Mary O'Rourke

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This article is about the politician. For the barrister, see Mary O'Rourke (barrister).
Mary O'Rourke
Leader of Seanad Éireann
In office
2002–2007
Preceded by Donnie Cassidy
Succeeded by Donnie Cassidy
Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil
In office
1995–2002
Preceded by Bertie Ahern
Succeeded by Brian Cowen
Minister for Public Enterprise
In office
1997–2002
Preceded by Alan Dukes (Transport, Energy and Communications)
Succeeded by Seamus Brennan (Transport)
Minister for Health and Children
In office
1991–1992
Preceded by Rory O'Hanlon
Succeeded by John O'Connell
Minister for Education
In office
1987–1991
Preceded by Patrick Cooney
Succeeded by Noel Davern
Teachta Dála
In office
May 2007 – February 2011
In office
November 1982 – November 1992
Constituency Longford–Westmeath
In office
November 1992 – May 2002
Constituency Westmeath
Senator
In office
May 2002 – May 2007
Constituency Nominated by the Taoiseach
In office
October 1981 – November 1982
Constituency Cultural and Educational Panel
Personal details
Born (1937-05-31) 31 May 1937 (age 77)
Athlone, County Westmeath
Nationality Irish
Political party Fianna Fáil
Spouse(s) Enda O'Rourke (died 2001)
Children 2
Alma mater University College Dublin (UCD),
St Patrick's College, Maynooth

Mary O'Rourke (née Lenihan; born 31 May 1937) is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician. She is a former Teachta Dála (TD) for the Longford–Westmeath and Westmeath constituencies.[1] She served as Minister for Education (1987–91), Minister for Health (1991–92) and Minister for Public Enterprise (1997–2002). She was also a member of Seanad Éireann from 2002–07. In 2011 she was appointed to the Board of Directors of Educate Together.

Early life[edit]

Mary Lenihan was born in Athlone, County Westmeath. She was educated at St. Peter's, Athlone; Loreto Bray Convent, County Wicklow; University College Dublin and St Patrick's College, Maynooth. She worked as a secondary school teacher before she began her political career.

Political career[edit]

O'Rourke began in local politics, serving on Athlone Urban District Council between 1974 and 1987 and on Westmeath County Council between 1979 and 1987. She was elected to Seanad Éireann in 1981 on the Cultural and Educational Panel. She stood unsuccessfully for the Dáil at the February 1982 general election but was subsequently re-elected to the Seanad. At the November 1982 general election, she was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil TD for the Longford–Westmeath constituency, and from 1992 for the new Westmeath constituency.[2]

In 1987 she was appointed Minister for Education by Charles Haughey. O'Rourke and her brother, Brian Lenihan, became the first brother and sister in Irish history to serve in the same cabinet. In the November 1991 cabinet reshuffle, O'Rourke became Minister for Health. In February 1992 Charles Haughey resigned as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. O'Rourke contested the subsequent leadership election along with Michael Woods and Albert Reynolds. Reynolds defeated the other two contenders and O'Rourke was subsequently dropped from the her ministerial position, but was appointed to a junior ministry as Minister of State for Labour Affairs at the Departments of Industry and Commerce, and later Enterprise and Employment.

In 1994 Bertie Ahern became party leader and he appointed O'Rourke as Deputy Leader, serving until 2002. Following Ahern's election as Taoiseach in June 1997 O'Rourke became Minister for Public Enterprise, holding this position until she lost her Dáil seat at the 2002 general election. This followed a vote management strategy from Fianna Fáil head office which restricted her from campaigning in her traditional areas around Kilbeggan, in an attempt to win 2 of the 3 seats in Westmeath. The loss of her Dáil seat has also been attributed to her association with and the championing of, the privatisation of Telecom Éireann, which proved a financial disaster for many small investors, due to the share price falling radically, post privatisation. During this term as Minister, she also became the subject of public criticism by Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary. Following the loss of her Dáil seat, she was nominated to Seanad Éireann by Bertie Ahern where she became Leader of the Seanad.

In January 2006 O'Rourke received the party nomination to stand at the 2007 general election. She narrowly defeated her nearest rival and Dáil election running mate, Kevin Boxer Moran of Athlone Town Council, causing a controversy when she thanked her election team for working "like blacks."[3] In May 2007 she was re-elected to the Dáil at the 2007 general election with her highest ever vote.

In November 2008, during a march against the re-introduction of college fees, students from the Athlone Institute of Technology laid a funeral wreath at the door of O'Rourke's constituency office. The card in the wreath stated "Sincere sympathies on the death of free fees. We will remember this." O'Rourke described the act as "heinous". The wreath was placed there because O'Rourke was not speaking at a rally against the fees. [4]

In July 2010 O'Rourke conceded that she did not expect the party to be in power after the next general election. On RTÉ Radio's Today with Pat Kenny programme, O'Rourke said the Government was taking tough decisions to steer the country through the financial crisis and this would make it easy for the Opposition. She said there was a general air of "crossness" within the Fianna Fáil party over their standing in the polls, but nobody was harbouring leadership ambitions to challenge Brian Cowen.[5]

O'Rourke in November 2010 said there was then more to unite her party and Fine Gael than to divide them. She pointed to the common approach of the two parties to Northern Ireland, Europe and the current financial crisis. In an address to the 1916–1921 Club in Dublin Castle last night, the Lonford-Westmeath TD said that most voters no longer defined themselves in terms of Civil War politics. Having pointed to the shared values of the two parties on a number of issues, she said the last issue she wanted to mention was the “dreaded b” word.[6]

Her senior years led her to often being referred to as the "Mammy of the Dáil".[7][8][9]

She contested the 2011 general election, but was defeated on the poll.[7] O'Rourke has criticised former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, saying that he should have resigned after his infamous "congested" radio interview.[10] She supported the attack on Cowen by her nephew, former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who said he was "disappointed" by Cowen's performance and he had to provide the leadership when the Taoiseach did not.[10]

In retirement, she received a lump sum of €237,000 and an annual pension of €97,000.[11]

Other activities[edit]

As well as being a well-known politician, O'Rourke makes regular appearances in the media in a non-political capacity. She has been a contestant on RTÉ's reality series Celebrity Bainisteoir, as well as other shows such as Sex & Sensibility.[12] She has guest presented Tonight with Vincent Browne.

In 2012, Just Mary: My Memoir was published. It won the 2012 Irish Book Award in the "Listeners' Choice" category.[13][14]

Family[edit]

O'Rourke's father Patrick Lenihan served as a TD for Longford–Westmeath from 1965–70. Her brother Brian Lenihan was a senior government minister and Tánaiste. Another brother Paddy Lenihan was a Fianna Fáil councillor in Roscommon but resigned from FF in 1983 and became associated with Neil Blaneys Independent Fianna Fáil party. Two of her nephews, Brian Lenihan, Jnr and Conor Lenihan, both sons of her brother Brian, served as ministers in the government of the 30th Dáil. Brian Lenihan, Jnr was the Minister for Finance. Conor Lenihan was a Minister of State, though he failed to get re-elected at the 2011 general election.

O'Rourke was widowed in January 2001 following the death of her husband, Enda. She has two sons. One of them, Aengus, ran for Athlone Town Council in 2009.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ms. Mary O'Rourke". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  2. ^ "Mary O'Rourke". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  3. ^ "O'Rourke Sparks Row Over 'Blacks' Remark". Irish Independent. 9 January 2006. 
  4. ^ "O'Rourke lashes out as students leave wreath at her door". Sunday Tribune. 9 November 2008. 
  5. ^ "O'Rourke: Expects Fianna Fáil to lose power". RTÉ News. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael share many values now - O'Rourke". The Irish Times. 13 November 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Lenihan, face of Irish crisis, survives election". Reuters. 26 February 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "O'Rourke enlists help from the 'Mammy'". Irish Independent. 1 June 2009. 
  9. ^ "'Mammy' O'Rourke surrenders pension without a fight". Sunday Independent. 26 April 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "O'Rourke joins attack on Cowen". Sunday Independent. 16 March 2011. 
  11. ^ "Outgoing TDs pensions". The Irish Times. 5 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "‘Sex and Sensibility’ begins on RTÉ". Irish Film & Television Network. 11 June 2008. 
  13. ^ Boland, Rosita (23 November 2012). "Banville wins novel of year at awards". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Murphy, Cormac (23 November 2012). "'Mammy' Mary enjoys literary success and picks up gong". Herald. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
Oireachtas
Preceded by
Seán Keegan
(Fianna Fáil)
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Longford–Westmeath
19821992
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
New constituency Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Westmeath
19922002
Succeeded by
Donie Cassidy
(Fianna Fáil)
Preceded by
Re-created constituency
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Longford–Westmeath
20072011
Succeeded by
Robert Troy
(Fianna Fáil)
Political offices
Preceded by
Patrick Cooney
Minister for Education
1987–1991
Succeeded by
Noel Davern
Preceded by
Rory O'Hanlon
Minister for Health
1991–1992
Succeeded by
John O'Connell
Preceded by
New office
Minister of State for Labour Affairs
1992–1994
Succeeded by
Eithne FitzGerald
Preceded by
Alan Dukes
as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications
Minister for Public Enterprise
1997–2002
Succeeded by
Séamus Brennan
as Minister for Transport
Preceded by
Donie Cassidy
Leader of the Seanad
2002–2007
Succeeded by
Donie Cassidy
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bertie Ahern
Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil
1995–2002
Succeeded by
Brian Cowen