World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Mary Harney

Article Id: WHEBN0000264120
Reproduction Date:

Title: Mary Harney  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Michael McDowell (politician), Dublin South–West (Dáil Éireann constituency), Mary Coughlan (politician), Progressive Democrats, Brian Cowen
Collection: 1953 Births, Alumni of Trinity College, Dublin, Councillors of Dublin County Council, Female Government Ministers of the Republic of Ireland, Female Members of Seanad Éireann, Female Teachtaí Dála, Fianna Fáil Politicians, Fianna Fáil Tds, Independent Ireland Tds, Independent Politicians in Ireland, Leaders of Progressive Democrats, Living People, Local Councillors in South Dublin (County), Members of the 14Th Seanad, Members of the 22Nd Dáil, Members of the 23Rd Dáil, Members of the 24Th Dáil, Members of the 25Th Dáil, Members of the 26Th Dáil, Members of the 27Th Dáil, Members of the 28Th Dáil, Members of the 29Th Dáil, Members of the 30Th Dáil, Ministers for Health (Ireland), Ministers of State of the 26Th Dáil, Politicians from County Galway, Progressive Democrats Tds, Tánaistí of Ireland
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mary Harney

Mary Harney
Minister for Health and Children
In office
29 September 2004 – 19 January 2011
Preceded by Micheál Martin
Succeeded by Mary Coughlan
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
In office
26 June 1997 – 13 September 2004
Preceded by Richard Bruton
Succeeded by Micheál Martin
Leader of the Progressive Democrats
In office
25 May 2007 – 17 April 2008
Preceded by Michael McDowell
Succeeded by Ciarán Cannon
In office
26 October 1993 – 11 September 2006
Preceded by Desmond O'Malley
Succeeded by Michael McDowell
In office
26 June 1997 – 13 September 2006
Preceded by Dick Spring
Succeeded by Michael McDowell
Teachta Dála
In office
May 2002 – February 2011
Constituency Dublin Mid–West
In office
June 1981 – May 2002
Constituency Dublin South–West
Seanad Éireann
In office
October 1977 – June 1981
Constituency Nominated by the Taoiseach
Personal details
Born (1953-03-11) 11 March 1953
Ballinasloe, County Galway
Nationality Irish
Political party Independent (Since 2009)
Other political
Progressive Democrats (1985–2009)
Fianna Fáil (1977–85)
Spouse(s) Brian Geoghegan
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin

Mary Harney (born 11 March 1953) is an Irish former politician. She served as Tánaiste from 1997 to 2006, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 1997 to 2004, and as Minister for Health and Children from 2004 to 2011. She also served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South–West and Dublin Mid–West constituencies from 1981 to 2011.

She was leader of the Progressive Democrats party between 1993 and 2006 and again from 2007 to 2008. She resumed her role as leader in 2007 after her successor, Michael McDowell, lost his seat at the 2007 general election. She is the longest-ever serving female member of Dáil Éireann.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Political career 2
    • Fianna Fáil 2.1
    • Progressive Democrats 2.2
    • In government 2.3
    • Resignation as party leader 2.4
    • 2007 election aftermath 2.5
      • Death threat of 2008 2.5.1
      • FÁS expenses scandal 2.5.2
    • 2010 attacks 2.6
    • Libel cases 2.7
    • Retirement 2.8
      • Board memberships 2.8.1
  • Personal life 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Harney was born in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway in 1953.[2] Her parents, who lived in nearby Ahascragh, were both farmers but her family moved to Newcastle, County Dublin shortly after her birth. She was educated at the Convent of Mercy, Inchicore and Presentation Convent, Clondalkin before studying at Trinity College, Dublin.

During her time at university, she made history by becoming the first female auditor of the College Historical Society.[3] In 1976 she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies, and for a brief time was a secondary school teacher at Castleknock College in Dublin.

Political career

Fianna Fáil

Harney came to the attention of Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch and stood unsuccessfully as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the 1977 general election. She was then appointed to Seanad Éireann by Lynch who had become Taoiseach.[4] She was the youngest-ever member of the Seanad when appointed, aged 24.[5]

In 1979 Harney had her first electoral success when she was elected to Dublin County Council. Two years later she was elected to the Dáil at the 1981 general election for Dublin South–West. She retained her seat at every election until her retirement in 2011, moving to the new Dublin Mid–West constituency at the 2002 general election when it was created from part of Dublin South–West.[6] As a leading member of the so-called Gang of 22, she was expelled from the party after voting in favour of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985.[7]

Progressive Democrats

Harney went on to become a founder member of the Progressive Democrats with Desmond O'Malley and Bobby Molloy in December 1985.

Following the 1989 general election the Progressive Democrats entered into a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, led at the time by Charles Haughey. Harney was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for Environmental Protection. As Minister of State she legislated to ban the sale of bituminous coal in Dublin, thereby eliminating smog from the city. She served in this position until the party withdrew from government in late 1992. In February 1993 Harney was appointed Deputy Leader of the Progressive Democrats, and succeeded O'Malley as party Leader in October of that year.[8]

In government

Following the 1997 general election and lengthy negotiations, the Progressive Democrats entered into coalition government with Fianna Fáil. Harney was appointed the first female Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

After the 2002 general election Harney led the Progressive Democrats, who had doubled their seats from four to eight, back into coalition with Fianna Fáil, the first time a government had been re-elected since 1969. She was re-appointed Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. In a government reshuffle on 29 September 2004 she was appointed Minister for Health and Children.

Harney was Ireland's representative to the European Council of Ministers for the Software Patents Directive.[9] Because the Council's first reading fell during the Irish Presidency of the European Council, she was chair of the meeting that discarded the amendments by the European Parliament which confirmed the exclusion of software innovations from what constitutes patentable subject matter.

In December 2001 Harney controversially used an Air Corps aircraft[10] to travel to County Leitrim to open a friend's off-licence in Manorhamilton; the trip cost €1,500. Harney later apologised for having abused her position in using the plane for non-government business and admitted that using the plane was wrong. The aircraft was to be used 90% of the time exclusively for maritime surveillance.[11]

In May 2006 the Irish Nurses Organisation unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in Mary Harney, accusing her of being negative and antagonistic towards nurses.[12] Her policy of transferring private beds in public hospitals to privately operated hospitals also attracted criticism.[13]

In March 2006, 16 months after she took office as health minister, the INO claimed that a record number of 455 people were waiting on hospital trolleys on one day (although the Health Service Executive gave a figure of 363 people waiting on hospital trolleys for the same day).[14] In June 2006 the Health Consumer Powerhouse ranked the Irish health service as the second-least "consumer-friendly" in the European Union and Switzerland, coming 25th out of 26 countries, ahead of only Lithuania.[15] However when the same survey was conducted a year later, the Irish health service showed significant improvement, coming 16th out of 29 countries. Ireland even scored higher than Britain's NHS which came 17th in the survey.

In July 2006 Ireland on Sunday reported that Mary Harney's mother, Mrs Sarah Harney, jumped a queue of two emergency cases to receive hip surgery at The Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Tallaght. The allegation was strongly denied by the minister.[16] Sixty percent of respondents to an Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll in December 2006 said that the appointment of Harney to the position of Minister for Health had not led to any improvement in the health service. Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Harney's own Progressive Democrats supporters were those who expressed most satisfaction with people in Dublin also feeling most dissatisfaction regionally.[17] Harney rejected criticisms from Fine Gael during the same month that there had been a 25% increase in people waiting on trolleys in regional hospitals during the past two years; she claimed Health Service Executive statistics showed otherwise.[18]

In July and August 2006 she issued three orders exempting two new community nursing units, to be built at St. Mary's Hospital in the Phoenix Park, from the usual legal requirement of planning permission, despite the Park being a designated and protected national monument. The Department of Health said the decision was made because of what it called the department's "emergency response to the accident and emergency crisis at the time", although the nursing units, in use since 2008, are mainly for geriatric care.[19]

The same year, in her capacity as Minister for Health, Mary Harney introduced risk equalisation into the Irish healthcare market. This was hugely resisted by BUPA. Despite High Court proceedings, the controversial change was upheld. This forced BUPA out of the Irish healthcare market. (BUPA Ireland was afterwards bought by the Irish-owned Quinn Group, averting any fear of redundancies.) In January 2007 a leaked memo said that the planned Cancer Care Strategy, due for completion in 2011, would not be delivered on time. Harney denied this and said that since the leaking of the memo there had been much progress, although she did not elaborate. The plan was to allow for nationwide radiotherapy services by 2011.[20][21]

Resignation as party leader

On 7 September 2006 Mary Harney announced that she was resigning as leader of the Progressive Democrats and that she would remain leader until a successor was chosen. She said she wanted to continue as Minister for Health[22] but stated that it was a matter for her successor and the Taoiseach. She was succeeded by then Justice Minister Michael McDowell after Tom Parlon and backbencher Liz O'Donnell nominated him. Parlon became party president and O'Donnell Deputy Leader in an agreement with McDowell after much speculation that the pair would also seek the leadership.[23]

2007 election aftermath

Following the poor performance of the Progressive Democrats at the 2007 general election, in which the party lost six of its eight seats including that of party leader Michael McDowell, Harney resumed her role as party leader. The Progressive Democrats' rules at the time stipulated that the leader of the party must be a TD, and Harney was one of only two remaining TDs; she resumed the leadership in a caretaker capacity. Following a rule change that broadened the eligibility, she was succeeded by Senator Ciarán Cannon as party leader on 17 April 2008.[24]

When the Progressive Democrats voted to disband in November 2008, Harney said she would remain as an independent TD once the party was wound up.[25]

She did not stand for re-election at the 2011 general election.

Death threat of 2008

Letters containing death threats and shotgun cartridges, from a group calling itself the Irish Citizens Defence Force, were mailed to Harney, Micheál Martin, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and to officials at two prominent Dublin fertility clinics on 29 February 2008.

FÁS expenses scandal

It emerged in November 2008 that Harney personally requested the use of the Government jet for a FÁS trip to Florida in 2004, at a cost of up to €80,000 to taxpayers. She travelled to Florida with senior FÁS executives, department officials, and her husband, Brian Geoghegan, and was receiving more than €100-a-day subsistence money from the taxpayer when FÁS picked up her hairdressing bill in a Florida hotel. Like all government ministers travelling abroad, she was entitled to a daily allowance for "incidental expenses".[26]

In a RTÉ Radio 1 interview on 27 November 2008, Fianna Fáil TD Mary O'Rourke described Harney's involvement in the scandal as "a load of hoo-hah". On 28 November 2008 Harney defended her use of expenses while on a FÁS trip to the US, saying that she was "not on holiday", she had not used public taxes for her own personal grooming, that the use of the government jet for the trip was made by the Taoiseach, and she had followed advice in claiming her expenses. She acknowledged meeting a relative for an hour while in the United States. The Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore told his party conference that Harney should resign because of her performance as Minister for Health.[27]

2010 attacks

Harney was attacked with red paint on 1 November 2010 as she turned the sod on a new health centre beside the Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot.[28] Her attacker was Councillor Louise Minihan, an Éirígí member of Dublin City Council. The paint thrower was later released and allowed to go free.[29]

Harney's car was attacked with eggs and cheese on 12 November 2010 as she arrived in Nenagh. Her "ongoing downgrading of the hospital" was said to be to blame.[30]

Libel cases

In May 2011 Harney received a €450,000 payout from Newstalk radio in compensation for a slur made about her on live air by journalist Nell McCafferty.[31] In 2002 she settled a libel case with Magill magazine for around €25,000 and in 2004 she settled a case against the Sunday Independent for €70,000, donating both sums to Peamount Hospital in Newcastle, County Dublin.


On 15 January 2011 Harney tendered her resignation as Minister for Health and Children to Taoiseach Brian Cowen.[32] She also stated that she would not be contesting the 2011 general election.[32] Harney retired with a package worth more than €300,000 and is entitled to an annual pension of over €120,000. She receives an annual ministerial pension of over €70,000 and a TDs pension of €50,600. She also received a pension lump sum of €160,000, a termination lump sum of about €17,000 and monthly termination payments from the Oireachtas during her first 12 months of retirement worth another €66,900.[7]

She receives annual pension payments of €129,805.[33][34]

Board memberships

In 2012 Harney joined the board of a new healthcare company, Cara. In her first interview since leaving office, Harney said she joined the board of two Irish 'high-potential' start-ups, Cara Health and Ward Biotech. She was also employed in speaking engagements, saying: "I spoke at a recent surgeons' conference in New York on my experience as a health minister and in Berlin on the Irish pharma sector." In April 2012 Harney joined the board of car fleet insurer Euro Insurances, an Irish subsidiary of Dutch leasing giant Leaseplan. Indian pharma businessman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, appointed Harney to the board of Biocon, a Bangalore-based company employing 7,000 and expanding in Malaysia.[35]

Personal life

In November 2001 Harney married Brian Geoghegan, a businessman, in a low-key afternoon ceremony in Dublin on a day in which she attended to a number of significant political meetings.[36]


  1. ^ "Harney was impressive in her day but her legacy leaves a lot to be desired".  
  2. ^ "2,000 protest against cuts at Ballinasloe hospital".  
  3. ^ "Where the sharpest pit their wits".  
  4. ^ "Ms. Mary Harney". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "Minister for Health Mary Harney tenders resignation".  
  6. ^ "Mary Harney". Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  7. ^ a b Minihan, Mary; Collins, Stephen (20 January 2011). "Harney calls time on a life in politics with a vow to stay silent during election campaign".  
  8. ^ "Mary Harney biography". (Wayback machine). Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  9. ^ At a time when Ireland held the rotating Presidency of the European Union
  10. ^ "Tánaiste stands over use of Air Corps aircraft". RTÉ News. 17 January 2002. 
  11. ^ "'"Harney's humble pie over plane 'outrage. Irish Independent. 19 January 2002. 
  12. ^ "INO passes vote of no confidence in Harney". RTÉ News. 5 May 2006. 
  13. ^ Tom O'Connor (28 August 2005). "The regressive nature of Mary Harney's proposals leaves them open to abuse" (PDF). Sunday Business Post. 
  14. ^ "Dispute over A&E trolley counts". RTÉ News. 7 March 2006. 
  15. ^ "Our health service is the shame of Europe". Irish Independent. 27 June 2006. 
  16. ^ "Tánaiste reacts angrily to mother story". RTÉ News. 31 July 2006. 
  17. ^ "Majority unhappy with Harney's performance in Health". 5 December 2006. 
  18. ^ "Harney rejects claims over A&E". RTÉ News. 5 December 2006. 
  19. ^ "Harney exempted Phoenix Park plan". The Irish Times. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  20. ^ "Harney defends cancer care strategy timescale". RTÉ News. 19 January 2007. 
  21. ^ "'"Kenny: Govt's cancer-treatment delays a 'hoax. 19 January 2007. 
  22. ^ "Harney steps down as leader of PDs". RTÉ News. 7 September 2006. 
  23. ^ "Search for PD leader as Harney steps down". RTÉ News. 8 September 2006. 
  24. ^ "Cannon elected leader of the Progressive Democrats". Irish Times. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2008. 
  25. ^ "PDs vote to bring party to an end". RTÉ News. 8 November 2008. Retrieved 19 December 2008. 
  26. ^ "Revealed: sky-high cost of FAS Florida trip". Irish Independent. 28 November 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  27. ^ "Harney defends FÁS trip expenses". RTÉ News. 28 November 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  28. ^ "Harney attacked with red paint in Ballyfermot (gallery)". 1 November 2010. 
  29. ^ "Councillor who threw paint at Harney released". The Irish Times. 2 November 2010. 
  30. ^ "Eggs and cheese thrown at Mary Harney's car". RTÉ News. 12 November 2010. 
  31. ^ "Newstalk to pay Harney more than €400,000". The Irish Times. 5 May 2011. 
  32. ^ a b "Mary Harney to retire from politics".  
  33. ^ Kelly, Fiach (10 November 2011). "Thanks big fellas: Ahern and Cowen get massive pensions".  
  34. ^ "I am worth my €130,000 per year pension".  
  35. ^ "Harney joins board of new health firm". Irish Independent. 22 July 2012. 
  36. ^ "When Mary met Brian". Irish Independent. 8 December 2001. 

External links

  • Mary Harney's profile on the Progressive Democrat party website at the Wayback Machine (archived 3 July 2007)
New constituency Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Dublin South–West
Succeeded by
as Progressive Democrats TD
Preceded by
as Fianna Fáil TD
Progressive Democrats Teachta Dála for Dublin South–West
Succeeded by
Moved to new constituency
New constituency Progressive Democrats Teachta Dála for Dublin Mid–West
Succeeded by
as Independent TD
Preceded by
as Progressive Democrats TD
Independent Teachta Dála for Dublin Mid–West
Succeeded by
Robert Dowds
(Labour Party)
Political offices
New office Minister of State at the Department of the Environment
Succeeded by
John Browne
Preceded by
Richard Bruton
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Succeeded by
Micheál Martin
Preceded by
Dick Spring
Succeeded by
Michael McDowell
Preceded by
Micheál Martin
Minister for Health and Children
Succeeded by
Mary Coughlan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Desmond O'Malley
Leader of the Progressive Democrats
Succeeded by
Michael McDowell
Preceded by
Michael McDowell
Leader of the Progressive Democrats
Succeeded by
Ciarán Cannon
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.