From Browne to Bertie: Famous step-downs in Irish politics

Enda Kenny looks set to be added to the list

From Browne to Bertie: Famous step-downs in Irish politics

Bertie Ahern announces his resignation as Taoiseach in 2008 at Governemnt Buildings, flanked by his Cabinet | Image:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to outline a plan to step-down as Fine Gael leader later.

It comes as some members from within his own party have threatened a no confidence motion if he does not set out a clear timetable.

But Mr Kenny is obviously not the first person to leave his position amid pressure.

Noel Browne

Noel Browne, seen in November 1980, is credited with getting rid of TB in Ireland | Image:

Dr Noel Browne's Mother and Child Scheme brought down the first inter-party government in 1951.

Elected to the Dáil in 1948, he embarked on a tuberculosis eradication campaign. During his time as health minister, he drained the health budget to build hospitals.

The Mother and Child Scheme was a divisive healthcare programme, which received major opposition from the Catholic Church and the medical profession.

The church cited the legislation as 'anti-family', expressing concern regarding the provision of family planning advice and what they claimed would be increased interference by the State in the parents’ rights to provide healthcare for their children.

The programme planned to introduce free ante and post-natal care for mothers and to extend free healthcare to all children under the age of 16.

The decision not to have a means test for the scheme was a contested one, with private practice doctors fearing the impact that free healthcare would have on their income.

The Catholic hierarchy even wrote to Taoiseach John A Costello to voice their concerns regarding the scheme.

But Mr Browne was not made aware of this, and so, he continued to press forward with the scheme.

He received little support from his colleagues, and the scheme was abandoned in April 1951 in favour of one that would be more in line with Catholic social teaching.

On April 11th 1951, he resigned as health minister while his proposed Mother and Child Scheme failed to get introduced.

In his resignation speech, Browne claimed acceptance of the church's position on the matter, but laid blame on the behaviour of his colleagues, stating: "I as a Catholic accept unequivocally and unreservedly the views of the hierarchy on this matter, I have not been able to accept the manner in which this matter has been dealt with by my former colleagues in the government".

A general election in June 1951 saw Fianna Fáil returned to government.

In 1953, an altered version of original Mother and Child Scheme was passed into legislation under the 1953 Health Act, which differed greatly from Browne’s vision.

Although it allowed for the provision of free maternity services, it was limited to maternity-related illnesses and was only available during pregnancy and for six weeks following birth.

It also abandoned was the idea of free healthcare for all, with the scheme instead requiring individuals with incomes over a certain threshold to pay a contribution.

Charlie Haughey

Charles (Charlie) Haughey  at a general election press conference in 1989 | Image:

Charlies Haughey faced several heaves during his tenure. The first in 1982 when he failed to win an overall majority.

The next came later in that same year when Charlie McCreevy put down a motion of no confidence which saw an infamous 15-hour party meeting.

This also saw a roll-call as opposed to a secret ballot, which say Mr Haughey win 58 to 22.

He then survived a scandal over the hacking of journalists phones in 1983.

When challenged by Albert Reynolds and his supporters in 1991, Mr Haughey sacked them and survived a no confidence motion 55 to 22.

But on the fifth occasion, phone-tapping came back to haunt him and he fell on his sword in the Dáil in 1992.

"I have done the State some service, they know it, no more of that.

"Ceann Comhairle this is not the time to outline any special list of claims or achievements.

"Let the record speak for itself: if I were to seek any accolade as I leave office, it would simply be 'He served the people, all the people, to the best of his ability".

Bertie Ahern

Bertie Ahern in 1994 | Image:

Bertie Ahern announced his resignation on May 6th 2012 in the wake of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal.

He was was asked to explain a series of lodgements after allegations from former developer Tom Gilmartin he had received money from Cork developer Owen O'Callaghan.

"I never in my life took a bribe or a backhander or anything from anybody," he said.

Ultimately, the tribunal rejected Mr Ahern's evidence on his banking and financial affairs.

He said his resignation was solely motivated by what is in the best interests of the people - and said developments in the Mahon Tribunal had not motivated his decision.

But he only officially resigned from the party in 2012.

Speaking in 2012, Mr Ahern said: "I have tendered my resignation because I do not want a debate about me to become a source of division in Fianna Fáil.

"I am a resilient person and in public life you learn to take knocks, but I am deeply wounded by this tribunal report." He added he would not accept the report findings "to my dying day".

While in July 2015, Mr Ahern told the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry: "I know that during my time as Taoiseach, while I did not get everything right, I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say I did try my very best to do the right thing by the Irish people."

"Of course, I apologise for my mistakes, but I am also pleased that I did get a lot of things right," he added.

Jonathan Healy looks at times past and near-present when political futures were in doubt.

Additional reporting: Jonathan Healy