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Mervyn Taylor (28 December 1931 – 23 September 2021) was an Irish Labour Party (Ireland), Labour Party politician who served as Minister for Labour (Ireland), Minister for Equality and Law Reform from 1993 to 1994 and from 1994 to 1997. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-West (Dáil constituency), Dublin South-West constituency from 1981 to 1997. He was the first ever cabinet minister in Ireland who was Jewish.


Early life

Taylor was born to a Jewish family in Dublin. He was educated at Zion School in Rathgar, Wesley College, Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. He later qualified as a solicitor.


Legal practice

He worked for Herman Good Solicitors, alongside Herman Good and future district judge Hubert Wine. Good's involvement in the Labour Party was instrumental in Taylor getting involved in politics. Taylor later established his own firm of Taylor and Buchalter Solicitors with Don Buchalter, and practised as a solicitor for over 50 years before retiring from active practice in his 70s. He continued as a consultant to the firm of Taylor and Buchalter Solicitors for most of his 70s.


Politics

Taylor was elected to Dublin County Council in the 1970s, and became Chairman of the Council. He was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Labour Party Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South-West (Dáil constituency), Dublin South-West at the 1981 Irish general election, 1981 general election, on his third attempt. He then held the seat at every election until his retirement from politics in 1997. He was Chairman of the Labour Party from 1987 to 1991, and Labour whip (politics)#Ireland, chief whip, from 1981 to 1988. He was assistant government chief whip from Members of the 22nd Dáil, 1981 to 1982, and again from Members of the 23rd Dáil, 1982 to Members of the 24th Dáil, 1987. Taylor was a strong supporter of Israel, an unpopular cause in the Labour Party.


Minister for Equality and Law Reform

Taylor served two periods as Minister for Labour (Ireland), Minister for Equality and Law Reform, in the 1993-94 Government under Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, and the 1994-97 Government under Taoiseach John Bruton.


1993–1994 Government

In January 1993, he was appointed to the newly created position of Minister for Equality and Law Reform in the Fianna Fáil–Labour 23rd Government of Ireland, coalition government led by Albert Reynolds as Taoiseach. Legislation introduced by Taylor and enacted during his initial term of office included the Interpretation (Amendment) Act 1993 – providing for gender inclusive language in Acts of the Oireachtas, the Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments Act 1993, the Stillbirths Registration Act 1994, Maintenance Act 1994 and the Maternity Protection Act 1994 extending maternity rights.


1994–1997 Government

Labour resigned from government in November 1994, and from December 1994 it was part of a new coalition government of Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left (Ireland), Democratic Left formed without a new election, dubbed the 24th Government of Ireland, Rainbow government, led by John Bruton as Taoiseach. Taylor was again appointed as Minister for Equality and Law Reform. In 1995 Taylor was in charge of the government proposal to legislate to remove the prohibition of divorce from the Constitution of Ireland, constitution; he steered the relevant bills through Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. The Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, subsequent referendum was approved by a margin of 0.5 per cent. In the course of the campaign he survived criticism of the measure directed at his Jewish faith, as well as a Supreme Court of Ireland, Supreme Court ruling that public monies could not properly be spent in promoting the government's opinion on a referendum proposal.


Measures introduced by Taylor and enacted by the subsequent Dáil

Taylor also introduced two wide-ranging anti-discrimination measures: the Employment Equality Bill and the Equal Status Bill. These were struck down by the Supreme Court but revised versions were approved by the Government in the final months of Taylor's term of office, and were ultimately published and enacted during the Government of the 28th Dáil, following Dáil term.


Family and personal life

Taylor was married to Marilyn Taylor (née Fisher), who is the author of numerous books for young people. They had two sons, a daughter, and eight grandchildren. Their younger son, Gideon, is chief executive officer of New York's Jewish Community Relations Council and of the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization and is adjunct professor of law at Fordham University in New York City.


Death and legacy

Taylor died on 23 September 2021, aged 89. Tributes to Taylor were led by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, describing him as "one of the most gracious, unselfish and kindest members ever to serve in the Dáil". Stephen Collins (journalist), Stephen Collins, former political editor for ''The Irish Times'', described him as "a rarity in politics, a quiet man who avoided any hint of flamboyance yet made a substantial impact on the State he served during an important time of social change". A collection of Mervyn Taylor's papers from his time as the Minister for Equality and Law Reform is held at the National Library of Ireland.


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Taylor, Mervyn 1931 births 2021 deaths Alumni of Trinity College Dublin Councillors of Dublin County Council Irish solicitors Irish Zionists Jewish Irish politicians Labour Party (Ireland) TDs Members of the 22nd Dáil Members of the 23rd Dáil Members of the 24th Dáil Members of the 25th Dáil Members of the 26th Dáil Members of the 27th Dáil People educated at Wesley College, Dublin People from Templeogue Politicians from County Dublin