seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Pat Rabbitte, Labour Party Politician

pat-rabbittePatrick Brendan Rabbitte, former Labour Party politician, is born near Claremorris, County Mayo on May 18, 1949. He serves as Minister of State for Commerce, Science and Technology from 1994 to 1997, Leader of the Labour Party from 2002 to 2007 and Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources from 2011 to 2014. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-West constituency from 1989 to 2016.

Rabbitte is raised in Woodstock, Ballindine, County Mayo. He is educated locally at St. Colman’s College, Claremorris before emigrating to Britain to find employment. He returns shortly afterward to attend University College Galway (UCG) where he studies Arts and Law.

Rabbitte becomes involved in electoral politics for the first time in late 1982, when he unsuccessfully contests Dublin South-West for the Workers’ Party (WP) at the November general election. He is elected to Dublin County Council in 1985. He enters Dáil Éireann as a Workers’ Party Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South-West at the 1989 election. He retains his seat at every election until 2016.

After Tomás Mac Giolla‘s retirement as President of the Workers’ Party in 1988, Rabbitte is seen as one of those who wants to move the party away from its hard left position. In 1992, he plays a prominent role with Proinsias De Rossa in an attempt to jettison some of the party’s more hard left positions. This eventually splits the Workers’ Party.

In 1994, a new ‘Rainbow Coalition’ government of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left comes to power. Rabbitte is a member of the junior ministerial team, serving as Minister of State to the Government, as well as Minister for State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment with responsibility for Commerce, Science and Technology.

Following the 1997 general election the Rainbow Coalition loses power. The following year sees a merger between the Labour Party and Democratic Left, with Rabbitte participating in the negotiations. In October 2002 he succeeds Ruairi Quinn as the new leader of the Labour Party. Under his leadership the party makes some gains in the local elections of 2004.

The Labour Party agrees to enter a pre-election pact, commonly known as ‘The Mullingar Accord,’ with Fine Gael in an attempt to offer the electorate an alternative coalition government at the 2007 general election. This move causes some tension in the parliamentary party, as some members prefer not to be aligned with any party in advance of an election.

Following the disappointing result in the election for Labour, Rabbitte announces he is stepping down as leader on August 23, 2007. He is succeeded as party leader by Eamon Gilmore. Rabbitte is re-elected on the first count in the 2011 general election. His running mate Eamonn Maloney is also elected. On March 9, 2011, he is appointed as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

In July 2014, Rabbitte is replaced by Alex White as part of a reshuffle of the cabinet. He does not contest the 2016 general election.

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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 Mary Robinson, 1st Female President of Ireland

mary-robinsonMary Therese Winifred Robinson, seventh and first female President of Ireland (1990-1997), is born on May 21, 1944 in Ballina, County Mayo. Robinson also serves as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 until 2002.

Robinson first rises to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner, and member of the Irish Senate (1969–1989). Running as an Independent candidate nominated by the Labour Party, the Workers’ Party, and independent senators, Robinson defeats Fianna Fáil‘s Brian Lenihan and Fine Gael‘s Austin Currie in the 1990 presidential election becoming the first elected president in the office’s history not to have had the support of Fianna Fáil.

Robinson is widely regarded as a transformative figure for Ireland, and for the Irish presidency, revitalising and liberalising a previously conservative, low-profile political office. She resigns the presidency two months before the end of her term in office in order to take up her post in the United Nations. During her UN tenure, she visits Tibet in 1998, the first High Commissioner to do so. She criticises Ireland’s immigrant policy and criticises the use of capital punishment in the United States. She extends her intended single four-year term by a year to preside over the World Conference against Racism 2001 in Durban, South Africa. The conference proves controversial, and under continuing pressure from the United States, Robinson resigns her post in September 2002.

After leaving the UN in 2002, Robinson forms Realizing Rights: the Ethical Globalization Initiative, which comes to a planned end at the end of 2010. Its core activities are fostering equitable trade and decent work, promoting the right to health and more humane migration policies, and working to strengthen women’s leadership and encourage corporate social responsibility. The organisation also supports capacity building and good governance in developing countries. Robinson returns to live in Ireland at the end of 2010, and sets up The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, which aims to be “a centre for thought leadership, education, and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered, and the marginalised across the world.”

Robinson is Chair of the Institute for Human Rights and Business and Chancellor of the University of Dublin. Since 2004, she has also been Professor of Practice in International Affairs at Columbia University, where she teaches international human rights. Robinson also visits other colleges and universities where she lectures on human rights. Robinson sits on the Board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an organisation which supports good governance and great leadership in Africa, and is a member of the Foundation’s Ibrahim Prize Committee. Robinson is an Extraordinary Professor in the Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for the Study of AIDS at the University of Pretoria. Robinson serves as Oxfam’s honorary president from 2002 until she steps down in 2012 and is the honorary president of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation EIUC since 2005. She is Chair of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and is also a founding member and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders (2003-2009). Robinson was a member of the European members of the Trilateral Commission.

In 2004, she receives Amnesty International‘s Ambassador of Conscience Award for her work in promoting human rights.

In July 2009, Robinson is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour awarded by the United States. In presenting the award to Robinson, U.S. President Barack Obama says, “Mary Robinson learned early on what it takes to make sure all voices are heard. As a crusader for women and those without a voice in Ireland, Mary Robinson was the first woman elected President of Ireland, before being appointed U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. When she traveled abroad as President, she would place a light in her window that would draw people of Irish descent to pass by below. Today, as an advocate for the hungry and the hunted, the forgotten and the ignored, Mary Robinson has not only shone a light on human suffering, but illuminated a better future for our world.”