a member of International Women’s Forum. She is the youngest member of Seanad Éireann and the longest serving female member of Dáil Éireann. She is the first woman leader of an Irish political party and the first woman to be Tánaiste. She is twice selected as Woman of the Year in Ireland. She is awarded an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin in recognition of her contributions as Minister to science and innovation.
Harney is now the director of a number of private companies in pharmaceutical, healthcare, technology and financial services sectors. She provides business advisory services to a range of companies and organisations. She also undertakes speaking engagements, particularly in a business context. She is the current Chancellor of the University of Limerick.
(From: http://www.maryharney.ie, photo by Steve Humphreys)