Ex-Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire Monica Barnes has died

Barnes was first elected in 1982, after encouragement from Garret FitzGerald

 TDs Brendan Howlin,  Monica Barnes and  Alan Shatter at a hearing of the sub-committee on the Abbeylara incident, at Kildare House, Dublin, in April 2001. File photograph: Eric Luke

TDs Brendan Howlin, Monica Barnes and Alan Shatter at a hearing of the sub-committee on the Abbeylara incident, at Kildare House, Dublin, in April 2001. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

The death has occurred of the former Fine Gael TD Monica Barnes, who served as a Dáil deputy for Dún Laoghaire for 15 years. She was 82.

President Michael D Higgins led tributes to Ms Barnes who he said, provided exceptional public service to the people of her constituency and Ireland over many years.

“Monica was a proud feminist and championed women’s rights throughout her parliamentary career and beyond,” he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said she was “an inspiration for so many people in the Fine Gael party and beyond.

“She was particularly inspirational for women and younger members of our party.”

Ms Barnes was a native of Monaghan, and became involved in campaigns in the women’s movement in Dublin in the 1970s and 1980s, becoming a founding member of the National Women’s Council of Ireland in 1973.

She first stood in the Dún Laoghaire constituency in 1981, and was elected to the Seanad after the first general election in 1982, winning a Dáil seat in the second election that year which brought Garret FitzGerald to power in coalition with Dick Spring’s Labour Party.

She was a staunch opponent of the 1983 abortion referendum which inserted the Eighth amendment into the constitution, often clashing with conservative members of her own party.

She never held ministerial office, but was an active and vocal backbencher, especially on women’s and social issues.

Having lost her Dáil seat in 1992, she threw herself into constituency work and regained it at the 1997 election, retiring from the Dáil in 2002.

“Monica gave great service to Fine Gael and to the people of Dún Laoghaire, whom she served as a TD for some 15 years,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Monica spent her political career as an advocate for women and a champion of policies to bring about progressive change. She was always willing to speak her mind and she was a fearless campaigner for change at a time when it was not always easy.”

Former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald said Ms Barnes “made a critical and important contribution” to improving women’s lives in Ireland. “She was a strong voice in Dáil Éireann at a time when there were few female elected representatives and indeed few women in public life,” the Fine Gael TD said. “Monica was an inspiration to me and many other women who followed her into the Dáil.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also paid tribute to Ms Barnes.

“Monica was a courageous and outspoken voice in Irish politics at a time when progressive voices were few and far between,” he said. “She was, in many respects, ahead of her time and always thought outside the box.

“I served in Dáil Éireann with Monica, and while we didn’t always agree, I always admired her fiery passion and commitment to the causes she cared deeply about.

“Fearless yet courteous, Monica made friends across the political spectrum, and I know that there are many people in Leinster House and across the country who will mourn her passing today.”