Tommy was born and grew up near Clondalkin in west Co. Dublin where his family have lived for centuries past. He was educated at Presentation NS and St. Joseph‚ NS, Clondalkin and at Moyle Park College, Clondalkin. He later studied at University College Dublin (B.A., H.Dip in Ed) and London University (B.Sc, Econ and M.Sc, Econ). To fund his education, Tommy worked at a wide variety of jobs in the private sector. He later taught at his Alma Mater, Moyle Park College, and at St. Aidan‚ CBS Whitehall, Dublin 9. Tommy is married to Carmel and lives at 18 Thormanby Lawns, Howth, Dublin 13.
Tommy has been involved in local community and economic development since his student days. On Dublin‚ Northside he was founding Secretary of Community Enterprise Donaghmede Artane (CEDA) and founding Chairperson of Bonnybrook Enterprise Action Group (BEAG) and Coolock Development Council. He has served on many Northside bodies promoting jobs, small business and local social and economic activities including the Northside Partnership, the Northside Centre for the Unemployed and the Urban Regeneration of North Dublin. Tommy continues to be an active director of Coolock Development Council and its subsidiary companies Northside Enterprise Centre and Northside Office and Secretarial Services.
Tommy also has a strong record in supporting environmental protection and sustainable integrated planning. He served on the Board of Sempa (for sustainable planning of Howth, Sutton, Mid-Sutton, and Baldoyle) and was the original proposer of the North Fringe Forum at Dublin City Council. Tommy proposed the North Fringe Forum to create a democratic forum of stakeholders and residents for the sustainable planning of the North City Fringe from Coolock and Clonshaugh to Baldoyle and Portmarnock.
A longtime activist in Dublin North East Labour Party, Tommy served as Constituency Secretary and Treasurer from the mid-1980s. He stood for the Labour Party for the first time in the 1989 General Election and at the subsequent local elections in June 1991 was elected for the Coolock Artane Ward. In that election and the later local elections for the Donaghmede Ward in 1999, Tommy was elected as one of two successful Labour candidates. For eight years from 1992, Tommy led the Labour Party on Dublin City Council and also led the first Rainbow Civic Alliance for six years (1992 to 1998). Tommy also chaired the main Dublin City Council Committee (General Purposes) throughout this period.
Tommy was elected to Dail Eireann in November 1992 in a historic two out of four seats success for the Irish Labour Party (with Deputy Sean Kenny). He was re-elected in June 1997 and subsequently in May 2002 and May 2007. Tommy was a member of the key Public Accounts Committee for eight years in the 27th and 30th Dails (up to July 2010). He has also worked on a wide range of other Dail Committees including Finance and the Public Service; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Social and Family Affairs; Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Energy); Transport; An Coiste Gaeilge; the Committee on Procedures and Privileges and the Dail Services Committee. Tommy also served as Labour‚ Deputy Whip in the 29th and 30th Dails (from 2002).
From 1997 Tommy acted as Labour‚ national spokesperson in a variety of portfolios including Enterprise, Trade and Employment (28th and 29th Dails); Social Protection (28th Dail); Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Energy) (29th Dail); and Transport (30th Dail up to July 2010). As Spokesperson, Tommy and his Dail staff colleagues were the authors of a wide range of national Labour policies on all the above areas.
Throughout his career, Tommy worked for a majority Labour or Labour-led government. He strongly opposed the Rabbitte-Gilmore Mullingar Accord with Fine Gael in the 29th and 30th D√°ils. He spoke and voted against Labour entering a coalition under Fine Gael in the 31st Dáil. He opposed and voted against the renewal of the Blanket Bank Guarantee in November 2011 and he was expelled from the Labour Parliamentary Party. Since then, Tommy has worked as an Independent TD for his constituents in Dublin North East and now Dublin Bay North.