seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Simon Coveney, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Deputy Leader of Fine Gael

Simon Coveney, Fine Gael politician who has served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Leader of Fine Gael since 2017 and Minister for Defence since 2020, is born in Cork, County Cork, on June 16, 1972.

Coveney is born to Hugh Coveney, a chartered quantity surveyor and later a TD, and Pauline Coveney. His uncle is Archbishop Patrick Coveney. His brother, Patrick, is chief executive of the food corporation Greencore. He is educated locally in Cork, before later attending Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare. He is expelled from the college in Transition Year but ultimately is invited back to complete his full six years there. He repeats his Leaving Certificate in Bruce College in Cork. He subsequently attends University College Cork and Gurteen College, County Tipperary, before completing a BSc in Agriculture and Land Management from Royal Agricultural College, Gloucestershire.

A keen fan of all competitive sport, Coveney plays rugby for Garryowen, Cork Constitution and Crosshaven Rugby Club. In 1997-98, he leads the “Sail Chernobyl Project” which involves sailing a boat 30,000 miles around the world and raising €650,000 for charity. He is a qualified sailing instructor and lifeguard. He spends several years working as an agriculture adviser and farm manager.

Coveney is first elected to Dáil Éireann in a 1998 by-election as a Fine Gael candidate for Cork South-Central. He holds Shadow Ministries in the areas of Drugs and Youth Affairs, Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and Transport. He chairs the Fine Gael Policy Development Committee prior to the 2011 Irish general election.

Coveney is a member of Cork County Council and the Southern Health Board from 1999 to 2003.

Coveney is elected to the European Parliament in 2004 and is a member of the EPP-ED group. He is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. He is the author of the European Parliament’s Annual Report on Human Rights in the World for the year 2004 and again for 2006.

Coveney is named Tánaiste by Leo Varadkar, replacing Frances Fitzgerald, on November 30, 2017, a position he holds until June 27, 2020. He also serves as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government as well as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. For the six month period ending June 2013 he chairs the EU Council of Agriculture & Fisheries Ministers where he is at the forefront regarding EU efforts in respect of Common Agricultural (CAP) as well as Common Fisheries (CFP) Policy reforms. Under his chairmanship both dossiers are progressed significantly, with a reform package for CFP agreed in May 2013 and a reform package for CAP agreed at the end of the Irish Presidency in July. The Defence portfolio is added to his brief on July 11, 2014.

In July 2008, Simon marries his long-time girlfriend Ruth Furney, an IDA Ireland employee. They have three daughters and currently live in Carrigaline, County Cork.


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Resignation of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald resigns from Government in the “national interest” on November 28, 2017, hours ahead of a no-confidence motion in the Dáil threatens to bring down the Government.

Fitzgerald tells a Cabinet meeting she will be “vindicated” by the Disclosures Tribunal led by Justice Peter Charleton, which is examining allegations of the smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sgt. Maurice McCabe.

The Tánaiste tells her colleagues she believes she has done nothing wrong but is resigning to avoid “an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election.” In a statement, she says, “It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve in Government, but I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilising general election at this historically critical time.”

The Tánaiste says she has always sought to act with integrity and responsibility, and is now seeking to place “the national interest ahead of my own personal reputation.” She adds, “I decided that my continuation in office risks destabilising that good work, and so I have decided to step down so that this work may continue and the country can be spared an unnecessary election. It will also allow me to vindicate my good name at the Charleton tribunal, without causing any further distraction to the work of the government. I have always believed in due process and I believe that in the current situation that is becoming increasingly difficult for me. I acted correctly in difficult circumstances and, in fact, did everything that I could to support the search for truth and protect whistleblowers.”

Earlier in the day, Attorney General Séamus Woulfe gives a presentation to the Cabinet insisting it would be “inappropriate and improper” for Fitzgerald to have intervened when she received the emails in 2015.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accepts Fitzgerald’s resignation at the end of the Cabinet meeting and telephones Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to advise him of the development. In a statement in the Dáil, Varadkar says she is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing but the work of Government must not be interrupted. It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing. Frances has been an exemplary member of Government and a loyal colleague.”

Varadkar announces that he is launching an external inquiry into how the “dysfunctional” Department of Justice responded to the emails about Sgt. McCabe. He also has to appoint a new Tánaiste and a new Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Varadkar also announces that Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan is to make a Dáil statement on the controversies surrounding his department. He tells the Dáil that Flanagan will apologise for his department’s failure to answer questions fully in recent weeks and will offer further assurance that questions not answered yet would be answered.

In the evening, Secretary General of the Department of Justice Noel Waters confirms his departure from his position. He is due to resign in February 2018 but confirms he will leave the role immediately. This is a decision he has made on his own, he adds.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael sources say the resignation of Fitzgerald has handed the Fianna Fáil leader a “significant win” and has damaged the Taoiseach. Speaking at his frontbench meeting after the resignation is confirmed, Martin thanks his party for their patience over a difficult few days. He says the focus now needs to be on Brexit and supporting the Government’s stance during the talks scheduled for mid-December.

Fitzgerald had been under intense political pressure in recent days over the handling of the case of Garda whistleblower Sgt McCabe. However, even if the immediate threat of an election has been removed, the crisis has significantly weakened the Government and damaged trust between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which supports the minority Government with a confidence-and-supply arrangement.

Fitzgerald has insisted she was unaware of a legal strategy by former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in 2015 to question the integrity and credibility of Sgt. McCabe at the O’Higgins commission, which was examining allegations of Garda malpractice.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have been seeking the Tánaiste’s resignation, and both table motions of no confidence in her, the first of which is due to have been heard at 8:00 PM that evening.

During the crisis Varadkar stands by Fitzgerald and offers her his full support. However, Fine Gael Teachtaí Dála (TD) and Ministers question Varadkar’s confidence in Fitzgerald in recent days as more details emerge. Fine Gael Ministers react with fury on November 27 when it emerges that Fitzgerald had received three emails on two separate dates notifying her of the legal strategy pursued by O’Sullivan against Sgt. McCabe.

The Department of Justice emails show Fitzgerald was repeatedly told in 2015 about an “aggressive” approach to undermine Sgt. McCabe at the O’Higgins commission. In two separate emails on July 4, 2015, she is advised of media queries about the “aggressive” approach being adopted by former Garda commissioner O’Sullivan and advises how to respond if the media asks her about the matter. It is a senior Department of Justice official who describes the approach as “aggressive.”

The emails reveal that a senior official suggested to Fitzgerald that she should say that it would be “very unfair to Sgt. McCabe” if she was to respond to queries about the commission. This release of emails about the controversy undermines efforts to defuse the row between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over Fitzgerald’s position.

Earlier in the day, Independent Alliance members of Cabinet say they will seek “political accountability” from Fitzgerald. There had been no appetite from within Fine Gael for a general election on the matter, as they fear they will face an intense backlash from voters.

(From: “Frances Fitzgerald resigns in ‘national interest’ to avoid an election” by Sarah Bardon, The Irish Times, http://www.irishtimes.com, November 28, 2017)


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Funeral of Economist Dr. T. K. Whitaker

The funeral of Dr. T. K. Whitaker, former civil servant and economist, takes place in Dublin on January 13, 2017. Regarded as the architect of the modern Irish economy, he dies at age 100 on January 9. President Michael D. Higgins, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Chief Justice Susan Denham, and Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin are among those attending the requiem mass for Dr. Whitaker at Donnybrook Church.

Whitaker is born in Rostrevor, County Down, to Roman Catholic parents on December 8, 1916, and reared in Drogheda, County Louth, in modest circumstances. His mother, Jane O’Connor, comes from Ballyguirey East, Labasheeda, County Clare. His father, Edward Whitaker, hails from County Westmeath and is assistant manager of a linen mill. He receives his primary and secondary education at the local CBS in Drogheda. He studies mathematics at University College Dublin.

In 1956, Whitaker is appointed Secretary of the Department of Finance. His appointment takes place at a time when Ireland’s economy is in deep depression. Economic growth is non-existent, inflation apparently insoluble, unemployment rife, living standards low and emigration at a figure not far below the birth rate. He believes that free trade, with increased competition and the end of protectionism, will become inevitable and that jobs will have to be created by a shift from agriculture to industry and services. He forms a team of officials within the department which produces a detailed study of the economy, culminating in a plan recommending policies for improvement. The plan is accepted by the government and is transformed into a white paper which becomes known as the First Programme for Economic Expansion. Quite unusually this is published with his name attached in November 1958. The programme which becomes known as the “Grey Book” brings the stimulus of foreign investment into the Irish economy. Before devoting himself to poetry, Thomas Kinsella is Whitaker’s private secretary.

In 1977, Taoiseach Jack Lynch nominates Whitaker as a member of the 14th Seanad Éireann. He serves as a Senator from 1977–81, where he sits as an independent Senator.

In 1981, Whitaker is nominated to the 15th Seanad Éireann by Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, where he serves until 1982. FitzGerald also appoints him to chair a Committee of Inquiry into the Irish penal system, and he chairs a Parole Board or Sentence Review Group for several years.

Whitaker also serves as Chancellor of the National University of Ireland from 1976 to 1996. He is also President of the Royal Irish Academy and as such, a member of the Board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland, from 1985 to 1987. He has a very strong love for the Irish language throughout his career and the collection of Irish poetry, An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed 1600–1900, edited by Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella, is dedicated to Whitaker. From 1995–96 he chairs the Constitution Review Group, an independent expert group established by the government, which publishes its report in July 1996.

Whitaker receives many national and international honours and tributes for his achievements during his lifetime, most notably the conferral of “Irishman of the 20th Century” in 2001 and Greatest Living Irish Person in 2002. In November 2014, the Institute of Banking confers an Honorary Fellowship on Whitaker and creates an annual T.K. Whitaker Scholarship in his name. In April 2015, he is presented with a lifetime achievement award by University College Dublin’s Economics Society for his outstanding contribution to Ireland’s economic policy.

In November 2016, to mark his centenary year, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council acknowledges Whitaker’s “outstanding and progressive contribution to Irish public service and to society.” The Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, Cormac Devlin, presents a special award to Whitaker which is accepted by Ken Whitaker on behalf of his father.


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Remembrance Sunday Ceremonies 2016

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald attend Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in Northern Ireland on November 13, 2016, while a cross commemorating Irish soldiers in World War I is dedicated at Dublin‘s Glasnevin Cemetery.

Kenny, who has taken part in the ceremony every year since 2012, lays a wreath of green laurels alongside the many red poppies at the war memorial in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, also attends the event.

Although there are no discussions between the pair, Kenny confirms he will meet with Foster in Dublin on Tuesday, November 15. The pair are also due to meet in Armagh on Friday, November 18 for a North/South ministerial meeting, where Brexit-related issues are expected to dominate the agenda.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald travels to Belfast, where she lays a laurel wreath at the Cenotaph at city hall. Fitzgerald is joined at the ceremony by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire.

Speaking afterwards, Fitzgerald, whose grandfather served as a soldier in the British army and whose father was a colonel in the Irish Army, says it has been an important engagement. “So many people across the island lost their lives; 50,000 families affected by loss of a loved one during the First World War. We have had a government minister here since 2012 and I think it is really important to come together, to remember together and to look at our shared histories.”

In England, British Prime Minister Theresa May is among those who gather at the Cenotaph in London for a commemoration ceremony.

Meanwhile, Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, dedicates the France-Ireland Memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery. Humphreys is joined by the French Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance at the Ministry of Defence Jean-Marc Todeschini for the ceremony. The memorial is a gift to Ireland from France in recognition of Irish sacrifices made “in the defence and freedom of France, particularly in the First World War.”

(From: “Taoiseach, Tánaiste attend Remembrance Sunday ceremonies,” Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), http://www.rte.ie, November 13, 2016 | Pictured: Taoiseach Enda Kenny lays a wreath of green laurels in Enniskillen)


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Resignation of Taoiseach Enda Kenny

varadkar-kennyEnda Kenny formally resigns as Taoiseach on June 13, 2017 after six years as head of Government of Ireland. He is the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach and the first in his party to serve two consecutive terms in the highest political office.

An emotional Kenny makes his final address to Dáil Éireann as Taoiseach, saying he is the first to acknowledge that he had not gotten everything right. “But I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people,” he added. “I really do believe politics is work worth doing, a noble profession.”

Flanked by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, his successor Leo Varadkar, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Health Simon Harris, Kenny informs the Dáil that he will be going later to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D. Higgins. He formally submits his letter that evening.

Following his speech in the Dáil, Kenny sits down, visibly emotional, to applause from all sides of the House.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin describes Kenny as “an Irish patriot and an Irish democrat.” Throughout his time in elected office and in government he had been a proud representative of his community, political tradition and country. He adds that “the mischievous enjoyment he has taken in this has been a genuine joy to behold”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams says his party and Fine Gael do not agree on many issues but “I always found Enda to be friendly on a personal level. Probably the best leader Fine Gael ever had.” Adams adds, “Let me say I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had and meetings you have not had and recollections of people you have met along the way, like the man with the two pints in one hand.”

Adams says there have been successes including the success of the same-sex marriage referendum. But he also says there have been abject failures, including the Taoiseach’s consistent failure to recognise the State of Palestine, the squandering of the biggest mandate in the history of the State as the Fine Gael-Labour Government reneged on election promises, the clear lack of affinity with Northern Ireland and a clear lack of consistent strategic engagement with the process of change that is under way on the island.

Kenny now becomes a party backbencher until the next general election when he is expected to retire as a Teachta Dála (TD). He is also father of the House as the longest serving TD with 42 years in the Dáil. He is first elected in 1975 in a by-election following the death of his father Henry and faces another 12 elections in his Dáil tenure.

Kenny serves three years as a cabinet minister, serving as Minister for Tourism and Trade during the 1994 to 1997 Rainbow Coalition. He also serves for a year as Minister of State for Youth Affairs from February 1986 to March 1987. He takes over from Michael Noonan as party leader in 2002 after a disastrous general election for the party and in 2007 the party’s numbers in the Dáil rise from 32 to 51 TDs. In the 2011 general election at the height of the economic recession, Fine Gael secures 76 seats, the most in the party’s history, under his leadership.

(From: “Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach” by Michael O’Regan and Marie O’Halloran, The Irish Times, June 13, 2017)