Patrick Smith (politician)

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Patrick Smith
Minister for Agriculture
In office
27 November 1957 – 8 October 1964
TaoiseachÉamon de Valera
Seán Lemass
Preceded byFrank Aiken
Succeeded byCharles Haughey
In office
21 January 1947 – 18 February 1948
TaoiseachÉamon de Valera
Preceded byJames Ryan
Succeeded byJames Dillon
Minister for Social Welfare
In office
20 March 1957 – 27 November 1964
TaoiseachÉamon de Valera
Seán Lemass
Preceded byBrendan Corish
Succeeded bySeán MacEntee
Minister for Local Government
In office
20 March 1957 – 27 November 1964
TaoiseachÉamon de Valera
Seán Lemass
Preceded byPatrick O'Donnell
Succeeded byNeil Blaney
In office
13 June 1951 – 2 June 1954
TaoiseachÉamon de Valera
Preceded byMichael Keyes
Succeeded byPatrick O'Donnell
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance
In office
2 July 1943 – 31 December 1947
TaoiseachÉamon de Valera
Preceded bySeán Moylan
Succeeded bySeán O'Grady
Government Chief Whip
In office
27 September 1939 – 2 July 1943
TaoiseachÉamon de Valera
Preceded byPatrick Little
Succeeded byÉamonn Kissane
Teachta Dála
In office
September 1923 – May 1977
ConstituencyCavan
Personal details
Born(1901-07-17)17 July 1901
Bailieboro, Cavan, Ireland
Died18 March 1982(1982-03-18) (aged 80)
Castleblaney, County Monaghan, Ireland
NationalityIrish
Political partyFianna Fáil
Spouse(s)
Mary Theresa Ward (m. 1936)
RelationsNiamh Smyth (Grand niece)
Children6
OccupationFarmer

Patrick Smith (17 July 1901 – 18 March 1982) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician, who served as a Teachta Dála from 1923 until 1977; a tenure of 53 years, the longest in the state. He held a number of ministerial positions within the governments of Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass.

Smith was born in the town of Bailieborough, County Cavan. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he took a small role in the Easter Rising of 1916. By 1920, he was involved with the Irish Republican Army and was one of its youngest commandants, at the age of 19. He was captured by British forces in 1921, along with Seán Moylan, who would go on to become a government colleague. He was interned, put on trial treason but his life was saved by the truce called between the British Army and the IRA during the Irish War of Independence. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Smith took sides with de Valera and the Anti-Treaty side of the Irish Civil War. Smith had felt that the Irish negotiators did not test the British delegation enough, this sentiment would last with him well into his political career, Smith being said to have shouted across the floor at Dáil Éireann, "They gave us stepping-stones, but they [state forces in 1922] would not walk on them." A play on the same quote by Irish revolutionary, Michael Collins.

He entered the Dáil in September 1923, as a Republican candidate.[1] In 1926, Éamon de Valera, the Leader of Anti-Treaty Sinn Fein, approached Smith and persuaded him to join his newly founded political party, Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fail abandoned the abstentionist policy of Anti Treaty Sinn Fein and its elected members took their seats in Dáil Éireann. De Valera and Smith had a strong personal and professional relationship; Smith had a strong loyalty for Fianna Fail and by extension, de Valera, whom he often defended from allegations of totalitarian style policies. Smith retorted these allegations, citing that he felt de Valera had always given a voice to members of the party. He worked as Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, known today as the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach or Government Chief Whip. Smith identified this time during World War II as his most fulfilling period in Irish politics.

He was then moved to the Department of Finance, as the respective Minister of State in that department. He served under Seán T. O'Kelly and Frank Aiken during his tenure in the department. Smith was then transferred to the Department of Agriculture and this was his first cabinet position as Minister for Agriculture. He held this position until the collapse of the Fianna Fail government which had been in power for over 10 years. The party spent a number years in opposition, until the 1951 Irish general election. Smith was then appointed as Minister for Local Government.[2] Smith focused on many social issues, especially the tuberculosis issue in Ireland. He advocated for the reduction of overcrowding in the slums of Dublin. He also oversaw the doubling of the car license fee to ensure the government had enough cashflow for the upkeep of urban and rural roads. The improvement of roads also facilitated unemployment programs by offering recruitment opportunities to work on the roads. The fund for road improvement soon amounted to £3 million, and work began on surfacing the 34,000 miles of road which remained below standard. The Fianna Fail government collapsed in 1954 and was replaced by the Second Inter-Party Government, led by John A. Costello; Smith resumed his post in the Department of Local Government when Fianna Fail were re-elected at the 1957 Irish general election.[3]

Smith was transferred to the Department of Agriculture for the final time in 1957 when Fianna Fail resumed its position in government. His main objectives while in this office were to eliminate cattle tuberculosis, which proved to be a serious issue for Irish farmers at the time. He also encouraged greater productivity from the primary economic sector, specifically farming and also aimed to improve grassland quality across the island. Outside of agriculture, Smith continued to serve as Minister for Local Government. He also was part of a group of ministers who supervised the 'First Programme for Economic Expansion', an economic development plan by T. K. Whitaker, Secretary at the Department of Finance, that has been heavily praised as the programme that helped kickstart Ireland's economic growth which would take full form in the mid-1990's.[4] He also had a spell as Minister for Social Welfare.

Smith continued to serve under Seán Lemass, but became disillusioned with the Taoiseach about relations with trade unions. Smith felt Lemass was too easily influenced by trade unions and in protest he resigned from all his ministerial positions in 1964.[5] Smith was not appointed to Jack Lynch's frontbench upon his succession and Smith would spend the remainder of his parliamentary career on the Fianna Fáil backbenches. During the Arms Crisis, Smith, like many of the founding members of Fianna Fail, sided with Lynch against Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney. Smith stepped down from politics in 1977 at the age of 75. In the 1979 leadership election for Fianna Fail, Smith again sided with the more traditional members of the party in supporting the leadership campaign of George Colley, who was also endorsed by Lynch. Haughey won the election and would lead Fianna Fail until 1992.

Smith died on 18 March 1982, aged 80, at his home in Castleblayney, County Monaghan. He was survived by his wife, Mary Ward and his 6 children. He body was returned to his ancestral parish of Knockbride, a townland outside of Bailieborough, County Cavan. He was buried in West Knockbride Chapel, with his graveside oration given by Charles Haughey, who had been appointed Taoiseach a number of days earlier.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Patrick Smith". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  2. ^ McCullagh, David (2018). De Valera: Rule: 1932–1975. Gill Books. ISBN 9780717179220.
  3. ^ "Patrick Smith". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  4. ^ "The man who made modern Ireland". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  5. ^ Evans, Bryans (2011). Sean Lemass: Democratic Dictator. The Collins Press. ISBN 9781848899414.
  6. ^ "The community values of an old Fianna Failer recalled". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
Oireachtas
Preceded by
Constituency redrawn
Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Cavan
1923–1927
Succeeded by
Smith left Sinn Féin and joined Fianna Fáil
Preceded by
Smith was previously a member of Sinn Féin
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Cavan
1927–1977
Constituency abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Patrick Little
Government Chief Whip
1939–1943
Succeeded by
Eamonn Kissane
Preceded by
Seán Moylan
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance
1943–1947
Succeeded by
Seán O'Grady
Preceded by
James Ryan
Minister for Agriculture
1947–1948
Succeeded by
James Dillon
Preceded by
Michael Keyes
Minister for Local Government
1951–1954
Succeeded by
Patrick O'Donnell
Preceded by
Patrick O'Donnell
Minister for Local Government
Mar–Nov 1957
Succeeded by
Neil Blaney
Preceded by
Brendan Corish
Minister for Social Welfare
Mar–Nov 1957
Succeeded by
Seán MacEntee
Preceded by
Frank Aiken
Minister for Agriculture
1957–1964
Succeeded by
Charles Haughey
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Frank Aiken
Father of the Dáil
1973–1977
Succeeded by
Liam Cosgrave