Tony Gregory by Robbie Gilligan – Quick Review

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Robbie Gilligan  300px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg

The O’Brien Press (2011), 264 pages

Chapters Bookstore,  €7

Irish History & Politics  300px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg

Tony Gregory was one of Ireland’s greatest politicians.  He was committed to his constituents, particularly those in his north inner-city heartland, he was a hard worker, he was honest, and he was brave.  Gregory was an Irish republican and a socialist.  He saw that the way to change social conditions in a democratic society was to get people to vote for politicians who would champion his or her constituents’ causes.  Despite his republican socialism Gregory was no supporter of IRA bombings or the Soviet Union.  On a trip to the USSR as a student he was dismayed by the fact that those with foreign currency could buy goods unavailable to the average Soviet citizen.

Gregory succeeded in getting elected as both a Dublin city councillor and a TD as an independent.  Luckily, on his election to the Dáil in 1982, Gregory effectively held the balance of power.  Gregory negotiated a deal with the Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey to ensure his support for a Fianna Fáil government.  “The Gregory Deal” was an astonishing boost to his neglected community.  The comprehensive 30 page document (which is reproduced fully in this book) included sections on employment, housing, education, and health.  “The Gregory Deal” has been blamed as the start of a tradition of independent TDs holding governments to ransom in order to boost spending in their constituencies.  Gilligan robustly challenges this view by pointing out that inner-city Dublin had been woefully neglected for decades and that any gains achieved were used to try and bring the area up to the standard of other parts of the country.

Gregory played a vital role in tackling the scourge of drugs (especially heroin) in his community.  He bravely named and challenged drug dealers operating among his constituents and was instrumental in pushing for the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).  CAB was ultimately established in 1996 in order to seize the proceeds of crime from criminals.  Gregory also campaigned for the rights of street traders and was a strong proponent of animal rights legislation (shamefully Ireland still allows stag hunting with packs of dogs and hare coursing by muzzled dogs).

Tragically Gregory died of cancer in 2009.  I live in his Dublin Central constituency but while his death was a great loss to the area his principles and work ethos have been carried on by his former campaign manager (and also an independent TD) Maureen O’Sullivan.  Robbie Gilligan’s biography, although containing some critical analysis, is clearly sympathetic to Gregory’s political position.  This sympathy, however, doesn’t detract from the quality of Gilligan’s storytelling.  Tony Gregory was a unique politician, a true independent, and Robbie Gilligan’s book does the man justice.

8/10

Related Links

Archive of Tony Gregory material on Maureen O’Sullivan’s website

The Gregory Deal – The full text of the deal

Joe Higgins (Socialist Party) obituary

Irish Left Review obituary

Irish Independent review

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