seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Albert Reynolds, Taoiseach & Fianna Fáil Leader

albert-reynoldsAlbert Reynolds, politician and businessman, is born in Rooskey, County Roscommon on November 3, 1932. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1977 to 2002, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs from 1979 to 1981, Minister for Transport from 1980 to 1981, Minister for Industry and Energy from March 1982 to December 1982, Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1987 to 1988, Minister for Finance from 1988 to 1991, Leader of Fianna Fáil from 1992 to 1994 and as Taoiseach from 1992 to 1994.

Reynolds is educated at Summerhill College in County Sligo and works for a state transport company before succeeding at a variety of entrepreneurial ventures, including promoting dances and owning ballrooms, a pet-food factory, and newspapers. In 1974 he is elected to the Longford County Council as a member of Fianna Fáil. He enters Dáil Éireann, lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament, in 1977 as a member representing the Longford-Westmeath parliamentary constituency and becomes Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the Fianna Fáil government of Charles Haughey (1979–81). He is subsequently Minister of Industry and Commerce (1987–88) and Minister for Finance (1988–91) in Haughey’s third and fourth governments. He breaks with Haughey in December 1991 and succeeds him as leader of Fianna Fáil and as Taoiseach in February 1992.

The Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats coalition that Reynolds inherits breaks up in November 1992 but, after the general election later that month, he surprises many observers by forming a new coalition government with the Labour Party in January 1993. He plays a significant part in bringing about a ceasefire between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and unionist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland in 1994, but he is less effective in maintaining his governing coalition. When this government founders in November 1994, he resigns as Taoiseach and as leader of Fianna Fáil, though he remains acting prime minister until a new government is formed the following month. He unsuccessfully seeks his party’s nomination as a candidate for the presidency of Ireland in 1997. He retires from public life in 2002.

In December 2013, it is revealed by his son that Reynolds is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Albert Reynolds dies on August 21, 2014. The last politician to visit him is John Major. His funeral is held at Church of the Sacred Heart, in Donnybrook on August 25, 2014. Attendees include President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former British Prime Minister John Major, former Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader and Nobel Prize winner John Hume, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers, former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke. An unexpected visitor from overseas is the frail but vigorous Jean Kennedy Smith, former United States Ambassador to Ireland, who is the last surviving sibling of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Reynolds is buried at Shanganagh Cemetery with full military honours.

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Mary Robinson Elected First Woman President of the Republic

mary-robinson-1Mary Robinson becomes the first woman to be elected President of the Republic of Ireland on November 7, 1990. She becomes the first Labour Party candidate, the first woman, and the first non-Fianna Fáil candidate in the history of contested presidential elections to win the presidency.

Brian Lenihan, the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence is chosen by Fianna Fáil as their candidate, though he faces a late challenge for the party nomination from another senior minister, John P. Wilson, TD. Lenihan is popular and widely seen as humorous and intelligent. He has delivered liberal policy reform (relaxed censorship in the 1960s), and is seen as a near certainty to win the presidency.

Fine Gael, after trying and failing to get former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and former Tánaiste Peter Barry to run, ultimately nominate the former civil rights campaigner and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) member Austin Currie. Currie is elected to Dáil Éireann in the 1989 general election and has been a minister in Brian Faulkner‘s power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland from 1973–1974. However Currie has little experience in the politics of the Republic and is widely seen as the party’s last choice, nominated only when no one else is available.

The Labour Party lets it be known that it would for the first time run a candidate. Along with the Workers’ Party, Labour nominates the independent candidate Mary Robinson, SC, a former Labour Party member and senator, and liberal campaigner. Robinson is a former Reid Professor of Law in the Trinity College, Dublin. She is previously involved in the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform and the campaign to save Wood Quay.

Lenihan enters the race as odds-on favourite. No Fianna Fáil candidate has ever lost a presidential election. However, Lenihan is derailed when he confirms in an on-the-record interview with freelance journalist and academic researcher Jim Duffy that he has been involved in controversial attempts to pressurise the President, Patrick Hillery, over a controversial parliamentary dissolution in 1982. As a result of the contrast between his public denials during the campaign and his confirmation during an earlier interview recorded in May, he is dismissed from the Irish government.

At this point a cabinet colleague, Pádraig Flynn, launches a controversial personal attack on Mary Robinson “as a wife and mother,” an attack that is itself attacked in response as “disgraceful” on live radio by Michael McDowell, a senior member of the Progressive Democrats, then in coalition with Fianna Fáil and up to that point supporting Lenihan’s campaign. Flynn’s attack is a fatal blow to Lenihan’s campaign, causing many female supporters of Lenihan to vote for Robinson in a gesture of support.

Lenihan nonetheless receives a plurality of first-choice votes. Mary Robinson beats Austin Currie, forcing Fine Gael’s candidate into third place. Under Ireland’s system of single transferable vote, Robinson receives over 75% of the transfers when Austin Currie is eliminated, beating Lenihan into second place and becoming the seventh President of Ireland.

While the role of the presidency in day-to-day politics is a very limited one, the Robinson presidency is regarded by many observers as a watershed in Irish society, symbolising the shift away from the conservative ultra-Catholic male-dominated Ireland which existed up until the end of the 1980s to the more liberal society symbolised by Robinson.

Robinson is generally credited with raising the profile of the office of president, which has been considered little more than an honorary figurehead position under her predecessors. Prior to Mary Robinson’s presidency it was not unusual to hear commentators advocating the abolition of the office of president, a viewpoint that is almost never advanced nowadays.


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Birth of Fianna Fáil Politician Ray Burke

ray-burkeRaphael Patrick “Ray” Burke, disgraced former Fianna Fáil politician, is born on September 30, 1943, in Dublin. He is a former Teachta Dála and government minister who is convicted and imprisoned on charges arising from political corruption in office. Burke is also highly influential in decisions made by Dublin County Council.

Burke’s political career commences when he is elected to Dublin County Council for Fianna Fáil in 1967. He serves as chairman of the council from 1985 to 1987.

Burke is elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1973 general election for the Dublin County North constituency, succeeding his father Patrick J. Burke, who has held the seat for 29 years. Ray Burke represents this constituency and its successor Dublin North until his resignation almost twenty-five years later.

After Fianna Fáil’s landslide victory at the 1977 general election, Burke is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. In October 1980 Burke is promoted to Minister for the Environment, a position he holds until June 1981 and again in the short-lived Fianna Fáil government of 1982. After Fianna Fáil returns to power at the 1987 general election, Burke serves as Minister for Energy, where he makes controversial changes to the legislation governing oil and gas exploration. In 1988, he is appointed Minister for Industry, Commerce and Communications.

Following the formation of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats Coalition in 1989, he becomes Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications. When Albert Reynolds comes to power in 1992, he does not re-appoint Burke to the Cabinet. Following the 1997 general election, Fianna Fáil is back in power and Burke is appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs by new Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Within months of his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs, allegations resurface that Burke has received IR£80,000 from a property developer regarding the former Dublin County Council. Burke denies the allegations but resigns from the Cabinet and from the Dáil on October 7, 1997, after just four months in office.

Having claimed since 1989 that Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) is biased against him, Burke is responsible for controversial legislation that severely limits RTÉ’s ability to collect advertising revenue and allows for the establishment of a series of local radio stations and one independent national radio station, Century Radio. RTÉ is ordered to provide a national transmission service for Century Radio at a price that RTÉ complains is far below the economic cost of providing such a service. Nevertheless, Century Radio fails to gain significant audience share and closes in 1991.

In July 2004 Burke pleads guilty to making false tax returns. The charges arise from his failure to declare for tax purposes the payments that he has received from the backers of Century Radio. On January 24, 2005 he is sentenced to six months in prison for these offences, making him one of the most senior Irish politicians to serve time in prison. He is released in June 2005 after four and a half months, earning a 25% remission of sentence because of good behaviour. He serves his time in Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.