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Dick Spring

From Academic Kids

Richard (Dick) Spring (born August 29, 1950 in Tralee County Kerry), is a businessman and former senior Irish politician. He was first elected as a Labour Party TD in 1981 and retained his seat until 2002. He became Party Leader in 1982, and held this position until 1997. He served as Minister for the Environment(1982-1983), Minister for Energy (1983-1987) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1993-Nov 1994, Dec 1994-1997). He also served as Tánaiste during those three governments.

Dick Spring was educated in County Tipperary, at Trinity College, Dublin and qualified as a barrister at Kings Inns. He played Gaelic football and hurling for Kerry in the seventies and won three rugby caps for Ireland in 1979.

His political life began also in 1979 when he successfully contested the local elections in Tralee. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann in the General Election of 1981 for the constituency of Kerry North, a seat previously held by his father Dan Spring. The Labour Party formed a coalition Government with Fine Gael and Spring was appointed a Junior Minister on his first day as a deputy. When Michael O'Leary resigned as Party leader in 1982, Spring allowed his name go forward in the leadership contest. He easily defeated Barry Desmond and Michael D Higgins but inherited a deeply divided party.

Following the November 1982 General Election Labour again formed a coalition government with Fine Gael. Spring was appointed Tánaiste and Minister for the Environment. He was closely involved in the negotiations which lead to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. In 1987 Spring and the Labour Party withdrew from the government on budgetary issues and Fianna Fáil took power in the subsequent election. Spring himself narrowly escaped losing his seat when he was re-elected by just 4 votes.

Under Spring, the Labour party selected Mary Robinson as its candidate in the 1990 Presidential Election. Robinson was elected and this enhanced the credibility of the party. For Spring, his period in opposition co-incided with the exposure of a number of business scandals and gave him the opportunity to shine as critic of the Fianna Fáil government led by the controversial Charles Haughey.

As a result, in the 1992 General Election the party increased its Dáil seats from 15 to 33, a feat which is referred to as the 'Spring Tide'. The Labour Party then entered a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, and thus returned Albert Reynolds, who had taken over as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from Mr. Haughey at the beginning of the year, to power. Spring was appointed Tánaiste for the second time, and also Minister for Foreign Affairs. Although approved by a special party meeting, many who had voted for the new Labour TDs as an alternative to the Fianna Fáil government were critical.

In November 1994 Spring and the Labour Party resigned from the Government due to a disagreement with then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds over the appointment of the President of the High Court. The minority Reynolds government then lost a vote of confidence in the Dáil. In December Labour, with Fine Gael and Democratic Left formed a coalition government, referred to as the 'Rainbow Coalition'. Spring returned to his positions as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs. This was the first occasion on which a new Irish government was formed without a general election.

During his period as Foreign Minister, Spring was deeply involved in the negotiations leading to the Northern Ireland ceasefires of 1994 and the Belfast Agreement of 1998. With Albert Reynolds he received warm applause in the Dáil on the announcment of the Downing Street Declaration in December 1993. He also advanced Ireland's membership of the Partnership for Peace, a controversial issue due to Irelands policy of neutrality.

In the 1997 General Election the Labour party returned to opposition, winning only 17 of its outgoing 33 seats. This was considered to be punishment by the electorate for the 1993 decision to enter coalition with Fianna Fáil. In the Presidential election of the same year the Labour candidate, Adi Roche, came fourth out of five candidates. Following that defeat, Spring resigned as Labour leader, having served 15 years - one of the longest serving party leaders of Ireland. He remained a TD, but lost his seat in the General election of 2002 to a Sinn Féin candidate.

After stepping down as party leader, Spring has been spoken of as a possible European Commissioner for Ireland and as Labour Party candidate for President of Ireland. He did become involved in the Cyprus dispute as a United Nations envoy.

As Foreign Minister, there was much critical comment in the media on Spring's extensive foreign travel and use of the Government Jet. Although the Labour Party, and its members promote the principles of left wing politics, Dick Spring has been described as a Champagne socialist due to his association with Irish business executives, his choice of the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel when staying in New York as Foreign Minister, and his statements on the Eircom privatisation saga.

Spring lives in Tralee and is married to Kristi, a US citizen whom he met while working in New York when a student. They have 3 children.


Preceded by:
Michael O'Leary
Leader of the Irish Labour Party
1982–1997
Succeeded by:
Ruairí Quinn
Preceded by:
Ray MacSharry
Tánaiste
1982–1987
Succeeded by:
Brian Lenihan
Preceded by:
Ray Burke
Minister for the Environment
1982–1983
Succeeded by:
Liam Kavanagh
Preceded by:
John Bruton
Minister for Energy
1983–1987
Succeeded by:
Michael Noonan
Preceded by:
John P. Wilson
Tánaiste
1993–1994
Succeeded by:
Bertie Ahern
Preceded by:
David Andrews
Minister for Foreign Affairs
1993–1994
Succeeded by:
Albert Reynolds
Preceded by:
Bertie Ahern
Tánaiste
1994–1997
Succeeded by:
Mary Harney
Preceded by:
Albert Reynolds
Minister for Foreign Affairs
1994–1997
Succeeded by:
Ray Burke

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