Jack Lynch discusses a career in politics following his resignation as Taoiseach.

First elected to the Dáil in 1948, Jack Lynch held Gaeltacht, Education, Industry and Commerce portfolios, becoming the leader of the Fianna Fáil party in 1966. 

He campaigned for Ireland to become a member of the European Community and signed the accession treaties in January 1973. 

Fianna Fáil were defeated in the 1973 general election and out of power until the 1977 election, when the party won with a majority. Two years on, party colleagues were challenging Lynch’s authority, and he resigned his leadership.

Brian Farrell  puts it to Jack Lynch that he seemed to genuinely enjoy meeting members of the public during general election campaigns. 

It’s very good mark on the part of the Irish people that they valued democracy so highly.

A keen and accomplished sportsman who excelled at Gaelic games and who had one All-Ireland medal for football and five for hurling, he took his sporting ethos into political life.

Obviously on the athletic field you win some and you lose some. Having lost you probably lose without rancour one would hope. And having won one can win without gloating because there is always another day and that will happen in politics as well as in games.

While there is no doubt that Jack Lynch has enjoyed his time in politics, he admits that his decision comes with an element of relief, as the roles of party leader and Taoiseach take their toll on a person, 

 It’s a very tough job, and I often wonder why I ever aspired to it.

In contrast to the towering figures of Eamon De Valera and Seán Lemass who went before him, there have always been questions around the Lynch leadership. Different men and different times Jack Lynch was the first Fianna Fáil leader to be elected by party members.

Even so, Jack Lynch has been accused of lacking courage in his dealings with Neil Blaney and Kevin Boland. Like a sporting team, everyone has their strengths he maintains and it is possible that colleagues can come around to your way of thinking, but the Arms Crisis in 1970 was a serious situation which required immediate action. 

Refusing to pass judgement on colleague Charles Haughey or his effectiveness as the next leader of the party, he believes that,  

It’s a matter for the Fianna Fáil party themselves to make up their minds, and I’m sure they’ll do it very objectively.

As regards the crisis in Northern Ireland, Jack Lynch admits that people south of the border did not fully appreciate the extent of what had been going on until the Civil Rights Movement began their campaign of protest. 

It took him twelve months to get to grips with the realities of the situation, he says, and it was only after 1971 that, 

The policy of reconciliation dawned upon us as the pre-requisite of making any advance in the Northern situation.

This episode of ‘Frontline’ was broadcast on 8 December 1979. The presenter is Brian Farrell. 

‘Frontline’ was an investigative report and analysis programme on issues of the day from Brian Farrell, Michael Heney, Forbes McFall and Michael Ryan.