Tunney, James

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Tunney, James

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  • Tunney, Jim

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James “Jim” Tunney, politician, was born 25 December 1924 in Finglas, Co. Dublin, son of James Tunney, Labour Party TD 1943–4, and Labour senator, and M. Ellen Tunney (née Grimes), who both came from outside Westport, Co. Mayo. He was educated at St Brigid's primary school in the local Holy Faith convent and later at St Vincent's CBS, Glasnevin. He worked in the Department of Agriculture (1943–55). In 1955–62 he taught drama at VECs in Lucan, Balbriggan, and Garretstown, before being appointed headmaster of Blanchardstown VEC in 1962. In 1963 he joined Fianna Fáil and was invited to stand in Dublin North-West in the general election of 1965, but failed to take a second seat for his party. Elected to Dublin city council (1967–79), he was first elected to the Dáil for Dublin North-West, the second of four TDs, in the general election of 18 June 1969 and was later appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister for education (December 1972–February 1973), with special responsibility for youth and sport. He topped the poll in the general election of 28 February 1973, was opposition spokesman on the Gaeltacht (1973–7), and was an alderman on Dublin corporation (1974–8). Having topped the poll and been elected on the first count in the general election of 16 June 1977, he was reappointed parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Education with special responsibility for youth and sport (1977–81) by Taoiseach Jack Lynch and then by, Charles Haughey, despite the fact that Tunney had voted for George Colley and not Haughey in the party leadership contest of December 1979.
He served as Leas-Cheann Comhairle in 1981–2 and was the first TD to be elected for Dublin North-West in the general election of 18 February 1982, repeating this performance in the general election of 24 November 1982, only this time being elected on the first count. First appointed Chairman of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party in late 1982, he became embroiled in controversy on 27 January 1983 when, in response to a confidence motion on Charles Haughey's future leadership of the party, he peremptorily adjourned a meeting following the death of Donegal TD Clem Coughlan, despite the demand of a majority of the parliamentary party that the meeting be reconvened as soon as possible. Similarly controversial was the outcome of an internal party inquiry he later chaired which found that Haughey had not been involved in the phone-tapping of journalists and other individuals seen to be critical of senior party figures. He was elected lord mayor of Dublin in 1985–6, the first Fianna Fáil representative to fill the position in twenty years, and became Leas-Cheann Comhairle again in 1987–92. In the general election of 17 February 1987 he was the third of four deputies returned for Dublin North-West and was the second to be elected TD for the constituency in the general election of 15 June 1989, only losing his seat in the general election of 1992. In electoral terms he was one of the most successful politicians of his generation, having held his seat for twenty-three years in eight successive general elections.

He served on a number of bodies, including the Eastern Regional Development Board (1970–79), the Dublin Vocational Education Committee (1974–9), Conradh na Gaelige, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the New Ireland Forum, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, and the Vocational Teachers' Association. He served too as Co-Chairman of the British–Irish inter-parliamentary body and was a governor of the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin (later DCU).

He married in 1957 Cathleen, daughter of John Byrne and his wife Anna Shannon; they had two sons and two daughters; they lived at ‘Rosebank’, Navan Road, Dublin 7. He died in Dublin on 16 January 2002.

By Gerry McElory, Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009) DOI: https://doi.org/10.3318/dib.008677.v1


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9th Seanad: 1957 - 1961
Agricultural Panel

8th Seanad: 1954 - 1957

7th Seanad: 1951 - 1954
Agricultural Panel

6th Seanad: 1948 - 1951
Agricultural Panel

5th Seanad: 1944 - 1948
Labour Panel

11th Dáil: 1943 - 1944

3rd Seanad: 1938 - 1943
Labour Panel

2nd Seanad: 1938 - 1938
Panel: Labour Panel

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  • English



Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009) DOI: https://doi.org/10.3318/dib.008677.v1

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