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Seán Barrett (politician)

Seán Barrett (born 9 August 1944) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who served as Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann from 2011 to 2016, Minister for Defence and Minister for the Marine from 1995 to 1997, Government Chief Whip from 1982 to 1986 and from 1994 to 1995. He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency since 2007, and previously from 1981 to 2002.[1][2]

Seán Barrett

Seán Barrett Ceann Comhairle 2015.png
Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann
In office
9 March 2011 – 10 March 2016
DeputyMichael P. Kitt
Preceded bySéamus Kirk
Succeeded bySeán Ó Fearghaíl
Minister for Defence
In office
23 May 1995 – 26 June 1997
TaoiseachJohn Bruton
Preceded byHugh Coveney
Succeeded byDavid Andrews
Minister for the Marine
In office
23 May 1995 – 26 June 1997
TaoiseachJohn Bruton
Preceded byHugh Coveney
Succeeded byDavid Andrews
Government Chief Whip
In office
15 December 1994 – 23 May 1995
TaoiseachJohn Bruton
Preceded byNoel Dempsey
Succeeded byJim Higgins
In office
14 December 1982 – 13 February 1986
TaoiseachJohn Bruton
Garret FitzGerald
Preceded byBertie Ahern
Succeeded byFergus O'Brien
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
May 2007
In office
June 1981 – May 2002
ConstituencyDún Laoghaire
Personal details
Born (1944-08-09) 9 August 1944 (age 75)
Killiney, Dublin, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Spouse(s)Jean Barrett (m. 1976)
Alma materUniversity College Dublin

Early lifeEdit

He was educated at CBS Dún Laoghaire, C.B.C. Monkstown and Presentation Brothers College in Glasthule, County Dublin. Before Barrett entered politics he was a partner in a successful Dublin-based insurance brokerage firm (Barrett, Hegarty Moloney, established in 1980).[3] A keen fan of horse-racing,[4] in 1987, he also established Sean Barrett Bloodstock Insurances Ltd.[3]

Political careerEdit

He first became involved in local politics, serving on Dublin County Council from 1974 until 1982. He was a member of Dublin County Council between 1991 and 1993 and then served as a member of the Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council until 1995.

At the 1977 general election, Barrett stood as a Fine Gael candidate in the Dublin County South, but failed to win a seat. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann when he stood in the Dún Laoghaire constituency at the 1981 general election, where he was returned at each subsequent election until his retirement at the 2002 general election. He came out of retirement to successfully contest the 2007 general election.[5]

In December 1982, Garret FitzGerald became Taoiseach for the second time and Barrett was appointed Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Departments of the Taoiseach and Defence. Between February 1986 and March 1987, he served as Leader of the House with responsibility for Dáil Reform and Minister of State at the Department of Education.

John Bruton's Rainbow Coalition came to power in 1994 and Barrett was again appointed as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Departments of the Taoiseach and Defence. In 1995, Hugh Coveney resigned from the cabinet in controversial circumstances. Barrett was then appointed Minister for Defence and Minister for the Marine. During his tenure Barrett dealt with the army deafness compensation issue that ultimately resulted in claims of approximately £300 million (€381 million) altogether against the State. There were approximately 9,000 claims by soldiers whose deafness arose from a failure to wear appropriate ear protection during firing exercises. There were 8,500 men and women serving in the Irish Army in 2006. Barrett's short ministerial career was blighted by critical remarks from Garda and army officers directed towards the Minister. His term as Minister ended when the government lost power at the 1997 general election.

In 1999, he announced that he would not contest the next election, saying "at this stage, I believe it is time to make way for the next generation who must be given the chance to make their own contribution."[4]

Sean Barrett (right) with Bogdan Borusewicz in Warsaw (2014)

When Barrett, Liam T. Cosgrave and Monica Barnes were each first elected in 1981, Fine Gael secured three of the five seats and 48% of the first preference vote in Dún Laoghaire. But this massive vote waned over the following years and when Barrett and Barnes retired at the 2002 general election, Fine Gael failed to win even one seat in Dún Laoghaire.[6]

Return to politicsEdit

In February 2006, Barrett announced that he wanted to come back from retirement, and stand again as a Fine Gael candidate at the next general election. He insisted that he would stand only if selected by the local party members, and would not accept being imposed as a candidate by Fine Gael headquarters.[7]

At a selection meeting in Dalkey in May 2006, Barrett and barrister Eugene Regan were chosen as Fine Gael's two candidates in the Dún Laoghaire constituency.[8] With return of Barrett, the party was confident of winning two of the five seats, but at the general election in May 2007, Barrett was the fourth candidate returned to the 30th Dáil and Regan was not elected.[5]

Barrett did not return immediately to Fine Gael's front bench, but became Chairperson of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security.[9] He was subsequently promoted back to the front bench as Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs following an attempted heave against Enda Kenny.[10]

He met Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.[11]

Mahon TribunalEdit

In evidence to the Mahon Tribunal on 8 June 2006,[12] Barrett stated that while a member of Dublin County Council in the early 1990s, he was approached by a stranger with a proposition that he would be paid a professional consultancy fee of approximately £80,000 (€101,600) to assist in a land-swap involving either Killiney Golf Club or Dún Laoghaire Golf Club with land owned at Cherrywood, County Dublin by Monarch Properties, a property development company. Barrett told the Tribunal that he immediately rejected this proposition and acknowledged that had he accepted, this would have brought him into conflict with his role as a councillor. He also expressed disgust at rumours that circulated in the Irish media and elsewhere over the past decade, or so, to the effect that he accepted large payments which he categorically told the Tribunal was not the case.

He did receive an unsolicited cheque for £600 in 1991 which he told the Tribunal was lodged to a Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire constituency bank account. Documentation provided by the Tribunal showed that Barrett received a cheque for £500 prior to the November 1992 election, that he had no recollection of a further cheque for £1,000 was paid by Monarch Properties in respect of a constituency fund raising gala dinner, to Fine Gael in 1995.

A report in The Irish Times in July 2006 said that a representative of Fine Gael had described the Tribunal "as an outrage and a disgrace" for allowing unfounded allegations to be made against Barrett.[13] Fine Gael, through its solicitor, expressed regret to the Tribunal on 25 July for this remark, describing it as 'inappropriate'.[14]


  1. ^ "Bruton & Noonan return to Fine Gael frontbench". RTÉ News. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  2. ^ "Sean Barrett". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Sean Barrett TD". Fine Gael website. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  4. ^ a b Karl Brophy (20 November 1999). "FG Chief Whip to step down at next election". Irish Examiner. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Sean Barrett". Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  6. ^ "General Election, 17 May 2002: Dun Laoghaire". Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  7. ^ Fionnan Sheahan (17 May 2006). "Barrett returns to contest election". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  8. ^ Fionnan Sheahan (31 May 2006). "Barrett wins right to fight for seat at next election". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  9. ^ "Committee chairmanships announced". The Irish Times. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  10. ^ "Kenny Announces New Fine Gael Front Bench". Fine Gael. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 5 July 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  11. ^ Coonan, Clifford (16 May 2013). "Ceann Comhairle received by Chinese leadership: Sean Barrett to meet Chinese president". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Evidence of Seán Barrett to Mahon Tribunal" (PDF). The Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters & Payments. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  13. ^ "FG condemns Barrett tribunal 'outrage'". The Irish Times. 15 July 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2006.
  14. ^ "Correspondence with Kevin O'Higgins, solicitor for Fine Gael" (PDF). The Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters & Payments. 25 July 2006. Retrieved 12 August 2006.

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