Obituary: Enda Marren

Solicitor who played central role in Fine Gael’s rise to power


Born: December 10th, 1934

Died: March 8th, 2013

When Garret FitzGerald set out to revitalise and modernise Fine Gael after succeeding Liam Cosgrave as party leader in 1977, he surrounded himself with an energetic team that included household names such as Bill O’Herlihy, Frank Flannery and Ted Nealon.

Mayo-born solicitor Enda Marren, who died on Friday of last week aged 78 ,was not as well known outside of political circles, but he was a vital cog in that wheel, or as the late journalist and fellow Mayo man John Healy caustically put it, one of the “national handlers” central to the inner workings of Fine Gael over many decades.

Close friend Flannery stressed this week that Enda Marren’s association with the party was much older than his own. The young solicitor had in 1966 set up the press office for Tom O’Higgins’s, presidential election campaign. This was the first time he helped to give Fianna Fáil a bad fright, as incumbent Eamon deValera narrowly scraped home despite having the advantage of being a 1916 leader seeking a second term on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

In the early 1980s Marren and the other so-called national handlers created a party machine to rival that of Fianna Fáil, and still smarting from a disastrous election result in 1977, managed to come within five seats of Fianna Fáil in the November 1982 election, which resulted in a Fine Gael-Labour coalition. In an interview with Olivia O’Leary in 1985 Marren said: “We brought a no-win no-hope party to power and we enjoyed the hunt.”

Appointed to the Council of State by President Mary McAleese in 2004, the solicitor had been a central player in many of the reforms undertaken by the FitzGerald administration and was from the late 1970s regarded as the link between the traditional and the liberal wings of the party which he served in many roles.

According to Bill O’Herlihy, Marren believed in Fine Gael and devoted himself to the party but a key to his personality was the fact that he was so well-regarded across the political party spectrum. .“He had a good personal relationship with people from other parties.”

In a letter to Marren’s wife Nuala this week, President Michael D Higgins paid a warm tribute to the “proud son of Mayo” and noted that “Enda believed in the art of politics and in its potential to transform our country for the better”.

As a solicitor Marren provided legal advice to a number of RTÉ programmes and his friendship with O’Herlihy dated back to the controversial 7 Days programme on Moneylending in 1969 which sparked a tribunal of inquiry at which the Mayo man represented the programme.

“He was a tower of strength to me during it,” recalled O’Herlihy who was the young reporter at the centre of the storm. ” I was giving evidence for five and a half days and I was a callow youth at the time. We were lifelong friends after that and if you were a friend of Enda Marren’s you felt privileged.”

Born in Killasser, Co Mayo, on December 10th 1934, Enda Marren was the fourth of five children born to school teachers Patrick and Eileen (Horkan) who both taught him at Knock National School. His post primary education was at Garbally College, Ballinasloe and Rockwell College, Co Tipperary. He was a member of the Munster Schools Senior Cup-winning team in 1953. He graduated from UCD with a BA and LL.B degrees and in 1958 he founded Martin E Marren & Co solicitors, where he served as senior partner until 1996, when he was succeeded by his son Paul.

He and Nuala (Craig) had five children who have fond memories of long holidays in Co Mayo where the young city dwellers were introduced to the joys of saving turf and milking cows.

Over the years Enda Marren served on many boards, including those of the Law Reform Commission, the National Film Studios in Ardmore, the Rehab Group, Aer Lingus, Bord Fáilte, the Garda Siochána Complaints Appeals Board and the Army pensions board. He was also one of the founders of the Irish Committee of Unicef.

His eldest son David recalled him as an always engaging father with a wry sense of humour and sense of fair play . “ It was in his nature to always look for the positives in people but he understood human frailties and if there were mistakes made, he always believed a person deserved a second chance.”

He is survived by Nuala his sons David, Paul and Padraic, his daughters Martina and Elaine and his brother Val.