*Tom Meaney and Tom Casey.
Des O’Malley’s contribution to Irish politics has been remembered all across the country following his death on Wednesday of last week.
In Clare, former members of the Progressive Democrats also paid tribute to the Limerick native who was praised by President Michael D. Higgins for an “extensive and meaningful” contribution to politics and the State.
O’Malley served as a TD for Limerick East from 1968 to 2002. He was a prominent Fianna Fáil TD and minister in the 1970s and 1980s, before he founded the Progressive Democrats and led the party from 1985 until 1993.
At the age of 31, he was appointed Minister for Justice by then Taoiseach Jack Lynch (FF). He took a tough line with the IRA, establishing the Special Criminal Court and introducing the Offences Against the State Act.
In 1985, the Fine Gael-Labour government introduced a bill to repeal the ban on contraceptives for the unmarried. He broke ranks with Fianna Fáil who opposed the bill and was expelled from the party for what was deemed “conduct unbecoming”.
The Progressive Democrats were founded by the former solicitor in December 1985. Under his leadership, the new party won 14 Dáil seats in its first election in 1987.
Two years later the most unlikely of coalitions was formed when Charlie Haughey (FF) and O’Malley agreed to form a Fianna Fáil-PD government.The Progressive Democrats pulled out of government and in 1993 after which Mr O’Malley retired as party leader. He retired from public life in 2002.
Ex colleagues of O’Malleys in Clare, Tom Meaney of Ennis and Tom Casey of Newmarket-on-Fergus put together a placard in memory of the former politician. It paid tribute to his courage and to his uncle Donogh “who gave the labouring man’s children free education and free transport”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo from his Ennis home, Meaney who contested the 1987 and 1989 General Elections in Clare for the Progressive Democrats said that Des was “a man you were proud to be involved with”.
“He was a man to a certain extent that changed politics in Ireland. He insisted on integrity, he stood up to everyone. Only he would have left the party that would have made him Taoiseach because of his principles, he was a man of great integrity” Meaney added.
There was no desire on O’Malley’s part to become a rich man by entering politics, Meaney believed. “He never became a rich man, I was in his house in Limerick, the house showed that he didn’t make money like Charlie Haughey nor did he want to”.
Casey who ran in the Shannon area for the 1991 local elections outlined that the O’Malleys were in politics “for the good of the people”.
On O’Malley’s exit from Fianna Fáil over their stance on the ban on contraceptives, Casey commented, “He wanted to give people the type of life they wanted”.