Late ceann comhairle a Fianna Fáil 'stalwart'

 

PÁDRAIG FAULKNER, who has died aged 94, was a Fianna Fáil minister and influential figure in the party in a career that spanned three decades.

Sometimes blunt and outspoken, and always a Fianna Fáil loyalist, he was a highly respected figure whose counsel at times of crisis was listened to by all shades of opinion within the party.

A former teacher, Mr Faulkner represented the Louth constituency from 1957 until his retirement in 1987, after he had served in a number of ministries and as ceann comhairle.

He was unsuccessful in his first attempt to gain a Dáil seat, in a byelection in 1954, but was elected three years later in Eamon de Valera’s last general election campaign as Fianna Fáil leader.

The then taoiseach, Seán Lemass, appointed him parliamentary secretary (minister of state) for the Gaeltacht in 1965. He served there until 1968, when Lemass’s successor, Jack Lynch, appointed him to the cabinet as minister for lands and the Gaeltacht. He served as minister for education from 1969 to 1973, when Fianna Fáil lost power.

When the party returned to government in 1977, he served as minister in the departments of post and telegraphs, transport and power, and defence. He was ceann comhairle from 1980 to 1981.

A staunch admirer of de Valera and Lemass, Mr Faulkner showed equal loyalty to Lynch, whom he strongly supported in the aftermath of the 1970 arms crisis.

He backed George Colley over Charles Haughey in the leadership battle that followed Lynch’s retirement in 1979. However, Haughey retained him in the Cabinet following his defeat of Colley.

His autobiography, As I Saw It, was published in 2005.

President Michael D Higgins said in a statement that he was saddened to learn of the death of his former Oireachtas colleague.

“As a member of Dáil Eireann for 30 years, Pádraig Faulkner was a faithful and dedicated public representative of the people of Louth and widely respected by his Oireachtas colleagues,” he said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described Mr Faulkner as a stalwart who gave a lifetime of commitment to the party.

“As a long-serving and efficient minister, Pádraig Faulkner made an undoubted contribution to the social and economic development of Ireland in the second half of the 20th century,” he added.

Mr Martin said that during his ministerial career he had delivered more teachers and a better school transport system, as well as making the far-sighted decision to proceed with the Dart network in Dublin.

Mr Faulkner is survived by his wife, Kitty, three sons and a daughter.