Seán Francis MacEntee (Irish: Seán Mac an tSaoi; 23 August 1889 – 9 January 1984) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as Tánaiste from 1959 to 1969, Minister for Social Welfare from 1957 to 1961, Minister for Health from 1957 to 1965, Minister for Local Government and Public Health from 1941 to 1948, Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1939 to 1941, Minister for Finance from 1932 to 1939 and 1951 to 1954. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1918 to 1969. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving member of the First Dáil.
23 June 1959 – 21 April 1965
|Preceded by||Seán Lemass|
|Succeeded by||Frank Aiken|
|Minister for Social Welfare|
27 November 1957 – 12 October 1961
|Preceded by||Paddy Smith|
|Succeeded by||Kevin Boland|
|Minister for Health|
20 March 1957 – 21 April 1965
|Preceded by||Tom O'Higgins|
|Succeeded by||Donogh O'Malley|
|Minister for Local Government and Public Health|
18 August 1941 – 18 February 1948
|Taoiseach||Éamon de Valera|
|Preceded by||Éamon de Valera|
|Succeeded by||Timothy J. Murphy|
|Minister for Industry and Commerce|
16 September 1939 – 18 August 1941
|Taoiseach||Éamon de Valera|
|Preceded by||Éamon de Valera|
|Succeeded by||Timothy J. Murphy|
|Minister for Finance|
13 June 1951 – 2 June 1954
|Taoiseach||Éamon de Valera|
|Preceded by||Patrick McGilligan|
|Succeeded by||Gerard Sweetman|
9 March 1932 – 16 September 1939
|Taoiseach||Éamon de Valera|
|Preceded by||Ernest Blythe|
|Succeeded by||Seán T. O'Kelly|
February 1948 – June 1969
July 1937 – February 1948
June 1927 – July 1937
December 1918 – June 1922
John Francis McEntee
23 August 1889
|Died||9 January 1984 94) (aged|
Booterstown, Dublin, Ireland
|Resting place||Glasnevin Cemetery,|
, Dublin, Ireland
|Political party||Fianna Fáil|
(m. 1921; d. 1976)
|Alma mater||Queens University, Belfast|
Born as John McEntee at 47 King Street, Belfast on 23 August 1889, the son of James McEntee, a publican, and his wife, Mary Owens, both of whom were from Monaghan. In 1901 and 1911, the family's address was 49 King Street. James McEntee was a prominent Nationalist member of Belfast Corporation and a close friend of Joe Devlin MP.
MacEntee was educated at St Mary's Christian Brothers School, St. Malachy's College , the Belfast Municipal College of Technology and Queen's University Belfast where he qualified as an electrical engineer. His early political involvement was with the Irish Socialist Republican Party in Belfast city. He quickly rose through the ranks of the trade union movement becoming junior representative in the city's shipyards. Following his education MacEntee worked as an engineer in Dundalk, County Louth, and was involved in the establishment of a local corps of the Irish Volunteers in the town. He mobilised in Dundalk and fought in the General Post Office Garrison in the Easter Rising in 1916. He was sentenced to death for his part in the rising. This sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. MacEntee was released in the general amnesty in 1917, and was later elected a member of the National Executives of both Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteers in October 1917. MacEntee was later elected Sinn Féin Member of Parliament (MP) for Monaghan South at the 1918 general election.
An attempt to develop his career as a consulting engineer in Belfast was interrupted by the War of Independence in 1919. MacEntee served as Vice-Commandant of the Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. He was also a member of the Volunteer Executive, a sort of Cabinet and Directory for the Minister for Defence and the HQ Staff But MacEntee remained one of the few Sinn Féiners from the north. On 6 August 1920, MacEntee presented 'a Memorial' lecture to the Dáil from the Belfast Corporation. He told the Dáil it was the only custodian of public order, and that a Nationalist pogrom was taking place, he advised them to fight Belfast. The Dáil government's policy was dubbedHibernia Irredenta or 'Greening Ireland'. But many nationalist towns in Ulster wanted to remain British . Sean MacEntee was asked to resign his South Monaghan seat, after voting against a bunting celebration in Lurgan to mark the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty .
The path to civil war
From April 1921 when MacEntee was transferred to Dublin to direct a special anti-partition campaign in connection with the May general election. It remained Collins policy, he declared, that the largely Protestant shipyard workers of Belfast were being directed by the British, urging all Irishmen to rejoin the Republic. Correspondingly the Ulster Unionist Council rejected the call for a review of the boundary commission decision made on Northern Ireland. But when Ulstermen chose James Craig as Premier, Collins denounced democracy in the north as a sham. It was on the partition of Ireland issue that MacEntee voted against the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. During the subsequent Civil War MacEntee commanded the IRA unit in Marlboro Street Post Office in Dublin. He later fought with Cathal Brugha in the Hamman Hotel, and was subsequently interned in Kilmainham and Gormanstown until December 1923.
Politician in the Free State
After his release MacEntee devoted himself more fully to his engineering practice, although he did contest unsuccessfully the county Dublin by-election of 1924. He became a founder-member of Fianna Fáil in 1926 and was elected Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin County at the June 1927 general election.
MacEntee founded the Association of Patent Agents in 1929, having gained his interest in Patents when he worked as an assistant engineer in Dundalk Urban District Council. On MacEntee's appointment as Minister for Finance in 1932, his colleague, Francis Litton who was acting as Secretary of the Association, circulated the members with a notice to the effect that the Association was "suspended" until such time as MacEntee could return as he now had to devote his energies to the affairs of the State. However, the other members decided to carry on. MacEntee must have valued his status as a Patent Agent since he maintained his name on the Register for over 30 years while he held Ministerial rank in the Irish Government, although he is not thought to have taken any active part in the patent business, which was carried on by his business partners.
In the first Fianna Fáil government (1932–48)
In 1932 Fianna Fáil came to power for the very first time, with MacEntee becoming Minister for Finance. In keeping with the party's protectionist economic policies his first budget in March of that year saw the introduction of new duties on forty-three imports, many of them coming from Britain. This saw retaliation from the British government, which in turn provoked a response from the Irish government. This was the beginning of the Economic War between the two nations, however, a treaty in 1938, signed by MacEntee and other senior members brought an end to the issue.
In 1939 World War II broke out and a cabinet reshuffle resulted in MacEntee being appointed Minister for Industry and Commerce, taking over from his rival Seán Lemass. During his tenure at this department MacEntee introduced the important Trade Union Act (1941). In 1941 another reshuffle of ministers took place, with MacEntee becoming Minister for Local Government and Public Health. The Health portfolio was transferred to a new Department of Health in 1947. Following the 1948 general election Fianna Fáil returned to the opposition benches for the first time in sixteen years.
In later Fianna Fáil governments (1951–54, 1957–65)
In 1951 Fianna Fáil were back with a minority government. MacEntee once again returned to the position of Minister for Finance where he felt it was vital to deal with the balance of payments deficit. He brought in a harsh budget in 1951 which raised income tax and tariffs on imports. His chief aim was to cut spending and reduce imports, however, this came at a cost as unemployment increased sharply. The increases were retained in his next two budgets in 1952 and 1953. It is often said that it was MacEntee's performance during this period that cost Fianna Fáil the general election in 1954. The poor grasp on economics also did his political career tremendous damage as up to that point he was seen as a likely successor as Taoiseach. Now, however, Seán Lemass was firmly seen as the "heir apparent".
In 1957 Fianna Fáil returned to power with an overall majority with MacEntee being appointed Minister for Health. The financial and economic portfolios were dominated by Lemass and other like-minded ministers who wanted to move away from protection to free trade. He is credited during this period with the reorganisation of the health services, the establishment of separate departments of health and social welfare, and the fluoridation of water supplies in Ireland. In 1959 MacEntee became Tánaiste when Seán Lemass was elected Taoiseach]]
Retirement and death
Following the 1965 general election, MacEntee was 76 years old and retired from the government. This did not mean that he went quietly to the backbenches. He re-emerged in 1966 to launch a verbal attack on Seán Lemass for deciding to step down as party leader and Taoiseach. The two men, however, patched up their differences shortly afterwards. MacEntee retired from Dáil Éireann in 1969 at the age of 80, making him the oldest TD in Irish history.
He had a negative view of the Provisional IRA.
Seán MacEntee died in Dublin on 9 January 1984, at the age of 94.
In June 1921 he had married a strongly nationalistic woman from Tipperary, Margaret Browne (1893–1976), who later taught Irish at Alexandra College and then at UCD. Among Margaret's brothers were Cardinal Michael Browne, poet and academic Monsignor Pádraig de Brún, and author Monsignor Maurice Browne. One of Seán and Margaret's daughters is the Irish poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi. She was married to the politician Conor Cruise O'Brien until his death. Their other daughter was Barbara MacEntee-Biggar (1928–1994), who was married to Irish ambassador Frank Biggar (1917–1974); Barbara and Frank's eldest son is former Irish ambassador John Biggar (1952–). Seán and Margaret also had a son, Seamus MacEntee (1924–2000), who lived mostly in England, working as a psychiatrist, as well as being an artist painting under the name Sagesson ("Sage's son" is an English translation of the name MacEntee, which is an anglicisation of the Irish Mac an tSaoi, meaning "Son of the wise man").
- "Seán MacEntee". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- "General Registrar's Office". IrishGenealogy.ie. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
- "National Archives: Census of Ireland, 1901". www.census.nationalarchives.ie. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "National Archives: Census of Ireland, 1911". www.census.nationalarchives.ie. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "How Unionist politician saved 1916 rebel Sean McEntee from firing squad". The Irish News. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
- Kevin B Nolan, 'Dail Eireann and the Army: Unity and Division 1919-21, in Williams (ed.), "Irish Struggle", p.271, cited in Townshend, p.87.
- Others were Eoin Macneill and Ernest Blythe. William Forbes Patterson, a Canadian protestant convert to Sein Finn was commissioned by Dublin to investigate. He found that Republicans faced a pogrom in Ulster. Townshend, "The Republic", pp.172-3.
- Dáil Debates, 6 Aug 1920, as cited by Townshend, p.176.
- Bureau of Military History (Ireland) WS 1096 ( J J Murray), citing in Townshend, p.376-7.
- Coogan, Tim Pat, "Michael Collins", p.357, cited by Townshend, p.378.
- Collins and Craig had a meeting at the Colonial Office, London on 21 January 1922.
- Dáil Éireann – Volume 3 – 22 December 1921, Debate on Treaty Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "Seán MacEntee". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- "Seán MacEntee". Military Archives, Defence Forces of Ireland. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
File Reference SP34REF16538
Name Seán MacEntee
Date of birth 1889
Date of death 1984-01-09
Civilian occupation Politician
Military Service Pensions Acts 1934 Yes
Notes Awarded 14 years service for pension purposes.
- Irish Times. 10 January 1984. This states that he died the previous day.
- Britannica Book of the Year 1985: Events of 1984. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1985. p. 136.
- Tom Feeney (2009). Seán MacEntee: a political life. Irish Academic Press. p. 223. ISBN 9780716529125.
He died in Dublin on 9 January 1984, at ninety-four years of age.Note 140 on page 226 says "See Irish Times, 10 January 1984, for obituary". Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized 30 June 2010
- Associated Press (AP) (12 January 1984). "Obituaries: SEAN MCENTEE, 94; A FOUNDING FIGURE OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC DUBLIN, Jan. 11 (AP)". New York Times. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
Mr. MacEntee is survived by his son, Seamus, and two daughters, Barbara and Maire, a Gaelic-language scholar married to former Posts and Telegraphs Minister Conor Cruise O'Brien. Mr. MacEntee's wife, Margaret, died in 1976.
- Diarmaid Ferriter (2010). The Transformation Of Ireland 1900-2000. Profile Books. p. 576. ISBN 9781847650818. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
... the Irish ambassador to the Common Market, Frank Biggar, was also Irish ambassador to Belgium and non-resident ambassador to Luxembourg.
- Zircon Publishing (1973). Who's who, what's what and where in Ireland. Macmillan Information. p. 27. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
BIGGAR. Frank. Ambassador. Grande Croix de la Couronne (Belgium) Grande Croix du Chane (Luxembourg) lrish Ambassador to Switzerland. b. Dublin 29 May 1917. ... m. 1951 Barbara. 2nd daughter of Sean MacEntee and Margaret (nee Browne). Children John 1952 ...Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized 6 Sep 2011
- Biggar-Donnellan Ancestry Tree at Ancestry.com
- "Embassy of Ireland, Bulgaria". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
Irish resident Ambassadors to Bulgaria ... John Biggar 2013-to 2015 (also accredited to Armenia and Georgia)
- téarma.ie translation of Saoi
- Beaslai, Piaras, Michael Collins and the Making of a New Ireland 2 vols, (Dublin 1926)
- Boyce, George D & Alan O' Day (eds.) The Ulster Crisis 1885-1921 (Basingstoke 2006)
- Coogan, Tim Pat, Michael Collins: A biography (London 1990)
- Costello, Francis, Enduring the Most: The Life and Death of Terence MacSwiney (Dingle 1995)
- Curran, Joseph, The Birth of the Irish Free State (Tuscaloosa, Ala, USA 1980)
- Doherty, Gabriel & Dermot Keogh (eds) Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State (Cork 1998)
- Farrell, Brian, Creation of the Dail (Dublin 1994)
- Feeney, Tom (2009). Seán MacEntee: a political life. Irish Academic Press. ISBN 9780716529125. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized 30 Jun 2010
- Foy, Michael T., Michael Collins' Intelligence War: The Struggle between the British and the IRA 1919-1921 (Stroud 2006)
- Lynch, Robert, The Northern IRA and the Early Years of Partition, 1920-1922 (Dublin 2006)
- McDermott, Jim, Northern Divisions: The Old IRA and the Belfast Pogroms 1920-22 (Belfast 2001)
- Morgan, Austen, Labour and Partition: The Belfast Working Class 1905-23 (London 1990)
- Phoenix, Eamon, Northern Nationalism: Nationalist Politics, Partition and the Catholic Minority in Northern Ireland, 1890-1940 (Belfast 1994)