Mary Hanafin

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Mary Hanafin
Mary Hanafin cropped.jpg
Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil
In office
20 January 2011 – 9 March 2011
LeaderMicheál Martin
Preceded byMary Coughlan
Succeeded byBrian Lenihan
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport
In office
23 March 2010 – 9 March 2011
TaoiseachBrian Cowen
Preceded byMartin Cullen
(Arts, Sport and Tourism)
Succeeded byJimmy Deenihan
(Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht)
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
In office
20 January 2011 – 9 March 2011
TaoiseachBrian Cowen
Preceded byBatt O'Keeffe
Succeeded byRichard Bruton
(Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)
Minister for Social and Family Affairs
In office
7 May 2008 – 23 March 2010
TaoiseachBrian Cowen
Preceded byMartin Cullen
Succeeded byÉamon Ó Cuív
(Social Protection)
Minister for Education and Science
In office
29 September 2004 – 7 May 2008
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byNoel Dempsey
Succeeded byBatt O'Keeffe
Government Chief Whip
In office
6 June 2002 – 29 September 2004
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded bySéamus Brennan
Succeeded byTom Kitt
Minister of State for Children
In office
1 February 2000 – 6 June 2002
TaoiseachBertie Ahern
Preceded byFrank Fahey
Succeeded byBrian Lenihan
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1997 – February 2011
ConstituencyDún Laoghaire
Personal details
Born (1959-06-01) 1 June 1959 (age 61)
Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland
Political partyFianna Fáil
Spouse(s)Eamon Leahy
(m. 1985; d. 2003)
Alma mater

Mary Hanafin (born 1 June 1959) is an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport from 2010 to 2011, Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil from January 2011 to March 2011, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation from January 2011 to March 2011, Minister for Social and Family Affairs from 2008 to 2011, Minister for Education and Science from 2004 to 2008, Government Chief Whip from 2002 to 2004 and Minister of State for Children from 2000 to 2002. She served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency from 1997 to 2011.[1]

She has served as a Councillor on Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council, representing the Blackrock local electoral area since May 2014.

Early and personal life[edit]

Hanafin was born in Thurles, County Tipperary, in 1959. She is the daughter of Des and Mona Hanafin. Her father was a businessman and Fianna Fáil Councillor, who later served as a Senator at various times for over twenty-five years between 1969 and 2002. Her brother John Hanafin was a member of Seanad Éireann from 2002 to 2011.

Hanafin was educated at the Presentation Convent in Thurles and St. Patrick's College in Maynooth, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree. She subsequently worked as a secondary school teacher, teaching Irish and History in the Dominican College Sion Hill in Blackrock, Dublin. Hanafin also obtained a diploma in legal studies at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Hanafin married Eamon Leahy, a Senior Counsel, in 1985. He died suddenly on 17 July 2003, aged 46. The couple had no children.

Early political career[edit]

Hanafin was involved in politics from the age of 15. Her father Des Hanafin, as well as being a Senator for Fianna Fáil, was a founding member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and a staunch opponent of contraception, abortion and divorce. She joined Ógra Fianna Fáil aged fifteen and spoke at her first Ard Fheis two years later. Hanafin first became involved in national politics in 1980 when, at the age of twenty-one, she was elected to the Fianna Fáil national executive, the party's ruling body.

She was elected to Dublin City Council at the 1985 local elections for the Rathmines local electoral area, but she unsuccessfully sought election to Dáil Éireann at the 1989 general election, standing in the Dublin South-East constituency. She lost her seat on Dublin City Council in 1991 and became involved in the running of the Fianna Fáil party. She was elected as national treasurer in 1993. Hanafin is also a former president of the National Youth Council of Ireland.

Dáil career[edit]

Hanafin was elected to the Dáil on her second attempt, at the 1997 general election for the Dún Laoghaire constituency.[2] In her first few years as a TD she served on a number of Oireachtas committees, including Education and Science, Heritage and the Irish language and Justice, Equality and Women's Affairs. In 2000, Hanafin was appointed Minister of State for Children, one of a number of new junior ministry positions created by the Government in 1997. She topped the poll in her constituency at the 2002 general election and was appointed to the position of Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach; also a junior (non-cabinet) ministry, but with special responsibility as Government Chief Whip. She was the first woman to hold this position.

Minister for Education and Science[edit]

Following a cabinet reshuffle in September 2004, Hanafin became Minister for Education and Science. Among her activities in that post, she abandoned the compilation of school league tables begun by her predecessor Noel Dempsey. She prioritised school bus safety following the death of five schoolgirls near Navan, County Meath, in 2005. This has mandated the provision of one seat per child and of the mandatory usage of seatbelts in school buses. She announced plans for a possible change of entry requirements to third-level medical education.[3]

Hanafin was accused of bias towards private fee-paying schools in her constituency when awarding building grants to them in 2005. Christian Brothers College, Monkstown Park, and St. Andrew's College both received building grants for extensions and works on their buildings. Only Belvedere College, Kilkenny College and Loreto Beaufort, Rathfarnham, had previously received money since 1995.[4][5]

In February 2008, it emerged that Hanafin, while Government Chief Whip, had assisted poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh to obtain an Irish visa for a Nepalese youth. The allegations were contained in the documentary Fairytale of Kathmandu. Hanafin, who admitted being friends with Ó Searcaigh for many years, dismissed the allegations as an "irresponsible piece of journalism".[6] Ó Searcaigh was later investigated by Irish authorities to establish whether he should be prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act for sleeping with boys in Nepal who would be considered under-age in Ireland.[7]

Hanafin was accused in February 2008 of being oblivious to the plight of parents of children with autism, and of taking an imperious view of their parents' situation, when she decided to engage in a 68-day court battle with two parents who were attempting to obtain appropriate education for their children through the Applied behavior analysis (ABA) method. She and her Department were accused of ignoring reality of autism education requirements. The mother, Yvonne Ui Cuanachain, said: "Well I would reject the Minister's position quite completely and I feel it's actually quite cynically misrepresentative of the situation on the ground. The Department of Education does not support ABA, it does not support ABA within the ABA schools and neither does it support ABA within the eclectic classes."[8]

Minister for Social and Family Affairs[edit]

On 7 May 2008, Hanafin was appointed as Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

During the course of the 2009 local elections, Hanafin became embroiled in a number of controversies. In late April the Mail on Sunday ran a story claiming her office had improperly used Oireachtas envelopes—which are provided at taxpayers' expense—to promote a campaign launch for her personal assistant Peter O'Brien, who was a candidate in the Dún Laoghaire electoral area. In late May Hanafin became embroiled in further controversy when a national newspaper ran a story claiming her office had again used taxpayer-funded resources to promote O'Brien in correspondence to voters in the Dún Laoghaire constituency.[9] O'Brien was not elected at those local elections.

Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport[edit]

On 23 March 2010, Hanafin was moved from Social and Family Affairs to the Tourism, Culture and Sport portfolio. She appointed a Fianna Fáil councillor and friend of Brian Cowen to the board of the Irish Sports Council on her last full day as Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister.[10]

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation[edit]

Following the resignation of Batt O'Keeffe in January 2011, Hanafin was also appointed as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.[11]

2011 general election[edit]

On 22 January 2011, after the resignation of Brian Cowen, Hanafin put her name forward as a candidate for leader of Fianna Fáil. At the 2011 general election she lost her Dáil seat to Richard Boyd Barrett of the People Before Profit.[12] She briefly withdrew from public life, but in April 2011, the Fianna Fáil National Executive co-opted her as one of the five Vice-Presidents of the party.[13]

After national politics[edit]


In January 2012, she appeared as a judge on the TG4 television show An G-Team.[14] From September 2013, Hanafin undertook a master's degree in American Studies at the Clinton Institute in University College Dublin.

Business interests[edit]

Hanafin is reported to have extensive business interests. In June 2008, it was reported she owned a 15% shareholding in Reservoir Resources, an oil exploration company.[15] In September 2013, it was reported she had bought shares in a company which owns Zaragoza, a Dublin tapas bar.[16]

Return to politics[edit]

2014 local elections[edit]

In May 2014, Hanafin lodged nomination papers with Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council to contest the local government elections in the Blackrock area, against the wishes of Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin.[17][18] Following a three-week campaign—dubbed the "Battle of Blackrock"—she was elected, taking the second out of six seats in the Blackrock local electoral area.

Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council[edit]

State pensions and council expenses[edit]

Hanafin has said she does not take expenses from Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council, instead continues to draw her various state pensions accruing from her time as a teacher, TD and Minister. In July 2015, a RTÉ investigative report estimated the state had paid her €520,775 in pension and lump sum payments since 2011. This figure excludes any pension associated with her time as a teacher.[19][20][21]

2016 general election campaign[edit]

In April 2014, Hanafin indicated that she intended to seek the Fianna Fáil nomination in Dún Laoghaire for the next general election.[22] Her fellow councillors Cormac Devlin and Kate Feeney also expressed an interest in seeking the nomination. The contest attracted widespread media attention being dubbed the "Battle of Blackrock II".[23][24]

In early September 2015, there was widespread speculation the Fianna Fáil National Constituencies Committee would attempt to exclude Cormac Devlin from the Dún Laoghaire candidate selection convention on the basis of his gender.[25][26][27] Following the threat of legal action from Devlin, the party backed down.[28][29]

Hanafin lost the Dún Laoghaire Fianna Fáil selection convention on 28 September 2015, coming second to Cormac Devlin.[30][31][32]

Two days after the selection convention, on 30 September 2015, the National Constituencies Committee of Fianna Fáil, chaired by Michael Moynihan TD, recommended Hanafin be added to the general election ticket in Dún Laoghaire.[33]

In October 2015, it emerged that Hanafin, while Minister for Tourism in 2009, supported potential legislation to introduce a €500 water charge and metering system in July 2010, five months before the bailout.[34]

In January 2016, Hanafin announced she was seeking a place on the Fianna Fáil Front Bench. Micheal Martin refused to be drawn on the issue, instead emphasising a desire to promote a new generation of TDs.[35] Following his rebuff, Hanafin gave a series of interviews which appeared to undermine his authority, in particular she questioned his position on entering coalition government with Fine Gael. Her remarks prompted Mary Cowen, wife of former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, to publicly comment that Micheal Martin should "watch his back" around Hanafin. The spat continued with Hanafin claiming Mary Cowen's remarks were inappropriate.[36]

In the 2016 general election Hanafin failed to regain a seat in the Dáil, finishing fifth in the four-seat Dún Laoghaire constituency.

2019 European Parliament election[edit]

In December 2018, Hanafin announced her intention to seek the Fianna Fáil nomination for the Dublin constituency in the European Parliament.[37] Barry Andrews was selected as the Fianna Fáil candidate.

2020 general election[edit]

She was an unsuccessful candidate for the Dún Laoghaire constituency at the 2020 general election.


  1. ^ "Mary Hanafin". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  2. ^ "Mary Hanafin". Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  3. ^ McDonagh, Patricia (17 December 2007). "New system widens net for potential medical students". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Minister considers 3 million euro grant to top fees school". Irish Independent. 19 April 2005. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  5. ^ Donnelly, Katherine (21 April 2005). "Hanafin attacked as fee-paying school gets €3m". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  6. ^ Kerr, Aine (11 February 2008). "Hanafin stands over visa help for Nepal teen". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  7. ^ Sheehan, Maeve (10 February 2008). "Boys were 'damaged' by sex trysts with poet". Irish Independent. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  8. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (18 February 2008). "Autistic boy's mother in persecution claim". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  9. ^ Murphy, Cormac (26 May 2009). "Hanafin backs her man - but ditches Devlin on party ticket". Evening Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  10. ^ O'Brien, Paul (18 March 2011). "Hanafin named FF man to board on last day". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Election date set for 11 March". RTÉ News. 20 January 2011. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  12. ^ Sheehan, Aideen (28 February 2011). "Dun Laoghaire: Hanafin loses out to Boyd Barrett". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  13. ^ "Hanafin appointed as new FF vice-president". RTÉ News. 14 April 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  14. ^ "Mary Hanafin's return to public life… on reality show 'G-Team'". 12 January 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  15. ^ Ross, Shane (1 June 2008). "Hanafin family seek jackpot in UK oil venture". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  16. ^ Hancock, Ciarán (25 September 2013). "Former Fianna Fáil minister Mary Hanafin is part-owner of the business". Irish Times. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  17. ^ O'Connor, Niall (5 May 2014). "FF TDs furious with Micheal Martin over Mary Hanafin election debacle". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  18. ^ O'Connor, Niall (6 May 2014). "Hanafin to defy Martin and stand in local elections for Fianna Fail". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  19. ^ "Former ministers to get pension boost, but one thinks the country "isn't ready" yet". 5 July 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  20. ^ Foxe, Ken (23 March 2010). "€65 million in pension payments to former politicians". RTE. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  21. ^ O'Hora, Ailish (23 March 2010). "Hanafin to cling to her '€400,000' pension pot". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  22. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (22 April 2014). "Hanafin to take on FF young guns as she eyes Dail return". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  23. ^ McConnell, Daniel (18 October 2015). "Battle of Blackrock II". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  24. ^ McConnell, Daniel (10 October 2015). "'I lost four stone to run in general election race'". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  25. ^ Bardon, Sarah (23 September 2015). "Fianna Fáil opts to stick with party gender directive". Irish Times. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  26. ^ O'Connor, Niall (22 September 2015). "'We have a sound legal basis for what we have to do' - Fianna Fail on 'gendermandering' at selection conventions". Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  27. ^ O'Connor, Niall (23 September 2015). "'Our gender diktat is legally sound', claims Fianna Fail". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  28. ^ Bardon, Sarah (19 September 2015). "Legal threat by FF councillor over female candidate directive". Irish Times. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  29. ^ Hand, Lise (26 September 2015). "Cormac fights for his slice of the Dún Laoghaire pie". Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  30. ^ Hand, Lise; O'Connor, Niall (28 September 2015). "Bitter Fianna Fail selection convention: Devlin beats Hanafin 68-64". Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  31. ^ Hand, Lise (29 September 2015). "Cormac Devlin gets Fianna Fail nod over Mary Hanafin". Irish Herald. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  32. ^ "Hanafin loses out in Dún Laoghaire selection to Devlin". RTÉ News. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  33. ^ "'A complete joke': People aren't happy that Mary Hanafin has been added in Dún Laoghaire". 30 September 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  34. ^ Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (18 October 2015). "FF plan for €500 water charges in 2010". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  35. ^ Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (16 January 2016). "Mary Hanafin looking for a front bench seat".
  36. ^ Horan, Niamh (25 January 2016). "Hanafin hits back at surprise attack by Brian Cowen's wife". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  37. ^ Doyle, Kevin (28 December 2018). "Kevin Doyle: 'Fianna Fáil's capital battle: three dynasties and a gay rights lobbyist line up'". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 August 2019.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Niamh Bhreathnach
(Labour Party)
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Dún Laoghaire
Succeeded by
Richard Boyd Barrett
(People Before Profit)
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank Fahey
Minister of State for Children
Succeeded by
Brian Lenihan
Preceded by
Séamus Brennan
Government Chief Whip
Succeeded by
Tom Kitt
Minister of State at the Department of Defence
Preceded by
Noel Dempsey
Minister for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Batt O'Keeffe
Preceded by
Martin Cullen
Minister for Social and Family Affairs
Succeeded by
Éamon Ó Cuív
as Minister for Social Protection
Preceded by
Martin Cullen
as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport
Succeeded by
Jimmy Deenihan
as Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Succeeded by
Leo Varadkar
as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
Preceded by
Batt O'Keeffe
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
Succeeded by
Richard Bruton
as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mary Coughlan
Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil
Succeeded by
Brian Lenihan Jnr
Preceded by
Vice President of Fianna Fáil
Succeeded by