Eamon Gilmore

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Eamon Gilmore
Eamon Gilmore Conference 2010 cropped.jpg
Assumed office
9 March 2011
Preceded by Mary Coughlan
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
Assumed office
9 March 2011
Preceded by Brian Cowen (Foreign Affairs)
Mary Hanafin (Enterprise, Trade and Innovation)
Leader of the Labour Party
Assumed office
6 September 2007
Preceded by Pat Rabbitte
Minister of State at the
Department of the Marine
In office
20 December 1994 – 26 June 1997
Preceded by Gerry O'Sullivan
Succeeded by Hugh Byrne
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
June 1989
Constituency Dún Laoghaire
Personal details
Born (1955-04-24) 24 April 1955 (age 58)
Caltra, County Galway, Ireland
Political party Labour Party (1999–present)
Other political
Democratic Left (1992–99)
Workers' Party (1975–92)
Spouse(s) Carol Hanney
Children 3
Alma mater University College Galway
Website www.gilmore.ie

Eamon Gilmore (born 24 April 1955) is an Irish Labour Party politician. In the Government of Ireland, he holds the offices of Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.[1] He has been the Leader of the Labour Party since September 2007. He has represented the constituency of Dún Laoghaire in Dáil Éireann since 1989, firstly as a member of the Workers' Party of Ireland, later as a member of Democratic Left and most recently as a member of the Labour Party.[2] He served as a Minister of State at the Department of the Marine from 1994 until 1997 as part of the "Rainbow Coalition" during the Government of the 27th Dáil.

Born in County Galway, Gilmore graduated from University College Galway, becoming President of the Union of Students in Ireland. Later, as a trade union organiser, he entered local politics. As a Democratic Left TD, he was central in negotiating that party's merger with Labour. He was beaten by fellow former Democratic Left TD, Pat Rabbitte, in Labour's 2002 leadership election, and was instead appointed as the party's Environment, Housing and Local Government spokesperson. He was elected unopposed to the leadership in 2007.

At the 2011 general election, Gilmore led the Labour Party to its best ever performance with a record 37 seats. This saw Labour emerge as the second largest party in Ireland for the first time in its 99-year history. He went on to negotiate a programme for government with Fine Gael that saw the Labour party enter government for the first time since 1997 and Gilmore appointed as Tánaiste, with four other Labour TDs having seats at cabinet.

Early life and career[edit]

Gilmore was born in Caltra, County Galway, in 1955 into a small farming family. When he was 14 months old his father died leaving his mother to run the mixed farm and raise Gilmore and his younger brother John.[3]

Gilmore's primary education was received in Caltra in a small two teacher national school where he was taught through the medium of Irish. He is a fluent Irish speaker to this day. Following his sixth-year state primary exam, he qualified for a scholarship from Galway County Council which enabled him to attend secondary school. He entered Garbally College, Ballinasloe as a boarder in 1965.[4]

Availing of a third-level grant to fund his degree he went on to study psychology at University College Galway (UCG). He was an active member of the Drama Society in university where his contemporaries were the theatre director Garry Hynes and actor Marie Mullen who both went on to found the Druid Theatre Company. He also took part in the university debating scene mainly through the Literary and Debating Society.[5]

A threat from the then cash strapped Psychology Department to scrap the psychology course altogether and transfer the students to University College Dublin propelled Gilmore towards student activism.[6]

He was elected class representative and later at the age of 18 served as President of UCG Students' Union from July 1974 to June 1975. In 1975, towards the end of his term of office as President of the Student Union, he joined the UCG Republican Club, which was affiliated to Official Sinn Féin, subsequently "Sinn Féin the Workers' Party" and later renamed the Workers' Party. In recent years he was accused of being evasive on the subject and trying to play down that he had joined the Official Republican Movement, stating that the party was in the process of becoming the Workers' Party at that time, I can't recall exactly the dates.[7] [8] Using both names, the Workers' Party's links with the proscribed paramilitary organisation the Official Irish Republican Army throughout the 1970s is well established.[9]

From 1976 until 1978 he served as President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).[10] Together with Charles Clarke (former British Home Secretary) who was President of the National Union of Students in Britain, he worked within a structure which served to unify the student's movement in Northern Ireland during the troubles. Other achievements during his tenure included increasing student grants and securing the right for students to work during the summer months.

Prior to establishing a career in politics, Gilmore served as a trade union organiser. He joined the Irish Transport & General Workers' Union (now SIPTU) in 1978 and, after brief spells in Dublin No. 4 (Hotels & Catering) and Dublin No. 14 (Engineering) Branches, was rapidly promoted to become Acting Secretary of the Galway Branch (1978–79), Secretary of Tralee Branch (1979–81), and of the Professional & Managerial Staffs Branch (1981–89). He was heavily involved in organising tax protests in Galway and resisting redundancies and closures in Kerry.[11]

Gilmore has described the driving factors which has informed his working life whether as a trade union officer or public representative. "I like advocating. I love to share in the joy people get out of cracking it, getting the job or getting some right they should have. I get huge satisfaction out of working for improvements and seeing those come through".[12]

Personal life[edit]

While at university he met his wife Carol. The couple has lived in Shankill, Dublin since 1979 and have two sons and one daughter.[3] His brother John is a television producer in Washington DC.[13]

Outside of politics he prefers to spend his time cooking, reading and attending sports matches, especially those featuring Galway's Senior Hurling and Football teams.

A book, Leading Lights: People Who've Inspired Me, written by Gilmore was published by Liberties Press in November 2010.[14][15]

When questioned on the Today with Pat Kenny programme if Ireland was ready for an atheist Taoiseach, he said that he believed Ireland was a very tolerant country where the rights and beliefs of individuals were respected.[16][17] Gilmore has described himself as an agnostic: "I doubt rather than I believe, let me put it that way".[18] In the same interview, when asked "Should abortion be legalised?", he replied "I'm pro-choice.".

Political career[edit]

Gilmore was elected to Dún Laoghaire Borough Council and also to Dublin County Council on 22 June 1985. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1989 general election as a member of the Workers' Party for the constituency of Dún Laoghaire, and has been re-elected at every subsequent general election.[19]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was linked with Proinsias De Rossa in attempting to jettison some of the Workers' Party's Marxist aspect and the party towards an acceptance of free market economics.[20] Secondly, media accusations had once again surfaced regarding the continued existence of the Official IRA who, it was alleged, remained armed and involved in fund-raising robberies, money laundering and other forms of criminality.[21]

In an attempt to address these issues Gilmore and De Rossa along with their supporters sought to distance themselves from alleged paramilitary activity at a special Árd Fheis held at Dún Laoghaire in on 15 February 1992. A motion proposed by De Rossa and general secretary Des Geraghty sought to stand down the existing membership, elect an 11 member provisional executive council and make several other significant changes in party structures was defeated.[22] The following day at an Ard Chomhairle meeting, Gilmore resigned from the Workers' Party and joined with Proinsias De Rossa and five other Workers' Party TDs to create a new political party Democratic Left (originally known as New Agenda).

In the 'Rainbow Coalition', between 1994 and 1997, Gilmore served as Minister of State at the Department of the Marine where he is credited for overseeing major reform in port ownership, investment in port development, banning nuclear vessels from Irish seas and restricting dumping at sea.[citation needed]

With Labour's Brendan Howlin, Gilmore was a central figure in the negotiations that led to the merger of Democratic Left with the Labour Party in 1999 under the Leadership of Ruairi Quinn.[23]

After Quinn's resignation in 2002, Gilmore unsuccessfully contested the Leadership won by former student union and political colleague Pat Rabbitte.

From 2002 to 2007 he sat on the Labour Party front bench as Environment, Housing and Local Government Spokesperson.

Labour Party leader[edit]

Mr. Gilmore and Michael D. Higgins on the campaign trail in Galway City, 2008.

Following Pat Rabbitte's resignation as party leader in August 2007, Gilmore announced his candidacy for the leadership. He received support from senior figures such as Michael D. Higgins, Ruairi Quinn, Willie Penrose, Liz McManus and Emmet Stagg, and did not have to contest a ballot, being formally confirmed as leader on 6 September after being the only declared candidate.[24] He is the tenth leader of the Labour Party.

From early on in his Leadership Gilmore insisted that Labour should aspire to lead the next Government and set about building Labour as a third option for voters.[18] At the local elections of 5 June 2009, the Labour Party added to its total of council seats, with 132 seats won (a gain of 31) and by July 2010 had gained an additional six seats from councillors joining the party since the election. On Dublin City Council, the party was again the largest party, but now with more seats than the two other main parties combined.

Though in favour of the 2008 first Lisbon Treaty referendum, when it was lost he declared that the "Lisbon Treaty is dead" and publicly opposed a second referendum being held. According to a wikileaks cable released in 2011, he told the US ambassador privately that he would support a second referendum. The ambassador reported that: "He explained his public posture of opposition to a second referendum as 'politically necessary' for the time being".[25] In 2009 the Lisbon Treaty proposal was passed by the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland.

At the 2009 European Parliament election held on the same day, the Labour Party increased its number of seats from 1 to 3, retaining the seat of Proinsias De Rossa in the Dublin constituency, while gaining seats in the East constituency with Nessa Childers, and in the South constituency with Alan Kelly.[26]

In September 2009 at the Labour Parliamentary Party Meeting in Waterford the Labour leader, reiterating what he had said in earlier interviews, categorically ruled out a coalition with Fianna Fáil when a Government is formed after the next General Election.[27]

At his Leader's address to the 2010 Labour Party Conference (17 April 2010) Gilmore reinforced his vision that the Party should lead the way in building 'One Ireland'. One Ireland is based on the idea that by working together we can get the country back on track and restore our economy, our prosperity and our society. In this speech he named the Labour Party's policy priorities as being Jobs, Reform and Fairness. He also stated his determination that at the coming general election the Labour Party will run enough candidates, to enable the Irish people to make Labour the largest party in the next Dáil and to lead the next Government .[28]

In July 2010 Gilmore again ruled out a coalition between his party and Fianna Fáil after the next general election even if he were in a position to become taoiseach. Gilmore has also predicted his party is well-positioned to win at least a seat in each of the country's 43 constituencies and two in some constituencies in Dublin, Cork, other urban areas and commuter-belt counties. In all, he said the party has the potential to win 50 seats or more.[29]

Kilmore School controversy[edit]

The Irish Independent reported in November 2010 that Gilmore's wife had profited from the sale two and a half acre unzoned site that has the benefit of planning permission for a school obtained by a third party.

In an RTÉ Radio One interview Gilmore denied that the media coverage surrounding the sale by his wife of land for a Galway school was embarrassing for him. "This is land Carol inherited from her late mother. She was approached by the board of management of the school to make the site available. It was publicly advertised by the OPW and independently valued," he said[30]

There is no allegation of wrongdoing by Gilmore or his wife. TDs do not have to declare spouses' interests as only sitting offices holders such as ministers have to declare their spouse interests. A spokesperson for the Department of Education is quoted in the Irish Times as having said "The department has no reason to consider there was anything abnormal about the transaction concerned."[31]

2011 general election[edit]

Gilmore holds a joint press conference with Hillary Rodham Clinton

At the 2011 general election, Senator Ivana Bacik was Gilmore's running mate in the Dun Laoghaire constituency. Gilmore topped the poll but Bacik was not elected.

In February 2011 Gilmore said the Government's decision to postpone injecting a further €10 billion into the banks until after the election shows the bailout deal must be renegotiated. Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan postponed injecting a further €10 billion into the banks until after the election – missing a key deadline under the EU-IMF bailout. "I find it quite amazing that a Fianna Fáil government, that tells us that we can't renegotiate the IMF deal, can unilaterally take one portion of the deal and decide they are going to postpone implementing it because there happens to be an election," he said.[32]

Gilmore led Labour to the best electoral performance in the party's 99-year history at the 2011 general election. The party won 37 seats, its most ever. It did especially well in Dublin, taking 18 seats to become the largest party in the capital.

Tánaiste 2011–present[edit]

Following the election, Labour opened coalition talks with Fine Gael, which became the biggest party in the Dáil for the first time ever. On 5 March, the two parties agreed to form a coalition government—the seventh time the two parties will govern together. Gilmore became Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.[1] He went on to appoint four other Ministers to the Cabinet, six Junior Ministers and Máire Whelan as Attorney General. Gilmore has also recreated the Office of the Tánaiste within the Department of the Taoiseach to enhance his control over Government policy.[33] This office was originally created under Tánaiste Dick Spring in 1992 but was abolished by his successor Mary Harney.[34]

Seanad election[edit]

In the following election to Seanad Éireann, 9 Labour Party Senators were elected. Gilmore went on to appoint 3 other Labour Senators giving the Labour Party its highest ever membership of the Seanad, at 12, and its largest Parliamentary Party (TDs, Senators, MEPs) at 52.

Gilmore also appointed Katherine Zappone, a human rights and LGBT campaigner, to the Seanad. Though a Labour Party member she sits as an Independent and is Ireland's first Lesbian Senator.


On 13 July 2011 the Cloyne Report was published, detailing the investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by 19 priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cloyne. Among the report's findings were the revelation that the vast majority of allegations made in the diocese were not reported to the Garda, as required by the Church's 1996 guidelines; that the Bishop of the Diocese, John Magee, and others had withheld full co-operation with the Government's investigation and had deliberately misrepresented his own response to the allegations; and that the Vatican itself had both refused to co-operate in the investigation and counselled the Diocese that the 1996 guidelines were not binding.

On 18 July 2011 Gilmore condemned the Church's handling of the crisis and called on the Papal Nuncio to explain the Vatican's role. Following this criticism the Church withdrew its Papal Nuncio form Ireland as international news outlets reported on the unprecedented nature of the Government's criticism of the Catholic Church.[35] Gilmore later claimed the Church did not understand the anger the Irish people felt.[36]

On 3 November 2011 Gilmore announced that Ireland would close its embassy in the Vatican, along with the embassy in Tehran and a representative office in East-Timor, and that the Irish ambassador to the Holy See would reside not in Rome but in Ireland.[37]

Gilmore said the "decision follows a review of overseas missions carried out by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which gave particular attention to the economic return from bilateral missions". "In order to meet its targets under the EU-IMF programme and to restore public expenditure to sustainable levels, the Government has been obliged to implement cuts across a wide range of public services. No area of Government expenditure can be immune from the need to implement savings."[38]

Presidential election[edit]

In October 2011 the Labour Party's President and candidate, Michael D. Higgins was elected as the ninth President of Ireland. As a student Gilmore personally canvassed for Higgins in the 1969 election. Following the election Gilmore praised Higgins' contribution to Irish politics and cited that he would be a president for all people not just Labour Party supporters.[39]

On the same day, Labour's Patrick Nulty won the Dublin West by-election, making the Labour Party the first government party in Ireland to win a by-election since 1982. Though Gilmore's Government also lost the Referendum on Oireachtas inquiries the day was seen as a political boost for the Labour Party in government.

Croke Park Agreement[edit]

In December, Gilmore once again put his support behind the Croke Park Deal on Public Sector pay and conditions. The dismissal of a renegotiation of the deal came in light of Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte's comments that the deal could be renegotiated along with calls from junior Fine Gael TDs that the agreement should be scrapped.[40]

OSCE Chair[edit]

On 1 January 2012, Ireland assumed the 2012 chair of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OCSE) for the first time. In his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Gilmore serves as the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE. Gilmore said Ireland would be committed to "promoting peace, security and respect for human rights and rule of law" and draw on its experience from Northern Ireland to enhance to OSCE's role in conflict prevention. Gilmore is expected to present Ireland's priorities to the organisation's permanent council on 12 January 2012.[41]


  1. ^ a b "Eamon Gilmore set for Foreign Affairs". RTÉ News. 8 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Mr. Eamon Gilmore". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Butler, Kate, Sunday Times Home Ireland Magazine. Time and Place Eamon Gilmore. 16 March 2008.
  4. ^ Kelly, Ken, Connacht Tribune. Gilmore back on familiar turf for Garbally return. 4 June 2010.
  5. ^ McGarry, Patsy, Cois Coirbe Memory Lane. Alumni Office NUI Galway, 2008.
  6. ^ Irish Daily Mail. The Accidental TD. 7 September 2007.
  7. ^ Eamon Gilmore interviewed on the 'Marian Finucane Show' on RTÉ Radio One, October 2010.
  8. ^ "Irish Labour leader evasive on former links with Sinn Féin". Belfast Telegraph. 6 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, (2009).
  10. ^ McDonald, Brian; Kelly, Fiach (1 November 2010). "How power couple rose to pole position in public life". Irish Independent. 
  11. '^ Devine, Francis, Organising History, A Centenary in Siptu. Gill and McMillan, 2009.
  12. ^ Crowley, Niall (9 July 2010). "Interview Eamon Gilmore – Equality for the Majority". The Village. 
  13. ^ Calder, John (10 July 2010). "Larry King". The Marian Finucane Show, RTÉ Radio One. 
  14. ^ Walsh, Caroline (25 September 2010). "Loose Leaves – Eamon Gilmore's book of inspiration in the pipeline". The Irish Times. 
  15. ^ "Thatcher influenced Gilmore". The Irish Times. 25 November 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2011. 
  16. ^ Carroll, Steven (18 February 2011). "Gilmore reiterates tax pledge". The Irish Times. 
  17. ^ "Election 2011". RTÉ News. 18 February 2011. 
  18. ^ a b O'Toole, Jason (15 October 2007). "Take me to your leader". Hot Press. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  19. ^ "Eamon Gilmore". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  20. ^ Proinsias De Rossa, 'The case for a new departure Making Sense', March–April 1992.
  21. ^ BBC Spotlight programme, 'Sticking to their guns', June 1991.
  22. ^ Sean Garland, 'Beware of hidden agendas', Making Sense March–April 1992.
  23. ^ "Brian Dowling looks back Eamon Gilmore's path to political Leadership". RTÉ News. 6 September 2007. 
  24. ^ "Gilmore declared new Labour leader". RTÉ News. 6 September 2007. 
  25. ^ "Gilmore 'took opposing views in public and in private'". Irish Independent. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  26. ^ "How Ireland Voted special supplement". The Irish Times. 9 July 2010. 
  27. ^ "Gilmore rules out coalition with FF after election". The Irish Times. 10 September 2009. 
  28. ^ "One Ireland: Gilmore addresses Labour Conference". Labour Party. 17 April 2010. 
  29. ^ "Gilmore rules out FF coalition". The Irish Times. 21 July 2010. 
  30. ^ "Gilmore defends wife's sale of €525,000 site for school". The Irish Times. 5 November 2010. 
  31. ^ "Gilmore had 'no involvement' in wife's property deal with State". The Irish Times. 3 November 2010. 
  32. ^ "Gilmore argues bailout terms must be renegotiated". The Irish Times. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011. 
  33. ^ Fitzgerald, Mary (13 July 2011). "Kenny appoints second secretary general". The Irish Times. 
  34. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (18 July 2011). "Gilmore gains more say over policy as he expands his role". Irish Independent. 
  35. ^ Taylor, Charlie (21 July 2011). "Reaction to Kenny's Cloyne speech". The Irish Times. 
  36. ^ "Vatican missed the point on abuse anger, says Gilmore". Irish Examiner. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  37. ^ "Irish embassy to the Vatican to be closed". RTÉ News. 3 November 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  38. ^ "Vatican embassy to close". The Irish Times. 3 November 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  39. ^ Edwards, Elaine (28 October 2011). "Gilmore pays tribute to Higgins". The Irish Times. 
  40. ^ Minihan, Mary; Carr, Aoife (12 December 2011). "Coalition not trying to 'unpick' deal". The Irish Times. 
  41. ^ Fitzgerald, Mary (2 January 2012). "Ireland takes over chair of OSCE". The Irish Times. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Barry Desmond
(Labour Party)
Workers' Party Teachta Dála for Dún Laoghaire
Succeeded by
(Democratic Left)
Preceded by
(Workers' Party)
Democratic Left Teachta Dála for Dún Laoghaire
Succeeded by
(Labour Party)
Preceded by
(Democratic Left)
Labour Party Teachta Dála for Dún Laoghaire
Political offices
Preceded by
Gerry O'Sullivan
Minister of State at the Department of the Marine
Succeeded by
Hugh Byrne
Preceded by
Mary Coughlan
Preceded by
Brian Cowen
as Minister for Foreign Affairs
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
Preceded by
Mary Hanafin
as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
Party political offices
Preceded by
Pat Rabbitte
Leader of the Labour Party