Noel Dempsey

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Noel Dempsey
Dempsey in 2003
Minister for Transport
In office
14 June 2007 – 19 January 2011
Preceded byMartin Cullen
Succeeded byPat Carey
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
In office
29 September 2004 – 14 June 2007
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byDermot Ahern
Succeeded byEamon Ryan
Minister for Education and Science
In office
6 June 2002 – 29 September 2004
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byMichael Woods
Succeeded byMary Hanafin
Minister for the Environment and Local Government
In office
26 June 1997 – 6 June 2002
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byBrendan Howlin
Succeeded byMartin Cullen
Minister of State
1992–1994Government Chief Whip
Teachta Dála
In office
May 2007 – February 2011
ConstituencyMeath West
In office
February 1987 – May 2007
Personal details
Born (1953-01-06) 6 January 1953 (age 71)
Trim, County Meath, Ireland
Political partyFianna Fáil
Bernadette Rattigan
(m. 1990)
Alma mater

Noel Dempsey (born 6 January 1953) is an Irish former Fianna Fáil politician who served as Minister for Transport from 2007 to 2011, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources from 2004 to 2007, Minister for Education and Science from 2002 to 2004, Minister for the Environment and Local Government from 1997 to 2002, Minister of State at the Department of Finance from 1993 to 1994, Minister of State at the Department of Defence and Government Chief Whip from 1992 to 1994. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1987 to 2011.[1]

Early and private life[edit]

Dempsey was born in Trim, County Meath, in 1953. He is one of twelve sons born and educated locally at Scoil Naomh Brid in Boardsmill and St. Michael's CBS in Trim. Dempsey later attended University College Dublin where he was conferred with a Bachelor of Arts degree as well as a diploma in career guidance. He subsequently completed a Higher Diploma in Education at St Patrick's College, Maynooth and worked as a career guidance teacher for many years.

Dempsey is married to Bernadette Rattigan and they have four children – two sons and two daughters. He is also a member of the Gaelic Athletic Association and is a keen supporter of the Meath Gaelic football team as well as his local club teams. He has also been a member of Macra na Feirme and Muintir na Tíre.

Early political career[edit]

Dempsey first became involved in politics in the early 1970s when he joined Ógra Fianna Fáil, the youth wing of Fianna Fáil. He later attended and spoke at the first-ever national conference of Ógra in 1973. Within three years of this Dempsey was co-opted onto Meath County Council as a Fianna Fáil County Councillor in 1977, following the death of John Bird. At the time he was the youngest ever member of that authority and he later served as the youngest ever chairman of the council in 1986. Dempsey enhanced his local political profile at this time by also serving as a member of Trim Urban District Council.

Dempsey was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1987 general election as a Fianna Fáil TD for Meath.[2] Shortly after being elected, he became a member of the Public Accounts Committee, one of the most high-profile committees in the Oireachtas. Dempsey was initially a supporter of the Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey; however, he became disillusioned with his leadership when he led Fianna Fáil into coalition with the Progressive Democrats following the 1989 general election. He was one of a number of TDs who were vehemently opposed to such a move. As a result of this Dempsey remained on the backbenches.

In September 1991, Dempsey was a key member of the so-called "gang of four" which proposed a motion of no confidence in Charles Haughey as the leader of the party. The other members of the group were Seán Power, Liam Fitzgerald and M. J. Nolan. Dempsey supported Albert Reynolds in his unsuccessful bid to oust Haughey on that occasion. In 1992, Reynolds eventually became party leader and Taoiseach and Dempsey's loyalty was rewarded by being appointed Minister of State with responsibility as government Chief Whip. He also took charge of the Office of Public Works. He served in these positions until the resignation of Reynolds as Taoiseach and the collapse of the Fianna Fáil-Labour Party in 1994.

In December 1994, Bertie Ahern became leader of Fianna Fáil as the party moved into opposition. Dempsey was appointed to the front bench as Spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government. During this period in opposition, he was heavily involved in key election strategies, most notably in the Dublin West by-election which was won by Brian Lenihan Jnr. It was Fianna Fáil's first by-election victory since 1985.

Cabinet career: 1997–2011[edit]

Minister for the Environment and Local Government: 1997–2002[edit]

Following the 1997 general election Dempsey was a key player in helping to negotiate a programme for government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. When Bertie Ahern became Taoiseach Dempsey was appointed to the position of Minister for the Environment and Local Government. His tenure as Minister has been described as one of reform and modernisation, with Frank McDonald of The Irish Times even describing Dempsey as the best holder of the environment portfolio since the position was created.[citation needed]

Some of Dempsey's major achievements as Minister include the introduction of the Local Government Act 2000 which was seen as the most comprehensive reform of local government in Ireland for over a century. One of his best-known initiatives was the introduction of a levy on plastic shopping bags leading to a reduction in the usage of these bags and a serious decrease in the litter problem related to these plastic bags. Dempsey also proposed to end the 'dual mandate' whereby a person can serve as a county councillor and hold another elected office at the same time. This proposal, however, led to severe opposition from the Independent TDs who supported the government at the time and had to be deferred. The legislation eventually became law in 2003.

During his tenure as Minister, Dempsey continued to serve as the Fianna Fáil director of elections. His first major success was the election of Mary McAleese to the position of President of Ireland in 1997. Two years later in 1999 he presided over the most successful local election campaign for the party ever.

Minister for Education and Science: 2002–2004[edit]

Following the re-election of the government in 2002, Dempsey became Minister for Education and Science. He took over as Minister at a time when one of the teachers' unions was extremely dissatisfied with a number of pay issues. These issues were eventually resolved in 2002 shortly after taking office. As Minister for Education, Dempsey was forced into an embarrassing climb down in 2004 on his proposal to re-introduce third-level fees. The move was opposed by the Union of Students in Ireland and by the Progressive Democrats.

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: 2004–2007[edit]

In a cabinet reshuffle in September 2004, Dempsey was appointed as Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. During his tenure, he oversaw the controversial Corrib gas project. After agreeing to have an independent assessment of the raw gas pipeline planned for Kilcommon, Erris, Dempsey employed a firm to carry it out. Only after the report was concluded did it emerge that the firm was half owned by Royal Dutch Shell, a fact which they neglected to relate to the Minister. An embarrassed Dempsey was forced to hastily commission another report.

Coming to the end of his tenure at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and before the 2007 general election, his department pursued the resurrection of Digital Terrestrial Television following its failure to be established under the Broadcasting Act 2001 due to unfavourable economic conditions for venture capital around the DTT market in many countries in 2001. First, his department invited tenders to build and programme a DTT trial in Dublin and County Louth. The failure seemed to lie around a commercial network builder model and the difficulties in creating revenue generation return for such investment and the solution seems to be the involvement of broadcasters in building the networks. An amended piece of legislation amended this model towards a multiple-operator model and resulted in the Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007. A similar model has been successful during the intervening years in the UK and Spain.

To that end his department also established a DTT trial in August 2006 to run for 2 years around Three Rock, Dublin transmitter and Clermont Carn, in County Louth.[3]

Minister for Transport: 2007–2011[edit]

Following the 2007 general election Dempsey was appointed as Minister for Transport. Among the legislation introduced was the requirement of those on provisional driving licences to be accompanied by a qualified driver, which came into effect on 1 July 2008. Dempsey received widespread criticism across the Irish media over his January 2010 holiday in Malta and perceived lack of contactability when severe weather conditions led to massive disruption across Ireland's transport systems.[4][5]

Retirement from politics[edit]

On 17 December 2010, he announced that he would not be contesting the 2011 general election.[6] On 19 January 2011, he announced his resignation as Minister for Transport.[7]

Dempsey receives annual pension payments of €119,177.[8]


  1. ^ "Noel Dempsey". Oireachtas Members Database. Archived from the original on 6 November 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  2. ^ "Noel Dempsey". Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  3. ^ "Minister Noel Dempsey Announces Launch of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) Pilot in Ireland". Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. 16 August 2006. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 15 September 2009.
  4. ^ "What on earth did any of us do to deserve Noel Dempsey?". The Herald. 11 January 2010. Archived from the original on 23 January 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Dempsey defends holiday absence". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 10 January 2010. Archived from the original on 14 January 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Noel Dempsey will not contest election". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 17 December 2010. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  7. ^ "Four Ministers resign from cabinet". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 19 January 2011. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  8. ^ Kelly, Fiach (10 November 2011). "Thanks big fellas: Ahern and Cowen get massive pensions". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2011.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Government Chief Whip
Succeeded by
Minister of State at the Department of Defence
Preceded by Minister of State at the Department of Finance
Succeeded by
Preceded byas Minister for the Environment Minister for Environment and Local Government
Succeeded byas Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Preceded by Minister for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
Succeeded byas Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Preceded by Minister for Transport
Succeeded by