seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Brian Cowen, Former Taoiseach & Leader of Fianna Fáil

Brian Cowen, Irish former politician who is Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil from 2008 to 2011, is born in Tullamore, County Offaly, on January 10, 1960.

Cowen is exposed to politics at a young age. His grandfather was a councillor in the Fianna Fáil party, and his father, Bernard Cowen, held a seat in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament). He is an exemplary debater in school and often speaks at his father’s election rallies. He studies at University College Dublin and at the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, where he is trained as a solicitor. His father’s death in 1984 prompts a by-election for the seat he had held in the Dáil. At the age of 24, he captures the seat, becoming one of the youngest members ever to sit in the Dáil.

Cowen’s political mentor is Albert Reynolds, who becomes Taoiseach in 1992 when Fianna Fáil is in a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. He is an outspoken critic of the coalition, famously stating about the Progressive Democrats, “When in doubt, leave them out!” He serves as Minister for Labour (1992–93), and in 1993, after the breakup of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats government, he helps to negotiate the short-lived coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party. He then serves as Minister for Transport, Energy, and Communications (1993–94), leaving office after Fianna Fáil is forced into opposition by the formation of a Fine Gael–Labour–Democratic Left coalition.

During Fianna Fáil’s years out of government, Cowen serves successively as opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (1994–97) and Spokesperson for Health (1997). Following elections in 1997, Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern forms a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats, and the party once again returns to power. Cowen serves as Minister for Health and Children (1997–2000), Minister for Foreign Affairs (2000–04), and Minister for Finance (2004–08). In June 2007 he was appointed Tánaiste.

Cowen is known for his sharp tongue and sometimes rough-hewn manner, but he is also recognized for his fierce intelligence, wit, and jovial demeanour. A combative politician and loyal party member, he is for many years seen as an obvious successor to Ahern. In April 2008, amid an investigation into possible past financial misconduct, Ahern announces that he will resign as Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil the following month. Cowen, who had remained supportive of Ahern throughout, is elected Leader of Fianna Fáil in April 2008. He becomes Taoiseach the following month and is faced with leading the country amid the global financial crisis that creates Ireland’s worst economy since the 1930s.

Cowen’s government oversees the bailout of Ireland’s banking system, which had been thrown into crisis by the collapse of the housing market, but the rescue comes at the cost of a skyrocketing deficit. As the country’s economic difficulties deepen, he seeks a cure that he hopes would obviate the need of foreign intervention, proposing an increase in income taxes and cuts in services. In November 2010, however, as concern for Ireland’s financial stability grows among its eurozone partners, he agrees to accept a bailout of more than $100 million from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. There is concern in Ireland that one condition for foreign aid might be an increase in Ireland’s comparatively low corporate taxes. The Green Party, Fianna Fáil’s junior partner in the governing coalition, responds to the situation by calling for early elections.

In mid-January 2011 Cowen’s leadership of Fianna Fáil is challenged by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, partly in response to rumours that had swirled of a golf course meeting that had taken place between the Taoiseach and the former head of the Anglo Irish Bank before the government’s bailout of the Irish banking industry. He survives a leadership vote, but about one-third of the party’s parliamentary bloc votes against him. In a rapid succession of events that occur over the course of a few days, an unsuccessful reshuffle of the cabinet follows the resignation of six cabinet ministers, after which Cowen calls for an election to be held on March 11 and then announces that he will step down as party leader but continue as caretaker Taoiseach until the election. The Green Party then withdraws from the ruling coalition, forcing an even earlier election. Waiting until the parliament passes a finance bill that is necessary to meet the conditions of an International Monetary Fund–European Union loan but which imposes austerity measures that had proved very unpopular with much of the Irish public, he officially calls the election for February 25. Martin takes over as the Leader of Fianna Fáil, which suffers a crushing defeat in the election at the hands of Fine Gael.

In May 2014, Cowen becomes part of the board of Topaz Energy. He is appointed to the board of Beacon Hospital in February 2015. In July 2017, he is conferred with an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland. During his 50-minute acceptance speech he criticises the EU for its behaviour towards Ireland during the financial crisis and expresses regret that so many jobs were lost during the recession. Following the conferring ceremony, the NUI faces considerable public criticism for deciding to make the award to Cowen. Former (and founding) President of the University of Limerick, Edward M. Walsh, announces that he will hand back his own honorary doctorate in protest, and does so on November 14, 2018.

On July 5, 2019, Cowen is admitted to Beacon Hospital after suffering a major brain hemorrhage. He is then transferred to St. Vincent’s University Hospital where he spends five months before transferring to a physical rehabilitation facility. As of late 2020, while he is still in hospital following a stroke the previous year, he has been making steady progress.


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Birth of Charlie McCreevy, Fianna Fáil Politician

Charles McCreevy, former Fianna Fáil politician, is born in Sallins, County Kildare, on September 30, 1949. He serves as European Commissioner for Internal Market from 2004 to 2010, Minister for Finance from 1997 to 2004, Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communication from 1993 to 1994 and Minister for Social Welfare from 1992 to 1993. He also serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Kildare constituency (and later the Kildare North constituency) from 1977 to 2004.

McCreevy is educated locally at Naas by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, and later at the fee paying Franciscan Gormanston College. He studies Commerce at University College Dublin and goes on to become a chartered accountant. His family background is modest, his father and ancestors since the late 18th century are lock-keepers on the Grand Canal, a job carried on by his mother after the death of his father, when McCreevy is four years old.

McCreevy’s political career begins with when he wins a seat in the Kildare constituency at the 1977 Irish general election, which is a landslide for Charles Haughey‘s supporters in Fianna Fáil and he is re-elected at every subsequent election until he joins the European Commission. Between 1979 and 1985, he serves as an elected member of the Kildare County Council.

In the 1979 Fianna Fáil leadership election, McCreevy strongly supports the controversial Charles Haughey, who narrowly wins the post. However, in a time of severe budgetary difficulties for Ireland, he soon becomes disillusioned with the new Taoiseach and his fiscal policies. In October 1982, he launches a motion of no-confidence in the party leader, which evolves into a leadership challenge by Desmond O’Malley. In an open ballot and supported by only 21 of his 79 colleagues, the motion fails and McCreevy is temporarily expelled from the parliamentary party.

In later years O’Malley is expelled from Fianna Fáil itself and forms the Progressive Democrats (PDs), espousing conservative fiscal policies. Although considered ideologically close to the PDs, and a personal friend of its erstwhile leader, Mary Harney, McCreevy chooses to remain a member of Fianna Fáil, where he eventually serves in joint FF-PD Governments.

For his first 15 years as TD, while Haughey remains leader, McCreevy remains a backbencher. In 1992, Albert Reynolds becomes Taoiseach and McCreevy is appointed Minister for Social Welfare. In this role, he is principally remembered for a set of 12 cost-cutting measures, collectively termed the “dirty dozen”, which are arguably minor in their direct impact but provide a major political headache for his party in the 1992 Irish general election.

In 1993, McCreevy becomes Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communication, which he holds until the government falls in December 1994. In opposition under new Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern, he is appointed Opposition Spokesperson for Finance. In this role he is viewed as actively pro-enterprise, anti-spending and a key advocate for tax cuts.

In 1997, Fianna Fáil returns to power and McCreevy becomes Minister for Finance. His period coincides with the era of the “Celtic Tiger,” which sees the rapid growth of the Irish economy due to social partnership between employers, government and unions, increased female participation in the labour force, decades of tuition-free secondary education, targeting of foreign direct investment, a low corporation tax rate, an English-speaking workforce only five time-zones from New York City, and membership of the European Union – which provides payments for infrastructural development, export access to the European Single Market and a Eurozone country. He is a consistent advocate of cutting taxes and spending.

In 2004, McCreevy is selected by the Government of Ireland to replace David Byrne as Ireland’s European Commissioner. He is appointed to the Internal Market and Services portfolio, by President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso. At his confirmation hearings in the European Parliament MEPs describe him as “fluent and relaxed.” He also informs them that he has campaigned for the ratification of every European Treaty since 1972.

In October 2007, McCreevy, commenting on the Northern Rock bank’s loss of investor confidence, claims that banking regulations in the UK, which forces banks to be open to scrutiny from outside investors, caused the panic. He says if access to the banks dealings had been restricted, then the trouble could have been avoided.

Irish constitutional law requires a referendum to alter the constitution for such a major change as the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon. Interviewed beforehand, McCreevy says that he has not read the Treaty in full himself, though he understands and endorses it. The referendum is held on June 12, 2008 and the Irish electorate does not approve the Treaty. He is heavily criticised in the European Parliament and by the leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who demands on June 17, 2008, that McCreevy be removed as a European Commissioner. Schulz slightly misquotes McCreevy, whom he stated had contributed to Ireland’s rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon with remarks during the referendum campaign that no “sane person” would read the document.

Following McCreevy’s departure from the commission, he is forced to resign from the board of a new banking firm, NBNK Investments, after an EU ethics committee finds a conflict of interest with his work as a European Commissioner in charge of financial regulation.