Pat Rabbitte was born on 18 June 1949 in County Mayo. He was educated in Claremorris and University College Galway. He became president of the Students' Union in the university in 1970. Between 1972 and 1974 he served as president of the Union of Students in Ireland. In 1974 he became an official in the Irish Trade and General Workers Union (ITGWU). He became National Secretary for the union in 1980.
In 1989 Rabbitte was elected Workers' Party TD for Dublin South-West. He has retained his seat at every election since as a Workers' Party, then Democratic Left and now Labour Party deputy. Between 1994 and 1997 he served as Minister of State to the Government and Minister for State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
In 2002 Pat Rabbitte became the new leader of the Labour Party.