More than 40 politicians from political families to contest election


About one in four current TDs come from families with links to the Dáil and Seanad

MORE THAN 40 “dynasty” politicians are expected to contest this year’s general election, with the Labour Party fielding nephews of former tánaiste Dick Spring and retiring TD Mary Upton.

Of the current Dáil’s 164 TDs, about one in four come from political families, with many descendants of long-established “names” being offered again to voters by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Cllr Arthur Spring, Dick Spring’s nephew, is the Labour candidate in Kerry North, while Cllr Henry Upton will contest Ms Upton’s Dublin South Central constituency along with two fellow party councillors. Ms Upton was first elected to the Dáil in the 1999 byelection caused by the death of her brother, Pat Upton, who was the Labour TD for Dublin South Central from 1992. Dick Spring’s father was the TD Dan Spring.

Cllr Paula Desmond, who will contest Cork South Central, is the daughter of two former Labour TDs, Dan and Eileen Desmond. Ms Desmond will be the running mate of sitting TD Ciarán Lynch, who is a brother-in-law of Cork North Central deputy Kathleen Lynch.

In Wicklow, Conal Kavanagh, son of former minister Liam Kavanagh, will run with two other Labour candidates. Cllr Ronan McManus, son of retiring TD Liz McManus, also put his name forward but was not successful.

A son of the former Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte, Cllr Jimmy Harte, is Labour’s candidate in Donegal North East.

Green Minister of State Ciarán Cuffe criticised the trend, despite the fact that he has a link to the most famous political dynasty of them all: the Kennedy family. (His mother’s sister, Ethel, was married to Bobby Kennedy.) “Looking at Labour, there certainly seems to be quite a sense of dynasties in operation and seats being passed down. I think it’s good that people are promoted on merit. I’ve always downplayed my own connection. I think it’s important that you make a name for yourself,” Mr Cuffe said. Mr Cuffe is also a grand-nephew of the former Fianna Fáil TD Patrick Little.

Minister of State Conor Lenihan, a scion of one of Ireland’s best-known political families, said the word “dynasty” implied that relatives acted in unison, which was certainly not the case in his own family. “I don’t think you could say that myself, my aunt [Mary O’Rourke], and my brother [Brian Lenihan] agree on virtually anything. . . I don’t like the term dynasty because it implies somehow that we’re acting in some dynastic fashion and protecting family members of something. It has kind of a Mafia overtone.” Mr Lenihan said the Irish political system was very competitive. “If you’re not up to it you get the electorate to ignore very quickly the fact that you’re a cousin of somebody or brother or whatever.”

He said dynasties had also existed in the fields of medicine, law, hurling and soccer until quite recently, simply because Irish families were traditionally large and the general population relatively small.

Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin, daughter of former senator Des Hanafin and sister of Senator John Hanafin, denied she was a member of a dynasty. “My father was a Tipperary-based senator; I’m a Dún Laoghaire based TD. The name is obviously a political family and a name of public service, but actually not a dynasty in the same way as we think of passing on the seat to somebody.” She cited the Andrews, Cowen and Coughlan families as examples of dynasties. Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews (Dún Laoghaire) is a son of former Minister David Andrews, nephew of former MEP and TD Niall Andrews and cousin to sitting deputy Chris Andrews (Dublin South East).

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was first elected in the 1984 byelection brought about by the death of his father, Ber Cowen, while Tánaiste Mary Coughlan is a daughter of former TD Cathal Coughlan and niece of former deputy Clement Coughlan.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has selected Cllr Paul Connaughton jnr, a son of retiring party TD Paul Connaughton to contest Galway East along with another councillor. In Kerry, the Healy-Raes, Jackie and Michael, hope to continue the family tradition.Other selected Fine Gael candidates from political families include party leader Enda Kenny and Cork South Central TD Simon Coveney. Mr Coveney’s constituency colleague Deirdre Clune is a daughter of former tánaiste and minister Peter Barry, and granddaughter of former TD Anthony Barry.

Among those also selected are Wexford TD Michael D’Arcy, son of former minister of state Michael D’Arcy; Laois-Offaly deputy Charlie Flanagan, son of former minister Oliver J Flanagan; Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Denis Naughten, son of former deputy Liam Naughten and Waterford TD John Deasy, son of former deputy Austin Deasy.

Dublin North Central TD Richard Bruton, the brother of former taoiseach John Bruton, has also been selected. Kieran O’Donnell (Limerick East) is a nephew of former MEP and minister Tom O’Donnell; Billy Timmins (Wicklow) won the seat previously held by his father. Godfrey Timmins; Joe Carey (Clare), is a son of former minister of state Donal Carey, while Michael Creed (Cork North West) is a son of former minister of state Donal Creed.

Among the sitting deputies to run again for Fianna Fáil from political families are Seán Haughey, Limerick West TD Niall Collins and Kildare South deputy Seán Power, Áine Brady in Kildare North, Bobby Aylward in Carlow-Kilkenny, Eamon Ó Cuív in Galway West and Minister of State Dara Calleary, Dublin North West TD Noel Ahern, Thomas Byrne (Meath East), Niall Blaney (Donegal North East), Tom McEllistrim (Kerry North), Brendan Kenneally (Waterford) and Jimmy Devins (Sligo-North Leitrim).

Labour deputy Seán Sherlock (Cork East) is a son of former TD Joe Sherlock; party senator Brendan Ryan will contest Dublin North, where his brother Seán Ryan was a TD. Among the TDs who will not contest the next election, Fianna Fáil’s Beverley Flynn (Mayo) is a daughter of former EU commissioner and minister Pádraig Flynn, while Fine Gael’s Olwyn Enright (Laois-Offaly) is a daughter of former TD Tom Enright and is married to sitting TD Joe McHugh (Donegal North East).