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The Brothers Healy-Rae are the latest in a long line of siblings in the Dáil

Michael and Danny will be the first siblings elected to the same constituency, but there have been a few others who served in the same Dáil.

90410258 Source: RollingNews.ie

FAMILY DYNASTIES HAVE always played an outsized role in Irish political life.

After all, the last two Taoisigh – Enda Kenny and Brian Cowen – originally took over their seats from their fathers, and our last head of government not to have had a family member in the Dáil was Albert Reynolds.

In fact, 29 TDs in the outgoing Dáil had family members who had a place in our lower house of parliament.

But siblings are rarer. In Irish history, there have been 26 sets of brothers and sisters, and 10 of them sat in Dáil Eireann at the same time.

What Michael and Danny Healy-Rae just achieved, however, is unprecedented. There has never before been a pair of siblings elected to the same Dáil, in the same constituency.

Here’s a quick look back at some of the most high-profile brothers and sisters who went to work together on Kildare Street, over the last few decades.

Bertie & Noel Ahern (1992-2011)

00023654 (L-R) Noel, Maurice and Bertie Ahern, in 2001. Source: RollingNews.ie

Bertie was, of course, Taoiseach from 1997-2008, and a TD since 1977.

In 1992, Noel – seven years his senior – joined Bertie at work on Kildare Street, and served as a TD for Dublin North-West, rising to Junior Minister from 2007-2009, before the two brothers bowed out together at the 2011 election.

The eldest of the three – and last to make his bid for national office – was Maurice, a councillor in Cabra-Glasnevin and former Lord Mayor of Dublin.

He attempted to join Bertie in Dublin Central in 2009, but came fifth in the by-election caused by the death of Independent TD Tony Gregory.

Brian & Conor Lenihan (1997-2011)

90104597 Brian and Conor Lenihan (C and R) in 2008. Source: RollingNews.ie

The late Brian Lenihan was first elevated to the Dáil at the age of 36, in the 1996 Dublin West by-election caused by the death of his father, former Tánaiste Brian Lenihan Sr.

He held the seat in the general election the following year, when he was joined in the lower house by his brother Conor, four years his junior, who won a seat in Dublin South-West.

Conor, previously a journalist and business consultant, held three separate junior ministries during the 2000s, while Brian was made junior minister for Children.

The elder Lenihan brother was elevated to cabinet in 2007, when Bertie Ahern appointed him Justice Minister.

When Brian Cowen took over as Taoiseach in 2008, he appointed Brian Lenihan to succeed him as Minister for Finance, making him perhaps the most scrutinised politician in the country, as Ireland suffered the rigours of financial crisis and bailout.

In February 2011, Brian came through a scare in Dublin West, but managed to hold on to his seat, making him Fianna Fáil’s last remaining TD in the capital, amid their catastrophic election that year. He died of pancreatic cancer four months later.

After topping the poll in 2007, Conor Lenihan suffered a somewhat humiliating defeat in Dublin South-West four years later, when his vote was slashed by almost 75% and he was the third candidate eliminated out of 10.

John & Richard Bruton (1982-2004)

00010689 John and Richard Bruton at a press conference in 1997. Source: RollingNews.ie

The second of two Taoisigh to have served alongside his brother, John Bruton was a TD in Meath for 35 years, first being elected in 1969.

Richard – six years younger – was fast-tracked from Meath County Council to Dáil Éireann (via the Seanad) in just three years, getting elected in Dublin North-Central in 1982, at the age of just 28.

His big brother appointed him Minister for Enterprise in 1994, before resigning as party leader, in opposition, in 2001, and retiring from the Dáil in 2004.

They are one of only two sets of siblings in Irish history to serve in the same cabinet. Which brings us to…

Brian Lenihan Sr & Mary O’Rourke (1982-1995)

lenihanorourke Source: RollingNews.ie

Another generation of Lenihans, another set of siblings.

Brian Sr was first elected to the Dáil in Roscommon at the 1961 contest, after serving in the Seanad for four years.

In 1965, his father Patrick was elected in Longford-Westmeath – the first and still the only instance of a parent entering the Dáil after their child.

In all, Brian Lenihan Sr held seven senior cabinet ministries between 1964 and 1990, and was Tánaiste to Charles Haughey from 1987 until 1990, when Haughey sacked him amid controversy, at the height of Lenihan’s ultimately unsuccessful candidacy for President.

Lenihan grew up in Athlone, alongside his sister Mary, who joined him in the Dáil in 1982, after being elected in Longford-Westmeath, where their father Patrick had held a seat until 1970.

When she was appointed Minister for Education in 1987, Lenihan and O’Rourke became the first siblings in Irish history to hold cabinet posts at the same time – an achievement that was equalled 10 years later, when Richard Bruton became Minister for Enterprise.

Lenihan had suffered ill health, and once famously won re-election in Dublin West in 1989, while undergoing a liver transplant in the United States.

He died at the age of 64 in 1995, triggering a by-election which his son Brian won.

O’Rourke held three senior ministries in all, before losing her seat by 350 votes in 2002, and serving in the Seanad for five years.

She was handily re-elected to the Dáil in 2007, and despite not holding ministerial office again, was regarded as something of a matriarch for the Fianna Fáil party nationally.

With the electorate punishing Fianna Fáil throughout the country in 2011, then 73-year-old O’Rourke saw her vote slashed in Longford-Westmeath that year.

She failed to be re-elected, meaning there was no member of the Lenihan family in the Dáil or Seanad, for the first time in 54 years.

00098322 (L-R) Tom Kitt, Aine Brady, Michael Kitt - the most recent set of three siblings to serve in the same Dáil. Source: RollingNews.ie

Here’s the full list of siblings who sat in the Dáil at the same time:

  • Michael and Danny Healy-Rae (Independent). 2016-
  • Michael P Kitt, Tom Kitt, Aine Brady. (Fianna Fáil). 2007-2011
  • Brian & Conor Lenihan (Fianna Fáil). 1997-2011
  • Bertie & Noel Ahern (Fianna Fáil). 1992-2011
  • John & Richard Bruton (Fine Gael) 1982-2004
  • Brian Lenihan Sr & Mary O’Rourke (Fianna Fáil). 1982-1995
  • Jim & Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael). 1981-2002
  • David & Niall Andrews (Fianna Fáil). 1977-1987
  • Maurice & Percy Dockrell (Fine Gael). 1951-1977. 26 years, the longest shared time in Dáil Éireann, of any siblings.
  • Tom & Michael O Higgins (Fine Gael). 1948-1969
  • Thomas & Patrick Byrne (Independent). 1956-1961
  • William (WT) & Philip Cosgrave (Cumann na nGaedheal). 1921-1923

Pre-Independence British parliament

  • Willie & John Redmond (Irish Parliamentary “Home Rule” Party) 1883-1917. 34 years, the longest shared time in parliament, of any siblings representing Ireland.
  • Tim & Maurice Healy (Home Rule Party). 1885-1900, 1909-1910. From 1892-1900, they were joined by a third brother, Thomas.
  • Timothy & Alexander Sullivan (Home Rule Party). 1880-1882.

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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