Elected at his first attempt in June 1981, Mr Dukes is one of just five TDs to secure a cabinet post on his first day in Dáil Éireann. He was appointed Minister for Agriculture in Dr Garret FitzGeralds first Fine Gael-Labour government. He was well suited to this portfolio, having previously worked as chief economist to the Irish Farmers Association from 1967-1972, as director of the IFAs Brussels office from 1973-1976 and as personal adviser to Commissioner Dick Burke between 1977-1980. He unsuccessfully contested the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979 when he stood in the Munster constituency.
Mr Dukes defeated Peter Barry and John Bruton in the contest to succeed Dr FitzGerald as party leader following the 1987 General Election. In September 1987, he announced the Tallaght Strategy, committing Fine Gael support for the austerity measures introduced by the minority Fianna Fáil Government that were designed to tackle the perilous state of the national finances. While the approach was welcomed by the business community and has been retrospectively acknowledged as an act of patriotism, it proved less successful with Irish voters and some Party activists at the time.
Fine Gael failed to capitalise in the 1989 General Election. Winning 55 seats, the party was 15 short of the record of 70 seats that had been won in November 1982. Worse was to follow when Austin Currie, the partys candidate, secured just 17% of the vote in the 1990 Presidential Election. Mr Dukes resigned as party leader in the wake of this result with rumours of an imminent challenge to his leadership rife.
He languished in the political wilderness until September 1992 when his successor as party leader, John Bruton, brought him back to the front bench in the run-up to the November 1992 General Election. His association with the heave against Mr Bruton in February 1994 prompted his resignation from the frontbench.
When the Rainbow Coalition came to power, he failed to secure any ministerial appointment. But in March 1995, Mr Bruton appointed him Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs. He returned to the cabinet in December 1996 to take up the Transport, Energy & Communications portfolio following the departure of Michael Lowry, who resigned over the Dunnes Stores payments affair.
A strong performer in the Dáil, Mr Dukes undoubted intellectual capacity often gives the impression of being aloof. He has been criticized for lacking the common touch.
Regarded by some as a potential European Commissioner, Mr Dukes is a committed European, has a thorough knowledge of EU affairs and is a past Chairman of the European Movement in Ireland. Fluent in French and Irish, he is a consummate media performer and was a co-presenter of the TnaG current affairs programme Céad Chéadaoin during its first months.
Minister for Transport, Energy & Communications, 1996-1997.
Minister for Justice, 1986-1987.
Minister for Finance, 1982-1986.
Minister for Agriculture, 1981-1982.
Year Elected: 1981
1st Preference at last election: 6260
Member of Dáil Éireann since 1981,
Occupational Income: Consultancy and journalism.
Agriculture, Food & Marine.
Full-time public representative, formerly Economist.
Coláiste Mhuire, Parnell Square.
University College Dublin.