I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Larkinite In Power

A Larkinite In Power

Barry Desmond
Cluskey: The Conscience of Labour, Umiskin Press, 275 pp, no price, ISBN: 978-0992843922 Since the foundation of Dáil Eireann only two taoisigh, Garret FitzGerald and Albert Reynolds, have published memoirs. Only a handful of former government ministers have attempted to do so. As the fifth parliamentary Labour leader from 1977 to 1981 and minister from 1982/83 Frank Cluskey had a wry disregard for those who wished to “go on the record”. This compendium contains some twelve personal tributes to Frank’s role in Irish politics in the seventies and eighties. The eulogists recall a good deal about themselves while lauding their late comrade, who died in 1989. The tribute is edited by Jack McGinley, the energetic president of the Irish Labour History Society and it is overdue. Frank Cluskey, a skilled butcher by trade, was a quintessential Dublin Larkinite. Frank’s father was leader of the Operative Butchers Society and led them into the Workers Union of Ireland (WUI). He was an unsuccessful Irish Worker League (IWL) candidate in 1930 for Dublin City Council. He stood as a fellow Labour candidate with Martin O’Sullivan in the 1933 City Council elections. O’Sullivan was the only Labour councillor elected. His son Frank was also a union activist whose real ambition was to become a general officer in his union, the WUI. He was unsuccessful in the election for the deputy secretaryship in 1969 and thereafter pursued his political career. He was a Labour deputy for twenty-three years from 1965 to 1981 and from 1982 to 1989. During this period he was parliamentary secretary in social welfare (1973-77), party leader (1977-81), and minister for trade, commerce and tourism (1982-83). Following the defeat of the National Coalition government in 1977 and the resignation of Brendan Corish as party leader after seventeen years Frank Cluskey was elected to that post. I voted for Frank in the tied first vote. Michael ‘’Leary, the only other candidate, lost out on the second vote, and was, in my view, too mercurial to be leader. He became a very sullen deputy leader and was elected to the European Parliament in 1979. Among the electorate at large, particularly outside Dublin, Frank had a limited electoral appeal. His Dáil contributions during confrontations with Charles Haughey, particularly over Northern Ireland’s trauma, were very effective and were praised by the media. However, on television and at public meetings outside Dublin, his gruff Dublin accent, his…

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