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Jack Lynch

A successful hurling and gaelic football star, Jack Lynch (full name: John Mary Lynch) (1917-1999) was the fourth Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland. He served two periods as Taoiseach; 1966 to 1973 and 1977 to 1979.

John Mary Lynch was born on the 15th of August, 1917 in Cork City. From his youth he was known as Jack. jack was the youngest of seven children and was always regarded as the wild boy of the family.

From his youth Jack showed accomplishment as a sportsman. His particular passion was for hurling, however he also enjoyed rugby, soccer and Gaelic Football. jack captained the Cork Hurling team in 1939, 1940 and 1942. He was a prominent member of the team also when Cork won the All-Ireland Finals in 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1946. Jack won an All-Ireland Football Final with Cork in 1945.

Jack Lynch began working on the Cork Circuit Court Staff as a clerk. This was when he decided on a career in law. He enrolled in University College Cork in 1941 and decided to study for the Bar. He completed his studies at Kings Inns in Dublin in 1946 and qualified as a barrister. He set returned to Cork and set up his own practice there. In August 1946 he married Máirín O Connor.

Jack Lynch entered Dáil Éireann as a TD for Fianna Fáil in 1948. He served as a minister in the governments of Eamon de Valera and Sean Lemass. holding a number of posts, including Minister for Education, Minister for Industry & Commerce, and Minister for Finance.

When Taoiseach Sean Lemass retired unexpected in 1966, the leadership race (the first contested race in the history of the party) was expected to involve Charles J. Haughey, Neil Blaney[?], George Colley and possibly others. Lemass, distrustful of the candidates emerging, sought a compromise candidate. When Patrick Hillery (the future President of Ireland) declined to seek the leadership, Jack Lynch reluctantly emerged to take it on. He decisively beat the one other challenger to stand, George Colley, and became the third leader of Fianna Fáil in 1966.

Lynch was seen initially as a weak compromise leader, surrounded by men of far more ability. However he showed his leadership skills and determination when in 1970, amid 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 illegal attempts to import arms for the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. Lynch sacked both ministers (he had retired his innocent but incompetent Minister for Justice, Micheál Ó Moráin[?] the previous day). A fourth minister, Kevin Boland[?] resigned in disgust. The affair became known as the Arms Crisis[?].

He also faced crises over the deteriorating situation in Northern Ireland, where Bloody Sunday (where civilians were killed by the British Paratroop Regiment[?]) and the campaign of violence by terrorist organisations such as the Provisional IRA and the Ulster Defence Association, led to the abolition of the Stormont home rule government in Northern Ireland and the danger of civil war in the North that could spread to the south also.

Lynch's government was expected to collapse, but it survived until 1973, when it was defeated in a general election by the National Coalition of Fine Gael and Labour[?] under Liam Cosgrave. Lynch remained as Leader of the Opposition. In opposition, Fianna Fáil begun its comeback by securing the election of its candidate, Erskine Hamilton Childers to become President of Ireland in 1973, defeating the odds-on favourite, the National Coalition's Tom O'Higgins[?]. In 1975, to much media criticism, Lynch rehabilitated Charles J. Haughey, bringing him back to his party's Shadow Cabinet.

In 1977, Lynch and Fianna Fáil won an unprecedented twenty seat majority in the 148 seat Dáil Éireann. He remained on as leader for two more years. Though the outgoing National Coalition was relatively unpopular and Fianna Fáil probably would have won the general election in any case, it put forward a controversial economic manifesto that led to government spending and borrowing increasing at an unprecedented and unsustainable pace.

In 1979, having ran an unsuccessful European Elections[?] campaign, to elect fifteen MEPs (Members of the European Parliament[?] from Ireland, and also having suffered two disastrous by-election defeats in his native Cork, pressure mounted on Lynch to step down as leader.

He also faced strains in Anglo-Irish relations, following the murder in County Sligo of Earl Mountbatten, uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh and mentor of the Prince of Wales. To everyone's surprise he did retire (he himself had planned to do so in 1980), in the expectation that his Tánaiste (deputy prime minister, pronounced 'taw-nish-te'), George Colley would succeed him. However Colley was easily beaten by Charles J. Haughey. Lynch retired from Dáil Éireann in 1981.

Lynch was described 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 an foolish and misguided which damaged the Irish economy for nearly two decades. His handling of the crisis that engulfed Northern Ireland in the late 1960s has been criticised, as was his rehabilitation of Charles J. Haughey, who has since been embroiled in allegations of financial inpropriety while taoiseach. Nevertheless, Lynch remains regarded as a respected and popular Irish leader, 'Honest Jack', 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.

He died in October 1999. He is survived by his wife, Máirín. They had no children.

For differing accounts of the Lynch years, read

  • 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)

Preceded by:
Sean Lemass
Taoiseach (1959-1966)
Prime Ministers of Ireland
Taoisigh na hÉireann
Succeeded by:
Liam Cosgrave
Taoiseach (1973-1977)
Preceded by:
Liam Cosgrave
Taoiseach (1973-77)
Prime Ministers of Ireland
Taoisigh na hÉireann
Succeeded by:
Charles Haughey
Taoiseach (1979-1981)

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