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John A Costello

The life and times of John A Costello of Fine Gael - Taoiseach from 1948-51 and 1954-57, Attorney General of Ireland from 1926-'32, legal advisor to the government after independence ('22) and a successful barrister (Broadcast 1976)

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John A Costello

John A. Costello was born on 20 June 1891, in Dublin. Educated from 1903 at St Josephs Christian Brothers School in Fairview, North Dublin, he moved to the O'Connell School in north Dublin for senior classes, and then attended University College Dublin. He studied at King's Inns to become a barrister.

In 1922 Costello joined the staff of the Attorney General in the newly established Irish Free State. Three years later he was called to the inner bar and the following year, 1926, he became Attorney-General to the Cumann na nGaedheal government, led by W. T. Cosgrave. While serving in this position he represented Ireland at Imperial Conferences and League of Nations meetings.

By 1948 Fianna Fáil had been in power for sixteen consecutive years and had been blamed for a downturn in the economy following World War II. The general election results showed Fianna Fáil still the largest party, with twice as many seats as the nearest party, Fine Gael. While it looked as if Fianna Fáil were heading for a seventh consecutive victory all the other parties in the Dáil joined to form the first inter-party government in the history of the Irish state. The coalition consisted of Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the National Labour Party, Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan and several Independent TDs. While it looked as if co-operation between these parties would not be feasible a shared opposition to Fianna Fáil and Éamon de Valera overcame all other difficulties and the coalition government was formed. Through a strange series of events, Costello was chosen as leader of Fine Gael and thus Taoiseach.

3yrs later Fianna Fail regaing power. However, three years later again, in June 1954 Fianna Fáil lost power. A campaign dominated by economic issues resulted in a Fine Gael-Labour Party-Clann na Talmhan government coming to power. Costello was once again elected Taoiseach.

In 1959, Richard Mulcahy resigned the leadership of Fine Gael to James Dillon.

He practised at the bar up to a short time before his death in Dublin on 5 January 1976, at the age of 84.

Presented by John Bowman

Produced by John Skehan

First broadcast 8th february, 1976

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