FF rout claims Dáil dynasties

The fall of Ireland’s former Tánaiste signalled not only the demise of a government but also the end of a Fianna Fáil political dynasty.

The fall of Ireland’s former Tánaiste signalled not only the demise of a government but also the end of a Fianna Fáil political dynasty.

Mary Coughlan, 45, from picturesque South West Donegal became the youngest member of the Dáil when first elected aged 21, following in the footsteps of her father Cathal and uncle Clement Coughlan, who both served as members of the Dáil.

The career politician rose rapidly through the ranks and in 2002 she was appointed cabinet minister for social and family affairs and was education minister before the election.

Hers was not the only political lineage to be abruptly interrupted.

Former finance minister Brian Lenihan, 51, survived to become the only member of Fianna Fáil to win a Dublin seat but his brother Conor and aunt Mary O’Rourke were heavyweight casualties in a night of bitter disappointment for Fianna Fail.

Brian and Conor’s father Brian Snr was a cabinet minister for more than two decades, serving as Tánaiste and MEP. His grandfather Patrick also sat in the Dáil.

Conor Lenihan served as minister of state for science and for integration in the last government.

He was embroiled in controversy in May 2005, when off-microphone he told opposition TD Joe Higgins from the Socialist Party that he should “stick to the kebabs” in a reference to Turkish workers aided by Mr Higgins.

Mr Lenihan’s support collapsed from topping the poll in 2007 to conceding defeat by lunchtime yesterday.

Another well-known Fianna Fáil casualty was Mary Hanafin, 51, former minister for tourism and minister for enterprise.

Before that she was Education Minister when school bus safety was prioritised after the death of five schoolgirls in a bus accident in Navan, Co Meath, in 2005.

Her father Des was a well-known businessman and party councillor who later served as a senator at various times for over 25 years from 1969 until 2002.

Her brother, John, is also involved in national politics and, like his father before him, has been a member of Seanad Eireann since 2002.

The fall of Sean Haughey in Dublin North Central, Minister for Life Long Learning, also signalled the end of one of Ireland’s most powerful dynasties and 54 years of a family member in the Dáil.

His father Charlie was a former prime minister caught up in several scandals including alleged IRA gun running. After he had retired from politics, it was revealed that his regal lifestyle had been funded by a secret multi-million-pound offshore slush fund.

Also linked to arms trial was an ancestor of Niall Blaney, 37, who announced last month he would not be contesting the election in Donegal North East.

His grandfather Neal, uncle Neil and father Harry all preceded him as TD.

Neil Blaney spearheaded “aid” efforts for nationalists in the North at the start of the conflict but was later sacked from the Cabinet over the arms crisis surrounding the alleged importation of arms for IRA use.

Now Fianna Fáil faces its own modern crisis which has torn dynasties apart and could take years to emerge from.

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