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


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Geraldine Kennedy Appointed Editor of The Irish Times

Geraldine Kennedy, Irish journalist and politician, is appointed editor of The Irish Times on October 11, 2002, becoming the first female editor of a national daily newspaper.

Kennedy is born on September 1, 1951 in Tramore, County Waterford. She studies at Dublin Institute of Technology and begins her journalistic career with a regional newspaper, The Munster Express. She moves to The Cork Examiner after less than a year, but spends only a few years there before joining The Irish Times.

On the foundation of the Sunday Tribune in 1980, Kennedy joins it as the paper’s political correspondent. The paper’s publisher, John Mulcahy, had become familiar with her when she had contributed to his journal Hibernia. When the Tribune briefly ceases production, she moves to the Sunday Press.

In 1982, Kennedy’s telephone, along with those of two other journalists, is tapped by former Minister for Justice Seán Doherty. Early in 1987, Kennedy successfully sues the incumbent Charles Haughey-led Fianna Fáil government for illegally tapping her phone. The revelation in 1992 that Haughey had ordered the phone taps leads to his resignation as Taoiseach.

Kennedy stands in the 1987 Irish general election as a candidate for the newly formed Progressive Democrats party in Dún Laoghaire. She comes third in the poll, winning 9.4% of the first-preference vote. She is one of fourteen Progressive Democrats TDs elected to Dáil Éireann in that election — a feat the party never achieves again. She is appointed the party’s spokesperson for foreign affairs. She stands again in the 1989 Irish general election and wins 9% of the first-preference vote but fails to retain her seat.

Following her election defeat, Kennedy returns to The Irish Times, then edited by Conor Brady, whom she had worked with at the Tribune when he was the editor. She avoids party-political journalism for several years, but she returns to covering politics in the early 1990s, and becomes The Irish Times‘ political editor in 1999. She becomes the newspaper’s first female editor upon the departure of Conor Brady in October 2002. One of her rivals for the editor’s chair is the paper’s high-profile columnist, Fintan O’Toole.

Kennedy is paid more than the editor of Britain’s top non-tabloid newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which has a circulation of about nine times that of The Irish Times. Later columnist Fintan O’Toole tells the Sunday Independent, “We as a paper are not shy of preaching about corporate pay and fat cats but with this there is a sense of excess. Some of the sums mentioned are disturbing. This is not an attack on Ms. Kennedy, it is an attack on the executive level of pay. There is double-standard of seeking more job cuts while paying these vast salaries.”

In September 2006, Kennedy approves the publication of an article in The Irish Times giving confidential details of investigations being made into payments purported to have been made in 1993 to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. She refuses, upon request of the investigating Mahon Tribunal, to provide details of the source of the printed information. She responds that the documents have since been destroyed. Her refusal causes the Tribunal to seek High Court orders compelling her to provide details of the source. On October 23, 2007, the High Court grants the orders compelling her to go before the Tribunal and answer all questions. In its judgment, the High Court, criticising her decision to destroy the documents, says it is an “astounding and flagrant disregard of the rule of law.” In 2009, however, the Supreme Court of Ireland overturns this ruling, holding that the High Court had not struck the correct balance between the journalists’ right to protect their source and the tribunal’s right to confidentiality.

Kennedy announces on March 12, 2011 her intention to retire from The Irish Times by September, after a nine-year term as editor. She actually retires in June, and is succeeded by news editor, Kevin O’Sullivan, who succeeds her as editor on June 23, 2011.

In August 2012, Kennedy is appointed Adjunct Professor of Journalism at the University of Limerick. She has been awarded five honorary doctorates from Irish universities.


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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.


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Birth of Seán Doherty, Fianna Fáil Politician

sean-dohertySeán Doherty, Fianna Fáil politician who serves as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann from 1989 to 1992 and Minister for Justice from March 1982 to December 1982, is born on June 29, 1944 in Cootehall near Boyle, County Roscommon. He also serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1977 to 1989 and 1992 to 2002 and is a Senator for the Administrative Panel from 1989 to 1992.

Doherty is educated at national level in County Leitrim and then at University College Dublin and King’s Inns. In 1965, he becomes a member of the Garda Síochána and serves as a detective in Sligo before joining the Special Detective Unit in Dublin in the early 1970s. In 1973, he takes a seat on the Roscommon County Council, which had been vacated after the death of his father.

After serving for four years on the Roscommon County Council, Doherty is elected as a Fianna Fáil TD for the Roscommon–Leitrim constituency at the 1977 general election.

In 1979, Doherty is a key member of the so-called “gang of five” which supports Charles Haughey‘s attempt to take over the leadership of the party. The other members are Albert Reynolds, Mark Killilea Jnr, Tom McEllistrim and Jackie Fahey. Haughey is successful in the Fianna Fáil leadership election and Doherty is rewarded by being appointed Minister of State at the Department of Justice from 1979 to 1981. In the short-lived 1982 Fianna Fáil government he enters the Cabinet as Minister for Justice. In this post he becomes involved in a series of controversies.

Doherty’s brother-in-law, Garda Thomas Nangle, is charged with assaulting James McGovern, a native of County Fermanagh, in a public house in December 1981. On September 27, 1982, hours before the case is due to be heard in District Court in the small village of Dowra, County Cavan, McGovern is arrested by the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) on the basis of entirely false Garda intelligence that he is involved in terrorism. The case against Nangle is dismissed because the principal witness, McGovern, fails to appear in court. The solicitor representing Nangle is Kevin Doherty, Seán Doherty’s brother. This questionable use of Garda/RUC Special Branch liaison, set up under the 1985 Hillsborough Anglo-Irish Agreement, prevents meetings between the Garda commissioner and the RUC chief constable for almost three years.

After Doherty leaves office it is revealed in The Irish Times that he ordered the tapping of three journalists home telephones. The newspaper also discloses that he has been interfering in the workings of the Garda and the administration of justice for both political and personal reasons. He immediately resigns from the party only to rejoin it in 1984.

At the 1989 general election his loses his seat in Dáil Éireann to the independent candidate Tom Foxe. He is also an unsuccessful candidate in the elections on the same day to the European Parliament, but he is later elected instead to the Seanad on the Administrative Panel and becomes the Cathaoirleach (Chairman) of the 19th Seanad.

In January 1992 the phone tapping scandal returns to haunt Fianna Fáil. Doherty announces in a television interview that he had shown transcripts of the conversations to Charles Haughey while Haughey was Taoiseach in 1982 although he had previously denied this. Haughey denies the claim also, but is forced to resign from the government, and then resigns as leader of Fianna Fáil. Doherty then regains his seat at the 1992 general election and holds it until his retirement at the 2002 general election.

Seán Doherty dies at Letterkenny General Hospital of a brain hemorrhage on June 7, 2005 while on a family holiday in County Donegal.


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Irish Phone Tapping Scandal

bruce-arnold-geraldine-kennedyThe Minister for Justice, Michael Noonan, reveals on January 20, 1983 that the previous Fianna Fáil administration has been involved in tapping the phones of journalists Geraldine Kennedy and Bruce Arnold.

On December 18, 1982, The Irish Times security correspondent Peter Murtagh breaks the news that the telephone of Bruce Arnold and Geraldine Kennedy have been tapped officially with warrants signed by former Minister for Justice Seán Doherty. This is revealed after the November 1982 elections which the outgoing government had lost.

Incoming Minister for Justice Michael Noonan orders an investigation and on January 20, 1983 announcs findings that the previous Fianna Fáil government had authorised illegal phone tapping of the journalists Geraldine Kennedy, Bruce Arnold and Vincent Browne. The phone tapping warrants are initiated by Séan Doherty while serving as Minister for Justice in discussion with Deputy Garda Commissioner Joseph Ainsworth. Normally phone tapping is used to investigate serious crime or threats to the security of the state but the reverse happens in this case, Minister Noonan announces.

The phone of Bruce Arnold is tapped from May 10 to July 12, 1982. The application is stated to be for security purposes, with a departmental record claiming he is “anti-national.”

The phone of Geraldine Kennedy is tapped from July 28 to November 16, 1982 with a renewal on October 27 on the grounds that it is “yielding results.” For the tap on Kennedys’ phone a new category of “national security” is created for the warrant.

The incoming cabinet meets on January 18-19, 1983 and an initial draft of a decision expresses loss of confidence in Garda Commissioner Patrick McLaughlin and Deputy Commissioner Thomas Joseph Ainsworth and that they consider removing them from office, though this is removed from the final draft. On January 20, 1983 the cabinet meets again and notes the intentions of both Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner to retire.

Deputy Garda Commissioner Lawrence Wren finds that neither Bruce Arnold or Geraldine Kennedy have been connected with criminal or subversive activities or people involved with same, that the request for the warrants had not come from the Gardaí but from then minister Séan Doherty and that copies of the recordings had been supplied to minister Doherty.

Geraldine Kennedy and Bruce Arnold sue and win for the phone tapping and Vincent Browne settles out of court for earlier phone tapping.

Nearly a decade after the scandal broke, Seán Doherty announces at a press conference that he had shown transcripts of recordings to Charles Haughey in 1982 while the latter was still Taoiseach. Until the press conference, Doherty had denied this. This leads to Haughey’s resignation as Taoiseach.

(Pictured: Bruce Arnold and Geraldine Kennedy leaving the High Court after the judgment awarding them £20,000)