Pat Rabbitte

Pat Rabbitte (born 18 May 1949) is an Irish former Labour Party politician who served as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources from 2011 to 2014, Leader of the Labour Party from 2002 to 2007 and Minister of State for Commerce, Science and Technology from 1994 to 1997. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-West constituency from 1989 to 2016.[2][3]

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte, May 2015 (cropped).jpg
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
In office
9 March 2011 – 11 July 2014
TaoiseachEnda Kenny
Preceded byPat Carey
Succeeded byAlex White
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
25 October 2002 – 6 September 2007
DeputyLiz McManus
Preceded byRuairi Quinn
Succeeded byEamon Gilmore
Minister of State for Commerce, Science and Technology
In office
20 December 1994 – 26 June 1997
TaoiseachJohn Bruton
Preceded bySéamus Brennan
Succeeded byMichael Smith
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1989 – February 2016
ConstituencyDublin South-West
Personal details
Patrick Rabbitte

(1949-05-18) 18 May 1949 (age 71)
Claremorris, County Mayo, Ireland
Political partyLabour Party
Spouse(s)Derry Rabbitte (m. 1981)
EducationSt Colman's College
Alma materUniversity College Galway[1]

Early lifeEdit

Patrick Rabbitte was born near Claremorris in 1949, and was brought up in Woodstock, Ballindine, County Mayo. He was educated locally at St Colman's College, Claremorris before emigrating to Britain to find employment. He returned shortly afterward to attend University College Galway (UCG) where he studied Arts and Law. Whilst at university, Rabbitte became involved in several college movements before serving as President of the UCG Students' Union in 1970–1971. He achieved national attention while serving, between 1972 and 1974, as President of the national Union of Students in Ireland (USI). Following the completion of his presidency in 1974, he became an official in the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union (ITGWU), becoming National Secretary for the union in 1980.

Rabbitte became involved in electoral politics for the first time in late 1982, when he unsuccessfully contested Dublin South-West for the Workers' Party (WP) at the November general election. He was elected to Dublin County Council in 1985. Having again failed of election at the 1987 general election, though with a greatly improved performance in the same constituency, he finally entered Dáil Éireann as a WP Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South-West at the 1989 election. He retained his seat at every election until 2016—for the first two as a Democratic Left TD, and for subsequent ones representing the Labour Party.[4]

After Tomás Mac Giolla's retirement as President of the WP in 1988, Rabbitte was seen as one of those who wanted to move the party away from its hard left position, and from its alignment with the Soviet Union and international communist and workers' parties. He and some others who had come from the USI via the trade union movement were seen as wanting to bring the WP toward the centre.[5] This led Rabbitte, Eamon Gilmore and others to earn the nickname "The Student Princes". In 1992, Rabbitte played a prominent role with Proinsias De Rossa in an attempt to jettison some of the party's more hard left positions. This eventually split the WP.[6]

In government: 1994–1997Edit

In 1994, a new 'Rainbow Coalition' government of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left came to power. Rabbitte was a member of the junior ministerial team, serving as Minister of State to the Government, as well as Minister for State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment with responsibility for Commerce, Science and Technology. During his tenure as a junior minister Rabbitte was involved in establishing an anti-drugs strategy as well as enacting legislation which gave the credit union movement more authority. Rabbitte also decided to locate the proposed new state-backed Technology Campus for West Dublin, based on high speed telecommunication links, at CityWest Business Campus beside the N7 motorway, near Clondalkin.

Labour Party leader and aftermathEdit

Following the 1997 general election the Rainbow Coalition lost power. The following year saw a merger between the Labour Party and Democratic Left, with Rabbitte participating in the negotiations. In October 2002 Rabbitte succeeded Ruairi Quinn as the new leader of the Labour Party. Under his leadership the party made some gains in the local elections of 2004. Rabbitte has been described as an extremely good performer in the Dáil, often outshining his Fine Gael counterpart Enda Kenny. He is also noted for his anti-Fianna Fáil rhetoric.

Under Rabbitte the Labour Party agreed to enter a pre-election pact with Fine Gael in an attempt to offer the electorate an alternative coalition government at the 2007 general election, which took place in May 2007. This was commonly known as 'The Mullingar Accord' and the proposed alternative government was called 'The Alliance for change'. The Green Party were also anticipated to be likely members of the coalition government on the basis of agreed points of view on many issues covered by the Mullingar Accord.

This move is rumoured to have caused some tension in the parliamentary party, as some members would prefer not to be aligned with any party in advance of an election. The election result did not return a sufficient number of seats for the Alliance for Change to occupy government, even with the support of the Green Party. Rabbitte himself commented on the election result: "This leaves Mr. Ahern in the driving seat". Negotiations between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party resulted in a government being formed on 13 June 2007.

Following the disappointing result in the election for Labour, Rabbitte announced he was stepping down as leader on 23 August 2007. He said in his resignation statement.[3][7] that he took responsibility for the outcome of the recent general election, in which his party failed to gain new seats and failed to replace the outgoing government. He was succeeded as party leader by Eamon Gilmore.

Rabbitte gained strong public attention on 18 November 2010 when he angrily criticised the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, when they appeared together on the Prime Time television programme.[8] A recording of the outburst on the Internet was viewed 100,000 times in its first three days there.[9]

Rabbitte was re-elected on the first count in the 2011 general election. His running mate Eamonn Maloney was also elected. On 9 March 2011, he was appointed as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Ministerial career: 2011–2014Edit

Rabbitte was appointed Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources after the 2011 general election.

The journalist Fintan O'Toole, writing in The Irish Times in August 2011, criticised the lack of royalties system for gas and oil in Ireland. He claimed: "The State is about to sign away almost all our resources on terms by far the worst in the developed world".[10] Rabbitte responded with a letter, claiming that the article was inaccurate.[11] Rabbitte's response was in turn criticised by Cian O'Callaghan, a Labour Party member of Fingal County Council, as "misguided".[12]

In July 2014, Rabbitte was replaced by Alex White as part of a reshuffle of the cabinet. He did not contest the 2016 general election.[13]


  1. ^ "Former NUI Galway Students, including Taoiseach, take senior roles in Cabinet". Spring 2011. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012.
  2. ^ "Pat Rabbitte". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Rabbitte resigns as Labour leader". RTÉ News. 23 August 2007.
  4. ^ "Pat Rabbitte". Retrieved 29 October 2009.
  5. ^ Conversations with Eamon Dunphy, RTÉ Radio 1, 8 September 2007.
  6. ^ See "Patterns of Betrayal, The flight from Socialism", Repsol, Dublin 1992.
  7. ^ "Pat Rabbitte announces he is standing down as Labour Party leader (resignation speech text)". Labour party website. 23 August 2007. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Miriam Lord's Week: Spat of the Pats is Prime attraction". The Irish Times. 20 November 2010.
  9. ^ "Pat Rabbitte sticks it to Pat Carey on Prime Time". Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  10. ^ O'Toole, Fintan (16 August 2011). "Let's make Norway joint owner of our oil and gas". Irish Times.
  11. ^ "Oil firms will shun us if we have Norwegian-style taxes". The Irish Times. 18 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Sharing energy with Norway". The Irish Times. 19 August 2011.
  13. ^ "Pat Rabbitte will NOT be contesting the next general election". 6 July 2015.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Seán Walsh
(Fianna Fáil)
Workers' Party Teachta Dála for Dublin South-West
Succeeded by
as Democratic Left TD
Preceded by
as Workers' Party TD
Democratic Left Teachta Dála for Dublin South-West
Succeeded by
as Labour Party TD
Preceded by
as Democratic Left TD
Labour Party Teachta Dála for Dublin South-West
Succeeded by
Colm Brophy
(Fine Gael)
Political offices
New office Minister of State to the Government
Succeeded by
Bobby Molloy
Preceded by
Séamus Brennan
Minister of State for Commerce, Technology and Consumer Affairs
Succeeded by
Michael Smith
Preceded by
Pat Carey
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Succeeded by
Alex White
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ruairi Quinn
Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Eamon Gilmore