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 (1965–66) and Minister for Education (1966–68).
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
(UCG) 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 On Raglan Road.
O'Malley was born into a highly politicised family who supported Cumann na nGaedheal 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 to 1943 and
Michael O'Malley held the office from 1948 to 1949.
O'Malley was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Limerick East 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 modernising 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.
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 Certificate
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
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 Irish state funeral.
Following O'Malley's death, his widow, Hilda O'Malley, did not run in
the subsequent by election for the seat left vacant by her deceased
husband. That by-election was won narrowly by O'Malley's nephew, Desmond O'Malley.
However, Hilda O'Malley sought the Fianna Fáil nomination for the 1969
general election but Fianna Fáil gave the party nomination to the now
sitting TD, Desmond O'Malley. Hilda O'Malley ran as an Independent
candidate in that election and after what proved a bitter campaign
against her nephew, she failed to get the fourth seat in Limerick East
by just 200 votes.