seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

The 1987 Irish General Election

The 1987 Irish general election is held on Tuesday, February 17, 1987, four weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil. The general election takes place in 41 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 166 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.

The general election of 1987 is precipitated by the withdrawal of the Labour Party from the Fine Gael-led government on January 20, 1987. The reason is a disagreement over budget proposals. Rather than attempt to press on with the government’s agenda, the Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael, Garret FitzGerald, decides to dissolve the Dáil. An unusually long period of four weeks is set for the campaign. It is hoped that the electorate will warm to Fine Gael’s budget proposals during the campaign.

Fianna Fáil‘s campaign involves a refusal to make any definite commitments. However, it attempts to convince the electorate that the country will be better under Fianna Fáil. Charles Haughey‘s attitudes toward Northern Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Agreement are both attacked. However, the campaign is mostly fought on economic issues.

The Labour Party decides against any pre-election pact, particularly with Fine Gael. The Progressive Democrats (PD), founded only two years earlier, surpass Labour as the third-biggest political party in the Dáil. Although the majority of the PD party consists of Fianna Fáil defectors, it mainly takes seats from Fine Gael. The Labour Party fails to make any impact with its leader, Dick Spring, almost losing his seat.

In spite of the opinion polls suggesting otherwise, Fianna Fáil once again fails to win an overall majority. However, it is able to form a minority government and Charles Haughey is back for his third and final term as Taoiseach. The Fianna Fáil government of 1987 to 1989 is the last time to date that a government composed only of members of one party has been formed in Ireland.

The newly elected 166 members of the 25th Dáil assemble at Leinster House on March 10, 1987 when a new Taoiseach and a Fianna Fáil minority government are appointed.


Leave a comment

Bill Clinton Begins Four Day Irish Visit

clinton-guildhall-squareFormer U.S. president Bill Clinton begins a four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on May 20, 2001 to try to advance the peace process. He spends time both north and south of the border, fulfilling engagements in Belfast, Derry, Enniskillen and Dublin.

Clinton’s goal is to use his influence to try to enhance the electoral fortunes of the parties that support the Good Friday Agreement, particularly David Trimble‘s Ulster Unionist Party, who are under pressure from Ian Paisley‘s anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Clinton arrives at Farranfore Airport, County Kerry, before heading to a round of golf at Ballybunion Golf Club with the former Irish deputy prime minister and Labour Party leader Dick Spring. He spends the night at Dromoland Castle, County Clare, before two days of public engagements in Dublin.

Trimble has vowed to quit as head of the Stormont Executive, where his party shares power with Sinn Féin, if the Irish Republican Party (IRA) has not started to get rid of its guns by July 1. Paisley, however, has accused Trimble and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of breaking their promises to the people of Northern Ireland by allowing into government a party linked to a terrorist group, without prior arms decommissioning.

While Clinton is no longer the most powerful man in the world, his charisma and his past efforts to keep the peace process moving are still appreciated by many. He receives Northern Ireland political leaders countless times at the White House and gives support and encouragement by phone during difficult periods of the peace talks.

Clinton delivers a lecture at Trinity College Dublin and attends a gala for peace and reconciliation at Dublin Castle, before travelling to Derry and then on to Belfast, where he receives an honorary degree from the former peace talks chairman George Mitchell, now chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast.

The leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), John Hume, who welcomes Clinton to Derry, says the former president has done a great deal of good for all the people of Ireland. But the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader, Peter Robinson, claims that Clinton and Blair could have a negative effect on Trimble’s campaign. “As a unionist, I wouldn’t like to be sitting next to either of them just before an election,” he said. “Blair’s name is associated with the now-broken pledges he wrote on a board here just before the [Good Friday agreement] referendum, so for him to come over and moralise now won’t do much good. And Clinton is so disgraced and powerless that, while he might prop up the nationalist SDLP and Sinn Féin vote, he’ll have no impact on unionists voters.”

(Pictured: Bill Clinton and SDLP leader John Hume at public address at Guildhall Square in Derry. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Chelsea Clinton are in the second row.)


Leave a comment

Funeral of Tom McEllistrim, Fianna Fáil TD

fianna-fail-logoPresident 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.