Monday 23 January 2017

Fine Gael's clash with the 'beards' in the public sector

Published 19/11/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny with former party leader Garret FitzGerald Photo: Tony Gavin
Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny with former party leader Garret FitzGerald Photo: Tony Gavin

The band of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, belting out 'A Nation Once Again', led Charlie Haughey into his first Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis as party leader in February 1980.

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Many of the 5,000 adoring delegates in the crowd at the RDS in Dublin saw it as recognition of the realpolitik that Fianna Fáil was the real party of the trade unions. The unions set up the Irish Labour Party and most of the union leaders in that era were staunch Labour members and activists.

But many trade union shop stewards were also Fianna Fáil activists in that period and later. Mr Haughey had a track record of reasonably good relations with the trade unions. He was friendly with the ITGWU leader, Michael Mullen, who later witnessed his notorious deal with Independent TD Tony Gregory in 1982.

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