Dom Mintoff would have celebrated his 103rd birthday today – 6th August

Domenico Mintoff, often referred to as “il-Perit”, “the Architect” was born on the 6th August 1916 and died on the 20th August 2012 at the age of 96. Mintoff was born in Bormla. His father was a British Naval cook.

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He attended a seminary before enrolling at the University of Malta. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science and, later, as an architect and civil engineer (1937). That same year he received a Rhodes Scholarship and pursued his studies at Hertford College, Oxford, where he received a Masters in Science and Engineering in 1939.

After a brief stint as an official of the Bormla Labour Party club, Mintoff was Labour’s Secretary General between 1935 and 1945 (resigning briefly to pursue his studies abroad). He was first elected to public office in 1945 to the Government Council. In the same year, Mintoff was elected Deputy Leader of the Party with a wide margin that placed him in an indisputable position as the successor, if not a challenger, to party leader Paul Boffa. After Labour’s victory at the polls in 1947, Mintoff was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction, overseeing large post-War public projects.

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Mintoff’s strong position and ambition led to a series of Cabinet crises. A split in the Labour Party came about when Boffa, who was ready for compromise and moderation with the colonial authorities, resigned and formed the Malta Workers Party and Mintoff refounded the Labour Party as the “Malta Labour Party” of which he assumed leadership.

The split resulted in the weakening of both parties and it was not until 1955 after remaining out of government for three consecutive legislatures, that the Labour Party was elected to office with Mintoff as Prime Minister. This government’s main political platform – integration with the UK – led to a deterioration of the Party’s relations with the Catholic Church, leading to interdiction by the Church which resulted in voting Labour being declared a mortal sin leading all who defied the Church to be informally known as “Suldati tal-Azzar” (Soldiers of Steel). The Labour Party lost the subsequent two elections in 1962 and 1966 and boycotted the Independence celebrations in 1964 due to disagreements with the Independence agreements which still gave a good amount of power to the British Government.

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Mintoff resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party in 1984, while retaining his Parliamentary seat and remaining a government backbencher. He was succeeded by Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici. Mintoff was instrumental in convincing his parliamentary colleagues to support constitutional amendments ensuring a parliamentary majority for the party achieving an absolute majority of votes. A repeat of 1981 was thus avoided, and the Partit Nazzjonalista went on to win the 1987 elections. The Labour Party went into opposition for the first time in sixteen years. He successfully contested the 1987, 1992 and 1996 elections. However, there was a growing rift between Mintoff, seen as Old Labour, and Alfred Sant, the new Labour Leader.

Generations of loyal supporters continue to credit Mintoff with the introduction of social benefits like the children’s allowance, two-thirds pensions, minimum wage and social housing as well as the creation of Air Malta, Sea Malta, the separation of church and state and ending 200 years of British Colonial rule.

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A statue of Mintoff was unveiled in his hometown Cospicua on 12 December 2014. The monument was designed by the artist Noel Galea Bason. In 2013, the main square in front the church of Our Lady of Mercy in Bir id-Deheb, Żejtun was renamed Dom Mintoff Square. In March 2016, Corradino Road (Maltese: Triq Kordin) in Paola was renamed Dom Mintoff Road (Maltese: Triq il-Perit Dom Mintoff). In August 2017, a project was launched to convert a large green area in the town of Paola into a park called the “Dom Mintoff Gardens”. In May 2018, another statue of Mintoff was unveiled in Castille Square in Valletta directly opposite the office of the Prime Minister.