REVIEW: The Broderick Lectures at Waterford Museum of Treasures
THE late Seventies were heady days for Cork’s Jack Lynch. With an economy-busting manifesto that combined goodies, such as the abolition of car tax, wealth tax, house rates and grants for new house builders of £1,000, Fianna Fáil swept to a dangerous 20-seat majority in the Dáil.
“And it was dangerous,” explains the expansive historian, Dr. Eugene Broderick “because it was unsustainable and those first-time elected TDs would never see another Dáil as a reasonable majority of five or six was the most hopeful prediction.”
TDs with no official purpose were loose cannon and when explosions like a huge drop in Fianna Fáil support in the first Euro elections and the loss of two by-elections in Cork went off like grenades, Cork’s favourite Corkman was in trouble.
‘Jack’s chosen successor George Colley barely canvassed for support and Haughey was elected with a majority of six. All the apples had fallen into Charlie’s basket’
A gang of five TDs (including Waterford’s Jackie Fahey) were to be excellent organisers of protest to the then leadership of Jack Lynch and dealt the fatal blow to Jack’s preferred successor, the rather condescending George Colley. Although Haughey had ambitions to be Taoiseach – and despite claims from Cork to the contrary – he never actually undermined Jack.
While the garden looked somewhat rosy for a year or so, trouble loomed and the Iranian revolution was the catalyst for a worldwide downturn with the massive drop in oil production. The economy was running into trouble with another oil crisis and rising unemployment. Industrial unrest grew and 1979 won the accolade of the worst decade for strikes in the history of the state. Workers staged huge PAYE protests and the inflation rate reached 13.3% and a year later it was 18%.
Unemployment grew and taxes decreased. We were now borrowing to pay ourselves and the giveaways of the 1977 manifesto – absolutely unnecessary as the Fine Gael/ Labour government was detested and would have lost the election anyway – saw loss of income to pay our way.
The Provisional IRA was another thorn in the side of the state and when the Provos blew up Earl Mountbatten’s boat (with children on board), official British hostility was palpable. Jack had to represent the Irish nation at the funeral and a later meeting with Margaret Thatcher was toxic.
The jig was up. Jack’s chosen successor George Colley barely canvassed for support and Haughey was elected with a majority of six. All the apples had fallen into Charlie’s basket.