Home > Tony Gregory 1947-2009: an appreciation.

Connolly, Johnny (2009) Tony Gregory 1947-2009: an appreciation. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 29, Spring 2009, p. 13.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland, issue 29) - Published Version

Tony Gregory TD passed away on 2 January of this year, after a short battle with stomach cancer. Tony was first elected to Dublin City Council in 1979 and he won his Dáil seat in 1982. His name immediately became recognised nationally as the so-called 'Gregory deal' brought Charles Haughey and Fianna Fáil to power. The fall of Haughey's government within the year meant that the deal never fully bore fruit, with its promise of 500 local houses and 3,000 jobs, as well as the nationalisation of a 27-acre site in Dublin's docklands. However, Tony's tireless advocacy over the next 20 years on behalf of his constituents in Dublin North Central would see him returned to the Dáil in every subsequent election until his untimely death, a feat never before achieved in the history of the state by an independent politician.

In a constituency with a very low electoral turnout and one of the highest levels of socio-economic deprivation in the state, Tony's focus was on the issues of poverty, unemployment, education and housing. The added scourge of drug dealing and the attendant misery it brought to the community of which he was a part would ensure that, over the next three decades of public life, his name would become synonymous with confronting this issue. On one occasion he bravely named a number of local drug dealers in Dáil Éireann. On another, as he questioned why more of these dealers were not being jailed, he went to prison himself in defence of the treatment of street traders who were bringing one of the few sources of legitimate income into his constituency.
Tony was an extremely private person and he did not welcome intrusion into his personal affairs. In one of his last political battles he won a Press Council ruling against the Evening Herald for breach of privacy, after a reporter and photographer visited his Ballybough home in search of a story about his illness.
I began working with Tony in a professional capacity in the late 1990s as an advisor on the setting up of the North Inner City Community Policing Forum. To say he was a joy to work with would perhaps be a poor choice of words. He had a healthy scepticism about so-called 'advisors' and his standards were exacting. Whatever about his 'bite', his 'bark' was generally enough to ensure that few mistakes were made and that none were repeated. Working with him on other issues since that time, I came to realise that this was how he delivered on the mandate he received at the polls and I respected him immensely for it. He applied an incredible intensity to the work at hand, whether it was reading a mundane report or preparing a parliamentary question. His work rate was phenomenal and, although he had loyal comrades who worked with him throughout his Dáil career, he never took his position for granted, always highlighting the extra challenge facing an independent against the party machines come election time.
I heard of Tony's untimely passing during a holiday on Inis Meáin, one of the Aran Islands. As we all watched the news of his death on RTÉ, the esteem in which he was held even in that remote part of the country was palpable. As his legacy was discussed through the medium of the Connemara gaeltacht, I wondered how many were aware of his background as a teacher in Coláiste Eoin in south Dublin and his grá for the language, reflected in his request that his funeral mass be delivered primarily through Irish.
Having worked in recent years with Tony and others in relation to community policing, the final impression left after his funeral was the huge Garda presence and the effort that was put by An Garda Síochána into ensuring that the occasion attended by thousands passed off smoothly. It was clear to me and others that the gardaí had pulled out all the stops as a mark of respect for him, never one of their biggest cheerleaders. Tony was above all a servant of his community, and he saw it as their entitlement that his constituents received nothing less than the service to which they are entitled. Ní bheidh a leithéad arís ann.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Page Range
p. 13
Health Research Board
Issue 29, Spring 2009
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

Repository Staff Only: item control page