seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael Politician & Taoiseach

Leo Eric Varadkar, Irish Fine Gael politician who is serving since June 2020 as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is born on January 18, 1979, in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

Varadkar is the third child and only son of Ashok and Miriam (née Howell) Varadkar. His father was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s to work as a doctor. His mother, born in Dungarvan, County Waterford, meets her future husband while working as a nurse in Slough, Berkshire, England. He is educated at the St. Francis Xavier national school in Blanchardstown, Dublin, and then The King’s Hospital, a Church of Ireland secondary school in Palmerstown. During his secondary schooling, he joins Young Fine Gael. He is admitted to Trinity College Dublin (TCD), where he briefly reads law before switching to its School of Medicine. At TCD, he is active in the university’s Young Fine Gael branch and serves as Vice-President of the Youth of the European People’s Party, the youth wing of the European People’s Party, of which Fine Gael is a member. He is selected for the Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership (WIP), a half-year personal and professional development program in Washington, D.C., for students from Ireland.

Varadkar graduates in 2003, after completing his internship at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. He then spends several years working as a non-consultant hospital doctor in St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, and Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, before specialising as a general practitioner in 2010.

In 2004, Varadkar joins Fine Gael and becomes a member of Fingal County Council and later serves as Deputy Mayor of Fingal. He is elected to Dáil Éireann for the first time in 2007. During the campaign for the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, he comes out as gay, becoming the first serving Irish minister to do so.

Varadkar is elected a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency in 2007. He serves under Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport from 2011 to 2014, Minister for Health from 2014 to 2016, and Minister for Social Protection from 2016 to 2017.

In May 2017, Kenny announces that he is planning to resign as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader. Varadkar stands in the leadership election to replace him. Although more party members vote for his opponent, Simon Coveney, he wins by a significant margin among Fine Gael members of the Oireachtas, and is elected leader on June 2. Twelve days later, he is appointed Taoiseach, and at 38 years of age becomes the youngest person to hold the office. He is Ireland’s first, and the world’s fourth, openly gay head of government and the first Taoiseach of Indian heritage.

In 2020, Varadkar calls a general election to be held in February. While polls in 2019 have suggested a favourable result for Fine Gael, they ultimately come in third in terms of seats and votes, behind Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, with 35 seats, a loss of 15 seats for the party from the previous general election, when it had finished in first position. He resigns and is succeeded by Micheál Martin as Taoiseach. He is subsequently appointed Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment as part of a three-party coalition composed of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.


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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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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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Birth of Katherine Zappone, American-Irish Independent Politician

Katherine Zappone, American-Irish independent politician who serves as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs from May 2016 to June 2020, is born in Seattle, Washington, on November 25, 1953. She is a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-West constituency from 2016 to 2020. She previously served as a Senator from 2011 to 2016, after being nominated by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Zappone is educated at Boston College (PhD), the Catholic University of America (MA) and University College Dublin (MBA). She becomes an Irish citizen in 1995. She and her wife, Ann Louise Gilligan, found An Cosán which supports individuals and communities to actively engage in the process of social change through transformative education. In Zappone and Gilligan v. Revenue Commissioners (2006), they unsuccessfully seek recognition in the High Court, for their Canadian marriage in Ireland. Zappone is a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission, chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and a lecturer in the fields of ethics, theology, and education at Trinity College, Dublin. Though they are already married in Canada, she proposes to Gilligan on air as the positive result in the same-sex marriage referendum becomes known. Gilligan dies in June 2017.

Zappone is nominated by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the 24th Seanad in 2011, having been recommended by Eamon Gilmore, the then leader of Fine Gael‘s coalition partners, the Labour Party. With her Seanad nomination, she becomes the first openly lesbian member of the Oireachtas and the first member in a recognised same-sex relationship.

Zappone is elected to the Dáil for the Dublin South-West constituency at the 2016 Irish general election, becoming the first openly lesbian TD and, by her own reckoning, the world’s 32nd lesbian to be elected to a national parliament. In May 2016, after a delay in government formation, due to prolonged talks, she becomes Ireland’s first openly lesbian government Minister and the first Minister to have been openly gay at the time of appointment to cabinet, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny appoints her as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. She loses her seat at the February 2020 Irish general election and continues to serve as a minister until June 2020 on the election of a new government.

Following the loss of her seat at the 2020 Irish general election, Zappone moves back to Seattle to work as a full-time volunteer for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in the 2020 United States presidential election, then to New York.

In July 2021, it is announced that Zappone is to be appointed to the newly created position of Special Envoy to the UN for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. It subsequently emerges that the proposed appointment had not been flagged in advance of the Cabinet meeting where it was proposed by Minister Simon Coveney, raising the concerns of the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin. However, he does not block the appointment, attracting criticism from within government, the opposition and the public, with Sinn Féin describing the appointment as “cronyism.”

In the following days it is reported that Zappone had lobbied for the creation of and appointment to the part-time position, which was not openly advertised or subject to a competition. Further controversy arises when it is reported that shortly prior to the announcement of her appointment, she had hosted a party for 50 guests, including politicians such as Leo Varadkar, at the Merrion Hotel, while the COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Ireland was ongoing. Comparisons are made between the party and the Oireachtas Golf Society scandal from earlier in the pandemic. On August 4, 2021, she announces that she will not take up the envoy role, saying “While I am honoured to have been appointed by the Government to be the Special Envoy on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, it is clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself. It is my conviction that a Special Envoy role can only be of real value to Ireland and to the global community if the appointment is acceptable to all parties.”

In September 2021, Zappone is invited to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, but chooses not to attend. As a U.S. citizen and resident, the committee has no power to compel her attendance.


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Taoiseach Enda Kenny Resigns Following Dáil Vote

Taoiseach Enda Kenny conveys his resignation to President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin on March 10, 2016 after failing to get re-elected to the position in a Dáil vote, becoming acting Taoiseach as the Dáil adjourns until March 22. “It’s not the outcome that I personally would have liked to see but I respect the verdict of the people,” Kenny says. The vote for the former Taoiseach stands at: For 57, Against 94, Abstain 5.

Kenny, the Mayo TD, says the Cabinet will continue its work while the various parties try to form a government. A government statement issued in the evening reads, “The Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D., has this evening conveyed to the President his resignation from office. In accordance with the Constitution, the Government and the Taoiseach will continue to carry on their duties until successors have been appointed.”

Kenny, Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil, Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and Richard Boyd Barrett of Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit (AAA-PBP) are all nominated for the position of Taoiseach but fail to secure enough votes.

Kenny cites the upcoming commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising and his Saint Patrick’s Day visit to Washington, D.C. as two items that he will continue to take part in. In the medium term he says a government is necessary to deal with the impending Brexit referendum in the UK and issues such as climate change.

Kenny says when Fine Gael and the Labour Party entered government five years earlier “our very survival was in doubt.” He adds, “The Government had to face unprecedented sets of difficulties. Many believed the situation was hopeless. The country is in a different place now.”

The outgoing Taoiseach says he is “fully committed” to working with other parties and independents to form a new government. He adds that “a substantial number of people do not want to serve in government.” Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says the situation is not unprecedented and people should put aside the notion that “speed” is an issue in forming a government. “Ireland is relatively unusual in how fast it carries out the formation of government,” he says.

A total of 50 Fine Gael TDs are re-elected to the 32nd Dáil. The five abstentions in the Enda Kenny vote are TDs Michael Harty, Noel Grealish, Denis Naughten, Michael Collins and Mattie McGrath. They say they will abstain on each vote for Taoiseach in an indication they are willing to hold further coalition talks.

The vote for the other nominees are:
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: For 43, Against 108, 5 Abstain.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: For 24, Against 116.
AAA-PBP candidate Richard Boyd Barrett: For 9, Against 111.

(From: “Enda Kenny resigns as Taoiseach after failing to get re-elected as leader” by Kevin Doyle and Niall O’Connor, http://www.independent.ie, March 10, 2016)


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Micheál Martin Elected Leader of Fianna Fáil

Micheál Martin is elected leader of Fianna Fáil on January 26, 2011. He beats the competition of finance minister Brian Lenihan, tourism minister Mary Hanafin, and social protection minister Éamon Ó Cuív. He replaces Brian Cowan who stepped down on January 22. During his acceptance speech, the new leader apologises for mistakes he and the Government made in managing the economy but says the most important thing is to learn from these mistakes.

Martin has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cork South-Central constituency since 1989. He previously serves as Minister for Education and Science and Lord Mayor of Cork from 1992 to 1993, Minister for Health and Children from 2000 to 2004, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 2004 to 2008, Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2008 to 2011, and Leader of the Opposition in Ireland from 2011 to 2020.

While Martin is Minister for Health and Children in 2004, he introduces a ban on tobacco smoking in all Irish workplaces and establishes the Health Service Executive (HSE). Ireland is the first country to introduce a full workplace smoking ban. As Foreign Minister, in 2009, he travels to Latin America for the first time, and makes the first official visit to Cuba by an Irish Minister. That same year, he travels to Khartoum following the kidnapping of Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki. In 2010, he becomes the first Western foreign minister to visit Gaza since Hamas took control there in 2007.

In January 2011, Martin resigns as Minister for Foreign Affairs and is subsequently elected as the eighth leader of Fianna Fáil following Cowen’s resignation as party leader. In the 2011 Irish general election, he leads the party to its worst showing in its 85-year history, with a loss of 57 seats and a drop in its share of the popular vote to 17.4%. In the 2016 Irish general election, Fianna Fáil’s performance improves significantly, more than doubling their Dáil representation from 20 to 44 seats. In the 2020 Irish general election, Fianna Fáil becomes the largest party, attaining the most seats at 38, one seat ahead of Sinn Féin with 37 seats. He is appointed Taoiseach on June 27, 2020, leading a grand coalition with longtime rival Fine Gael and the Green Party as part of a historic deal. Under the terms of the agreement, Martin’s predecessor, Leo Varadkar, becomes Tánaiste, and will swap roles with Martin in December 2022.


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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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The Founding of Fine Gael

fine-gael-logoFine Gael, a liberal-conservative political party in Ireland, is founded on September 8, 1933 following the merger of its parent party Cumann na nGaedheal, the National Centre Party and the National Guard, popularly known as the “Blueshirts.” The party’s origins lie in the struggle for Irish independence and the pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War. Michael Collins, in particular, is often identified as the founder of the movement.

Fine Gael is currently the third-largest party in Ireland in terms of members of Dáil Éireann and largest in terms of Irish members of the European Parliament. The party has a membership of 21,000 in 2017. Leo Varadkar succeeds Enda Kenny as party leader on June 2, 2017 and as Taoiseach on June 14. Kenny had been leader since 2002, and Taoiseach since 2011.

Fine Gael is generally considered to be more of a proponent of market liberalism than its traditional rival, Fianna Fáil. Apart from brief minority governments, Fine Gael has rarely governed Ireland without a coalition that also includes the Labour Party, a social-democratic, centre-left party. Fine Gael describes itself as a “party of the progressive centre” which it defines as acting “in a way that is right for Ireland, regardless of dogma or ideology.” The party lists its core values as “equality of opportunity, free enterprise and reward, security, integrity and hope.”

In international politics, Fine Gael is highly supportive of the European Union, along with generally supporting strengthened relations with the United Kingdom and opposition to physical force Irish republicanism. The party’s youth wing, Young Fine Gael, is formed in 1977, and has approximately four thousand members. Fine Gael is a founding member of the European People’s Party.

Having governed in coalition with the Labour Party between 2011 and 2016, and in a minority government along with Independent TDs from 2016 to 2020, Fine Gael currently forms part of an historic coalition government with its traditional rival, Fianna Fáil, and the Green Party. On June 27, 2020, Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil is appointed as Taoiseach and forms a new government. Leo Varadkar serves as Tánaiste with both parties agreeing that in December 2022, Varadkar will serve again as Taoiseach.


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Funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

dana-fitzpatrick-funeralOn Saturday, March 18, 2017, President Michael D. Higgins is among hundreds of mourners at St. Patrick’s Church in Glencullen for the funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died when her Sikorsky S-92 helicopter (call sign Rescue 116) crashed off the County Mayo coast on March 14.

The funeral cortege arrives at the church in Glencullen at 11:00 AM and is met by an honour guard from the Coast Guard and other rescue services. Captain Fitpatrick’s parents, four siblings, her young son Fionn, and other family members accompany the coffin into the church.

In addition to President Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross are in attendance, as is Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Also present are members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Civil Defence Ireland, mountain rescue and many other groups.

In his homily, Parish Priest Fr. Andrew O’Sullivan says St. Patrick’s church has seen many sad and tragic funerals but few as sad and sorrowful as this one. He pays tribute to the Fitzpatrick family and says they and the community have lost a loved and valued member. He adds that the congregations’ thoughts are with Captain Fitzpatrick’s three crew members who have yet to be found.

Fr. O’Sullivan says the family takes comfort from the fact that Dara had lived life to the fullest. Mourners hear that as well as being a loving mother, Dara was an avid traveller, cook and animal lover.

The funeral Mass is followed by cremation at Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Poor weather conditions off the west coast of Ireland hamper the search for the three missing crew members and the wreckage of the Coast Guard helicopter R116. On March 22, the wreckage of the main part of the helicopter is detected by underwater cameras about 60 metres off Blackrock Island. The body of co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy is found in the cockpit section of the wreckage. A helmet and lifejacket belonging to one of the two missing crewmen is discovered on a beach on the Mullet Peninsula on September 30, 2017.

(From: Captain Dara Fitzpatrick remembered during funeral service, RTÉ.ie, the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster, March 18, 2017)


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State Funeral for Thomas Kent

thomas-kent-funeralA state funeral for Thomas Kent takes place on September 18, 2015, 99 years after his execution following the 1916 Easter Rising. Thousands of people line the route from Collins Barracks in Cork to the Church of Saint Nicholas, Castlelyons, County Cork for the funeral mass.

Kent is executed after a gun battle with members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) who come to arrest him and his brothers on May 2, 1916, during the aftermath of the Easter Rising. During the ensuing fight, head constable William Rowe is killed and Kent’s brother Richard later dies of his wounds. He is executed by firing squad on May 9, 1916 in the Military Detention Barracks, Cork and is buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds.

Apart from Roger Casement, Kent is the only one of the sixteen men executed after the Easter Rising to be executed outside Dublin. In June 2015, his remains are exhumed and DNA testing confirms their identity.

A ripple of applause breaks through the crowd when the funeral cortege arrives at the church near where Kent was born and raised. The church is unable to accommodate all the visitors so a marquee is set up on the grounds of the church.

President Michael D. Higgins is in attendance along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. The diplomatic corps is represented by British ambassador Dominick Chilcott, U.S. ambassador Kevin O’Malley and the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown. The extended Kent family is represented mostly by the relatives of Edmund and William Kent, Thomas Kent’s brothers.

Kent’s funeral “writes the final chapter in a long ordeal for the Kent family,” the Bishop of Cloyne William Crean tells the congregation. Delivering the funeral eulogy, Cmdt. Gerry White says Thomas Kent was once known only for being the man who gave his name to Kent Station in Cork. “Today, however, all that is changed. Today, because of the recent discovery of his remains, Thomas Kent has once again become someone who is very much in the present. Today, members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces, will render the military honours that were denied him 99 years ago. Today, he will no longer be the ‘Forgotten Volunteer.’ Today, after 99 years, Thomas Kent is finally coming home.”

Thomas Kent’s life is represented by a picture of the family home, rosary beads, a pioneer pin and a leabhair gaeilge representing his interests in life. He is buried in the graveyard at Castlelyons. Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives the funeral oration.

(From: “State funeral for executed 1916 rebel Thomas Kent” by Ronan McGreevy and Éanna Ó Caollaí, The Irish Times, September 18, 2015 | Pictured: The remains of Thomas Kent as they are carried into St. Nicholas’ Church, Castlelyons, County Cork, photograph by Alan Betson)