Austin Currie was born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland into a large Catholic family. He was educated in Dungannon and at the Queen's University Belfast. Between 1964 and 1972 he was the Nationalist Party Stormont MP for East Tyrone. On 20 June 1968, with others including mediator Father Tom Savage, he began a protest about discrimination in housing allocation by 'squatting' (illegally occupying) in a house in Caledon. The house had been allocated by Dungannon Rural District Council to a 19 year-old unmarried Protestant woman, Emily Beattie, who was the secretary of a local Unionist politician. Emily Beattie was given the house ahead of older married Catholic families with children. The protesters were evicted by officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), one of whom was Emily Beattie's brother. The next day the annual conference of the Nationalist Party unanimously approved of the protest action by Austin Currie in Caledon. This was one of the catalysts of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.
He became an active member in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. In 1970 he was a founder of the group that established the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). From 1973 to 1974 Currie was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. In 1974 he became chief whip of the SDLP. That same year he became Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning in the Northern Ireland Executive.
In 1990, after much procrastination, Fine Gael nominated him as a candidate at the presidential election. He came third in the election after Mary Robinson and Brian Lenihan. In the Rainbow Coalition between 1994 and 1997 he became Minister of State at the Departments of Education, Justice and Health. At the 2002 general election he lost his seat in Dáil Éireann when he failed to be elected in Dublin Mid–West. He immediately announced his retirement from politics.
- Austin Currie, 'All Hell Will Break Loose,' O'Brien Press, Dublin, 2004.
|Parliament of Northern Ireland|
Joseph Francis Stewart
|Member of Parliament for East Tyrone
Position prorogued 1972
Parliament abolished 1973