Andrews, Niall Dermott (1937–2006), politician, was born 19 August 1937, in the Stella Maris nursing home, 17 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, youngest of four sons of C. S. 'Todd' Andrews (qv), civil servant, who resided at 10 Frankfort Park, Dundrum, and his wife Mary (née Coyle); he also had one, much younger, sister. He was educated at Synge Street CBS and Presentation College, Bray, Co. Wicklow. After working as a journalist on the Irish Press, Andrews emigrated to the USA in 1953 where he worked as a television journalist. It was in New York that he met his wife Bernadette, who was working as a nurse. Soon after his arrival in America Andrews was conscripted into the US army and posted to Korea, where he was a stenographer with the inspector general's office, recording investigations of soldiers' complaints; he received the assignment because as a journalist he knew shorthand.
Andrews returned to Ireland to work as a presentation officer (later rising to programme executive) in the RTÉ television service on its establishment in 1961. Intent on a political career, he was a hard-working constituency activist for his brother David (b. 1935), Fianna Fáil TD for Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown (1965–77) and later for Dún Laoghaire (1977–2002), but was unsuccessful in his initial attempts to gain a Fianna Fáil dáil nomination for himself. (In his memoirs David Andrews implies that Niall was seen as highly electable, and therefore threatening to established TDs.) Eventually Niall was elected as Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin County South (1977–81), and later represented the new Dublin South constituency (1981–7). In 1979 he was elected to Dublin county council.
The Andrews brothers were both on the 'liberal' wing of Fianna Fáil, denouncing capital punishment and advocating the legalisation of contraception and the decriminalisation of homosexual acts. Niall's wife served on the board of the Irish Family Planning Association. He nevertheless supported Fianna Fáil's 'conservative' position on social issues in dáil votes while in opposition in the 1980s; he explained that he accepted the party's view that members were entitled to argue their position within the party but were bound by the majority decision, and claimed that he had persuaded Charles J. Haughey (1925–2006) to make his 1979 family planning legislation less restrictive than had originally been intended.
Niall Andrews also presented himself as economically radical, denouncing monetarist economic policies. He was critical of the justice system, arguing that judges were excessively remote from working-class defendants and knew little of conditions in the prison system, and that court rituals such as the wearing of wigs were archaic and intimidating. An outspoken critic of American foreign policy, particularly in Latin America, under the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981–9) – whom he accused of trying to overcome the trauma inflicted on the US by the Vietnam war by turning Americans into 'macho jingo nationalists' – Andrews accompanied the Labour TD Michael D. Higgins on a fact-finding mission to El Salvador in the early 1980s and denounced US support for the Salvadoran government, whose military forces carried out extensive human rights abuses. He regularly protested outside the US embassy in Dublin, at one point conducting a 24-hour fast there in protest against American support for the anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan 'contras'.
Andrews held strongly pro-republican views on Northern Ireland, although he condemned IRA violence. He caused some controversy by attending the funeral of hunger-striker Kieran Doherty (qv), when the only other TD to do so was Neil Blaney (qv) (seen as an IRA fellow traveller). Andrews maintained that he had acted out of respect to an elected representative, and that other TDs should have attended. He was critical of the working of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland, which he described as founded on 'institutionalised violence', opposed the 1985 Anglo–Irish agreement as institutionalising partition, and maintained that if Britain were to withdraw from Northern Ireland it would be possible to achieve agreement with unionists on the basis of a pluralist republic. He claimed that the hardline Democratic Unionist Party were essentially as terrorist as the IRA, although they operated within the democratic process. Andrews was one of the first public representatives to take up the causes of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, and Maguire Seven, convicted of IRA bombings in Britain on the basis of highly disputed evidence. He strongly suspected that his phone was tapped by the Garda Síochána as a result of his involvement with republican and radical causes, but this was never proven.
Both Andrews brothers supported George Colley (qv) in the 1979 Fianna Fáil leadership election; while David remained a prominent opponent of Charles Haughey and supported the 'heaves' against his leadership in the early 1980s, Niall became one of Haughey's most fervent supporters, motivated by his belief that Haughey was simply more competent than his opponents and possessed the abilities needed to solve the economic and social problems besetting the country, and by Haughey's strongly republican views. (Todd Andrews was a similarly enthusiastic Haughey supporter.) During one 'heave' in 1983 Andrews led a pro-Haughey demonstration outside Fianna Fáil headquarters in Mount Street, Dublin, stating that the media were trying to execute Haughey as the 1916 leaders were executed, and was photographed in close proximity to a placard proclaiming 'DON'T FORGET THE CROWN OF THORNS'. Such antics, together with Andrews' colourful wardrobe, reinforced his image as a volatile maverick, but his role as a 'character' also contributed to his popularity with the Dublin electorate.
On 28 October 1982 Andrews was appointed minister of state for urban renewal at the Department of the Environment. He soon lost office when the Haughey government fell on 14 December after losing a dáil confidence vote, and would never hold ministerial office again. Andrews was elected Fianna Fáil MEP for Dublin (1984–2004), having already served on the Council of Europe; he subsequently announced that he would concentrate on the European parliament, and left the dáil at the 1987 general election. Successfully contesting four dáil and four European elections, he prided himself on never having lost an election during his career.
In September 1986 Andrews gave an outspoken interview to the music magazine Hot Press, in which he advocated fuller separation of church and state, and called (amongst other things) for the legalisation of brothels on 'hygienic' grounds, while stating that he personally found prostitution repulsive. The feminist journalist Nell McCafferty responded in her column in the Irish Press by publishing graphic descriptions of sexual enslavement and abuse of women in brothels used by American military bases around the world; she suggested that as a member of the American armed forces Andrews had personally participated in such brutality and that he was 'a connoisseur of red-light districts'. Andrews sued the Irish Press for libel and in June 1989 the case was settled out of court, with the newspaper paying undisclosed damages and meeting Andrews' legal costs.
As an MEP Andrews continued to pursue the policies he had advocated as a TD, clashing with British Conservative MEPs over the use of potentially lethal plastic bullets for riot control in Northern Ireland. At one point he publicly suggested Fianna Fáil should break with the French Gaullists, their principal allies in the European Democratic Alliance group, for being too right-wing, but he was quickly made to withdraw his remarks. For much of his time his central preoccupation was with the parliament's cooperation and development committee, as a member of which he constantly advocated higher levels of aid to developing countries, and argued that Europe should do more to live up to its responsibilities towards these nations, much of which had been formerly colonised by Europeans. He was particularly concerned with expanding primary education in Africa, and tried unsuccessfully to persuade Haughey to tour Africa to see the continent's problems for himself. When asked to sum up his career, Andrews declared his greatest achievement was to have 'made the Third World an issue' (Ir. Times, 21 October 2006). The MEP Eoin Ryan said Andrews 'was the first politician to put Africa at the top of the political agenda … he used to say once you get Africa in your shoes you'll never shake it off' (Ir. Independent, 21 October 2006).
Andrews' critical attitude to US foreign policy survived the end of the Cold War. He had extensive contacts in the Middle East, which he used to help secure the release of western hostages held in Lebanon, such as Brian Keenan and John McCarthy. He campaigned for the withdrawal of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War (intended to prevent the Saddam Hussein regime re-equipping itself with weapons of mass destruction) on the grounds that they 'divided the Middle East' and inflicted widespread suffering on the civilian population; he regularly visited Iraq, organised shipments of humanitarian aid to the country, and strongly opposed the 2003 invasion by the USA and its allies. At the time of his death Andrews was still involved with the campaign for the release of the Miami Five (Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in Florida in 2001). He also interested himself in the case of the Colombia Three (Irish republicans arrested in Colombia in August 2001 and charged with assisting the narco-terrorist group FARC). Andrews had one son and two daughters; his son Chris (b. 1964) was Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South-East (2007–11). Niall Andrews died in St Vincent's hospital, Dublin, on 21 October 2006, having suffered from cancer for some time. He was buried wearing his favourite pink jacket.