Mícheál Ó Muilleoir

Mícheál Ó Muilleoir
Mícheál Ó Muilleoir.png
Ó Muilleoir in 1979
Taoiseach of Caldia
In office
20 June 1977 – 21 June 1982
MonarchEllen II
Preceded byDáibhí Mac Coinneach
Succeeded byPatricia Flowers
Leader of His Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition
In office
24 June 1972 – 20 June 1977
Leader of the Social Democrats
In office
24 September 1975 – 15 June 1982
Personal details
Born
Mícheál Dùbhghlas Ó Muilleoir

24 April 1921
Shanbally, Caldia
Died6 August 2012 (aged 91)
Political partySocial Democratic Party
Spouse(s)Brónach Ní Cheanndubháin (m. 1946)

Mícheál Dùbhghlas Ó Muilleoir (24 April 1921 - 6 August 2012) was a Caldish politician who served as the Taoiseach of Caldia from 1977 to 1982. He was the leader of the Caldish Social Democratic Party from 1975 until 1982. His tenure as taoiseach is remembered for his foreign policy and a period economic decline.

Ó Muilleoir was a member of the Comhthionól Náisiúnta representing Shanbally from 1957 to 1987. He served as Minister of Labour from 1972 to 1975 and had close ties to the party's affiliated trade unions.

Early life

Ó Muilleoir was born in Shanbally to Dùbhghlas Ó Muilleoir, a factory work, and his wife Raghnaid. He grew up in the city's working class neighborhoods and became a shipbuilder after finishing his lower education. From a young age, he was involved in the trade union movement and became a member of the Social Democrats.

He married his wife, Brónach (née Ní Cheanndubháin) in 1946. Together, they had five children. The family lived in Shanbally, where Ó Muilleoir stood as a candidate for city council in the 1950 election. While on the city council, he served in the leadership of his local chapter of the Shipbuilder's Union

Political career

Ó Muilleoir entered national politics when he was elected to the Comhthionól Náisiúnta in 1957 for his native Shanbally. With the support of the unions, he became vice-chair of the party in 1970. He was appointed Minister of Labour in 1972 and held the post until 1975 when his party was defeated in the snap election. After a leadership competition with Donnchadh Ó Loingsigh, he was appointed as party leader in June 1975. He led his party in opposition and was critical of the failures of the Liberty Party to reform the struggling economy. Ó Muilleoir was strongly opposed to cuts to welfare and public services. arguing they did more to hurt the economy than help it.

In the 1977 election, the Social Democrats defeated the Liberty Party and Ó Muilleoir formed a government with the Socialist Party. His government did not cut spending and it came to spend over half of the country's gross domestic product. Anti-unemployment policies were left in place and anti-inflationary policies were not pursued, resulting in a period of sharp inflation. Wages also declined and the Caldish GDP per capita shrunk during this period. As stagflation and decline continued to impact the economy, the overall tax burden continued to rise. Economic growth was low and the economy entered recession, matching the international trend.

As economic crisis threatened his popularity, Ó Muilleoir turned his attention to foreign policy. Going against conventional policy positions, he moved Caldia closer to Swetania. Hoping to court Swetanian investment, his government began to take positions against other members of the Euclean Community, notably Werania. The failure of Swetania and Werania to reach rapprochement drew his ire. He was also skeptical of the Northern Forum, temporarily suspending Caldish participation in 1980. Caldia also became an observer of the socialist Association of Emerging Socialist Economies in 1980.

Shifts in foreign policy were largely unpopular, as many viewed Ó Muilleoir of abandoning Caldia's long-standing policy of neutrality. Rumors that he was an asset of the Swetanian intelligence agency began to circulate in political circles and later the tabloid press. Amid continued economic decline and opposition to his foreign policy resulted in a disastrous election defeat in 1982. Ó Muilleoir faced massive criticism from within his party and resigned as leader. He later retired from politics in 1987.

After politics

After standing down at the 1987 election, Ó Muilleoir returned to his native Shanbally where he lived with his wife. He served as vice-chair of the Caldish Trade Union Confederation from 1989 to 1992 and was appointed to the board of the state pension fun in 1992.

He died at the age of 91 on 6 August 2012 at his apartment in Shanbally. A funeral service was held on 13 August at Shanbally Cathedral that was attended by King Kenneth IV, then taoiseach Alexis Walker, and several former taoiseachs. His wife, Brónach, died in 2015 and was interred alongside him at Knocktopher Cemetery and Arboretum in Shanbally.

Legacy

During his 30 year career in national politics, Ó Muilleoir was known for his straightforwardness, modesty, and candor. He was remembered as an attentive listener who was willing to listen to all views.

Ó Muilleoir refused to move into Loveland House, the official residence of the taoiseach. Instead, he lived on his own at a small rented apartment in central Spálgleann. He was the first taoiseach in over thirty years that declined to make Loveland his residence, holding all meetings at government offices in the Spálgleann's Ráitherialtais neighborhood. Ó Muilleoir had only entered Loveland during his tenure as a cabinet minister in the early 1970s, refusing to do so as taoiseach. Preferring to cook for himself, he declined the services of additional staff and was frequently spotted emptying his own rubbish bins. He frequently rode the Spálgleann Metro and the city's buses. This won him endearment among many working class voters at a time when the economy was struggling.

His time as taoiseach was not easy. It was a period of economic rescission and high government spending. Ó Muilleoir's foreign policy decisions proved to be the most controversial part of his tenure as taoiseach. His diplomatic support for Swetania and other socialist governments drew criticism that he was taking sides in ongoing geopolitical disputes.

Ó Muilleoir had a complicated relationship with the press, with some newspapers regularly accusing him of being a Swetanian agent. In 1981, he sued An Tírghráthóir for one coróin after it published what it claimed was evidence showing his links to the KRS. Ó Muilleoir claimed that this was illegal and a threat to national security, but lost the case in the courts.

At the time of his death in 2012, Ó Muilleoir had enjoyed a period of revived support as the nation's last socialist taoiseach. Years of spending cuts, privatization, and industrial decline helped improve his image among left-leaning and working class voters.