Rory O'Hanlon

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Rory O'Hanlon
Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
In office
6 June 2002 – 14 June 2007
DeputySéamus Pattison
Preceded bySéamus Pattison
Succeeded byJohn O'Donoghue
Leas-Cheann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
In office
9 July 1997 – 6 June 2002
Ceann ComhairleSéamus Pattison
Preceded byJoe Jacob
Succeeded bySéamus Pattison
Minister for the Environment
In office
14 November 1991 – 14 February 1992
TaoiseachAlbert Reynolds
Preceded byJohn Wilson
Succeeded byMichael Smith
Minister for Health
In office
10 March 1987 – 14 November 1991
Preceded byJohn Boland
Succeeded byMary O'Rourke
Minister of State for Social Welfare Claims
In office
28 October 1982 – 14 December 1982
TaoiseachCharles Haughey
Preceded byDenis Gallagher
Succeeded byFergus O'Brien
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1977 – February 2011
Personal details
Born (1934-02-07) 7 February 1934 (age 85)
Dublin, Ireland
Political partyFianna Fáil
Spouse(s)Teresa Ward (m. 1960)
EducationBlackrock College
Alma materUniversity College Dublin

Rory O'Hanlon (born 7 February 1934) is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann from 2002 to 2007, Leas-Cheann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann from 1997 to 2002, Minister for the Environment from 1991 to 1992, Minister for Health from 1987 to 1991 and Minister of State for Social Welfare Claims in 1982. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cavan–Monaghan constituency from 1977 to 2011.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Dublin in 1934, O'Hanlon was brought up in a family that had a strong association with the republican tradition. His father was a member of the Fourth Northern Division of the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence.

O'Hanlon was educated at Mullaghbawn National School, before later attending St. Mary's College, Dundalk and Blackrock College in Dublin. He subsequently studied medicine at University College Dublin and qualified as a doctor. In 1965 he was appointed to Carrickmacross as the local general practitioner and was the medical representative on the North Eastern Health Board from its inception in 1970 until 1987.[2]

Political career[edit]


O'Hanlon entered his first electoral contest when he was the Fianna Fáil candidate in the 1973 Monaghan by-election caused by the election of Erskine Childers to the Presidency. He was unsuccessful on this occasion but was eventually elected at the 1977 general election for the Cavan–Monaghan constituency.[3] O'Hanlon was one of a handful of new Fianna Fáil deputies who were elected in that landslide victory for the party and, as a new TD, he remained on the backbenches. Two years later he became a member of Monaghan County Council, serving on that authority until 1987.

In 1979 Jack Lynch suddenly resigned as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil. The subsequent leadership election resulted in a straight contest between Charles Haughey and George Colley. The latter had the backing of the majority of the existing cabinet, however, a backbench revolt saw Haughey become Taoiseach. O'Hanlon had supported Colley and was thus overlooked for appointment to the new ministerial and junior ministerial positions. In spite of this he did become a member of the powerful Public Accounts Committee in the Oireachtas.

When Fianna Fáil returned to power after a short-lived Fine Gael-Labour Party government in 1982, O'Hanlon was once again overlooked for ministerial promotion. An extensive cabinet reshuffle towards the end of the year saw O'Hanlon become Minister of State for Social Welfare Payments. His tenure was short-lived as the government fell a few weeks later and Fianna Fáil were out of power.

Government minister[edit]

In early 1983, Charles Haughey announced a new front bench and O'Hanlon was promoted to the position of spokesperson on Health and Social Welfare.

Following the 1987 general election, Fianna Fáil were back in power, albeit with a minority government, and O'Hanlon became Minister for Health. Immediately after taking office, he was confronted with a number of controversial issues, including the resolution of a radiographers' dispute and the formation of an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. While Fianna Fáil campaigned on a platform of not introducing any public spending cuts, the party committed a complete u-turn once in government. The savage cuts in relation to healthcare earned O'Hanlon the nickname "Dr. Death". In spite of earning this reputation, O'Hanlon also introduced law to curb smoking in public places.

O'Hanlon's handling of the Department of Health meant that he was one of the names tipped for promotion as a result of Ray MacSharry departure as Minister for Finance. In the end, he was retained as Minister for Health and was disappointed not to be given a new portfolio following the 1989 general election.

In 1991, O'Hanlon became Minister for the Environment following Albert Reynolds' failed leadership challenge against Charles Haughey.

When Reynolds eventually came to power in 1992, O'Hanlon was one of several high-profile members of the cabinet who lost their ministerial positions.

Post-cabinet career[edit]

In 1995, O'Hanlon became chairman of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party before being elected Leas-Cheann Comhairle (Deputy Chairman) of Dáil Éireann in 1997. Following the 2002 general election, O'Hanlon became Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann. In this position, he was required to remain neutral and, as such, he was no longer classed as a representative of any political party. He was an active chairman of the Dáil; however, on occasion, he was criticised, most notably by Labour's Pat Rabbitte, for allegedly stifling debate and being overly protective of the government. Following the 2007 general election, he was succeeded as Ceann Comhairle by John O'Donoghue. He was the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs.

He retired from politics at the 2011 general election.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Two of O'Hanlon's children have served as local politicians in Cavan–Monaghan, a son Shane is a former member of Monaghan County Council and a daughter Fiona O'Hea served one term on Cootehill Town Council while the Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, is also a relation of O'Hanlon. O'Hanlon is also the father of the well-known comedian Ardal O'Hanlon.


  1. ^ "Rory O'Hanlon". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  2. ^ "Biography of Rory O'Hanlon". Rory O'Hanlon. 27 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Rory O'Hanlon". Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  4. ^ "FF's O'Hanlon will not contest seat at Election". Irish Examiner. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
New constituency Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Cavan–Monaghan
Succeeded by
Joe O'Reilly
(Fine Gael)
Political offices
Preceded by
Denis Gallagher
Minister of State for Social Welfare Claims
Succeeded by
Fergus O'Brien
Preceded by
John Boland
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Mary O'Rourke
Preceded by
John Wilson
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Michael Smith
Preceded by
Joe Jacob
Leas-Cheann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
Succeeded by
Séamus Pattison
Preceded by
Séamus Pattison
Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
Succeeded by
John O'Donoghue
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joe Jacob
Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party
Succeeded by
Séamus Kirk