Former progressive Democratic leader Des O’Malley has died
Former minister and leader of the Progressive Democrats Des O’Malley has died at the age of 82.
Mr. O’Malley was TD from 1968 to 2002.
He was a prominent TD and minister of Fianna Fáil in the 1970s and 1980s, before founding the Progressive Democrats and leading the party from 1985 to 1993.
While Irish politics were dominated by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for much of the 20th century, Mr O’Malley played an important role in breaking that mold and moving away from the politics of Civil War.
The young lawyer entered public life in the 1968 by-election to occupy the seat of the Fianna Fáil of her late uncle Donogh O’Malley in Limerick East.
In 1970, the 31-year-old was appointed Minister of Justice under the leadership of Taoiseach Jack Lynch.
He took a hard line with the IRA, creating the Special Criminal Court and introducing the Offenses Against the State Act.
The moldbreaker who supported the Republic
His pragmatic style spread to other portfolios, especially in industry and commerce.
In 1985, the Fine Gael-Labor government introduced a bill to repeal the ban on contraceptives for singles.
Des O’Malley broke ranks with Fianna Fáil – who opposed the bill – and was expelled from the party for what was deemed “improper conduct”.
In December 1985, he founded the Progressive Democrats, and under his leadership the new party won 14 seats in the Dáil in its first election in 1987.
Two years later, the most unlikely of coalitions was formed when Mr Haughey and Mr O’Malley agreed to form a Fianna Fáil-PD government.
The Progressive Democrats withdrew from government and in 1993 Mr. O’Malley retired as party leader.
He retired from public life in 2002.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Mr. O’Malley’s life was a life of “courage and consequence”.
He said he “loved his country and was not afraid to challenge those who used violence to undermine it”.
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Des O’Malley.
It was a life of courage and consequence.
He loved his country and was not afraid to challenge those who used violence to undermine it. We remember him at the government meeting today and my thoughts are with his family
– Michael Martin (@MichealMartinTD) July 21, 2021
Tánaiste and Fine Gael chief Leo Varadkar described O’Malley as a “political giant” who “left a lasting and positive legacy”.
Des O’Malley was a giant of politics. He broke the mold of Irish politics and left a lasting and positive legacy. May he rest in peace – Former progressive Democratic leader Des O’Malley has died via @RTENNews https://t.co/qXHGshZp2M
– Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) July 21, 2021
Labor leader Alan Kelly also paid tribute to Mr O’Malley and said he “leaves a distinguished legacy in public life and played a central role in our politics throughout the second half of the 20th century.
“On many issues our respective political movements disagreed, but throughout his political life he made an important contribution to Irish public life.”
Minister of State at the Department of Finance Sean Fleming expressed his condolences to the family and friends of Mr O’Malley on the occasion of his death and described him as “a man of principle”.
Former Fianna Fáil Minister Noel Dempsey said Mr O’Malley “changed the face of Irish politics and changed the face of Fianna Fáil”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said Mr. O’Malley was an “honorable” man, with whom he was happy to work.
He said he “admired his bravery” for “standing out at the time in the Fianna Fáil”.
“I didn’t realize until the early ’90s how hard it was. It was even harder in the mid’ 80s to do what Des O’Malley did,” Dempsey said.
“He had the courage to break up. The courage to create a political party, then to have the courage to stand up and say, I’m going to form a coalition with Fianna Fáil.
“Des O’Malley was determined to take a bigger picture and make decisions in the national interest.”
Conor McMorrow Additional Reports