Alan Dukes

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Alan Dukes
Leader of Fine Gael
In office
1987–1990
Preceded by Garret FitzGerald
Succeeded by John Bruton
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communication
In office
3 December 1996 – 26 June 1997
Preceded by John Bruton (acting)
Succeeded by Mary O'Rourke
Minister for Justice
In office
14 February 1986 – 10 March 1987
Preceded by Michael Noonan
Succeeded by Gerry Collins
Minister for Finance
In office
14 December 1982 – 14 February 1986
Preceded by Ray MacSharry
Succeeded by John Bruton
Minister for Agriculture
In office
30 June 1981 – 9 March 1982
Preceded by Ray MacSharry
Succeeded by Brian Lenihan
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1997 – May 2002
Constituency Kildare South
In office
June 1981 – June 1997
Constituency Kildare
Personal details
Born (1945-04-20) 20 April 1945 (age 69)
Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fine Gael

Alan Dukes (born 20 April 1945) is an Irish former politician who served as leader of Fine Gael and as Teachta Dála (TD) for Kildare and Kildare South.[1] He held several major government positions, and holds the distinction of being one of only five TDs to be appointed Minister on their first day in the Dáil. He lost his seat in the 2002 general election. He was subsequently appointed Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs and chairman of Anglo Irish Bank.

Early life[edit]

Dukes was born in Drimnagh in 1945. His father, James F. Dukes, was originally from Tralee, County Kerry and was a senior civil servant, the founding chairman and chief executive of the Higher Education Authority,[2] while his mother was from near Ballina, County Mayo.

The Dukes family originally came from the north of England. His grandfather had served with the Royal Engineers in World War I, and settled in Cork and then Kerry afterwards where he worked with the Post Office creating Ireland's telephone network. He also developed a keen interest in the Irish language, which is something shared by his grandson.

He was educated by the Christian Brothers at Coláiste Mhuire, Parnell Square and was offered a number of scholarships for third level on graduation, including one for the Irish language. His interest in the Irish language continues to this day, and he regularly appears on Irish language television programmes.

On leaving school, he attended University College Dublin where he captained the fencing team to its first ever Intervarsity title.

Career before politics[edit]

In 1969 he became an economist with the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) in Dublin. After Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, he moved to Brussels where he was part of the IFA delegation. In this role he was influential in framing Ireland's contribution to the Common Agricultural Policy.

He moved on from this IFA position to become chief of staff to Ireland's EEC commissioner Dick Burke, a former Fine Gael politician.

Early political career[edit]

In the 1979 European Parliament elections Dukes stood as a Fine Gael candidate in the Munster constituency. He had strong among the farming support but the entry of farming leader T. J. Maher as an independent candidate hurt his chances of election. Maher subsequently topped the poll.

He stood again for Fine Gael at the 1981 general election in the expanded Kildare constituency, where he won a seat in the 22nd Dáil.[3] On his first day in the Dáil he was appointed Minister for Agriculture by the Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, becoming one of only five TDs so appointed. He was to represent Kildare for 21 years.

This minority Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition government collapsed in February 1982 over controversial budget reforms,[4] but returned to power with a working majority in December 1982. Dukes was again called into the cabinet becoming Minister for Finance less than two years into his Dáil career.

He faced a difficult task as Finance Minister at this time. Ireland was heavily in debt while unemployment and emigration were high. Many of Fine Gael's ambitious plans had to be deferred while the Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition disagreed on how to solve the economic crisis. The challenge of addressing the national finances was made difficult by electoral arithmetic and a lack of support from the opposition Fianna Fáil party led by Charles Haughey.

Dukes remained in the Department of Finance until a reshuffle in February 1986 when he was appointed the Minister for Justice.

Leadership of Fine Gael[edit]

Fine Gael failed to be returned to government at the 1987 general election and lost 19 of its 70 seats, mostly to the new Progressive Democrats party. Outgoing Taoiseach and leader Garret FitzGerald stepped down and Dukes was elected leader of Fine Gael. He also became Leader of the Opposition.

This was a difficult time for the country. Haughey's Fianna Fáil had fought the election on promises to increase spending and government services, and by attacking the cutbacks favoured by Fine Gael. The campaign produced the famous Fianna Fáil slogan that cuts in health spending affect the "old, the sick and the handicapped". However on taking office, the new Taoiseach and his Finance Minister Ray MacSharry immediately drew up a drastic set of cutbacks including a spate of ward and hospital closures. This presented a political opportunity for the opposition to attack the government.

However, while addressing a meeting of the Tallaght Chamber of Commerce, Dukes announced that:

When the Government is moving in the right direction, I will not oppose the central thrust of its policy. If it is going in the right direction, I do not believe that it should be deviated from its course, or tripped up on macro-economic issues.

This bold step became known as the Tallaght Strategy, and represented a major departure in Irish politics whereby Fine Gael would vote with the minority Fianna Fáil Government if it adopted Fine Gael's economic policies for revitalising the economy.

The consequences of this statement were huge. The Haughey government was able to take severe corrective steps to restructure the economy and lay the foundations for the economic boom of the nineties. However, at a snap election in 1989 Dukes did not receive electoral credit for his statesmanlike approach, and the party only made minor gains, reclaiming 5 of the 20 lost seats. The outcome was the first ever coalition government for Fianna Fáil, whose junior partner were the Progressive Democrats led by former Fianna Fáil TD Desmond O'Malley.

1990 presidential election and loss of the leadership[edit]

Dukes received little credit for the Tallaght Strategy, and the party's failure to make significant gains in 1989 left some Fine Gael TDs with a desire for a change at the top of the party. Their opportunity came in the wake of the historic 1990 presidential election. Fine Gael chose Austin Currie TD as their candidate. He had been a leading member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association movement in the 1960s and had been a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) before moving south.

Initially, Fianna Fáil's Brian Lenihan, Snr had been favourite to win. However after several controversies arose, relating to the brief Fianna Fáil administration of 1981–82, and Lenihan's dismissal as Minister for Defence mid-way through the campaign, the Labour Party's Mary Robinson emerged victorious. To many in Fine Gael, the humiliation of finishing third was too much to bear and a campaign was launched against Dukes' leadership. He was subsequently replaced as party leader by John Bruton.

Rainbow Coalition[edit]

In September 1992 the new leader, John Bruton, brought him back to the front bench, shortly before the general election in November. In February 1994 Dukes became involved in a failed attempt to oust Bruton as leader and subsequently resigned from the front bench. In December 1994 Bruton became Taoiseach, but Dukes failed to secure a ministerial position despite being one of the most high profile and experienced members of Fine Gael.

Two years later, in December 1996, Dukes returned as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications following the resignation of Michael Lowry. At the 1997 general election, Dukes topped the poll in the new Kildare South constituency, but Fine Gael lost power and Dukes became Chairman of the Irish Council of the European Movement. In this position he was very involved in advising many of the Eastern European countries who were then applying to join the European Union.

In 2001 he backed Michael Noonan in his bid to become leader of Fine Gael. Noonan was successful.

Career post-politics[edit]

After 21 years, Dukes lost his Dáil seat at the 2002 general election. This contest saw many high profile casualties for Fine Gael, including Deputy Leader Jim Mitchell, former Deputy Leader Nora Owen and others. Many local commentators felt that the loss was down to a lack of attention to local issues, as Dukes was highly involved in European projects and had always enjoyed a national profile.

He retired from politics in 2002, and was subsequently appointed Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs. He remained active within Fine Gael, and served a number of terms as the party's Vice-President.

In December 2008, he was appointed by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, Jnr as a public interest director on the board of Anglo Irish Bank. The bank was subsequently nationalised, and he served on the board until the IBRC was liquidated in 2013.

In January 2009, Dukes was a judge on the TG4 reality TV show Feirm Factor.

Dukes receives annual pension payments of €129,805.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Dukes has lived in Kildare town since first being elected to represent the Kildare constituency in 1981. His wife Fionnuala is a former local politician and served as a member of Kildare County Council from 1999 until her retirement in 2009. She served as the county's mayor in 2006–07, becoming only the second woman to hold the position in the body's hundred year history. They have two daughters.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mr. Alan Dukes". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "HEA Website announcing the passing of James F. Dukes". Higher Education Authority Ireland. 21 December 2007. Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 21 December 2007. 
  3. ^ "Alan Dukes". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "RTÉ Coverage of General Elections – February 1982". RTÉ News. 18 April 2006. 
  5. ^ Kelly, Fiach (10 November 2011). "Thanks big fellas: Ahern and Cowen get massive pensions". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
Oireachtas
Preceded by
New seat in constituency
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Kildare
1981–1997
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
New constituency Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Kildare South
1997–2002
Succeeded by
Seán Ó Fearghaíl
(Fianna Fáil)
Political offices
Preceded by
Ray MacSharry
Minister for Agriculture
1981–1982
Succeeded by
Brian Lenihan
Minister for Finance
1982–1986
Succeeded by
John Bruton
Preceded by
Michael Noonan
Minister for Justice
1986–1987
Succeeded by
Gerry Collins
Preceded by
John Bruton
Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications
1996–1997
Succeeded by
Mary O'Rourke
Party political offices
Preceded by
Garret FitzGerald
Leader of Fine Gael
1987–1990
Succeeded by
John Bruton
Leader of the Opposition
1987–1990