Former Fianna Fáil politician Ben Briscoe dies aged 89

Veteran politician was lord mayor of Dublin during the city’s millennium year

Former lord mayor of Dublin and Fianna Fáil TD Ben Briscoe has died aged 89.

Mr Briscoe’s career as a TD spanned 37 years from 1965 to 2002 and saw him hold the office of lord mayor from 1988 to 1989, during Dublin’s millennium year.

He was first elected to Dáil Éireann for Fianna Fáil in the Dublin South-West constituency at the 1965 general election, succeeding his father Robert Briscoe who had been a TD for more than 30 years, and was also a former lord mayor of Dublin.

Mr Briscoe was part of Dublin’s Jewish community, and along with his father, Mervyn Taylor and Alan Shatter was among the best-known Irish politicians with a Jewish background.


He was elected at the 1969 general election for Dublin South-Central, where he was re-elected in 1973, and again in the Dublin Rathmines West constituency at 1977 general election.

A subsequent boundary revision in advance of the 1981 general election abolished Dublin Rathmines West and divided the area between the neighbouring constituencies.

Briscoe was re-elected for the re-established Dublin South-Central constituency, which he held until he retired at the 2002 general election.

Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin led the tributes to Mr Briscoe on Monday night, saying: “It is with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of our colleague and friend.

“Ben served as a Fianna Fáil TD for 37 years and is remembered fondly by all who served with him.  Popular across all parties because of his good humour and decency, he was a stalwart of our democratic parliament. He worked to build a system of accountability for public spending and ensure decent conditions for those who work in our parliament.

“The southside Dublin communities which he so proudly represented had in Ben a champion who was always focused on securing support for those most in need.  He hated destructive politics and felt that it was the duty of all representatives to try to work together.  On many occasions he would insist that colleagues from other parties be included in debates and he never sought an unfair advantage.  At difficult moments, such as the introduction of new forms of drug treatment, he never wavered in support for essential services even when loud opposition was encountered.

“Ben’s proudest achievement was the year he spent as lord mayor of Dublin. He led a council which succeeded in getting our capital through a difficult financial period while protecting services.  During the 1988 Dublin millennium he was a high-profile advocate for the city and helped ensure that that celebration marked a turning point for Dublin.

“Ben was proud to have been the lord mayor when Dublin Corporation agreed to grant the freedom of the city to Nelson Mandela, while he was still in prison.”

Mr Martin recalled that Ben was the son of Robert Briscoe who he described as an important figure in Ireland’s revolutionary struggle.

Robert was also a founder of Fianna Fáil and “a powerful advocate for the German-Jewish communities and a voice against Hitler and all he stood for”.

“Ben learned from his family a deep republicanism and pride in Ireland’s history and in the Jewish heritage of his family. Our thoughts go out to Ben’s wife Carol and the Briscoe family,” Mr Martin added.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times