Useful Notes: Prime Ministers of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy, modelled after that of Great Britain. As such, the head of government is the Prime Minister, though in Ireland that post is always referred to by its Irish language equivalent of Taoiseach (tee-shuck). The term "Prime Minister" is only used by foreign media, and occasionally foreign leaders, as the word "Taoiseach" would simply fall on confused ears when spoken outside of Ireland. It is for this same reason that this page is titled "Prime Ministers of Ireland" rather than "Taoisighnote na hÉireann". The post was officially created in December 1937, replacing the existing (but functionally identical) title of President of the Executive Council. Though Eamon de Valera was the first person to hold the title "An Taoiseach", his predecessor as President, W. T. Cosgrave, is usually included in historical rankings. The current (and 13th) Taoiseach is Enda Kenny, who has held the role since March 2011.
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1. W.T. Cosgrave
Years: 1923 — 1932 Party: Cumann na nGaedheal While never actually Taoiseach (he instead held the predecessor role of President of the Executive Council), William Thomas Cosgrave (1880—1965) is usually restrospectively considered the first, as the role was pretty much the same. Often overlooked in favour of his much more famous successor, Cosgrave's largest accomplishment was stabilising the new, confused and violent Irish Free State. In the space of ten years he transformed a nation ravaged by civil war to a fledgling democracy with a budding economy and stable infrastructure. Cosgrave himself was amazed at how well this worked. He retired from politics in 1944 and died in 1965. His son Liam would later serve as Taoiseach in the 1970s. His Cumann na nGaedheal party would later merge with the Catholic Centre Party and the quasi-fascist Blueshirts to become Fine Gael.
- Blessed with Suck: As the first man to lead an independant Irish state, you'd think he'd be thrilled. Wrong. He inherited a new state which had been ravaged by a war of independence and a civil war, political assassinations were a constant threat (one of his top ministers fell victim to one in 1927), an economic shambles, and intense partisan rivalry between those who supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty (his side) and those who opposed it (led by Eamon de Valera and other republican figures)
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: Tackling the above problems head on and shaping a stable Irish state. His work would be continued by the new de Valera government when they took office in 1932. When de Valera's staff took over and examined the files and actions of the Cosgrave's administration, he told his son Vivian "...when we got in and saw the files...they did a magnificent job, Viv. They did a magnificent job."
- Putting on the Reich: Averted. In an era where many European countries were experimenting with facism, Cosgrave's Ireland remained staunchly democratic. Even when he merged his party with Eoin O'Duffy's quasi-fascist Blueshirts to form Fine Gael, he dismissed the organisation's more outlandish tendencies and they eventually disbanded, leaving the new Fine Gael as democratic as any other party.
2. Eamon de Valera
Years: 1932 — 1948; 1951 — 1954; 1957 — 1959 Party: Fianna Fáil The most well-known (and longest lasting) of past Taoisigh, "Dev" (1882—1975) as he was affectionately known cast a huge shadow over Irish politics which is still there to this day. The current Irish constitution was largely drafted by him in the 1930s; he founded the Fianna Fáil party which has had political dominance for much of the state's existance (though with the direction they're currently headed, that may not last much longer); his protectionist economic policies resulted in an economic war with Britain, which put Ireland's development back a decade or two; he kept Ireland out of World War II, which many historians agree was the right decision to make to defend the still fledgling state; and he maintained a view of Ireland as a quaint rural nation filled with community spirit (and comely maidens). After stepping down from the Dáil in 1959, he became President (a figurehead position) until finally retiring completely in 1973. He died two years later, and an era of Irish politics was over. His granddaughter Síle de Valera served in the Dáil until 2007, while his grandson Eamon O Cuív has held many cabinet positions. Portrayed by Alan Rickman in the 1996 film Michael Collins.
- Big Lipped Alligator Moment: His infamous "The Ireland That We Dreamed Of" speech became this in hindsight, as it espoused a somewhat antiquated view of the country. Popcultural Osmosis Failure has led to it being misquoted to sound even more quaint, with references to "comely maidens dancing at the crossroads".
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: His reply address to Winston Churchill's post-victory remarks on neutral Ireland's perceived lack of assistance during World War II.
- Gradually altered the constitution and framework of the Irish Free State to transform it into what would become the Irish Republic, undeterred by political opposition or even by being out of power for the first eleven years of the state's existence.
- He was known to hold a snap election any time he felt it would suit him, especially during the tumultuous period of the "Emergency" (World War II). With just two exceptions, these elections always worked in his favour. His first tenure as Taoiseach from 1932 to 1948 is still the record longest in Ireland, and even outlived the tenure of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the US.
- Was heavily involved in Irish politics for 57 years. His start came with the Easter Rising of 1916, and he finally retired in 1973, just two years before his death at the age of 92.
- Disappeared Dad: Virtually nothing is known of his father, only that he was a Cuban immigrant to the US named Juan Vivian de Valera. The lack of any official records of the man lead some to wonder if he really existed at all.
- Embarrassing First Name: He was born Edward George deValera, he later Gaelicised it to the less British-sounding Eamon. Later on he would also attempt to Gaelicise his (Spanish) surname to de Bhaléira (same pronunciation).
- By way of explanation, he was born in New York City to a Cuban father and an Irish mother. He moved to Ireland with his uncle at the age of two when his father died.
- Fan Nickname: "Dev", eventually even to his enemies. Also known as "The Long Fellow" for his incredible height, though enemies were able to adjust that to "The Long Fool" or "The Long Hoor".
- Happily Married: Dev was devoted to his wife Sinead, and died only a few months after her.
- New Media Are Evil: Was very suspicious of television. When Ireland's first TV station began broadcasting in December 1961, it opened with a televised speech from Dev, then President, who used the speech to discuss his suspicion of television.
- What the Hell, Hero?: The international reaction at the time to his visiting the German Consulate in 1945 to express commiseration with the staff for Hitler's death. He defended this action with Ireland's officially neutral stance in the war - he had extended exactly the same courtesy to the Americans on the death of Roosevelt.
3. John A. Costello
Years: 1948 — 1951; 1954 — 1957 Party: Fine Gael John A. Costello (1891—1976) was simply a regular Fine Gael TD (Irish MP) who wanted to see his party in power. Then, in 1948, his party did get in to power, and he found himself in charge. The actual leader of Fine Gael, Richard Mulachy, carried too much baggage from the civil war for others to accept him as Taoiseach, so Costello was chosen as a compromise. Between 1948 and 1951, and again from 1954 to 1957, Costello headed a motley band of parties in so-called "Inter-Party Governments", where the parties' only uniting factor was a desire to keep Fianna Fáil out of power. As any politician will tell you, coalitions are dangerous because the other party could quickly withdraw support over a key issue, causing the government to collapse. With a coalition five parties, Costello had this problem turned Up to Eleven. Nonetheless, his administration has a large legacy on the state: it was Costello who declared that the Irish Free State would leave The Commonwealth of Nations and become a Republic, and in 1949 he did just that, establishing the modern Republic of Ireland.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Costello saw himself more like the chairman of a board than the prime minister of a cabinet, and tried to include the other parties as much as possible.
- Regime Change: His election promise was exactly this, which is what many people wanted after 16 years of de Valera.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: His surprise announcement that Ireland was leaving the Commonwealth and becoming a republic came during a state visit to Canada, and surprised his cabinet colleagues as much as anyone else.
- Ironically, the Commonwealth decided ten days after the Irish departure that you could be a republic and still be a member of the Commonwealth, so long as you recognized the same Head of the Commonwealth (the British Monarch by convention) as everyone else. This had more to do with India — which had just passed a republican constitution to come into effect the following year but had leaders (chief among them PM Jawaharlal Nehru) wished to maintain relations with the Commonwealth — than Ireland. The Irish for varying reasons haven't bothered with trying to become a Commonwealth republic — despite the fact that the option became open ten days after the republic was declared.
4. Seán Lemass
Years: 1959 — 1966 Party: Fianna Fáil Having spent decades as de Valera's right hand man, Seán Lemass (1899—1971) finally gained leadership of Fianna Fáil — and the nation — when Dev retired to the presidency. He abandoned the old protectionist policies of his predecessor and began Ireland's transformation to a modern industrial power in the 1960s. His efforts receieved worldwide recognition, and he is the only Taoiseach besides de Valera to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. He was also the last person from the civil war era to hold the office, a fact he illustrated by promoting many fresh young faces to his cabinet, hearalding the end of the "Old Guard" generation in frontline politics. He's widely recognized for his pragmatism and his vision of Ireland as a modern European country with an industrial, export-oriented economy — in other words, exactly what happened, so some (including some Fine Gael members!) see him as the main architect of modern Ireland. He died in 1971.
5. Jack Lynch
Years: 1966 — 1973; 1977 — 1979 Party: Fianna Fáil The first Taoiseach without roots in the civil war, Jack Lynch (1917—1999) enjoyed a fast track career which saw him hold the Education, Industry and Finance portfolios under Lemass, before succeeding him as Taoiseach in 1966. Possibly the least polarising Taoiseach so far, he had an image as a kindly old man, rarely seen without his cap and pipe. One of his first term's signature achievements was negotiating Ireland's entry into the European Economic Community in 1973, alongside the UK and Denmark. Lynch was Taoiseach when The Troubles broke out, and was the first of many Taoisigh who had to deal with the terrorism this would result in. This became a personal nightmare for him when it was discovered one of his own ministers, Charles Haughey, had been involved in running arms to republican groups in Northern Ireland. His reputation was further damaged during his second term, when he faced a backbench revolt over Haughey's re-instatement and policies. He retired in 1979, with Haughey succeeding him. In his retirement he was well-liked, and turned down the offer of the Presidency in favour of private directorships. He received a number of honours, including the naming of the Jack Lynch road tunnel under the River Lee in Cork. He died in 1999 and his funeral procession attracted huge crowds.
- He Also Did: He was also an All-Ireland-winning hurler and footballer, named as midfielder on the Team Of The Century by the GAA, and the only person to captain the footballers and the hurlers in the same year.
- Nice Hat: Often seen, and depicted, wearing a farmer's cap on his head. Add in Nice Pipe to get the complete picture.
- The Starscream: Lynch faced a number of these, especially in the later years of his tenure. He survived long enough to step down by himself, only a year before his intended time of retirement.
6. Liam Cosgrave
Years: 1973 — 1977 Party: Fine Gael The son of W.T. Cosgrave, Liam Cosgrave (b 1920) is the only Taoiseach descended from a predecessor. He held office in between Jack Lynch's two terms, and inherited the growing problem in Northern Ireland. As well as this he had a number of his own problems, including the energy and inflation crisis caused by the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, his party's electoral defeat in the presidential election that same year, and the political opposition to his party's planned legalisation of contraceptives, a matter which resulted in Cosgrave (despite being Taoiseach) voted against his own administration in parliament. A brief solution to The Troubles ended in failure a year later. Cosgrave was the first Taoiseach to speak before a Joint Session of the United States Congress. He is the oldest surviving Taoiseach, and largely stayed out of public life after his retirement in 1981. In 2010 he made a rare public appearance at the launch of a biography of John A. Costello, his Fine Gael predecessor as Taoiseach.
- Turn Out Like His Father: W.T. and Liam are the only father and son to lead the nation, so far.
7. Charles Haughey
Years: 1979 — 1981; 1982; 1987 — 1992 Party: Fianna Fáil Charles J. Haughey (1925—2006) is probably the most polarising of all the people on this list. Opinions on him range from saint to Jerk with a Heart of Gold to Ireland's answer to Richard Nixon. Even before his premiership he achieved infamy for being one of two government ministers found to be running arms to the IRA during The Troubles. He was dismissed from frontline politics, but staged a return a few years later with grassroots support, much to then Taioseach Jack Lynch's chagrin. He attained the premiership in 1979, and oversaw Ireland's first economic recession in the 1980s. Naturally he was blamed for this, though as well as the typical amount of blame that befalls any national leader during economic hardship, Haughey came in for special criticism. He infamously gave a televised address to the nation in 1980 where he told the public that "we are living well beyond our means", proceeded to crank up government spending, taxation and borrowing for his first two terms, and then introduced severe austerity policies upon returning to power in 1987. By the time of his retirement in 1992, his reputation (which had already weathered the economic mismanagement of his first two terms) had been extremely damaged from the revelations. He became subject to numerous tribunals and investigations until his death in 2006. His biggest legacy is the unintended shift in Fianna Fáil's image from patriotic idealists to corrupt greedy politicians. He is the subject of a 2015 RTÉ three-part series, Charlie, with Aidan Gillen playing the title role.
- Base Breaker: For Fianna Fáil.
- Corrupt Politician: Seen as this by a large amount of Irish people for many of the same reason as his eventual successor, Bertie Ahern, below.
- Dude, Not Funny!: In August 2010 an unemployed former lottery winner posted a video on YouTube of himself dancing on Haughey's grave in protest of his life's actions. Many people were appalled, regardless of how they personally felt about Haughey.
- Foe Yay: With British counterpart Margaret Thatcher. One commentator watching them shake hands before a meeting remarked that he was amazed they didn't headbutt each other in the process.
- Island Base: He spent much of his retirement living on his own private island off the coast of Kerry.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Unapologetically so.
- The Mistress: It came out in 1999 that he had had a 27-year extramarital affair with the Sunday Independent columnist/fashion journalist Terry Keane (who at one point during the affair was married to the Chief Justice). She revealed this on The Late Late Show (the Irish one, obviously), where she also revealed that Haughey was the man she repeatedly called "sweetie" in her columns.
- Nepotism: Occasionally accused of this, and of having been a beneficiary of it (he married Seán Lemass' daughter). That said, it seems that any special consideration for family members wasn't any worse than that given to other, unrelated members of the Fianna Fáil machine.
- As for benefiting from it, Lemass is said to have told Haughey upon being offered the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice:
As Taoiseach it is my duty to offer you the post of parliamentary secretary, and as your father-in-law I am advising you not to take it.
- As for benefiting from it, Lemass is said to have told Haughey upon being offered the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice:
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!
- What Could Have Been: Speaking after his death, his former rival Garret Fitzgerald said Haughey could have been a great Taoiseach were it not for his preoccupation with wealth.
8. Garret Fitzgerald
Years: 1981 — 1982; 1982 — 1987 Party: Fine Gael Taoiseach for those parts of the 80s when Haughey wasn't, Garret Fitzgerald (1926—2011) had the advantage over his rival of not being accused of shady financial dealings. He was, however, criticised for being too intellectual at times. He brought the Fine Gael party to its strongest position yet, a feat the party finally repeated and surpassed in 2011. Taking an active interest in the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland, Fitzgerald attempted to co-operate with Margaret Thatcher to find a solution. The resulting Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 fell short of it's aims when Thatcher rejected several proposals, and in the end it only really managed to upset both sides. As well as dealing with The Troubles and the economic crisis, Fitzgerald worked on trying to liberalise Irish society. He had only limited success, and a referendum on the legalisation of divorce was defeated in 1986. Nonetheless, his efforts may have played a part in kickstarting the liberalisation that did happen in the 1990s and 2000s. Retired in 1992, but still attended public engagements despite his advanced age, until his death in 2011.
- Europeans Love Garret Fitzgerald: He became very popular in the EEC (now the EU) during his time as Minister for Foreign Affairs, before his star had risen enough nationally for him to take the party leadership.
- Putting the Band Back Together: His efforts in revitalising and modernising a demoralised Fine Gael party are a direct influence in the success the party enjoyed in the 80s.
- The Starscream: Was this to Liam Cosgrave. Eventually, he won.
9. Albert Reynolds
Years: 1992 — 1994 Party: Fianna Fáil A government minister under Charles Haughey, Reynolds (1932—2014) became Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach after Starscreaming the increasingly unpopular Haughey out of office. He has had the shortest tenure of any Taoiseach so far, at just two years (other Taoisigh may have had shorter terms, but they at least had more than one). Much of these two years were dogged by controversy, as well as the spectre of corruption visited by Haughey over the party. In 1994 his administration collapsed when it was revealed that the Attorney General had played a part in covering up the actions of a paedophile priest in the country. The Labour Party, who were in coalition with Fianna Fáil, withdrew their support and joined Fine Gael in forming the next government, pending the next general election in 1997. He retired after the 2002 general election and mostly kept out of public life until his death in August 2014.
- Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Reynolds tends to attract these.
- When he was Minister for Transport in 1980, he had to deal with a hijacked Aer Lingus plane in Paris. The hijacker demanded the revelation of the Catholic Third Secret of Fatima in exchange for the safe return of the passengers and crew. The event was defused and all were released safely.
- During the election campaign of 1992 it was revealed that Reynolds as Industry Minister had attempted to sell Irish beef to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. By 1992, Saddam was frequently in the news as a result of the First Gulf War, and this revelation led to a drop in Reynolds' support.
- In 1994, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was scheduled to meet Reynolds on a stopover flight from Washington to Moscow. The plane circled over Shannon Airport for an hour before landing, where Reynolds and various other officials had to wait even longer before being told that Yeltsin was sleeping and would not be able to visit. The plane then left for Moscow.
- Reynolds has an unusual friendship with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. In 1999, Musharraf asked Reynolds to act as his advisor and contact US President Bill Clinton to reassure him of Pakistan's good faith. The US did not recognise the Musharraf regime at the time as it had come to power in a coup.
- On September 11 2001, when news of the terror attacks was breaking worldwide, Musharraf was unable to contact The White House to inform the US of Pakistan's position on the attacks. Instead he contacted Reynolds, who contacted Clinton, who contacted George W. Bush and informed him of Musharraf's position.
- The Corruptible: Though nowhere near as tarnished as his predecessor, Reynolds has come in for occasional criticism for party funds going missing.
- The Starscream: Reynolds aided Charles Haughey during his time as Starscream to Taoiseach Jack Lynch. Over a decade later, Reynolds in turn became The Starscream to Haughey.
- Tough Act to Follow: Though not for the right reasons. Fianna Fáil was heavily damaged by public opinion of Haughey, resulting in their second worst election result in 1992. The party managed to maintain governance by going into coalition with Labour, but lasted just two years before collapse.
10. John Bruton
Years: 1994 — 1997 Party: Fine Gael John Bruton (b 1947) holds the honour of being the Gerald Ford of Irish politics. He held the premiership despite coming second in the election, but under Irish parliamentary law there was nothing wrong with this. Albert Reynolds had resigned but parliament was not dissolved, so Bruton's Fine Gael formed the next Government with Labour, which had performed a Heel-Face Turn after one too many disagreements with their former coalition partners. The Bruton years saw marked economic growth and an improvement in the standard of living, but a worsening situation in Northern Ireland. A series of IRA attacks in London and Manchester, as well as the IRA killing of an Irish police officer had increased the pressure on politicians to do something. Bruton's attempts to end the crisis with diplomacy led to him being dubbed "John Unionist" for his aquisience to Unionist demands, as well as his rather verbose welcome to Prince Charles when the latter made the first British royal visit to Ireland since independence. Bruton lost the 1997 general election to a revitalised Fianna Fáil party. He remained leader of Fine Gael until the party removed him in 2001, and in 2004 left Irish politics to become EU Ambassador to the United States. His brother Richard was the deputy leader of Fine Gael until June 2010, when he attempted to oust his superior, Enda Kenny. He failed and was relegated to the backbenches, but many commentators predict he'll try again. Being a Starscream is a popular pasttime in Irish politics.
11. Bertie Ahern
Years: 1997 — 2008 Party: Fianna Fáil Leading Fianna Fáil in a spectacular three consecutive terms from 1997 to 2008, Bertie Ahern (b 1951) was, at one time, regarded by many as one of the best Taoisigh the nation has ever seen. He presided over the "Celtic Tiger" period of incredible economic and industrial growth, oversaw the permanent ceasefire of the IRA and end to The Troubles, and helped to establish a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. He has been referred to as "the most skilfull, the most devious, the most cunning of them all". This praise came from Charles Haughey. But the good times were not to last. By the mid to late 2000s, economic forecasters were warning that economic decline — perhaps even a recession — were on the way. Ahern's response to these forecasters was one of complete dismissal. Also around this time, details of shady personal finance deals and unexplained transactions started to surface. While decrying these allegations as unfair personal attacks, Ahern was left with no choice but to stand down as Taoiseach in May 2008. He remained in the Dáil until 2011 and had his eyes on the Presidency. His reputation has been somewhat sullied by his personal revelations, as well as how quickly Ireland's booming economy collapsed into a recession under his watch, though he will argue that none of this is his fault. This tendancy towards arrogant statements, especially in the last few years of his premiership and afterwards, have led to a marked decline in his popularity, to the extent that he wasn't even considered as a candidate for the 2011 presidential elections. He was the first bachelor Taoiseach — a previous marriage had ended in seperation some years before he achieved office. For most of his tenure he was in a relationship with businesswoman Celia Larkin, who was once mistakenly introduced by Mexican President Vincente Fox as "the Taoiseach's wife". He has two daughters: Georgina is married to Westlife singer Nicky Byrne, and Cecelia is the best-selling author of P.S. I Love You.
- Absence of Evidence: A major issue regarding his financial dealings.
- Adam Westing: This tv ad for the now-defunct News Of The World made not long after he resigned as Taoiseach.
- Catchphrase: While he had no catchphrases per se, his verbal tic of bridging sentences with the words "in fact, ah" became signature material for any comedy impersonator.
- Completely Missing the Point: His statement that a referendum on same-sex marriage would be undesirable as it would be too divisive.
- Corrupt Politician: Seen as this by a large amount of Irish people due to his dubious financial dealings and long history of tribunals for the better part of fifteen years.
- He's Back: He had stated that he would run for the presidency in 2011. While the Irish presidency is a ceremonial role with very little power, few people wished to see him back in any position of authority.
- Averted for now in that the campaign went ahead without him as a candidate.
- Ignorance Is Bliss: His administration's initial reaction to warnings of a recession.
- It's All About Me: His public statements in the past year or so refusing any blame for the recession and instead singing his own praises for The Celtic Tiger make him come across this way.
- Karma Houdini: Resigned during the tribunal investigating his alleged corruption, which just so happened to have been just before the recession kicked in.
- Malaproper: "Upsetting the apple tart", "Smoke and daggers".
- Memetic Mutation: The yellow suit he wore at a G20 photo opp.◊
- Put on a Bus: Once details of his financial affairs started to come to light, the pressure was on the government to do something about him. Whether he left the post completely of his own volition or was pushed will probably never be known for sure.
- Undisclosed Funds: He has gone on the record claiming these are nobody else's business.
- What the Hell, Hero?: His reaction to warnings and fears over the prospect of economic decline in the mid 2000s was that those who were complaining should "go commit suicide".
- And then economy declined. And then people started commiting suicide.
12. Brian Cowen
Years: 2008 — 2011 Party: Fianna Fáil Representing Laois-Offaly in the Dáil between 1984 and 2011, Brian Cowen (b 1960) served in a number of ministerial posts from 1994 up until his appointment as Finance Minister in 2004. Became Taoiseach when Bertie Ahern resigned, and despite initially high approval ratings saw the total collapse of both own and Fianna Fáil's popularity. In early 2011 he stepped aside as leader of Fianna Fáil and announced he would not be contesting his seat in the February election. Neither move did much to appease public anger.
- 0% Approval Rating: Obviously not possible in real life, but it seemed like this towards the end of 2010 and right up to his resignation.
- Blessed with Suck: When Bertie Ahern resigned and Cowen was named as the next Taoiseach, many commentators considered him a good choice, as he had a reputation for being intelligent and steadfast. Not even a year later the recession was in full swing, its effect on Ireland greatly enhanced by the reckless economic policies of Ahern's administration (of which Cowen was a part) and Cowen was regarded as an imbecile who should step down immediately.
- Crowning Moment of Funny: It is traditional for the Taoiseach to visit Washington DC on St. Patrick's Day. In 2009, Cowen made the trip to visit new US President Barack Obama. The men held a press conference and gave speeches, but due to a teleprompter mix-up, Cowen ended up reading the speech Obama had just read. In response, Obama returned to the podium, laughing, and thanked President Obama for inviting everyone.
- Deadpan Snarker: Already had quite the reputation for this before becoming Taoiseach. An oft cited example is taken from the Irish government's talks with members of Sinn Féin regarding the Northern Ireland peace process. Sinn Féin (and alleged but denied IRA member) Martin McGuiness told the conference that he would need to discuss some matters with the IRA Army Council, to which Cowen snarked:
''"There's a mirror in the bathroom if you'd like to talk to them."
- Fan Nickname: To his admirers he is affectionately known as "Biffo" — Big Intelligent Fellow From Offaly. To his detractors, he is still known as "Biffo" — Big Ignorant... Fellow... From Offaly.
- From Bad to Worse: Lost more credibility with every passing hour since he took office. The country went from being at the peak of a property bubble to being bailed out by Europe to the tune of
fifty billion euroNINETY BILLION EURO. In the same week, his coalition partners announced they were pulling out of the government once the Budget was passed in December 2010.
- Idiot Ball: The Euronews network had this firmly grasped when they reported on Cowen's ascension to the premiership. They mistook his name for "Cohen" and referred to him as Ireland's first Jewish prime minister.
- Is This Thing Still On?: Was once caught uttering expletives in parliament when he thought his microphone was off.
- Memetic Mutation:
- His unfortunate "hungover" interview on the Morning Ireland radio program earned him international ridicule, even on the Jay Leno show.
- The infamous "portraits" of the Taoiseach which were displayed in the National Gallery without permission. One was of Cowen naked from the waist up. The other was of him sitting on the toilet. He was less than pleased, but Irish bloggers had a field day with them.
- Non-Answer / Obstructive Bureaucrat: Any time he spoke about the economy, in the context of economic renewal, his comments, going forwards, tended to become mixed up in unneccessarily long phrases and words, with the occasional buzzword thrown in, in the context of explaining things. A frequent source of humour for the media.
- Check out how he reacts to being asked to apologise for the state of the country. The hard questions start around 3:40
- Squick: The aforementioned portraits.
- The Starscream: Micheál Martin has become this to Cowen.
- Still the Leader: Despite constant calls for his removal every week, he remained in place, and intended to be until the next scheduled general election in 2012. Ultimately he was finally forced to move when a leadership challenge was launched against; technically he won the vote but it proved how far his support had disintergrated and he bowed to public pressure soon after.
- That Reminds Me of a Song: Has been known to break into song during party conferences and gatherings.Irish ballads, of course.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Claimed his austere economic measures and controversial bailing-out and nationalisation of Anglo-Irish Bank are necessary measures to restore the Irish economy to greatness.
- Worst Whatever Ever: In 2011, an Irish newspaper called him the "worst Taoiseach in the history of the State."
13. Enda Kenny
Years: 2011 — Party: Fine Gael Enda Kenny (b 1951) is notable for several things: at 59 he was the second oldest 'first time' Taoiseach (only Lemass was older) and is the current Father of the Dáil having represented Mayo since 1975. He also holds the largest majority in the Dáil of any Taoiseach ever thanks to the best ever performance of both Fine Gael and his coalition partners Labour and the worst ever result for Fianna Fáil. He then proceeded to slowly run this advantage into the ground, eventually reaching public approval ratings so low they rivaled the previous government's.
- Base Breaker: May be about to become this within Fine Gael, due to the abortion debate and several T Ds in the party not happy with the way the legislation is written.
- Blessed with Suck: Took power during the worst recession since the Great Depression and has taken a lot of flak for several austerity measures brought in, particularly the controversial property tax.
- Dark Horse Victory: For literally decades he was largely considered something of a non-entity in the Irish political world. This perception slowly began to change in 2007 when he led Fine Gael to a much better performance than in the previous election but it was only as the Cowen government disintergrated and the full scale of the crisis emerged that he finally emerged as the nation's dominant politician.
- Dull Surprise
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: He is very popular in the European Union, especially amongst his fellow leaders.
- Incompetence, Inc.: Irish Water. Set up under the bailout terms by his government, it has become perhaps the most divisive issue of his term. Charges were not decided until the day before they came into effect, people resisted installation of water meters by substandard contractors and some were arrested for doing so and bonuses were announced for even underperforming management, with many calling it another quango. Even the minister assigned to set up the company called it a disaster. As a result, it led to the largest organised protests in the country's history.
- Irish Names / Gender-Blender Name: 'Enda' is a name used by both men and women but is considerably more common for men. Unfortunately it is close in spelling and sound to the unrelated and definitely feminine 'Edna' and some foreigners got confused leading to the New York Times welcoming the election of ‘Ms. Edna Kenny’.
- Meet the New Boss: While this has always been in effect in politics, his policies on the bailout and especially the dreaded property tax and water charges were promised not to be brought in, but were done anyway. The water charges issue is a huge bone of contention for most people.
- Non-Answer: During Leader's Questions in the Dáil. His answers are often preceded by something along the lines of 'you have no right to talk, you got us in this mess in the first place' to Fianna Fáil or by bringing up their IRA connections in the past, to Sinn Féin.
- In March 2015, he confused Mick Wallace by replying to his question in Irish and refusing to speak English. Granted, it was Lá na Gaeilge (Irish language day) but still...
- Older Than They Look: As noted, Father of the Dáil and became Taoiseach just over six weeks before his 60th birthday. He could easily pass for a man ten years younger — at least.
- Wham Line: More like wham speech, when the traditionally conservative Fine Gael ripped into the Catholic Church following a report detailing corruption and coverup of child abuse going all the way to the top of the Irish Church — and possibly further.