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Jimmy Deenihan
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2016 Recipient of Outstanding Achievement UL Alumni Award – Sport, Arts/Culture and overall Personal Achievement

Born in Finuge Co. Kerry in 1952, Jimmy Deenihan was educated at Dromclough Primary School, St. Michaels College Listowel, St. Marys College Strawberry Hill London and The National College of Physical Education Limerick (the forerunner to Thomond College of Education which became part of UL in 1991). He was captain of the N.C.P.E. team that won the Higher Education League Division 1 in 1975, the same year he graduated from N.C.P.E. Jimmy then took up a position in Comprehensive School Tarbert, Co. Kerry, teaching Physical Education, History and Geography.

Simultaneously, Jimmy was enjoying a successful sporting life at both Club and Inter-County Level. His contribution as Right Corner Back with the Kerry Football Senior Team culminated in 5 All-Ireland Medals with and he was captain of the team that won 4-in-a-row All-Irelands  in 1981, arguably the greatest team ever to grace a Gaelic Football field. His memoir “My Sporting Life” brilliantly documents the story of this team as well as the huge changes that took place in coaching methods and the liberalising influences which altered the political attitudes to Gaelic games, prevailing at the time. He was honoured with an All Star award in 1981 and was a member of the Kerry Team of the Century in 2000.  In 2013, Jimmy was inducted into the University of Limerick’s Sports Hall of fame.

In 1983, Jimmy left his teaching post after he was nominated by the then Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald to Seanad Éireann where he served as Government Spokesperson on Youth and Sport. During his period in the Seanad he became a tireless advocate for the introduction of a National Lottery to ensure that sport in Ireland was adequately funded. The legislation to set up the National Lottery was introduced in 1986 and has provided essential funding for sport since then. 

In February 1987, he was elected to Dáil Eireann where he served until February 2016.  During his 29 years’ service, Jimmy served as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (1994-97), Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (2011-2014) and as Irelands first Minister of Diaspora Affairs (2014-2016) during which time he published the first Diaspora Strategy:  Global Irish”. As a result of this policy, Ireland is now considered a world leader in connecting with its Diaspora. 

Among the other highlights of his political career, Jimmy cites: the launch of a key policy document on tourism “Putting Tourism at the Centre of Economic Recovery”; the introduction of a number of Private Members Bills including a Youth Services Bill; the restoration of Killarney House and gardens; successful negotiation with the EU Commission to extend the Leader11 Programme nationwide; establishment of the Irish Cattle Breeders’ Federation which now provides very important genetic information to both the dairy and beef sectors improving the competitiveness of Irish agriculture; pioneering of significant developments in the greyhound industry 

(including a bill on the compulsory muzzling of greyhounds in the sport of coursing); his contribution to The National Landscape Strategy for Ireland 2015-2025; improvement of tax incentives for investors in film production, giving Ireland a competitive edge; and as a former teacher, he strongly advocated the promotion of the arts in education. and placed a major emphasis in promoting philanthropy in the Arts resulting in the Arts Council introducing  a very successful “RAISE campaign.

During his term in office, Jimmy was particularly interested in furthering the development of arts and culture in Limerick City. He was invited to open many art exhibitions and book launches, a number which took place at the University of Limerick. He officiated at the opening of the Lime Tree Theatre, the revamped Bell Table Arts Centre, the City Gallery and the former NCPE sports hall and believes his greatest contribution to Limerick was designating the city as Ireland’s first City of Culture in 2014 with full cabinet approval. He also worked closely on formulating and funding a Diaspora strategy for Limerick which is now the leading county in Ireland in this area.

Jimmy Deenihan has enjoyed a successful and fulfilling life in teaching, sport and politics. He attributes this success in no small way to the years he studied in the National College of Physical Education and says “The people of Limerick will always hold a special place in my heart and I will continue to promote and support UL and the city at every opportunity at home and abroad.”



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