President and Taoiseach conduct tributes following death of Michael O’Kennedy

Michael D Higgins and Michael Martin have passed honors after the death of the former Fianna Fail Minister and EU Commissioner Michael O’Kennedy. He was 86.

he Haughey-era politician from Co Tipperary was known for his mild manners and unwavering loyalty, but he was said to have had a sharp intellect belied by his humble demeanor. He served as Secretary of State and held portfolios of finance, labor, agriculture, transport, and economic planning and development.

The President spoke of his sadness at the death of his former colleague in Parliament.

“Michael O’Kennedy has served the Irish people at home and abroad in a number of capacities and always with distinction,” said Mr Higgins.

A distinguished Senior Counsel, Mr. O’Kennedy was popular with his peers in the legal community as well as with representatives across the political spectrum.

But it was his public loyalty to former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey during a series of highs in the 1980s that shaped his domestic political career the most. The position taken by Mr. O’Kennedy was simple: he was a supporter of the then party leader.

He is survived by his wife Breda, children Brian, Orla and Mary.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “When first elected in 1965, Michael served the people of Tipperary North with great dedication as TD from 1969 to 2002.

“He had a keen legal mind and brought great wit, intelligence and determination to several ministerial roles over three decades.

“I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the O’Kennedy family at this very difficult time.”

Mr O’Kennedy is from Nenagh and briefly studied for the priesthood alongside former SDLP leader John Hume in Maynooth. Both would choose a different path.

Mr. O’Kennedy was admitted to the bar in 1961 and subsequently turned to politics. He joined Fianna Fáil in 1957, inspired by Seán Lemass, and was elected to the Seanad before winning his first election for Tipperary North in 1969.

A year later he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of Education and Minister without Portfolio under then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch. In 1973 he was appointed Minister for Transport and Energy.

When Fianna Fáil returned to power after the 1977 election, Mr Lynch appointed him Foreign Secretary, a post he held for two years. His support of Haughey in the race for leadership of the party saw him receive two portfolios before being offered the post of finance minister, after which he was appointed EU commissioner.

However, after only 15 months in Brussels he returned to domestic politics, winning a Dáil seat for Tipperary North in 1982. After the 1987 elections he was appointed Minister of Agriculture in Haughey’s cabinet. In 1991 he was also appointed Minister of Labour.

When Haughey resigned as party leader in 1992 and Albert Reynolds took over, the Tipperary man lost his cabinet seat in the famous “Night of the Long Knives” reshuffle. He lost his Dáil seat in the 1992 election but was restored to the House of Lords. Mr O’Kennedy was re-elected to the Dáil in 1997 and campaigned for the nomination of Fianna Fáil for the Presidential election, but lost by a large majority to Mary McAleese.

He retired from politics after the 2002 election after a 38-year career, but returned to his career as a lawyer and became a member of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. He also headed the family support agency. President and Taoiseach conduct tributes following death of Michael O’Kennedy

Fry Electronics Team

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