Albert Reynolds

From Academic Kids

Albert Reynolds (Ir. Ailbhe MacRaighnaill) (born November 3, 1932), was the eighth Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, serving one term in office, 1992 to 1994. Reynolds was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Teachta Dála (TD) for Longford-Roscommon in 1977, and was re-elected at each election until his retirement in 2002. He previously served as Minister for Finance (1988-1991), Minister for Industry & Commerce (1987-1988), Minister for Industry & Energy (1982), Minister for Transport (1980-1981) and Minister for Posts & Telegraphs (1979-1981). Reynolds was the fifth leader of Fianna Fáil from 1992 until 1994. He is credited with and is regarded as having more of an influence on the peace process of Northern Ireland than any Taoiseach before him.

An Taoiseach Albert Reynolds
Rank: 8th Taoiseach
First Term: February 11, 1992 - December 15, 1994
Predecessor: Charles Haughey
Successor: John Bruton
Date of Birth: Thursday, November 3, 1932
Place of Birth: Roscommon, Ireland
Profession: Businessman
Political Party: Fianna Fáil

Early life

Albert Reynolds was born in Rooskey, County Roscommon on November 3, 1932. He was educated at Summerhill College in Sligo and found work as a clerk in the 1950s with Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ), the state transport service. Reynolds left what many would consider to be a "job for life" in the state company and moved into the showband scene, owning a number of dancehalls in his local area. He became wealthy from this venture during the 1960s when dancehalls proved extremely popular and invested his money in a number of businesses including a pet food company, a bacon factory, a fish exporting operation and hire purchase company. Reynolds also had business interests in local newspapers and a cinema. Although his dancehall empire required late nights Reynolds was a traditional family man and had a happy home with his wife Kathleen and their seven children.

Early political career

Reynolds became interested in politics at the time of the Arms Crisis in 1970, a hugely controversial episode in modern Irish history which saw two Cabinet ministers, Neil Blaney and Charles Haughey, sacked from the government over an alleged attempt to import arms to Northern Ireland. The two men were subsequently acquitted in court but Reynolds then decided to embark on a political career. Reynolds stood as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the 1977 General Election. The election was a landslide victory for Fianna Fáil, with the party receiving a twenty-seat parliamentary majority. Reynolds was just one of a number of TDs elected to Dáil Éireann on that day, however, at 43 years of age Reynolds was considered a late starter.

Reynolds remained a backbencher until 1979. In that year pressure was mounting on the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch to step down. Reynolds aligned himself to Charles Haughey and supported him in the subsequent leadership contest. Reynolds's affable personality helped him to coax a number of backbenchers into supporting Haughey, who went on to beat George Colley in the leadership struggle and become Taoiseach. Reynolds was rewarded for his staunch loyalty by joining the government as Minister for Posts & Telegraphs. He took on the Transport portfolio in 1980, making his brief one of the largest and most wide-ranging in the government. As Minister for Transport Reynolds was involved in a bizarre incident in which an Aer Lingus plane was hi-jacked with the chief demand for the safe return of the aircraft and its passengers being the revealing of the religious secret, the Third Secret of Fatima. The incident was resolved in Paris with no injuries.

Fianna Fáil lost power in 1981 but regained it again in 1982. Reynolds returned to government as Minister for Industry & Energy. That government fell in late 1982 and Reynolds was back on the opposition benches. During the 1982-1983 period the Fianna Fáil leader, Charles Haughey, faced three motions of no-confidence. Reynolds gave him his overwhelming support at all times and Haughey survived, routing his opponents and critics within the party.

In 1987 Fianna Fáil returned to government and Reynolds was appointed Minister for Industry & Commerce, one of the most senior positions in the cabinet. The position seemed even more important as the government's top priority at this time was economic recovery. In 1988 the Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, became Ireland's European Commissioner. Reynolds succeeded MacSharry in the most important department in the government,a succession that was to have severe consequences.

In 1989 a general election resulted in Fianna Fáil taking the unprecedented move of entering into a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. Reynolds headed the Fianna Fáil negotiation team along with another Minister, Bertie Ahern. A programme for government was finally agreed, almost a month after the general election, and Reynolds returned as Minister for Finance in a coalition government that he described as a "temporary little arrangement."

The failure to get the Fianna Fáil candidate, Brian Lenihan, elected as President of Ireland added to the pressure on Haughey's leadership. In a speech in County Cork, Reynolds announced that if a vacancy arose in the position of party leader he would contest it. This was a clear and open revolt on Haughey's leadership. A number of TDs, including some members of the cabinet also began to grow disillusioned with Haughey and they began to look for a successor. Reynolds was the most popular and his profile was enhanced by his so-called "Country & Western" gang of TDs who began to agitate within the party on his behalf. In November 1991 a relatively unknown rural TD, Seán Power, put down a motion of no confidence in Haughey. Reynolds and his staunchest of supporters, Pádraig Flynn, announced their support for the motion and were immediately sacked from the government. When the vote was taken the party re-affirmed its support in Haughey and it looked as if Reynolds political career was finished.

Haughey's victory was short-lived, as a series of political errors would lead to his demise as Taoiseach. Controversy erupted over the attempted appointment of Jim McDaid as Minister for Defence, which saw him resign from the post before he had been officially installed. Worse was to follow when Seán Doherty, the man who as Minister for Justice had taken the blame for the phone-tapping scandal of the early 1980s, went on RTÉ television and said that Haughey had known and authorised the phone-tapping. Haughey denied this but the Progressive Democrats members of the government stated that they could no longer continue in government with Haughey as Taoiseach. Haughey told Des O'Malley, the PD leader, that he intended to retire shortly but wanted to choose his own time of departure. O'Malley agreed to this and the government continued.

On January 30, 1992 Haughey officially retired as leader of Fianna Fáil at the parliamentary party meeting. He remained as Taoiseach until February 11 when Albert Reynolds easily defeated Mary O'Rourke and Michael Woods to become Taoiseach and fifth leader of Fianna Fáil.

As Taoiseach (1992-1994)

Reynolds created a storm when he appointed his new cabinet. Eight members of Haughey's old cabinet, including such long-standing figures as Ray Burke, Mary O'Rourke and Gerard Collins, were dismissed. Nine of the twelve junior ministers, many who were Haughey loyalists, were also sacked. The ministers who were sacked along with Reynolds at the end of 1991 where all re-instated, and a number of younger TDs, like Charlie McCreevy and Brian Cowen, joined the cabinet for the first time. Bertie Ahern, possibly one of Haughey's biggest supporters, remained as Minister for Finance due to his agreement with Reynolds not to challenge him for the leadership. These appointments and the sacking of a number of house-hold names would lead to extreme bitterness and would eventually lead to the end of Reynolds's career.

On Reynolds's first day as Taoiseach the X-Case incident erupted. This was when the Attorney-General, Harry Whelehan, refused to allow a 14-year old girl from travelling to Britain for an abortion. The incident strained relations between the government parties of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. A referendum on abortion was eventually held, with the government suffering an embarrassing defeat on the third strand of the referendum which would make abortion illegal except the life of the mother was in danger. The referendum and the wording of the constitutional change between the two government parties caused tensions, however, the government remained in tact.

A tribunal of enquiry into irregularities in the beef industry was established to examine the "unhealthy" relationship between Charles Haughey and the beef baron Larry Goodman. At the tribunal Desmond O'Malley severely criticised Reynolds, in his capacity as Minister for Industry & Commerce, for an export credit scheme. When Reynolds gave evidence he referred to O'Malley as "dishonest." This enraged the Progressive Democrats leader and the party voted against itself and Fianna Fáil in a motion of no confidence and the government fell.

The election campaign was a disaster for Fianna Fáil. Support for the party fell by 20% and it was clear that the public blamed Reynolds over O'Malley for the collapse of the government. When the results were known Fianna Fáil received its worst election results since 1927. The 27th Dáil met three times between December and January but a Taoiseach failed to be elected with a majority on all three occassions. Eventually negotiations began to form another coalition government and eventually a Fianna Fáil-Labour Party government came to power with Reynolds returning as Taoiseach and Dick Spring of Labour becoming Tánaiste.

One of Reynolds's big achievements during his term as Taoiseach was the advancement in the peace process regarding Northern Ireland. Peace-meal negotiations had gone on during 1993 between Reynolds and the British Prime Minister, John Major. Reynolds had a very good relationship with Major, possibly one of the best between an Irish Taoiseach and a British Prime Minister. On December 15, 1993 the Joint Downing Street Declaration was signed at the Prime Minister's official residence in London.

The agreement between the two governments was a high point for Reynolds, however the government was soon to face more pressure. A disagreement between the two government partners erupted over certain financial matters, including a tax amnesty for tax evaders and a complex addition to a Finance Bill that was going to be published. In June 1994 the arithmetic in Dáil Éireann changed due to two by-election results. For the first time an alternative government could be formed without Fianna Fáil. This added to the pressure on Reynolds but worse was still to come.

The report on the Beef Tribunal was eventually published in July 1994 and Labour threatened to leave the government if Reynolds was criticised. As it turned out Reynolds was vindicated and wanted to report in the media immediately. This caused tensions between himself and Spring, tensions that never repaired themselves. There was some conciliation for Reynolds in that the IRA called a complete ceasefire on August 31, 1994. It was a moment to rejoice for Reynolds, however, this great achievement for him was only the calm before the storm.

Reynolds's and Spring's political relationship came to breaking point over the Attorney-General, Harry Whelehan, and Reynolds's insistence in appointing him president of the High Court. It was later revealed that Whelehan, in his capacity as Attorney-General, had mishandled an attempt to extradite a paedophile Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Brendan Smyth. Dick Spring led his ministers out of a cabinet meeting and mulled over the consequences and what the next step should be. The coalition looked finished but Reynolds still held out for the chance to patch things up. He was forced to go before Dáil Éireann and indicate that if he had known 'then' what he "knew now" about the incompetent handling of the case by the AG's office he would not have appointed Whelehan to the judicial post. However it was not enough and the Labour Party resigned from government. Reynolds realised that nothing could be done to save the government and he resigned as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil.

On December 19, 1994 the young Minister for Finance, Bertie Ahern, was unanimously elected the sixth leader of Fianna Fáil. Reynolds's favoured successor, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn withdrew from the leadership contest on the morning of the vote. Fianna Fáil found themselves in opposition against the Rainbow Coalition and Reynolds returned to the opposition backbenches of Dáil Éireann.

Post-Taoiseach period

Reynolds remained on as a TD following his resignation. At the beginning of 1997 he was thinking of retiring from politics at the next general election, which would have to be held during the year. Bertie Ahern, Reynolds's successor, encouraged him to run and offered him the position of "peace envoy" to Northern Ireland and his support as a candidate for the presidential election. Fianna Fáil won the election, however, Ahern went back on his promise to Reynolds due to poor election results in his constituency and the change in the political situation in the North of Ireland. However, Reynolds was still interested in being a candidate for the presidency, along with two other candidates, Michael O'Kennedy and Mary McAleese. In a meeting of ministers the Taoiseach gave a typically ambiguous speech which seemed to encourage his Cabinet to support McAleese. In the end, McAleese was successful and went on to become the eighth President of Ireland. Reynolds was humiliated by Ahern and many of the ministers he had sacked when he came to power in 1992. Reynolds retired from politics at the 2002 General Election after 25 years as a Teachta Dála.

Reynold's first Government (1992-1993)


  • November 4, 1992: Bobby Molloy resigns as Minister for Energy. Albert Reynolds takes over the portfolio until the formation of the new government. On the same day Desmond O'Malley resigns as Minister for Industry & Commerce.
  • November 5, 1992: Pádraig Flynn takes over the Industry & Commerce portfolio that was vacated by Des O'Malley the previous day. He also remains as Minister for Justice.
  • January 4, 1993: Pádraig Flynn resigns as Minister for Industry & Commerce and as Minister for Justice. Bertie Ahern takes over the Industry & Commerce portfolio, as well as being Minister for Finance for the last few days of the government. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn takes over the Justice portfolio as well as being Minister for Tourism, Transport & Communications.

Reynold's Second Government (1993-1994)


Template:Succession box two to one
Preceded by:
Michael O'Leary
Minister for Industry & Energy
Succeeded by:
John Bruton
Preceded by:
Michael Noonan
Minister for Industry & Commerce
Succeeded by:
Ray Burke
Preceded by:
Ray MacSharry
Minister for Finance
Succeeded by:
Bertie Ahern

Template:Succession box one to two

Template:End box

Template:Taoisigh na hÉireannes:Albert Reynolds nl:Albert Reynolds


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