Tony Gregory (Antoin Ó Greágóir) (5 December 1947 – 2 January 2009) was an Irish Independent politician and a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin Central constituency from 1982 to 2009.
Born in Ballybough in Dublin’s Northside, Tony Gregory was educated by the Christian Brothers at O’Connell School and University College Dublin where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. He became involved in republican politics siding with the Officials in the 1970 split within Sinn Féin. However he left the party in 1972 over the Official IRA ceasfire. He was briefly a member of Seamus Costello’s Irish Republican Socialist Party but left to focus on community activism. Gregory worked as a secondary school teacher at Coláiste Eoin, an Irish language secondary school in Booterstown, where he taught History and French, before becoming involved in politics as a member of Dublin City Council in 1979. At the February 1982 general election he was elected to Dáil Éireann as an Independent TD.
Work as a TD:
On his election in February 1982 he immediately achieved national prominence through the famous “Gregory Deal”, which he negotiated with Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey. In return for supporting Haughey as Taoiseach, Gregory was guaranteed a massive cash injection for his inner-city Dublin constituency, an area beset by poverty and neglect.
The deal was witnessed by ITGWU leader Michael Mullen and all details were made public. The written agreement included commitments to nationalise a 27-acre (110,000 m2) site in Dublin Port and Clondalkin Paper Mills. A total of £4 million was to be allocated to employ 500 extra people in the inner city, while 3,746 jobs were to be created over three years. State funding would be provided to build 440 new houses in the constituency and another 1,600 in the rest of Dublin. The whole deal was worth an estimated £100 million at the time in comparison to the £850,000 deal offered by Garret Fitzgearld (Fitzgerald also insulted Gregory by keeping him waiting for over an hour at Government Buildings before meeting him) . Although Gregory was reviled in certain quarters for effectively holding a government to ransom, his uncompromising commitment to the poor was widely admired. Fianna Fáil lost power at the November 1982 general election, and not all of the promises in the Gregory Deal were delivered. He continued to campaign on local issues and issues of social justice, particularly the drugs problem. In 1986, Gregory and Sinn Féin Councillor Christy Burke spent two weeks in Mountjoy Prison arising from protest activities during a campaign in support of Dublin inner city street traders.
Gregory remained a TD from 1982 and, although he never held a Cabinet position, remained one of the country’s most recognised Dáil deputies. He always refused to wear a tie in the Dáil chamber stating that many of his constituents could not afford them.
He died on 2 January 2009, aged 61, following a long bout with cancer. Following his death, tributes poured in from politicians from every party, recognising his contribution to Dublin’s north inner city. During his funeral politicians from the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were told that although they spoke highly of Gregory following his death, during his time in the Dáil he had been excluded by many of them and that they were not to use his funeral as a “photo opportunity”. He was buried on 7 January, with former Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins delivering the graveside oration.
Colleagues of Tony Gregory supported his election agent, Dublin City Councillor Maureen O’Sullivan at the Dublin Central by-election. O’Sullivan won the subsequent by-election.