Thursday 23 October 2014

Where are they now?: Michael O'Kennedy

ROISIN BURKE

Published 09/01/2011 | 05:00

MICHAEL O'Kennedy was tasked with holding the purse strings during the financially exuberant Fianna Fail administrations of the 1980s.

The qualified barrister served in the Seanad until 1969 when he was first elected to the Dail for Tipperary North. He worked in the Department of Education and in 1973 became Minister for Transport and Power. In 1977 he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.

When Charles Haughey made his leadership bid in 1979, O'Kennedy was a key backer. He became Minister for Finance in the first Haughey government.

Newly-released papers show that O'Kennedy was warning government departments to curb lavish spending. Many, including the Taoiseach's, spent thousands on brandy, flowers and Havana cigars. O'Kennedy introduced a stringent national budget in February 1980.

Briefly departing the Dail in 1981, he became an EU Commissioner, but returned to fight the 1982 election. He didn't get a senior position in Haughey's second administration and refused an offer of the Attorney-General post. He was appointed Minister for Agriculture and Food in the 1987 administration. When Albert Reynolds became Taoiseach in 1992 O'Kennedy was one of the few Haughey supporters to survive in Cabinet, becoming Minister for Labour.

He lost his Dail seat in 1992 and returned to the Seanad. He was returned as a TD in 1997 and unsuccessfully sought the FF nomination for the Presidency.

He retired from politics in 2002 and returned to practise as a barrister.

Now in his 70s, the Nenagh native is a director of WRC Promotions, which brought a round of last year's World Rally Championship to Ireland. He is also a director of financial consultancy Hansard Europe and a member of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

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