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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Members of the Eighteenth Dáil - Dr. John F. O'Connell

Dr. John F. O'Connell

John Francis O'Connell (20 January 1927 – 8 March 2013) was an Irish politician, who was first elected as a Labour Party Teachta Dála (TD) in 1965 and was returned at each election until 1987, latterly for Fianna Fáil after a time as an independent. He served in Seanad Éireann from 1987 to 1989 and then returned to the Dáil until he resigned in 1993. He also served as Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann from 1981 to 1982, as Minister for Health (1992–1993) and as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1979 to 1981.

O'Connell was born in Dublin and educated at St. Vincent's C.B.S. in Glasnevin and the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin. In 1960 O'Connell founded MIMS Ireland, a well-known monthly index of medical specialties, and in 1967 he founded the Irish Medical Times, a weekly broadsheet for doctors.

He began his political career when he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Labour Party TD for Dublin South–West at the 1965 general election. He held a seat for the Party until the 1981 general election when he was expelled for refusing to stand in the Dublin West constituency. Instead he stood as an independent in Dublin South–Central, opposing the Labour leader, Frank Cluskey. O'Connell, always a large vote-getter, easily topped the poll and Cluskey lost his Dáil seat.

O'Connell was then elected as Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, and resigned from the European Parliament, to which he had been elected as an MEP for the Dublin constituency in the first direct elections in 1979. O'Connell's election to the first directly elected European Parliament in 1979 was an extraordinary achievement for the Labour Party as, along with Michael O'Leary, O'Connell won two seats out of four for Labour. He remained as Ceann Comhairle until December 1982, being returned automatically in the two elections of 1982. In 1983 he became a member of Fianna Fáil, representing the party until he lost his Dáil seat at the 1987 general election. That year he was one of those nominated by the Taoiseach Charles Haughey to the 18th Seanad Éireann, serving until he regained his Dáil seat at the 1989 general election.

O'Connell supported Albert Reynolds after he resigned from the Cabinet and is seen as one who persuaded Haughey to resign when he did. O'Connell was appointed Minister for Health by Reynolds in 1992. O'Connell remained as Minister for Health until 1993, when he resigned from the Dáil and the Cabinet due to ill health.

Further controversy surrounded O'Connell's relationship with Charles Haughey in later years, when it was revealed during the Moriarty Tribunal that O'Connell was the conduit of moneys between Arab tycoon Mahmoud Fustok and Haughey, and it was further revealed that O'Connell had invested a significant sum in Celtic Helicopters, a business venture owned by Haughey's son Ciaran.

In the 1970s, he arranged a meeting in his home between Harold Wilson MP, then leader of the British Labour Party, and Dáithí Ó Conaill, member of the Provisional IRA army council. Negotiations that night to broker a ceasefire were successful in the short term, but ultimately broke down.

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