Lemass and Haughey families: next generation poised for politics

Surname is ‘great conversation starter on the doorsteps’, says Hannah Lemass

During the recording of what became known as the Lemass Tapes, published in The Irish Times last June, former taoiseach Seán Lemass was asked in 1967 if he cared about the judgment of historians.

Mr Lemass said he only cared about it in so far as it would affect the reputation of his descendents. “If they can say, ‘My old grandfather was not too bad a guy when he was in it’, and feel that this is some advantage, so much the better.”

Now a fourth generation of the Lemass family is seeking to enter politics following Mr Lemass; his TD son Noel; Noel's widow, Eileen, a TD and MEP; his son-in-law Charles J Haughey, who also became taoiseach; and his grandson, Seán Haughey, a former minister of state.

Three of the former taoiseach's great-grandchildren are standing in the local elections. Rory O'Connor, the youngest, is 20 and an Independent candidate in Wicklow. Hannah Lemass (26) and Cathal Haughey (22) are both standing for Fianna Fáil.


Mr O’Connor, a student of politics and social computing in UCD, is hoping to be elected in the Bray West electoral area. His grandmother, Sheila, was a daughter of Seán Lemass.

Climate action

He said he had approached Fianna Fáil about standing for the party, but he did not believe they were interested in what he regards as the most important issue: climate action.

“I was talking to my friends and locals and they said it would be better for the community if I stand as an Independent.”

Hannah Lemass, who is standing in the Cabra/Glasnevin area for Dublin City Council, says her surname is a "great conversation starter on the doorsteps".

“It’s amazing to me that he is so well-remembered after all this time,” she said. “It’s not a surprise that I would have a strong sense of civic responsibility given my family’s connections to politics.”

She cites her great-grandfather as an inspiration, but also her grandmother Eileen Lemass who was elected as a TD and MEP in the 1970s and 1980s in an era much more hostile to women in politics than the present day.

‘Trailblazer for women’

“She was a trailblazer for women in politics. She liked to stand up for vulnerable people and represent demographics that did not have much representation,” Ms Lemass says.

“At the moment we need more young people because it is scary time to be young with the housing crisis.”

Cathal Haughey, who is studying contemporary culture and society in DCU, is the son of Conor Haughey. His grandmother, Maureen, was a daughter of Seán Lemass.

Cathal cut his teeth canvassing for his uncle Seán. He is standing in the Clontarf local electoral area, an old electoral stomping ground, for his father and grandfather Charles.

“In certain doors, the names help more than others. There would be a Haughey vote there, but there were others who were not fans of the Haugheys or Fianna Fáil. It works both ways,” he said.

“I would ask people to judge me and me alone and leave their prejudices at the door.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times