seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Garrett FitzGerald Becomes 8th Taoiseach of Ireland

garret-fitzgeraldGarret FitzGerald succeeds Charles Haughey to become the eighth Taoiseach of Ireland on June 30, 1981. He serves in the position from June 1981 to March 1982 and December 1982 to March 1987.

FitzGerald is born into a very politically active family in Ballsbridge, Dublin on February 9, 1926, during the infancy of the Irish Free State. His father, Desmond FitzGerald, is the free state’s first Minister for External Affairs. He is educated at the Jesuit Belvedere College, University College Dublin and King’s Inns, Dublin, and qualifies as a barrister. Instead of practicing law, however, in 1959 he becomes an economics lecturer in the department of political economy at University College, Dublin, and a journalist.

FitzGerald joins Fine Gael, attaching himself to the liberal wing of the party. and in 1969 is elected to Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament. He later gives up his university lectureship to become Minister for Foreign Affairs in the coalition government of Liam Cosgrave (1973–1977). When the coalition government is resoundingly defeated in the 1977 Irish general election, Cosgrave yields leadership of Fine Gael to FitzGerald. In his new role as Leader of the Opposition and party leader, he proceeds to modernize and strengthen the party at the grass roots. He briefly loses power in 1982 when political instability triggers two snap elections.

By the time of the 1981 Irish general election, Fine Gael has a party machine that can easily match Fianna Fáil. The party wins 65 seats and forms a minority coalition government with the Labour Party and the support of a number of Independent TDs. FitzGerald is elected Taoiseach on June 30, 1981. To the surprise of many FitzGerald excluded Richie Ryan, Richard Burke and Tom O’Donnell, former Fine Gael stalwarts, from the cabinet.

In his prime ministry, FitzGerald pushes for liberalization of Irish laws on divorce, abortion, and contraception and also strives to build bridges to the Protestants in Northern Ireland. In 1985, during his second term, he and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sign the Anglo-Irish (Hillsborough) Agreement, giving Ireland a consultative role in the governing of Northern Ireland. After his party loses in the 1987 Irish general election, he resigns as its leader and subsequently retires in 1992.

On May 5, 2011, it is reported that FitzGerald is seriously ill in a Dublin hospital. Newly-elected Fine Gael Taoiseach Enda Kenny sends his regards and calls him an “institution.” On May 6 he is put on a ventilator. On May 19, after suffering from pneumonia, he dies at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin at the age of 85.

In a statement, Irish President Mary McAleese hails FitzGerald as “a man steeped in the history of the State who constantly strove to make Ireland a better place for all its people.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny pays homage to “a truly remarkable man who made a truly remarkable contribution to Ireland.” Henry Kissinger, the former United States Secretary of State, who serves as an opposite number to FitzGerald in the 1970s, recalls “an intelligent and amusing man who was dedicated to his country.”

FitzGerald’s death occurs on the third day of Queen Elizabeth II‘s state visit to the Republic of Ireland, an event designed to mark the completion of the Northern Ireland peace process that had been “built on the foundations” of FitzGerald’s Anglo-Irish Agreement with Margaret Thatcher in 1985. In a personal message, the Queen offers her sympathies and says she is “saddened” to learn of FitzGerald’s death.

On his visit to Dublin, United States President Barack Obama offers condolences on FitzGerald’s death. He speaks of him as “someone who believed in the power of education; someone who believed in the potential of youth; most of all, someone who believed in the potential of peace and who lived to see that peace realised.”

FitzGerald is buried at Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill, Dublin.

FitzGerald is the author of a number of books, including Planning in Ireland (1968), Towards a New Ireland (1972), Unequal Partners (1979), All in a Life: An Autobiography (1991), and Reflections on the Irish State (2003).


Leave a comment

Pro-Abortion Dutch Ship “Aurora” Sails into Dublin Docks

aurora-the-abortion-shipPro-choice activists sail into Dublin docks aboard the controversial pro-abortion Dutch ship Aurora on June 14, 2001. Although the trawler is equipped to carry out abortions, the purpose of its visit to Ireland is to fuel debate on the need for Irish legislation to provide women with choice.

Abortion is perhaps the last taboo in Irish society. The question of abortion still has the power to unleash emotive arguments among both pro-life and pro-choice camps. The arrival of the Aurora thrusts the issue back into the frontline of public debate.

The 1990s are a time of spectacular change in the Republic of Ireland, where the will of the Roman Catholic church traditionally has had a direct influence on family life. Contraception became widely available and a referendum overturned the constitutional bar on divorce. But abortion on Irish soil remains outlawed in all but the most extreme circumstances. As it stands, a woman is only entitled to have her pregnancy terminated if otherwise she is likely to commit suicide. Pro-choice campaigners call the law hypocritical and point to the fact that every year an estimated 6,300 women travel across the Irish Sea to Great Britain, where they pay up to £1,000 to have the procedure done privately.

The 35-metre ship, a cannibalised Dutch deep-sea fishing boat, is chartered by the feminist action group Women on Waves, with the aim of carrying out abortions on board. A shipping container which has been converted into an abortion clinic, complete with gynaecological chair, has been welded to the deck of the Aurora. The mobile clinic is capable of carrying out 20 operations a day.

Originally, the ship had planned to sail 12 miles out into international waters, where it would carry out the terminations. Once there, doctors on board would also be able to distribute the RU486 abortion pill. But a question mark hangs over the mission after it is revealed that Dutch authorities did not issue the floating clinic with the appropriate paperwork that would allow it to carry out abortions.

While the Aurora‘s voyage makes news beyond Irish shores, reaction among pro-life campaigners in Ireland is mostly muted. Many feel that by keeping quiet they will starve the mission of publicity. But some organisations, such as Human Life International Ireland (HLII), do speak out. HLII has plans to launch what it calls a “Life” boat to shadow the Aurora. Spokesman for the group, David Walshe, says the aim is not to protest but to act as “a non-confrontational witness to the sanctity of human life.”

Until 1983, abortion is outlawed in Ireland under a 19th Century act instituted during British rule. In 1983 a constitutional amendment is enacted that outlaws abortion in all circumstances. But in 1992 the Supreme Court of Ireland pronounces that if a woman were suicidal she would be entitled to a termination. The law has remained largely unchanged since then and the Irish government shows no appetite for tackling the issue head-on.

(From: “Abortion ship in stormy waters,” BBC News Online, June 14, 2001)


Leave a comment

Founding of the Progressive Democrats

progressive-democratsProgressive Democrats is founded on December 21, 1985 by Desmond O’Malley, Mary Harney, and politicians who had split from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The party is a member of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR). Its youth wing is the Young Progressive Democrats.

The Progressive Democrats take liberal positions on divorce, contraception, and other social issues. The party also supports economic liberalisation, advocating measures such as lower taxation, fiscal conservatism, privatisation, and welfare reform. It enjoys an impressive début at the 1987 general election, winning 14 seats in Dáil Éireann and capturing almost 12 per cent of the popular vote to temporarily surpass the Labour Party as Ireland’s third-largest political party.

Although the Progressive Democrats never again win more than 10 seats in the Dáil, they form coalition governments with Fianna Fáil during the 26th Dáil (1989–92), the 28th Dáil (1997–2002), the 29th Dáil (2002–07) and the 30th Dáil (2007–09). These successive years as the government’s junior coalition partner gives the party an influence on Irish politics and economics disproportionate to its small size. In particular, the party has been credited with shaping the low-tax, pro-business environment that contributes to Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economic boom during the 1990s and 2000s, as well as blame for contributing to the subsequent Irish financial and economic crisis.

On November 8, 2008 the party begins the process of disbanding and is formally dissolved on November 20, 2009. The two Progressive Democrat politicians elected to the 30th Dáil, Mary Harney and Noel Grealish, continue to support the government as independent Teachta Dálas (TD), and Mary Harney also continues as Minister for Health and Children.