Frank O'Flynn

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Frank O'Flynn

Frank O'Flynn.jpg
28th Minister of Defence
In office
26 July 1984 – 24 July 1987
Prime MinisterDavid Lange
Preceded byDavid Thomson
Succeeded byBob Tizard
Personal details
Born(1918-10-24)24 October 1918
Runanga, New Zealand
Died17 October 2003(2003-10-17) (aged 84)
Paraparaumu, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Sylvia Elizabeth Hefford (m. 1942)
RelationsFrancis Edward O'Flynn (father)
Military service
AllegianceAir Force Ensign of New Zealand.svg RNZAF
Years of service1942–45
RankNZ-Air-OF2.svg Flight lieutenant
Battles/warsWorld War II

Francis Duncan "Frank" O'Flynn QC (24 October 1918 – 17 October 2003) was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party.


Early life[edit]

O'Flynn was born in Runanga in 1918.[1] He was the son of Francis Edward O'Flynn and Margaret Helen Valentine Duncan. He received his education at Christchurch Normal School and Christchurch Boys' High School.[2]

On leaving school he was employed as a clerk by the Education Department in Wellington and attended Victoria University College part-time. In 1939 he became a clerk to the Wellington Labourers’ Union Secretary and completed a BA in 1940. Further study was interrupted by World War II, and he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1942, serving in the Pacific and attaining the rank of flight lieutenant.

He married Sylvia Elizabeth Hefford in 1942 and they had four children. At the 1947, 1950 and 1953 local-body elections he was stood unsuccessfully for the Wellington City Council on the Labour Party ticket.[1]

Legal career[edit]

At the end of the war O’Flynn was employed as a law clerk in the Wellington firm O’Regan and Arndt. He continued to study law and completed an LLB in 1947 and LLM in 1948. Leaving O’Regan and Arndt in 1954, he practised in Wellington as a barrister and solicitor until 1968, when he was made a Queen’s Counsel (QC) and practised as such until 1972.

As one of New Zealand’s most prominent QCs, O’Flynn was renowned for his advocacy and willingness to take on the establishment of the time. His reputation as one of New Zealand’s leading advocates in the 1950s and 1960s was enhanced when he represented 126 survivors and families of victims in the Wahine ferry disaster inquiry held in June 1968.[1]

O’Flynn was also the first (and only) lawyer to sue prime minister Robert Muldoon successfully on behalf of a client: Muldoon was forced to pay out $5,000 for defaming O’Flynn’s client Brian Brooks (who later became a professor of law at Victoria University).[1]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1972–1975 37th Kapiti Labour
1978–1981 39th Island Bay Labour
1981–1984 40th Island Bay Labour
1984–1987 41st Island Bay Labour

He represented the seat of Kapiti from 1972 to 1975, when he was defeated.[3] Following his defeat O'Flynn considered standing for Mayor of Wellington in 1977, but he withdrew in favour of Sir Frank Kitts.[4] At the same election he stood for the Wellington City Council and was elected.[5] Between 1980 and 1981 he was leader of the Labour caucus on the council.[6] He was re-elected in 1980 but unexpectedly lost his seat on the council in 1983.[7]

Following the controversial de-selection of Gerald O'Brien, O'Flynn was selected as his replacement in the Island Bay electorate.[8] O'Brien ran as an independent candidate and drew away many former Labour voters causing O'Flynn to come close to losing one of Labour's safest seats.[9] He was elected narrowly by 650 votes and represented Island Bay from 1978 to 1987, when he retired due to ill health.[3]

During the Fourth Labour Government he was a cabinet minister and served as Minister of Defence from 1984 to 1987.[10] As Minister of Defence he famously said that "he would defend New Zealand by blowing up bridges and tunnels."[11] He was instrumental in developing Labour's nuclear-free policies, which despite resulting in the breakdown of ANZUS, O'Flynn described as "by far the brightest thing [the Government] had done."[1]

Life after Politics[edit]

He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1987; however, that same ill-health prevented him from travelling to England to be sworn into the Council by Queen Elizabeth II. He suffered a stroke in that year which led to a permanent disability, he then retired to Raumati Beach.[1]

O’Flynn died on 17 October 2003 in Paraparaumu, a week shy of his 85th birthday. He was survived by his wife, Sylvia and his four children.[1] He was buried at Karori Cemetery.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Haines, Leah (18 October 2003). "Man of peace, legal eagle Frank O'Flynn dies". The Dominion Post. p. 2.
  2. ^ "Rt Hon Francis Duncan O'Flynn QC, 1918–2003". New Zealand Law Society. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 224.
  4. ^ "Former MP stands on council ticket". The Dominion. 17 March 1977.
  5. ^ "Wellington". The Evening Post. 10 October 1977.
  6. ^ "O'Flynn takes charge in city council". The Dominion. 31 May 1980.
  7. ^ "O'Flynn loses seat". The Dominion. 10 October 1983.
  8. ^ Nicolaidi, Mike (12 November 1977). "HQ-Selected Candidate For Island Bay Moves To Heal Wounds". The Evening Post.
  9. ^ Henderson 1981, p. 167.
  10. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 98.
  11. ^ Parliamentary Debates. House of Representatives, Volume 482,
  12. ^ "Cemeteries search". Wellington City Council. Retrieved 8 December 2015.


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
  • Henderson, John (1981). Rowling: the Man and the Myth. Auckland: Australia and New Zealand Books.
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Kapiti
Succeeded by
Barry Brill
Preceded by
Gerald O'Brien
Member of Parliament for Island Bay
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Tennet