Jim Mitchell (politician)

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For other people named Jim Mitchell, see Jim Mitchell (disambiguation).
Jim Mitchell
Minister for Communications
In office
2 January 1984 – 10 March 1987
Preceded by Himself (Posts and Telegraphs)
Succeeded by John Wilson
Minister for Transport
In office
14 December 1982 – 10 March 1987
Preceded by John Wilson
Succeeded by Ray MacSharry
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs
In office
14 December 1982 – 2 January 1984
Preceded by John Wilson
Succeeded by Himself (Communications)
Minister for Justice
In office
30 June 1981 – 9 March 1982
Preceded by Gerry Collins
Succeeded by Seán Doherty
Teachta Dála
In office
November 1992 – May 2002
Constituency Dublin Central
In office
June 1981 – November 1992
Constituency Dublin West
In office
June 1977 – June 1981
Constituency Dublin Ballyfermot
Personal details
Born 19 October 1946
Dublin, Ireland
Died 2 December 2002(2002-12-02) (aged 56)
Dublin, Ireland
Political party Fine Gael
Alma mater Dublin Institute of Technology

Jim Mitchell (19 October 1946 – 2 December 2002) was an Irish Fine Gael politician who served in the cabinets of Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald from 1981–82 and 1982–87.[1] He was deputy leader of the Fine Gael party from 2001 until 2002.

Early life[edit]

Mitchell began his political involvement when he supported Seán MacBride, leader of the radical republican Clann na Poblachta at the 1957 general election. He joined Fine Gael in 1967, becoming that party's unsuccessful candidate in a by-election in 1970. He sought a party nomination to run at the 1973 general election. However he agreed not to contest the seat to allow Declan Costello, a senior figure in his party and son of former Taoiseach John A. Costello, to be elected. Costello went on to serve as Attorney General of Ireland in the 1973–1977 National Coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

Mitchell was elected to Dublin Corporation in 1974. In 1976, aged 29, he became the youngest ever Lord Mayor of Dublin. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Dáil Éireann at the 1973 general election in Dublin South–West and lost again in the 1976 by-election in the same constituency, to Labour Party's Brendan Halligan.

Outside politics he worked for Guinness at the St. James's Gate Brewery.[2]

Political career[edit]

At the 1977 general election he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin Ballyfermot constituency.[3] With the party's loss of power in 1977, the new leader, Garret FitzGerald appointed Mitchell to the Party's Front Bench as spokesperson on Labour. At the 1981 general election Mitchell was elected for the Dublin West constituency and Fine Gael dramatically increased its number of seats and formed a coalition government with the Labour Party. On his appointment as Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald caused some surprise by excluding some of the older conservative former ministers from his cabinet. Instead young liberals like Mitchell were appointed, with Mitchell receiving the high profile post of Minister for Justice. The Fine Gael–Labour government collapsed in January 1982, but regained power in December of that year. Mitchell again was included in a FitzGerald cabinet, as Minister for Transport. He also served as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (later titled Minister for Communications) from 1982–87.

Mitchell, who was seen as being on the social liberal wing of Fine Gael was however out of favour with John Bruton when he became Fine Gael leader in 1990. When Bruton formed the Rainbow Coalition in December 1994, Mitchell was not appointed to any cabinet post.

Mitchell contested and won Dáil elections in 1977, 1981, February 1982, November 1982, 1987, 1989, 1992 and 1997. He also ran unsuccessfully for the European Parliament in the 1994 and 1999 elections. He also was director of elections for Austin Currie, the Fine Gael candidate, in the 1990 presidential election. In 2001, Bruton was deposed as Fine Gael leader, and replaced by Michael Noonan. Mitchell served as his deputy from 2001 to 2002.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee[edit]

Mitchell also chaired the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee. Under Mitchell's chairmanship the committee began to look at allegations of corruption and wide-scale tax evasion in the banking sector, particularly regarding Deposit interest retention tax (DIRT). It was established that there was a culture of encouraging tax evasion within Irish banks, which had allowed wealthy customers to set up non-resident (off-shore, international) bank accounts into which money was transferred, enabling the account holder to avoid paying DIRT. The scandal resulted Allied Irish Banks being forced to reach a settlement of €90 million with the Revenue Commissioners in respect of DIRT evasion in 2000 in addition to thousands of tax-evaders being prosecuted including the former Minister for Justice Pádraig Flynn. Mitchell received much praise for his role in exposing the scandal.

Loss of seat and death[edit]

Though regarded in politics as one of Fine Gael's "survivors", who held onto his seat amid major boundary changes, constituency changes and by attracting working class votes in a party whose appeal was primarily middle class, Mitchell lost his Dublin Central seat at the 2002 general election. That election witnessed a large scale collapse in the Fine Gael vote, with the party dropping from 54 to 31 seats in Dáil Éireann. Although Mitchell suffered from the swing against Fine Gael in Dublin, he was not aided by the fact that Inchicore, which was considered his base in the constituency had been moved to Dublin South–Central. Jim had chosen not to run in that constituency as his brother Gay was a sitting TD running for re-election for that constituency.

Mitchell had earlier had a liver transplant in an attempt to beat a rare form of cancer which had cost the lives of a number of his siblings. Though the operation was successful, the cancer returned, and Mitchell ultimately died of the disease in December 2002.

His former constituency colleague and rival, Bertie Ahern, described Jim Mitchell as having made an "outstanding contribution to Irish politics."

As Minister for Transport, Mitchell granted the aviation license to a fledgling airline called Ryanair on 29 November 1985. This was granted despite strong opposition by Ireland's national carrier Aer Lingus. The issue of the license broke Aer Lingus' stranglehold on flights to London from the Republic of Ireland.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mr. Jim Mitchell". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Enterprise Board". Public Accounts Committee. Oireachtas. 8 June 2000. 
  3. ^ "Jim Mitchell". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Siobhan Creaton, Ryanair, How a small Irish airline conquered Europe.
Civic offices
Preceded by
Paddy Dunne
Lord Mayor of Dublin
1976–1977
Succeeded by
Michael Collins
Political offices
Preceded by
Gerry Collins
Minister for Justice
1981–1982
Succeeded by
Seán Doherty
Preceded by
John Wilson
Minister for Transport
1982–1987
Succeeded by
Ray MacSharry
Preceded by
John Wilson
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs
1982–1984
Succeeded by
Himself
as Minister for Communications
Preceded by
Himself
as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs
Minister for Communications
1984–1987
Succeeded by
John Wilson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Nora Owen
Deputy Leader of Fine Gael
2001–2002
Succeeded by
Richard Bruton