Eileen Desmond (née Harrington; 29 December 1932 – 6 January 2005) was an Irish Labour Party politician. She served in the Dáil, the Seanad and the European Parliament, and was Minister for Health and Minister for Social Welfare from 1981 to 1982.
Eileen Harrington was born in Kinsale, County Cork, and educated locally at the Convent of Mercy in Kinsale, where she was one of only two girls in her class to sit the Leaving Certificate examination. Before entering politics she worked as a civil servant with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
Desmond was first elected to Dáil Éireann in a by-election on 10 March 1965, caused by the death of her husband Dan Desmond who had been a Teachta Dála (TD) since 1948. Her victory in the Cork Mid constituency led Taoiseach Seán Lemass to dissolve the 17th Dáil and call a general election. She was elected for the second time in a year, but lost her seat at the 1969 general election. However Desmond was then elected to the 12th Seanad on the Industrial and Commercial Panel, where she served until her re-election to the 20th Dáil at the 1973 general election.
She was elected to the European Parliament at the 1979 European Parliament election for the Munster constituency. However her time in Europe was short-lived, as she returned to domestic politics when she was offered a position as Minister and the chance to impact upon national legislation. At the 1981 general election she switched her constituency to Cork South-Central. A Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition came to power and Desmond was appointed Minister for Health and Social Welfare.
Her cabinet appointment was historic, as she was only the second woman to be a member of the cabinet since the foundation of the state in 1922. Countess Markievicz had held the cabinet post of Minister for Labour in the revolutionary First Dáil in 1919, but no other woman had held been appointed to the cabinet until Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was appointed as Minister for the Gaeltacht in 1979.
Desmond retired from full-time politics at the 1987 general election for health reasons. She died suddenly in 2005.
|Minister for Health
|Minister for Social Welfare