Oliver J. Flanagan

Oliver James Flanagan (22 May 1920 – 26 April 1987) was an Irish Fine Gael politician who served as Minister for Defence from 1976 to 1977, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence from 1975 to 1976 and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture from 1954 to 1957. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Laois-Offaly constituency from 1943 to 1987. He was Father of the Dáil from 1977 to 1987.[1][2]

Oliver J. Flanagan
Minister for Defence
In office
16 December 1976  5 July 1977
TaoiseachLiam Cosgrave
Preceded byLiam Cosgrave
Succeeded byBobby Molloy
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence
In office
30 September 1975  16 December 1976
TaoiseachLiam Cosgrave
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byJohn M. Kelly
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture
In office
2 June 1954  20 March 1957
TaoiseachJohn A. Costello
Preceded byGerald Bartley
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Father of the Dáil
In office
5 July 1977  17 February 1987
Preceded byPatrick Smith
Succeeded byNeil Blaney
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1943  February 1987
Personal details
Oliver James Flanagan

(1920-05-22)22 May 1920
Mountmellick, County Laois, Ireland
Died26 April 1987(1987-04-26) (aged 66)
Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Spouse(s)Mai Flanagan
(m. 1947; d. 1987)
Children3, including Charles
Alma materUniversity College Dublin

He was elected to the Dáil fourteen times between 1943 and 1982, topping the poll on almost every occasion.[3] He was Father of the Dáil from 1977 until his retirement in 1987,[1][2] and he remains one of the longest-serving members in the history of the Dáil.

Flanagan was a social conservative, who famously claimed that "there was no sex in Ireland before television".[4] An anti-semite and anti-Mason he used his maiden speech in the Dáil, on 9 July 1943, to urge the government to emulate the Nazis and "rout the Jews out of this country.. where the bees are there is honey, and where the Jews are there is money" and called for the banning of the Freemasons.[5]

Nonetheless, he was consistently popular in his own constituency, largely because of the attention he paid to individual voters' petitions and concerns. He has been described as "one of the cutest of cute hoors in the history of the Dáil".[6]

Personal life

Flanagan was born in Mountmellick, County Laois, on 22 May 1920. He was educated at Mountmellick Boys National School and University College Dublin. He then worked as a carpenter and auctioneer. He was a member of the Catholic fraternal organisation the Knights of Saint Columbanus, and in 1978, was conferred a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul I, given in Rome on 20 September 1978.[7]

Independent TD (1943–1954)

Flanagan first held political office in 1942, when he was elected as a Councillor to Laois County Council, a position he would hold for almost forty-five years.

He was first elected to Dáil Éireann as an Independent TD for the Laois–Offaly constituency at the 1943 general election — the third youngest person ever to have been elected to the Dáil at that time. He had stood for election on the Monetary Reform Party ticket, an anti-semitic and Social credit party confined to his own constituency which proposed reducing the supposed Jewish stranglehold on the financial system.

During the campaign, Flanagan wrote to Fr Denis Fahey: "Just a line letting you know we are going ahead with the election campaign in Laois-Offaly against the Jew-Masonic System which is imposed on us. The people are coming to us – but it's hard to get the people to understand how they are held down by the Jews and Masons, who control their very lives."[8]

He used his maiden speech in the Dáil to urge the government to use the Emergency Powers Acts to "rout the Jews out of this country":

How is it that we do not see any of these Acts directed against the Jews, who crucified Our Saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and who are crucifying us every day in the week? How is it that we do not see them directed against the Masonic Order? How is it that the I.R.A. is considered an illegal organisation while the Masonic Order is not considered an illegal organisation? [...] There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair's breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money.

Oliver Flanagan, Dáil Éireann, 9 July 1943.[5]

Nonetheless, he was re-elected to the Dáil at the 1944 general election, with more than twice as many votes as he had won the previous year.[3]

In 1947, he caused a controversy when he levelled accusations of corruption against members of the Fianna Fáil government, including Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, Minister for Justice Gerald Boland and Minister for Industry and Commerce Seán Lemass.[9] A tribunal of inquiry comprising three judges investigated his allegations and found them to be untrue. Despite the judges' conclusion that Flanagan had lied to the tribunal,[9] his vote increased by 45% at the 1948 general election.[3]

During a 1952 Dáil debate, after John A. Costello had said "I made no reference to an Adoption of Children Bill", Flanagan quipped "Deputy Flynn would be more qualified to do that".[10] John Flynn, who was not in the chamber at the time, interpreted this as an insulting innuendo, and later punched Flanagan in the Dáil restaurant.[11] The Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privilege condemned the conduct of both TDs.[11]

Fine Gael TD (1954–1987)

Flanagan joined Fine Gael in 1954. He served in government as a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture from 1954 to 1957.[1][12] In 1958, Fine Gael returned to opposition and Flanagan became front bench Spokesperson for Lands. In 1975, he was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence.[1]

When Paddy Donegan switched departments following the "thundering disgrace" controversy in 1976, Flanagan succeeded him as Minister for Defence, in Liam Cosgrave's government. He served as Minister for six months, until Fine Gael lost power following the 1977 general election.[1] He was a representative on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1977 to 1987.[12] Due to ill health, Flanagan did not contest the 1987 general election. His son, Charles Flanagan, was elected to his seat. Oliver Flanagan died two months after the election.

See also


  1. "Oliver J. Flanagan". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  2. "Dáil Éireann debates, Vol. 96 (25 April 1945)". Houses of the Oireachtas. 25 April 1945. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  3. "Oliver J. Flanagan". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  4. Hilary Tovey and Perry Share (2000). A Sociology of Ireland, p. 259. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
  5. "Dáil Éireann debates, Vol. 91 (9 July 1943)". Houses of the Oireachtas. 9 July 1943. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  6. Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan (1999). This Great Little Nation, p. 190. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
  7. Leinster Express 1831-current, Saturday, December 30, 1978; Page: 19
  8. Kerrigan and Brennan (1999), p. 107.
  9. Joseph Lee (1989). Ireland, 1912–1985: Politics and Society, pp. 296–297. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  10. Dáil debates, Vol.129, col.273 Archived 22 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Report – Assault Committed by a Member on another Member in the Oireachtas Restaurant on 31 January 1952 Archived 4 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Committee on Procedure and Privilege, 28 February 1952
  12. Fine Gael (23 October 2005). Kenny to pay tribute to Oliver J Flanagan. Retrieved on 24 January 2008.
Preceded by
Daniel Hogan
(Fine Gael)
Independent Teachta Dála for Laois–Offaly
Succeeded by
as Fine Gael TD
Preceded by
as Independent TD
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Laois–Offaly
Succeeded by
Charles Flanagan
(Fine Gael)
Political offices
Preceded by
Gerald Bartley
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture
Office abolished
New office Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
John Kelly
Preceded by
Liam Cosgrave
Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
Bobby Molloy
Father of the Dáil
Succeeded by
Neil Blaney
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