Jack Lynch

Jack Lynch-


John Mary "Jack" Lynch (15 August 1917 - 20 October 1999) was the Taoiseach of Ireland, serving two terms in office; from 1966 to 1973 and 1977 to 1979.[1]

Lynch was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Teachta Dála (TD) for Cork in 1948, and was re-elected at each general election until his retirement in 1981. He previously served as Minister for Finance (1965-1966), Minister for Industry and Commerce (1959-1965), Minister for Education (1957-1959), Minister for the Gaeltacht (1957) and as a Parliamentary Secretary. He was the third leader of Fianna Fáil from 1966 until 1979, succeeding the hugely influential Seán Lemass. Lynch was the last Fianna Fáil leader to secure (in 1977) an overall majority in the Dáil.


Prior to his political career Lynch had a successful sporting career as a dual player of Gaelic games. He played hurling with his local club Glen Rovers and with the Cork senior inter-county team from 1936 until 1950. Lynch also played Gaelic football with his local club St. Nicholas' and with the Cork senior inter-county team from 1936 until 1946. He is widely regarded[by whom?] as one of the greatest dual players of all-time.


In a senior inter-county hurling career that lasted for fourteen years he won five All-Ireland titles, seven Munster titles, three National Hurling League titles and seven Railway Cup titles. In a senior inter-county football career that lasted for ten years Lynch won one All-Ireland title, two Munster titles and one Railway Cup title. Lynch was later named at midfield on the GAA Hurling Team of the Century and the GAA Hurling Team of the Millennium


Early and private life


John Mary Lynch was born on 15 August 1917, just yards from the famous Shandon bells and St. Anne's in Cork City. The youngest of five boys, with two girls born after him, Jack, as he was known, was generally regarded as the "wild boy" of the family. He was educated at St. Vincent's Convent on Peacock Lane, and later at the famous "North Mon", the North Monastery Christian Brothers School. When Lynch was just thirteen years old his mother died suddenly. Lynch, who had been particularly close to his mother, was deeply affected by her death. His aunt, who herself had a family of six, stepped in to look after the family in this time of great upheaval for them. Lynch sat his Leaving Certificate in 1936, after which he moved to Dublin and worked with the Dublin District Milk Board, before returning to Cork to take up a position in the Circuit Court Office.


Lynch began working at the Cork Circuit Court as a clerk while still only nineteen years old. His work in the court ignited his interest in law and in 1941 he began a night course at University College Cork studying law. After two years in UCC he moved to Dublin to complete his studies at King's Inns. While continuing his studies he started work with the Department of Justice. In 1945 Lynch was called to the Bar and had to decide whether to remain in his Civil Service job or practice as a barrister. Lynch made the decision (literally on the toss of a coin) to move back to Cork and began a private practice on the Cork Circuit.


It was in 1943, while on holidays in Glengariff, West Cork, that Lynch met his future wife, Máirín O'Connor, the daughter of a Dublin judge. Lynch was to be her first and only boyfriend, and the couple were married three years later on 10 August 1946. Although she was apprehensive about her husband's decision to become active in politics, to become a Minister and even to become Taoiseach, she stood by him through it all and helped him make the tough decisions that would affect Lynch's life and her own. One story exists where Lynch, in spite of tremendous pressure from Seán Lemass and the entire Fianna Fáil party to stand for the leadership, only accepted the nomination after Máirín had agreed. The fact that the couple didn't have any children allowed Lynch to embark on a political career, without having to worry about his commitment to the family. However, he remained totally devoted to Máirín throughout his, and she became just as easily recognisable as her husband.


Sporting life

From an early age, Lynch showed an enormous interest and great accomplishment as a sportsman. Rugby union, soccer, swimming and handball were all favourite pastimes for Lynch, however it was the sports of Gaelic football and hurling where Lynch showed particular flair.



Lynch played his club hurling with the famous Glen Rovers club in the Blackpool area of Cork city. He enjoyed much success at underage levels, winning back-to-back minor county championship titles in 1933 and in 1934 as captain. That same year Lynch won his first senior county hurling championship with "the Glen." It was the first of a record-breaking eight county titles in-a-row for Glen Rovers and for Lynch, who served as captain of the side on a number of occasions. He finished off his club hurling career by winning a further three county medals in succession in 1948, 1949 and 1950.


Lynch also played club football with "the Glen's" sister club St. Nicholas. Once again he enjoyed a successful underage career, winning back-to-back county minor titles in 1932 and 1933. Lynch won an intermediate county title in 1937, before adding a senior county football championship medal to his collection in 1938. Lynch won his second county football medal with "St. Nick's" in 1941. While working in Dublin in the mid-1940s Lynch played club football with the Civil Service GAA team. In 1944 he won a Dublin Senior Football Championship title, alongside fellow Munster native Mick Falvey.[1]



By the late 1930s Lynch was a dual player with the Cork senior hurling and senior football teams. In 1939 he became the only player, in history to captain both the inter-county football and hurling teams in the same year. That year he won his first Munster hurling title, however, Kilkenny later accounted for Cork in the famous "thunder and lightning" All-Ireland final. In 1939 and 1940 Lynch guided Cork to back-to-back National Hurling League titles, however, the 1941 championship was severely hampered due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Cork only had to play two games to be crowned All-Ireland hurling champions, however, they lost the delayed Munster hurling final to Tipperary.


In 1942 Lynch was selected as Cork hurling captain once again. That year he captured his second set of Munster and All-Ireland medals. 1943 proved to be a successful year for Lynch as he won a third Munster hurling medal and a first Munster football medal. While the footballers were later defeated in the All-Ireland semi-final, Lynch's hurling team went on to win a third All-Ireland title in-a-row. In 1944 Lynch captured his fourth Munster hurling title. Later that year Cork created a piece of sporting history by becoming the first team to win four All-Ireland hurling titles in-a-row. Lynch was one of the heroes of the team who played in all four finals.


In 1945 Cork surrendered their provincial hurling crown, however, Lynch, as a member of the Cork senior football team won his second Munster football title. Cork later defeated Cavan in the All-Ireland final, giving Lynch his first, and only, All-Ireland football medal. In 1946 the Cork hurlers returned to their winning ways and Lynch claimed a fifth provincial hurling title. A fifth All-Ireland hurling medal was later added to his collection following a defeat of old rivals Kilkenny I the final. On that September day in 1946 Lynch made Irish sporting history by becoming the first, and to date the only, player to win six consecutive senior All-Ireland medals (five in hurling and one in football).


Lynch captured a sixth Munster hurling medal in 1947 before going on to play in his seventh All-Ireland hurling final in less than a decade. The game itself against Kilkenny has often been described as the greatest All-Ireland final ever played, however, Lynch ended up on the losing side by a single point. There was some consolation at the start of 1948 as Lynch claimed another National Hurling League medal, however, Tipperary quickly became the dominant force in the Munster Championship. Lynch retired from inter-county hurling in 1950. He had retired from inter-county football several years earlier.



Even at the height of his career, Lynch had come to be regarded as one of the all-time greats of Gaelic games. His contribution to the game of hurling was first recognised when he was named as the "Hurling Captain of the Forties". In the centenary year of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1984 Lynch was named on the "Hurling Team of the Century". At the special centenary All-Ireland final in Semple Stadium he received one of the loudest cheers and rounds of applause when all the former All-Ireland winning hurling captains were introduced to the crowd. Shortly after his death in 1999 Lynch's reputation as one of the true greats of the game was further cemented when he was named on the "Hurling Team of the Millennium".

Taoiseach 1966-1973


Because Lynch was elected as somewhat of a "compromise candidate" it appeared to many that he would only remain as an interim Taoiseach. This thought could not be further from his mind, and he outlined this intentions shortly after coming to power. Lynch took particular exception to the title "Interim Taoiseach" or "Reluctant Taoiseach". He had no intention of stepping aside after a few years in favour of one of the other candidates who had been unsuccessful against him in 1966. He was however reluctant in naming his first Cabinet. He believed that the existing members of the government owed their positions to Lemass, and so he retained the entire Cabinet, albeit with some members moving to different departments. Lynch adopted a chairman-like approach to government allowing his Ministers a free run in their respective Departments. He continued the modernising and liberal approach that Lemass had begun, albeit at a slower pace. Lynch was lucky in the timing of Lemass's resignation. The new Taoiseach now had almost a full Dáil term before the next general election.


Arms crisis


Lynch's attitude towards the Northern Ireland question and the application of Fianna Fáil party policy to it would eventually come to define his first period as Taoiseach, and would once again show his critics that far from being "reluctant" he was in fact a strong and decisive leader. His strong leadership skills and determination were clearly evident in 1970 when allegations (later disproved in court, though questions since have emerged challenging that verdict in one case), that the hardline republican Minister for Agriculture, Neil Blaney, and the Minister for Finance, Charles Haughey, were involved in an attempt to use £100,000 in aid money to import arms for the Provisional IRA. Both ministers were sacked after some initial procrastination on Lynch's part, his innocent Minister for Justice, Micheál Ó Móráin, retired the day before and a fourth minister, Kevin Boland and his Parliamentary Secretary, resigned in sympathy with Haughey and Blaney. The whole affair, which became known as the Arms Crisis, allowed Lynch to stamp his control on his government, but would eventually lead to deep division in Fianna Fáil for many decades to come. It is now believed that Lynch was aware of these activities, and acted only when his hand was forced.[citation needed]

Taoiseach 1977-1979


Early on in his second term as Taoiseach, Lynch decided that he would not lead Fianna Fáil into another general election campaign. The date of January 1980 was in his mind as a retirement date, however nothing had been made definite. It was during this time, due to a combination of a large parliamentary majority and the search for a new leader, when party discipline began to break down.


Following Lynch's retirement from politics the offers from various companies flooded in. He became a director on the boards of a number of companies, including Irish Distillers, Smurfit and Hibernian Insurance. He also embarked on a good deal of foreign travel. He was conferred with the freedom of his own native Cork city. He continued to speak on political issues, particularly in favour of Desmond O'Malley at the time of his expulsion from Fianna Fáil. Lynch also declined to accept nominations to become President of Ireland, a position he had little interest in. In 1992 he suffered a severe health set-back, and in 1993 suffered a stroke in which he nearly lost his sight. Following this he withdrew from public life, preferring to remain at his home with his wife Máirín where he continued to be dogged by ill-health.


He continued to be honoured by, among others, the Gaelic Athletic Association and various other organisations. In 1999 the Jack Lynch Tunnel under the river Lee was named by Cork Corporation in his honour. A plaque was also erected at his birthplace in Shandon. Lynch died in the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook, Dublin on 20 October 1999 at the age of 82. He was honoured with a state funeral which was attended by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former Taoisigh John Bruton, Albert Reynolds and Charles Haughey, and various political persons from all parties. The coffin was then flown from Dublin to Cork where a procession through the streets of the city drew some of the biggest crowds in the city's history. Lynch's friend and political ally, Desmond O'Malley, delivered the graveside oration, paying tribute to Lynch's sense of decency. He is buried in St Finbarr's Cemetery in Cork city.


Jack Lynch has been described as "the most popular Irish politician since Daniel O'Connell." This praise did not come from Lynch's allies or even his own party, but from the former leader of Fine Gael, Liam Cosgrave. As a sportsman Lynch earned a reputation for a decency and fair play, characteristics he brought to political life. It was for this that the man known as "the Real Taoiseach" or "the Reluctant Taoiseach", with his ever-present pipe and the soft Cork lilt in his voice will be remembered.

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