Former Taoiseach oversaw closure of GNR
FORMER Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave who died last week at the age of 97 will be remembered in Louth for his staunch support for his Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan and for his strong leadership at the height of the paramilitary violence in the 1970’s when there were countless incidents along the Border.
Mr. Donegan, the Louth Deputy, had been appointed Minister for Defence in Mr. Cosgrave’s first coalition Government in 1973, and the Taoiseach gave total backing to his Minister in curbing the threat that the violence in the North was becoming to the Irish state.
In October 1976 Mr. Donegan made a controversial speech on an official visit to an army barracks at Mullingar. He described as a “thundering disgrace” President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh’s refusal to sign the Emergency Powers Act, 1976, instead using his powers under Article 26 of the Constitution to refer it to the Supreme Court.
Amid a major political and constitutional crisis for the country, the Taoiseach, Mr. Cosgrave, refused Donegan’s resignation, and instead Ó Dálaigh resigned as President of Ireland.
Earlier in his political career, Mr. Cosgrave also played a leading role in the nationalisation of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and which ultimately led to the closure of the engineering works on the Ardee Road in Dundalk with the loss of 900 jobs.
At the time Mr. Cosgrave was Chief Whip in the John A. Costello led coalition Government in 1948. He also acted as parliamentary secretary ( junior minister) to the Minister for Industry and Commerce Dan Morrissey whose brief it was to negotiate with the Northern Ireland Government over the nationalisation of the railway.
Mr. Morrissey suffered greatly from ill-health leaving Mr. Cosgrave to effectively run the department and the negotiations with the NI Government over the future of the GNR.
A combination of the increasing road competition facing all railways and a change in patterns of economic ac-
UNDER THE TERMS, NEGOTIATED BY MR. COSGRAVE, THE MAJORITY OF THE 900 STAFF IN DUNDALK WERE MADE REDUNDANT
tivity caused by the partition of Ireland reduced the GNR’s prosperity.
The company modernised and reduced its costs by introducing modern diesel multiple units on an increasing number of services in the 1940s and 1950s and by making Dublin–Belfast expresses non-stop from 1948.
Despite the best efforts of the work force in Dundalk to development new ventures, by the 1950s the GNR had ceased to be profitable and in 1953 the company was jointly nationalised by the governments of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The two governments ran the railway jointly under a Great Northern Railway Board until 1958.
Under the terms of the nationalisation, negotiated by Mr. Cosgrave, the majority of the 900 staff in Dundalk were made redundant by 1958.
The decision to close the Dundalk works while inevitably after nationalisation, was always held against the Government at the time by many who worked there.