Brendan Smith (politician)

Brendan Smith (born 1 June 1956) is an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cavan–Monaghan constituency since 1992. He has served as Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade since April 2016 and Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party since May 2016. He previously served as Minister for Justice and Law Reform from January 2011 to March 2011, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from 2008 to 2011, Minister of State for Children from 2007 to 2008 and Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture from 2004 to 2007.[1]

Brendan Smith

Chair of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
Assumed office
4 April 2016
Preceded byPat Breen
Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party
Assumed office
26 May 2016
LeaderMicheál Martin
Preceded byJohn Browne
Minister for Justice and Law Reform
In office
20 January 2011  9 March 2011
TaoiseachBrian Cowen
Preceded byDermot Ahern
Succeeded byAlan Shatter (Justice and Equality)
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
7 May 2008  9 March 2011
TaoiseachBrian Cowen
Preceded byMary Coughlan
Succeeded bySimon Coveney (Agriculture, Food and the Marine)
Minister of State for Children
In office
20 June 2007  7 May 2008
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byBrian Lenihan
Succeeded byBarry Andrews
Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture
In office
29 September 2004  24 June 2007
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byNoel Treacy
Succeeded byTrevor Sargent
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
November 1992
Personal details
Born (1956-06-01) 1 June 1956
Cavan, Ireland
Political partyFianna Fáil
Spouse(s)Anne McGarry (m. 1985)
Alma materUniversity College Dublin

Born in Cavan in 1956, Smith was educated at Bawnboy National School, St. Camillus College Killucan, County Westmeath, and University College Dublin, where he gained a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Economics. For 15 years he worked as special advisor to the Fianna Fáil politician and former Tánaiste, John Wilson.

Smith was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1992 general election for the Cavan–Monaghan constituency and has been re-elected at every subsequent election since.[2] In the 28th Dáil, he was Government Whip on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. In Bertie Ahern's 2004 cabinet reshuffle, Smith was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture.

Following the 2007 general election, Smith became Minister of State for Children, succeeding Brian Lenihan Jnr in that position.

On 7 May 2008, he was appointed as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Brian Cowen's cabinet. In July 2010, Smith launched the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. Its overall target to increase the value of Ireland's agri-food and fisheries exports by €5bn to reach €12bn by 2020.[3] A September 2012 progress report on the Food Harvest 2020 strategy found that farmers and other primary producers had passed the halfway mark towards meeting their 2020 targets.[4]

In 2010, during his term as Minister for Agriculture, he offered free cheese to Ireland's poor via a European Union scheme that had been around since the 1980s.[5] The public received Smith's announcement poorly and it was reported outside Ireland as the country became "a laughing stock internationally".[6][7][8] Smith was then forced to defend his own scheme.[9]

Following the resignation of Dermot Ahern from the cabinet in January 2011, Smith was also appointed as Minister for Justice and Law Reform.[10]

Just before leaving office, Smith gave the go-ahead for genetically modified organism (GMO) foods to enter Ireland. He told the media that Ireland had “altered its voting position” and would back proposals from the European Commission “aimed at authorising the placing on the market of food, food ingredients and feed containing, consisting of, or produced from genetically modified maize and cotton”. Smith also said that Ireland would now tolerate “the low-level presence of, as yet, unauthorised GMO varieties in imports of animal food”.[11]

He was the Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills from April 2011 to July 2012. From 2012 to 2016, he was the party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Border Region Development.


  1. "Brendan Smith". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  2. "Brendan Smith". Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  3. "€5bn export surge sought in 2020 plan". Irish Independent. 20 July 2010.
  4. "Food Harvest 2020 target at halfway mark". Irish Examiner. 13 September 2012.
  5. "Government to let them eat cheese". The Irish Times. 5 November 2010.
  6. Swords, Warren (7 November 2010). "It's not just hard cheese, it's old cheese". Daily Mail. London.
  7. Smith, Lewis (6 November 2010). "Irish to get free 'Christmas cheese'". The Independent. London.
  8. "Like a movie scene - Irish government declares "Let them eat cheese!"". Irish Central. 5 November 2010.
  9. "Minister defends cheese-for-Christmas scheme". Irish Examiner. 5 November 2010.
  10. "Election date set for 11 March". RTÉ News. 20 January 2011. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  11. "Ireland to bring GM crops onto home market". 8 February 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
Preceded by
John Wilson
(Fianna Fáil)
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Cavan–Monaghan
Political offices
Preceded by
Noel Treacy
Minister of State for Food and Horticulture
Succeeded by
Trevor Sargent
Preceded by
Brian Lenihan
Minister of State for Children
Succeeded by
Barry Andrews
Preceded by
Mary Coughlan
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Succeeded by
Simon Coveney
as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Preceded by
Dermot Ahern
Minister for Justice and Law Reform
Succeeded by
Alan Shatter
as Minister for Justice and Equality
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Browne
Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party
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