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Donogh O'Malley: Wikis


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Donogh O'Malley

In office
13 July 1966 – 10 March 1968
Preceded by George Colley
Succeeded by Brian Lenihan

In office
21 April 1965 – 13 July 1966
Preceded by Seán MacEntee
Succeeded by Seán Flanagan

Born January 1921
Limerick, Ireland
Died 10 March 1968 (aged 47)
Limerick, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fianna Fáil
Spouse(s) Hilda Moriarty
Religion Roman Catholic

Donogh Brendan O'Malley (January 1921 – 10 March 1968) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician. A Teachta Dála (TD) for Limerick East from 1954 until 1968, he also served as Minster for Health and Minister for Education. He is regarded by some as one of the best ministers ever to serve in an Irish government.


Early and private life

Donogh O'Malley was born in Limerick in 1921. Born into a wealthy, middle-class family, he was educated by the Jesuits at Crescent College and later at Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare. O'Malley later studied at University College Galway where he was conferred with a degree in engineering in 1943. He then returned to Limerick where he worked as an engineer before becoming involved in politics.

O'Malley married Dr. Hilda Moriarty (1922-1991) in August 1947 and together the couple had two children, Daragh and Suzanne. O'Malley's wife has become famous in poetry as the object of Patrick Kavanagh’s desire in the poem Raglan Road.

Early political career

O'Malley was born into a highly politicised family who supported Cumann na nGaedhael until a falling out with the party in the early 1930s. O'Malley first became involved in local politics as a member of Limerick Corporation. He became Mayor of his native city in 1961, the third O'Malley brother to hold the office. Desmond O'Malley was Mayor from 1941 until 1943 and Michael O'Malley held the office from 1948 until 1949.

O'Malley was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála at the 1954 general election; Fianna Fáil were not returned to government on that occasion. The new Dáil deputy spent the rest of the decade on the backbenches, however, his party was returned to power in 1957. Two years later Seán Lemass took over from Éamon de Valera as Taoiseach and the modernizing process began. Lemass introduced younger cabinet ministers as the old guard, who had served the party since its foundation in 1926, began to retire. In 1961 O’Malley joined the government as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, one of the most senior junior ministerial positions. O'Malley was part of a newer, brasher style of politician that was emerging in the 1960s. He was a colourful and charming character and his heavy drinking exploits with fellow ministers Charles Haughey and Brian Lenihan have become part of Irish political folklore. On one occasion O’Malley was reputed to have destroyed a chip shop causing £500 worth of damage. Another incident attributed to O’Malley involved him driving the wrong way down O’Connell Street in Dublin.

Cabinet career

Following Fianna Fáil's return to government following the 1965 general election O’Malley joined the cabinet as Minister for Health. He spent just over one year in this position before he was appointed Minister for Education, a position where he will be forever remembered for his dynamism as a minister.

Having succeeded another dynamic young minister, Patrick Hillery, O'Malley acted swiftly to introduce the recommendations that were made in an official report regarding education. Shortly after he was appointed he announced that from 1969 all schools up to Intermediate level would be free and that free buses would bring students from rural area to the nearest school. O’Malley seems to have made this decision himself without consulting other ministers, however, he did discuss it with Lemass. Jack Lynch, who as Minister for Finance had to find the money to pay for it, was certainly not consulted and was dismayed at the announcement. In spite of this O’Malley’s proposals were hugely popular with the public and it was impossible for the government to go back on its word.

As minister O'Malley also extended the school transport scheme and commissioned the building of new non-denominational comprehensive and community schools in areas where they were lacking. He also introduced Regional Technical Colleges (RTCs), now called Institutes of Technology, in areas where there was no third level college in proximity. The best example of this successful policy is Limerick, now a university, where O'Malley is credited with taking the steps to ensure the university came into existence. His plan to merge Trinity College, Dublin and University College Dublin aroused huge controversy and was not successful, despite being supported by his cabinet colleague Brian Lenihan. Access to third level education was also extended as the old scholarship system was replaced by a system of means-tested grants which gave easier access to less well-off students.


O’Malley's package of reforms made him one of the most innovative and popular members of the government and he was affectionately known as 'the School Man' for his work in the area of education. His sudden death in Limerick on 10 March 1968, before his vision for the education system was completed, came as a great shock to the Irish public. He was buried with a full state funeral.

Following O'Malley's death, his wife wanted to run for the seat left vacant by her deceased husband. Her campaign was supported by the actor Richard Harris, however, in the end the nomination went to O'Malley's nephew, Desmond O'Malley, and he was duly elected in the subsequent by-election.

See also


Civic offices
Preceded by
Patrick Kelly
Mayor of Limerick
Succeeded by
Frank Glasgow
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Brennan
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
Jim Gibbons
Preceded by
Seán MacEntee
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Seán Flanagan
Preceded by
George Colley
Minister for Education
Succeeded by
Brian Lenihan


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