Young Fine Gaelers before Young Fine Gael

Young people played an important role in Fine Gael as normal members of Fine Gael branches, as canvassers and developing policy even before the founding of Young Fine Gael. In the 1930s, Young Blueshirts, the youth wing of the Army Comrades Association, scuffled with members from the anti-Treaty I.R.A., young members of Fianna Fáil at election time.

Youth participation in politics was encouraged with leaders such as General Richard Mulcahy reinvigorating the party after W.T. Cosgrave’s stagnant years in opposition and later James Dillon playing an important role by appointing young TDs to front bench spokesman roles. The appointees would later serve as Ministers in the Fine Gael governments of the 1970s and 1980s. Declan Costello was pivotal in encouraging youth participation in Fine Gael. His “Just Society” document remains a cornerstone for the modern Fine Gael party and at the time encouraged people to join a party that was appealing to the youth. Through Dillon and Costello, young people were encouraged to join a new and revitalised party. In his “Government of all talents”, Liam Cosgrave appointed new and young TDs as Ministers such as Richie Ryan, Garret Fitzgerald, Patrick Cooney and Peter Barry.

Before Young Fine Gael branches were set up, young people joined normal Fine Gael branches across the country. However, this was different in the case of Dublin where there was a Fine Gael College Branch in the 1960s, a forerunner to the University College Dublin YFG Branch. (Students from other colleges may have been a part of the branch as back then political societies were banned from being college societies or holding meetings on college grounds)

In 1962/3 the Dublin College Branch of Fine Gael was set up. This was a melting pot for future leaders and important figures in Ireland for decades to come. Out of the branch came Judges such as Justice Kevin Cross, the late Justice Frank O’Donnell, future Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell, famous BBC broadcaster Henry Kelly, future ministers such as Avril Doyle, a future Taoiseach in John Bruton and most famously the beloved Vincent Browne.

The Dublin College Branch of Fine Gael served as a training ground in the 1960s and 1970s for the leaders of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. It was most likely one of the inspirations for Dr. Garret Fitzgerald to set up Young Fine Gael in 1977 as he regularly spoke at the branch.

It is important in the year that marks our fortieth anniversary as an organisation, we look back on the past forty years. To draw inspiration from those who have gone before us, to follow in the footsteps of those important, inspiring people but also that we live up to the legacy that those before us have made.

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