Michael Woods was born in County Wicklow in December 1935. He was educated by the Christian Brothers in Dublin, at University College Dublin and at the Harvard Business School. He qualified with a degree in agricultural science. Woods joined Fianna Fáil in 1968. In 1977 he stood for the Dáil as a Fianna Fáil candidate. He was successful becoming a running mate of Fianna Fáil stalwart George Colley. In 1979 Jack Lynch appointed Woods Minister for State at the Department of An Taoiseach, the Department of Defence and Government Chief Whip. That same year Woods supported Colley in his bid to become leader of he party, however, the other candidate, [[Charles Haughey], was successful.
Despite Woods' support for the opponent, Haughey appointed him Minister for Health and Social Welfare. He held that post until 1981 and again in the short-lived 1982 government. In 1987 Fianna Fáil returned to power and Woods returned as Minister for Social Welfare. During both his terms as Minister for Social Welfare he worked well in one of the most thankless Ministerial positions. In 1991 he became Minister for Agriculture and Food. In 1992 Woods entered the leadership race to succeed Haughey as leader. He received little support and withdrew from the contest. The eventual victor, Albert Reynolds, retained Woods as Minister for the Marine in his new Cabinet. Following the forming of the Fianna Fáil-Labour coalition in 1993 Woods remained in the Cabinet and was appointed Minister for Health.
In 1997 Fianna Fáil returned to power after three years in oppostion. Woods was appointed Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. He was praised for giving that portfolio a higher profile. He introduced a £70 million overhaul of Ireland's fishing fleet and also introduced a new maritime college. In the Cabinet reshuffle in 2000 Woods repaced Micheál Martin as Minister for Education. He failed to be retained in the Cabinet following the 2002 general election but is still a TD for his Dublin constituency.