Rosie (as everyone knew her) Hackett, after whom Dublin City Council named a bridge this week, served a short term (1987-1989) as a Progressive Democrat TD for Dublin West, elected in the famous PD breakthrough of 1987.
A native of Galway, Rosie had spent most of her life in the UK, first as one of the few women in Lloyds in the late 1970s, and then as a lecturer in the London School of Economics, before returning to Ireland in the mid 1980s.
Although largely forgotten now, Rosie, along with Michael McDowell, was regarded as the economic ideological driving force behind the party. A convinced free marketeer and low tax advocate, ironically she had been a member of the Labour splinter SDP when in Britain. She single-handedly wrote the first draft of the first PD manifesto, “A Nation That Works”.
What Rosie was most known for, however, was her sense of fun. she famously got into a passionate debate with Leas Ceann Comhairle Jim Tunney, who objected to her short skirts, as to what constituted too short and as to whether she was having a detrimental effect on him. She was also quite likely the first person in Oireachtas history to ever suggest that same sex marriage might one day be possible (a remark which caused hilarity in the chamber).
She narrowly lost her seat in 1989, and despite turning down a Seanad nomination (the seat went instead to future FF minister Martin Cullen) she had hoped to contest the Dail election in 1992. Sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer in early 1991 and passed away in December 1992.
Personal note: I only met Rosie twice, at the 1991 and 1992 party conferences, but she was well known for her enthusiasm for the party’s youth section, the Young Democrats. It should be noted, of course, that she was a very attractive woman (she’d modelled in the US in her youth) and the joke was that pretty much every male YD had a crush on her. That was pretty much true, not that anyone had a chance. Rosie, who never married, was always highly amused at the rumours of exotic trysts, including with a Kennedy and one of the stars of the 1970s TV show “The Professionals”.
There were plenty of stories of her taking YDs on epic pub and nightclub crawls (she was fond of a glass of Black Bush) followed by a slap up early morning feed in Jury’s Coffee Dock and a debate on the pros and cons of Aer Lingus privatisation or Seanad abolition. The YDs used to raffle, as a fundraiser, a lift with Rosie to the party conference in her Fiat convertible, this when any sort of convertible was regarded as the height of glamour.
The second time I met her, in 1992, she was in a wheelchair and everyone knew the diagnosis wasn’t good. Yet she stayed up with us all night, excitedly telling us of a new TV show she’d recently discovered called “The Simpsons” and pretty much acting it out scene by scene, and explaining to us the concept of a Tobin Tax. She was warm, funny, generous (she’d never let a young member pay for anything in her presence) and Irish politics is poorer for her passing.
A bridge is the least we can do for Rosie.