Donogh O’Malley caused consternation in government when he announced his free education scheme in September 1966 without having brought the matter to Cabinet. The enthusiasm of the public response forced the government’s hand. Whether or not Lemass had prior knowledge has been the subject of heated debate among historians. Lemass denied it, but five members of the cabinet told Brian Farrell, while writing Chairman or Chief?, of their belief that not only had he seen the text in advance but he had actually amended it.
The journalist John Healy was a great friend of O’Malley’s. Later in life he told Michael O’Regan, who is now the Irish Times parliamentary correspondent, that the paper trail had been designed as a smokescreen and could not be relied upon. Healy published his recollections in Magill magazine in March 1988, on the 20th anniversary of O’Malley’s death. At the behest of Michael O’Regan, I’ve dug it out. The hidden history is here.