Séamus Brennan

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Séamus Brennan : biography

16 February 1948 – 9 July 2008

Séamus Brennan (16 February 1948 – 9 July 2008) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician and a Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South. He served as a Minister of State, Minister for Tourism and Transport (1989–91), Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (1991–92), Minister for Education (1992–93), Minister for Transport (2002–04), Minister for Social and Family Affairs (2004–07) and Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (2007–08).


Séamus Brennan died in the early hours of 9 July 2008 at his home in Churchtown in Dublin. He had been unwell for some time. He is survived by his wife Ann, their two sons and four daughters. Brian Cowen said Brennan would be remembered as "a brilliant political strategist, a dedicated constituency TD, a reforming minister and a very popular colleague".

Early life

Séamus Brennan was born in Galway. He was educated at St. Joseph’s Patrician College, Galway, University College Galway and University College Dublin where he studied Economics and Commerce and qualified as an accountant. Brennan found an interest in politics during his teens when he canvassed for Fianna Fáil during elections. In 1973 he succeeded Tommy Mullins as General Secretary of Fianna Fáil. He began to revamp the party structure with the setting up of a national executive. He studied and was impressed by the Presidential Election in the United States in 1976. He applied new techniques such as marketing strategies and opinion polls to the 1977 general election. This resulted in the biggest ever parliamentary majority for any party. Fianna Fáil and Jack Lynch were back in power with a 20-seat majority. Brennan was appointed to Seanad Éireann.


His son, Shay Brennan, was the unsuccessful Fianna Fáil candidate at the Dublin South by-election, 2009. George Lee of Fine Gael won the subsequent by-election.

Political career

In 1979 Brennan supported George Colley in the Fianna Fáil leadership contest, caused by the retirement of Jack Lynch. However, Charles Haughey was narrowly successful and a new Secretary General of the party was appointed. At the 1981 general election, Brennan was elected to Dáil Éireann for the Dublin South constituency and was returned at every subsequent election until his death in 2008. In the early 1980s he was a prominent member of the Gang of 22 who tried unsuccessfully to wrestle control of the Fianna Fáil party from Haughey. He supported Colley, and later Desmond O’Malley, in various leadership heaves throughout the whole era. It was widely expected that Brennan would join the Progressive Democrats when they were founded by O’Malley in 1985 but instead he remained within Fianna Fáil.

In 1987 Haughey’s Fianna Fáil party were returned to office and Brennan was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for Trade and Marketing. In 1989 he became a full Cabinet Minister when he was appointed Minister for Tourism and Transport. In 1991 his brief was widened when the Communications portfolio came under his control. In 1992 Albert Reynolds succeeded Haughey as Taoiseach. Brennan was one of the few ministers in Haughey’s Cabinet who remained in Reynolds’ new government. He was appointed Minister for Education. In 1993 a Fianna Fáil–Labour Party coalition came to power and Brennan was demoted to Minister of State for Commerce and Technology. He remained in this position until 1994.

In 1995 Fianna Fáil were in opposition and the new party leader, Bertie Ahern designated Brennan as Opposition spokesperson for Transport, Energy and Communications. In 1997 Fianna Fáil returned to power and Brennan became Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and Department of Defence. He became the Minister for Transport in 2002.

In the cabinet reshuffle of September 2004, Brennan was moved to the post of Minister for Social and Family Affairs. He was bitterly disappointed but he refused to describe it as a demotion. After the 2007 general election, he played a key role in the negotiations with the Green Party, which led to the formation of the new Government. He did not seek ministerial office in Brian Cowen’s cabinet and tendered his resignation on 6 May 2008, for medical reasons.