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John (Jack) Mary Lynch (Ir. Seán Ó Loingsigh) (August 15, 1917-October 20, 1999), was the fourth Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, serving two terms in office; 1966 to 1973 and 1977 to 1979. Lynch was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a TD for Cork in 1948, and was re-elected at each election until 1981. Lynch also served as Minister for Finance (1965-1966), Minister for Industry & Commerce (1959-1965), Minister for Education (1957-1959) and Minister for the Gaeltacht (1957). He also served as a Parliamentary Secretary. Lynch was the third leader of Fianna Fáil from 1966 until 1979 and was also a successful hurling and Gaelic football star, winning All-Ireland medals for both sports.
|First Term:||November 10 1966 - March 14 1973|
|Second Term:||July 5 1977 - December 11 1979|
|Predecessors:||Sean Lemass, Liam Cosgrave|
|Successors:||Liam Cosgrave, Charles Haughey|
|Date of Birth:||Wednesday, August 15, 1917|
|Place of Birth:||Cork, Ireland|
|Date of Death:||Wednesday, October 20, 1999|
|Place of Death:||Dublin, Ireland|
|Political Party:||Fianna Fáil|
John Mary Lynch was born on August 15, 1917, just yards from the famous Shandon bells and St. Anne's in Cork City. The youngest of five boys, with two girls born after him, Lynch was generally regarded as the 'wild boy' of the family. He was educated at St. Vincent's Convent on Peacock Lane, and later at the North Monastery Christian Brothers School. When Lynch was just 13 years old his mother died suddenly. His aunt, who herself had a family of six, stepped in to look after the family in this time of great upheaval for them. Lynch sat his Leaving Certificate in 1936, and subsequently applied for a job in the Civil Service.
From an early age Lynch showed an enormous interset and great accomplishment as a sportsman. Rugby, soccer, swimming, handball and Gaelic football were all favourite pastimes for Lynch, however it was the sport of hurling where Lynch showed particular flare. By the time he was in fifth Year in the 'North Mon' Lynch was a central part of the Cork Senior Hurling team in the National League. His Championship debut would soon follow. Lynch played with his local team, Glen Rovers, where he had much success and where he met his great freind and one of the greatest hurlers of all time, Christy Ring. In all Lynch won six All-Ireland medals in a row with Cork teams, a feat which has never been equalled. He captained the hurling teams of 1939, 1940 and 1942, with success coming in 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1946. Lynch won an All-Ireland Football medal in 1945.
Lynch began working at the Cork Circuit Court as a clerk while still only nineteen years old. His work in the court ignited his interest in law and in 1941 he began a night course at University College Cork studying law. He completed his studies at King's Inns in Dublin and also found work with the Department of Justice. In 1945 Lynch was called to the Bar, moved back to Cork and began a private practice on the Cork Circuit.
Early Political Life
In 1946 Lynch had his first brush with politics when he was asked by his local Fianna Fáil cumann to stand for the Dáil in a by-election. He declined on this occassion, due to his lack of political experience, but indicated that he would be interested in standing in the next general election. In 1947 Lynch refused a similar offer to stand by the new political party Clann na Poblachta. A general election was eventually called for February 1948, Lynch topped the poll in his constituency and became a Fianna Fáil TD in the 13th Dáil. Although Fianna Fáil lost the election and were out of power for the first time in sixteen years, Lynch bcame speechwriter and research assistant for the party leader, Eamon de Valera.
In 1951 Fianna Fáil were back in power and Lynch was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Government, with special responsibilty for Gaeltacht areas. The party was out of power again between 1954 and 1957. During this period Lynch served as Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on the Gaeltacht. In 1957 Fianna Fáil returned to power and de Valera headed his last government. Lynch, at 39, became the youngest member to join the government, as Minister for Education, as well as holding the Gaeltacht portfolio for a short while. Lynch introduced new and much neede legislation, such as raising the school leaving age, reducing class sizes and lifting a 20-year ban on married women continuing as teachers.
In 1959 de Valera was elected President of Ireland and Seán F. Lemass became the new Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. Lynch was promoted to Lemass' old portfolio as Minister for Industry & Commerce. Here he inherited the most dynamic department in the government, however, having replaced such a political giant Lynch felt that his own scope for change was severely limited. Lynch was described as not being the most innovative of ministers but was particularly attentive when it came to legislation and detail. It was in this Department where Lynch worked closely with Lemass and T.K. Whitaker in generating economic growth and implementing the Programme for Economic Expansion. He was also noted for his astuteness in solving several industrial disputes during his tenure at the Department.
In 1965 Lemass was once again re-elected Taoiseach. The big change was the retirement of such political heavyweights as James Ryan and Seán MacEntee, with Lynch taking over from the former as Minister for Finance. This appointment was particularly significant because Lemass was coming to the end of his premiership and wanted to prepare a successor. As a result Lynch took charge of the second most important position in the Government, gaining widespread experience in a number of affairs, and accompanying Lemass to London to sign one of the most importamt trade agreements between Ireland and the United Kingdom. One occassion in which Lynch's authority was seen to be undermined as Minister for Finance was when the Minister for Education, Donagh O'Malley, announced that the government would provide free secondary school education for all. This proposal had not been discussed at Cabinet level and certainly hadn't been discussed with Lynch, the man who had to provide the funds for such a service. As it subsequently transpired, Lemass had approved the announcement in advance, however, not to inform Lynch seemed to undermine his authority somewhat.
Lemass eventually retired in 1966 and a leadership race (the first contested race in the history of the party) threatened to tear Fianna Fáil apart. Lynch, and another favourite of Lemass's, Patrick Hillery, ruled themselves out of the struggle from the very beginning, however, other candidates such as Charles Haughey, George Colley and Neil Blaney threw their hats into the ring immediately. None of the candidates that were being offered to the party seemed particularly appealing and Lemass' made one last attempt to coax either Hillery or Lynch to join the race as a compromise candidate. Hillery remained adamant that he didn't want the leadership and eventually Lynch allowed his name to go forward. Upon hearing this Haughey and Blaney, the latter having never really entered the race in the first place, withdrew and announced their support for Lynch. Colley refused to withdraw and when it was put to a ballot Lynch comfortably defeated him by 52 votes to 19. Lynch was thus elected Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil on November 10, 1966.
The Lynch succession however, was not a smooth one. As we have seen three men openly expressed ambitions to do the job that Lynch was now in - Haughey, Blaney and Colley. Three other independent-minded Cabinet Ministers had also contemplated running - Brian Lenihan, Kevin Boland and Donagh O'Malley. All in all, Lynch inherited a deeply divided cabinet.
Because Lynch was elected as somewhat of a 'compromise candidate' it appeared to many that he would only remain as an interim Taoiseach. This thought couldn't be further from his mind, and outlined this intention shortly after coming to power. Lynch took particular exception to the title 'Interim Taoiseach' or 'Reluctant Taoiseach'. He had no intention of stepping aside after a few years. Lynch adopted a chairman-like approach to government allowing his Ministers a free run in their respective Departments. He continued the modernising and liberal approach that Lemass had begun, albeit at a slower pace under Lynch as Taoiseach.
Having been in power for eleven years by 1968 Lynch and Fianna Fáil attempted once again to abolish the proportional representation method of voting in general elections in favour of a first-past-the-post system. Much like 1959, when the party tried to pull the same trick, the electorate rejected the motion put to them in the referendum. This cast doubts on Lynch and his ability to win a general election, however, he proved his critics wrong in 1969 when Fianna Fáil wons its first overall majority since Eamon de Valera in 1957.
Shortly after Lynch's election victory tensions in Northern Ireland finally spilled over and "the troubles" began. The Battle of the Bogside in Derry in August 1969 prompted Lynch to make a broadcast to the nation on RTÉ commenting on the ever-increasingly violent situation. The speech went as follows:
The Irish Government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured and perhaps worse. It is obvious that the RUC is no longer accepted as an impartial police force. Neither would the employment of British troops be acceptable nor would they be likely to restore peaceful conditions, certainly not in the long term. The Irish Government have, therefore, reqested the British Government to apply immediately to the United Nations for the urgent dispatch of a Peace-Keeping Force to the Six Counties of Northern Ireland and have instructed the Permanent Representative to the United Nations to inform the Secretary General of this request. We have also asked the British Government to see to it that police attacks on the people of Derry should cease immediately.
Very many people have been injured and some of them seriously. We know that many of these do not wish to be treated in Six County hospitals. We have, therefore, directed the Irish Army authorities to have field hospitals established in County Donegal adjacent to Derry and at other points along the Border where they may be necessary.
Recognising, however, that the re-unification of the national territory can provide the only permanent solution for the problem, it is our intention to request the British Government to enter into early negotiations with the Irish Government to review the present constitutional position of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland.
These measures which I have outlined to you seem to the Government to be those most immediately and urgently necessary.
All men and women of goodwill will hope and pray that the present deplorable and distressing situation will not further deteriorate but that it will soon be ended firstly by the granting of full equality of citizenship to every man and woman in the Six Counties area regardless of class, creed or political persuasion and, eventually, by the restoration of the historic unity of our country.
In this speech he used forceful language but it was language which fell short of inflaming tensions. Many people in the North thought that the government in the Republic would despatch troops over the border to protect nationalists. However, this course of action, which ws urged by a number of ministers in the Cabinet such as Charles Haughey, Neil Blaney and Kevin Boland, was dismissed as a non-runner at the very beginning. As the violence continued the Minister for External Affairs, Patrick Hillery, met with the British Foreign Secretary and also went to the United Nations to highlight the Irish government's case. However, little else was achieved from these meetings other than media coverage of the situation in the North of Ireland.
Lynch's attitude towards the Northern Ireland question and the application of Fianna Fáil party policy to same would eventually come to define his first period as Taoiseach, and would once again show his critics that far from being 'reluctant' he was in fact a strong and decisive leader. His strong leadership skills and determination were clearly evident in 1970 when allegations (later disproved in court, though questions since have emerged challenging that verdict in one case), that the hardline republican Minister for Agriculture, Neil Blaney, and the Minister for Finance, Charles Haughey, were involved in an attempt to use £100,000 in aid money to import arms for the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. Both ministers were sacked after some initial procrastination on Lynch's part, his innocent but incompetent Minister for Justice, Micheál Ó Moráin, retired the day before and a fourth minister, Kevin Boland and his Parliamentary Secretary, resigned in sympathy with Haughey and Blaney. The whole affair, which became known as the Arms Crisis, allowed Lynch to stamp his control on his government, but would eventually lead to deep division in Fianna Fáil for many decades to come.
The situation in Northern Ireland continued to deteriorate during Lynchs first term. Bloody Sunday (January 30, 1972), saw the murder of 13 unarmed civilians by British paratroopers and a backlash of anti-British feeling in all parts of Ireland, including the burning of the British embassy in Dublin.
One of the high points of Lynch's first term as Taoiseach, and possibly one of the most important events in modern Irish history, was Ireland's entry into the EEC. Ireland officially joined, along with our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom and Denmark, on January 1, 1973. The admittance of Ireland was the culmination of a decade of preparation which was begun by Lynch and his predecessor, Sean Lemass, who unfortunately did not live to see what would have been his greatest achievement.
Lynch's government was expected to collapse following the Arms Crisis, however it survived until 1973. Lynch had wanted to call the general election for the end of 1972, however, events had conspired against him and the date was set for February, 1973. Lynch's government was defeated by the National Coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Liam Cosgrave was elected Taoiseach and Lynch found himself on the opposition benches for the first time in sixteen years. Lynch had some success while out of power. He had finally expelled all the elements of the party which threatened his leadership and the unification of the party. Lynch was now in complete control. Fianna Fáil began its electoral comeback by securing the election of its candidate, Erskine Childers, in becoming President of Ireland in 1973, defeating the odds-on favourite, the National Coalition's Tom O'Higgins.
In 1975 Lynch allowed Charles Haughey to return to his Front Bech as Spokesperson on Health. there was much media criticism of Lynch for this move, however, Haughey was too politically dangerous to leave out. In the same year the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Michael O'Kennedy, published a Fianna Fáil policy document calling for a withdrawl of British forces from the Six Counties of Northern Ireland. The document reverted back to the old republican rhetoric that Lynch had tried to change, however, he did nothing to stop it.
Controversy continued to dog the National Coalition when the President of Ireland, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, resigned in 1976 after being called a "thundering disgrace" by the Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan. Liam Cosgrave refused to sack his unruly Minister and the government's popularity took a downturn. A former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister and a political ally of Lynch, Dr. Patrick Hillery, was eventually appointed as Ó Dálaigh's successor and sixth President of Ireland.
In 1977 the government, althought reasonably unpopular, felt sure of an election victory and June date for the poll was fixed. The National Coalition's spirits had been buoyed up by the actions of the Minister for Local Government, James Tully. In what became known as the Tullymander (a pun on the word gerrymander) he re-drew every constituency in Ireland, favouring Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Lynch was very unsure of how the election would pan out and believed that the result would be very close. As an additional sweetener to the electorate Fianna Fáil put forward a controversial economic manifesto that led to government spending and borrowing increasing at an unprecedented and unsustainable pace. When the election results were announced Lynch was back as Taoiseach, Fianna Fáil had eighty-four TDs and an unprecedented twenty seat Dáil majority. Lynch was apprehensive about the scale of the victory, having preferred a smaller majority, however he was pleased to be back in government.
Not long after becoming Taoiseach for a second time, Lynch announced to his closest allies that he would not lead the party into the next general election. January 1980 was a date he had in his mind for his retirement, as it would give his successor two years before the next election to put his own stamp on the party. However, nothing about his retiremnt was definite. Lynch's last term proved to be extremely tough for Lynch as party discipline began to break down. The government attempted to implement the economic aspects of the controversial 1977 manifesto, however, by 1979 an oil crisis had hit Ireland and industrial disputes and protests were common-place. The manifesto could not cope with these unexpected changes.
Worse was to come in 1979 when the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held. Fianna Fáil performed poorly and this reflected back on the leadership. Lynch faced other pressures with regard to Anglo-Irish relations following the murder in County Sligo of Earl Mountbatten, uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh and mentor to the Prince of Wales. However, out of everything that was happening the most disappointing thing for Lynch was a disastrous defeat in two by-elections in his native Cork. Lynch was in the United States when the polls were taking place. He decided to resign immediately after hearing the results. January 1980 was the quickest time he could resign because it would allow him to complete his duties as President of the European Council. However, on returning to Ireland his Tánaiste and chosen successor, George Colley, encouraged Lynch to retire one month earlier than planned because it would catch the other likely candidate Charles Haughey and his spporters off guard and ensure Colley's victory.
Lynch agreed to this course of actiona nd resigned as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil on December 5, 1979. The election of his successor was contested by Colley and Haughey on December 11, with Haughey emerging as the narrow victor. Lynch thus retired to the backbenches and retired from politics completely in 1981 after 33 unbroken years of service
The Real Taoiseach
Lynch has been desribed by his political rival, Liam Cosgrave, as "the most popular Irish politician since Daniel O'Connell." His economic manifesto in 1977 is generally seen as a foolish and misguided mistake which damaged the Irish economy for nearly two decades. His handling of the crisis that engulfed Northern Ireland in the late 1960s has also been criticised, however it can be said that it was his tough and decisive actions which controlled the 'hawks' in his government and prevented the violence in the North from spreading over the border into the Republic.
In spite of these criticisms, Lynch remains regarded as a respected and popular Irish leader. "Honest Jack", "the Real Taoiseach" and the "Reluctant Taoiseach" who, with his calm demeanour, his soft Cork lilt in his voice, and his ever present pipe, came to personify decency and honesty in Irish life.
Following his retirement from politics Lynch still commented on current affairs. He was supportive of Desmond O'Malley when he was expelled from Fianna Fáil in 1985. However, he never broke his silence on the events surrounding the Arms Crisis.
In retirement Lynch received many accolades and awards. In 1984 the GAA celebrated its centenary. Lynch was selected as a member of the Hurling Team of the Century. He received a huge round of applause from the crowd present when he was called onto the field at Semple Stadium. In 1997 Cork Corporation decided to honour one of the city's favourite sons by naming the newly-built tunnel under the river Lee after him. The Jack Lynch Tunnel was officially opened in 1999.
Jack Lynch died on Wednesday, October 23, 1999 in Dublin. He was honoured with a full state funeral on October 23 in the North Cathedral of his native city, Cork. The funeral was attended by President McAleese, An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, former President Patrick Hillery, former Taoisigh Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and John Bruton and representatives from the GAA. Following the mid-day service in the Cathedral the cortege moved to St Finbarre's Cemetery where the remains of the late Taoiseach were laid to rest. Desmond O'Malley, one of Lynch's closest political allies and personal friends, delivered the graveside oration.
- 'No man has left a greater mark on the progress of this nation than Seán Lemass. He has set the highest of standards because these were the only standards he knew and aspired to.' (1966 - Lynch pays tribute to his predecessor).
- 'It will remain our most earnest aim and hope to win the consent of the majority of the people of the Six Counties to means by which North and South can come together in a re-united and sovereign Ireland earning international respect for both the fairness and efficiency with which it is administered and for its contribution to world peace and progress.' (1969)
- An Taoiseach: Jack Lynch
- An Tánaiste: Frank Aiken (1966-1969), Erskine Childers (1969-1973)
- Minister for Finance: Charles Haughey (1966-1970), George Colley (1970-1973)
- Minister for External Affairs: Frank Aiken (1966-1969), Patrick Hillery (1970-1971)
- Minister for Industry & Commerce: George Colley (1966-1970), Patrick Lalor (1970-1973)
- Minister for Justice: Brian Lenihan (1966-1968), Micheál Ó Moráin (1968-1970), Desmond O'Malley (1970-1973)
- Minister for Labour: Patrick Hillery (1966-1969), Joseph Brennan (1970-1973)
- Minister for Agriculture & Fisheries: Neil Blaney (1966-1970), Jim Gibbons (1970-1973)
- Minister for Defence: Michael Hilliard (1966-1969), Jim Gibbons (1969-1970), Jerry Cronin (1970-1973)
- Minister for Education: Donagh O'Malley (1966-1968), Brian Lenihan (1968-1969), Pádraig Faulkner (1969-1973)
- Minister for Health: Seán Flanagan (1966-1969), Erskine Childers (1969-1973)
- Minister for Transport, Power, Posts & Telegraphs: Erskine Childers (1966-1969), Brian Lenihan (1969-1973), Michael O'Kennedy (1973)
- Minister for Social Welfare: Joseph Brennan (1966-1969), Kevin Boland (1969-1970), Joseph Brennan (1970-1973)
- Minister for Local Government: Kevin Boland (1966-1969), Bobby Molloy (1969-1973)
- Minister for Lands & the Gaeltacht: Micheál Ó Moráin (1966-1968), Kevin Boland (1969-1970), Pádraig Faulkner (1968-1969), Seán Flanagan (1969-1973)
- An Taoiseach: Jack Lynch
- An Tánaiste: George Colley
- Minister for Finance & the Public Service: George Colley
- Minister for Foreign Affairs: Michael O'Kennedy
- Minister for Industry & Commerce: Desmond O'Malley (1977)
- Minister for Justice: Gerard Collins
- Minister for Labour: Gene FitzGerald
- Minister for Economic Planning & Development: Martin O'Donoghue
- Minister for Agriculture: Jim Gibbons
- Minister for Defence: Bobby Molloy
- Minister for Education: John P. Wilson
- Minister for Health & Social Welfare: Charles Haughey
- Minister for Tourism, Transport, Posts & Telegraphs: Pádraig Faulkner
- Minister for Local Government: Sylvester Barret
- Minister for Fisheries: Brian Lenihan (1977-1978)
- Minister for the Gaeltacht: Denis Gallagher
|width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2" | Preceded by:
Seán F. Lemass |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" | Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party
1966–1979 |width="30%" align="center" | Succeeded by:
Charles J. Haughey |- |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" | Taoiseach
1966–1973 |width="30%" align="center" | Succeeded by:
- Kevin Boland, Up deV! (The book was published by Boland itself in the early 1970s and has no ISBN. It is out of print but may be available in libraries.)
- F.S.L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine
- T. Ryle Dwyer, Nice Fellow: A Biography of Jack Lynch (ISBN 1856353680)
- Dick Walsh, The Party: Inside Fianna Fáil (ISBN 0717114465)
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