Swimming against the tide

  • 29 November 2007
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A memoir by David Andrews gives a unique insight into Fianna Fáil in government. By Barry Desmond


When David Andrews ousted the long-serving deputy Séan Brady in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown constituency in the 1965 general election he was seen as one of the golden boys of Fianna Fáil. He had an impeccable party pedigree, a strong physical presence and the charming Annette by his side.   A future party leader, perhaps. But why did it all go so pear-shaped?

Firstly, David, George Colley and Desmond O'Malley held that they were ‘born to rule'. Jack Lynch kept their heritage safe. But Haughey and his power-hungry TACA took control of the party, survived the Arms Crisis and cast naïve George and David into the wilderness for the next 13 years. It was not until 1992, when he had backed Albert Reynolds as leader, that he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs. His detestation of Haughey, which largely arose from Haughey's contempt for the abilities of his Dún Laoghaire enemy, permeate almost every chapter of David's memoir.   David recalls, correctly, that Haughey tried to blackmail his vote for leader.

David did himself no favours by his stubborn preoccupation of heading the poll over Liam Cosgrave in Dún Laoghaire. Liam's ‘human surplus' of votes was Percy Dockrell's quota in most elections. But David, much to my relief, failed to ensure the election of a second Fianna Fáil deputy in successiveelections. The Fianna Fáil hierarchy did not take kindly to such failure and David languished in the backbenches in punishment.  The failed Fianna Fáil candidates were legion. Drs Martin O'Donoghue and Brian Hillery were parachuted into Dún Laoghaire but were soon defeated because, unlike David, they did not believe in constituency work.

When David ended his long years of frustration on arrival in Iveagh House he recalled in his boring detail his multiple conferences abroad. His concern and involvement in Rwanda, Somalia and Kenya was entirely to his credit, as is his current leadership of the Irish Red Cross. But he does not elaborate on his tempestuous relationship with Padraic McKernan, the Secretary-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which has been well documented elsewhere.   David had his father's temperament where running the show was concerned.  His work on the campaigns on behalf of the Birmingham Six, the Guilford Four and Annie Maguire was exceptional. He was clearly out of his depth in the Northern Ireland negotiations. However, it is greatly to his credit that he had no truck with Haughey's cynical early manoeuvres with the Provos and he faced down his own brother, the late Niall, in this regard.
David Andrews would proclaim himself as a liberal republican from the wealthiest constituency in Ireland. 

However, when the crunch came in the formation of the Progressive Democrats in late 1985 David failed to join the new party despite his assurances given to Desmond O'Malley.   He was not alone; Seamus Brennan and Charlie McCreevy likewise left their fellow dissidents in the lurch.  

As a consequence the PDs failed to reach critical mass.   In addition, he voted again the restrictive liberalisation of contraception law which I introduced in 1985. However, David does have the good grace to offer an apologia for his vote against the Anglo Irish Agreement in November, 1985.

David Andrews is to be warmly commended for these memoirs. Most Fianna Fáil ministers are extremely reluctant to so record. In an era when so many Fianna Fáil ministers were so sycophantic towards Charles Haughey, his principled detestation of his disgraced leader is clearly on show.