Lemass did not want to be taoiseach ‘for purely selfish reasons’

Seán Lemass tapes: Still regarded as Ireland’s greatest taoiseach, Lemass missed the pleasures of cards and golf and going to race meetings

From left: Taoiseach Seán Lemass, minister for industry and commerce Jack Lynch, and TK Whitaker, secretary of the Department of Finance, at Dublin Airport on their way to London for a meeting with British prime minister Harold Wilson  in November 1964 on the imposition of the British import surcharge on Irish goods. Photograph: Jimmy McCormack

From left: Taoiseach Seán Lemass, minister for industry and commerce Jack Lynch, and TK Whitaker, secretary of the Department of Finance, at Dublin Airport on their way to London for a meeting with British prime minister Harold Wilson in November 1964 on the imposition of the British import surcharge on Irish goods. Photograph: Jimmy McCormack

Seán Lemass, who became taoiseach on June 23rd, 1959, at the age of 59, after Éamon de Valera was elected president of Ireland, never wanted the job, he said in now-revealed tapes.

In the end, he spent more than seven years in office and finally retired in November 1966. Today, he is regarded by many as Ireland’s greatest taoiseach. His successor, Leo Varadkar, has a portrait of him in his office.

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