Gemma Hussey

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Gemma Hussey
Minister for Social Welfare
In office
14 February 1986 – 10 March 1987
TaoiseachGarret FitzGerald
Preceded byBarry Desmond
Succeeded byMichael Woods
Minister for Labour
In office
20 January 1987 – 10 March 1987
TaoiseachGarret FitzGerald
Preceded byRuairi Quinn
Succeeded byBertie Ahern
Minister for Education
In office
14 December 1982 – 14 February 1986
TaoiseachGarret FitzGerald
Preceded byGerard Brady
Succeeded byPatrick Cooney
Leader of Seanad Éireann
In office
8 October 1981 – 26 March 1982
TaoiseachGarret FitzGerald
Preceded byEoin Ryan Snr
Succeeded byEoin Ryan Snr
Leader of Fine Gael in the Seanad
In office
8 October 1981 – 26 March 1982
LeaderGarret FitzGerald
Preceded byPatrick Cooney
Succeeded byJames Dooge
Teachta Dála
In office
February 1982 – June 1989
In office
10 October 1977 – 25 February 1982
ConstituencyNational University of Ireland
Personal details
Gemma Moran

(1938-11-11) 11 November 1938 (age 80)
Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Spouse(s)Derry Hussey (m. 1976)
Alma materUniversity College Dublin

Gemma Hussey (née Moran; born 11 November 1938) is an Irish former Fine Gael politician who served as Minister for Social Welfare from 1986 to 1987, Minister for Labour from January 1987 to March 1987, Minister for Education from 1982 to 1986, Leader of Seanad Éireann and Leader of Fine Gael in the Seanad from 1981 to 1982. She served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Wicklow constituency from 1982 to 1989. She was a Senator for the National University of Ireland from 1977 to 1982.[1]

Hussey was born in Bray, County Wicklow, in 1938. She was educated at Loreto College, Foxrock and at University College Dublin. Hussey had a successful career running a language school in the late 1960s and '70s.

She was elected by the National University of Ireland to Seanad Éireann, serving in the upper house of the Oireachtas, from 1977 until 1982. She sat as an Independent Senator for the first three years, before serving as Fine Gael spokesperson on Women's Affairs from 1981 to 1982. She went on to be the party leader in the Seanad and leader of the Seanad from 1981 to 1982.[2]

She was first elected to Dáil Éireann on her second attempt, at the February 1982 general election, as a Fine Gael Teachta Dála (TD) for Wicklow.[1]

Hussey served as Minister for Education in the Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition government of Garret FitzGerald from 1982 to 1986, during which time she was heavily criticised by teachers' unions during a bitter pay strike in 1984. In 1986, she was reshuffled to the equally contentious Social Welfare ministry.

Always a liberal and a feminist, she took a strongly supportive position on the legalisation of divorce, which was defeated in a referendum in 1986, and frequently suggested that she supported the liberalisation of Ireland's abortion ban. A member of Fine Gael's liberal wing, which included Monica Barnes, Nuala Fennell, Alan Shatter and Alan Dukes, she was disliked by the conservative wing of the party which included TDs like Oliver J. Flanagan, Alice Glenn and Gerry L'Estrange.

During a meeting with Keith Joseph, Margaret Thatcher's Secretary of State for Education, Joseph boasted to Hussey that he held surgeries once a month, which was considered a high number in Britain. Hussey responded that she had to do clinics three days every week to hold on to her seat as a TD.

The book of her cabinet diaries, At the Cutting Edge, published in 1990, was hailed as the most thorough and realistic account of life inside the cabinet in Ireland.[citation needed] She retired from politics at the 1989 general election.

In 1990, she was sharply criticised within her party for suggesting that she might support the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mary Robinson, a feminist, over the official Fine Gael candidate Austin Currie. Mary Robinson went on to become Ireland's first female President.

An enthusiastic Europhile, Hussey spends a lot of her time now promoting the advancement of women in politics around the European Union.

In the lead-up to the 1997 presidential election, Hussey was mentioned as a possible Fine Gael candidate, and was predicted to do well across Dublin and in her native Wicklow constituency and among supporters of Fine Gael and of the Progressive Democrats. In the event the party nomination went to Mary Banotti, who lost heavily to Mary McAleese in the election.


  1. ^ a b "Mrs. Gemma Hussey". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  2. ^ "Gemma Hussey". Retrieved 24 November 2008.


  • Hussey, Gemma: At the Cutting Edge: Cabinet Diaries, 1982–1987 (Dublin, 1990)
  • Hussey, Gemma: Ireland Today: Anatomy of a Changing State (London, 1993)
Preceded by
Paudge Brennan
(Fianna Fáil)
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Wicklow
Succeeded by
Godfrey Timmins
(Fine Gael)
Political offices
Preceded by
Gerard Brady
Minister for Education
Succeeded by
Patrick Cooney
Preceded by
Barry Desmond
Minister for Social Welfare
Succeeded by
Michael Woods
Preceded by
Ruairi Quinn
Minister for Labour
Succeeded by
Bertie Ahern