Wednesday 21 March 2018

Bobby Molloy, founding member of the Progressive Democrats, passes away

Bobby Molloy
Bobby Molloy
John Downing

John Downing

THE Galway politician Bobby Molloy has died aged 80.

Mr Molloy’s death takes away another personal link to the huge internal struggles within Charlie Haughey’s Fianna Fáil in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1985 he was a founder member, along with Des O’Malley and Mary Harney, of the Progressive Democrats, which was set up in part because of their profound objections to Haughey’s leadership of Fianna Fáil.

Mr Molloy served as a TD for Galway from 1965 until 2002 when he retired. He was Mayor of Galway in 1968 and over his long career held a series of senior government posts, including Minister responsible for Local Government, Defence and Energy.

The Galway politician impressed early on after his first election win for Fianna Fáil in Galway West in April 1965. He was promoted by Taoiseach Jack Lynch and eventually served as Local Government Minister from 1970 until 1973.

Always a Lynch loyalist, he backed the late George Colley against Charlie Haughey in the 1979 leadership election which followed Lynch’s retirement. Haughey dropped him from the government team and soon Molloy was part of efforts to oust him as leader.

He was a prominent member of the so-called “Club of 22,” named for the 22 deputies who voted against Haughey in a leadership challenge. In later years he would talk about the acrimony and division which characterised the Haughey years and he was known for his candour and plain-speaking.

In early 1986 he surprised many by leaving Fianna Fáil and allying himself with Des O’Malley and Mary Harney to help found the Progressive Democrats (PDs). The party espoused a low-tax liberal economy and a number of radical measures to help end recession and economic paralysis.

In June 1989 Molloy was one of the PD negotiators as the part shared power with Fianna Fáil under their old enemy, Haughey. It was the first time Fianna Fáil had ever shared a cabinet table and both O’Malley and Molloy were senior ministers.

He again helped with coalition talks in June 1997 when Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil formed a minority coalition with the PDs and the support of Independents.

Always an assiduous constituency politician he was a big vote-getter down the years. But he quit Dáil politics in the summer of 2002 after controversy over his attempts to contact a judge on behalf of a constituent who had a relative convicted of rape.

However, in the May 2002 general election which followed, he helped devise a three-candidate strategy in Galway West and managed to hold the seat for the PDs against all odds.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "Bobby gave a long and dedicated service in many ministries and he was always a tireless campaigner for his native Galway.

"I got to know Bobby well during his time in the Dail and I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Phyllis and to their family."

Mr Molloy is survived by his widow, his sons Donnacha and Dara and his daughters Saoirse and Sorcha.

President Michael D Higgins, who represented Galway West with Mr Molloy, said his Dail colleague made a huge contribution to Irish public life.

"Throughout his career, he gave excellent service over several decades and his name is recalled with great affection throughout the constituency," he said.

"His life in politics began before mine, and on every platform he served he delivered his contribution, which was always well informed, with great distinction.

"A close friend of Desmond O'Malley, he was one of the founding members of the Progressive Democrats. He earned the respect of both his supporters and opponents because of the integrity with which he held his views."

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