The Taoiseach pays tribute to the late former Cabinet Secretary and EU Commissioner Michael O’Kennedy (86).

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has led tributes to former Cabinet Secretary, Senator and EU Commissioner from Fianna Fail Michael O’Kennedy, who has died aged 86.

The Taoiseach said he was “deeply saddened” by the news of Mr. O’Kennedy’s death.

“Few people have left such a rich or long political legacy or have been so devoted to Irish public life.” Mr Martin said of his former colleague Fianna Fail.

He added: “A man of great integrity and a kind demeanor, Michael had a front row seat in the formative years of modern Ireland.

“As Senior Counsel, he had a keen legal mind and brought great wit, intelligence and determination to several ministerial positions over three decades. This experience was crucial whether he was serving as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Finance, Labour, Agriculture, Transport, Economic Planning and Development or Civil Service.

“Michael was also a strong voice for Ireland on the international stage, serving as EU Commissioner in the early 1980s before returning to the Dail to once again serve his beloved Tipperary North.”

A native of Nenagh Co. Tipperary, Mr O’Kennedy was a father of three who briefly studied for the priesthood alongside former SDLP leader John Hume at Maynooth University before being admitted to the bar in 1961 and becoming Senior Counsel.

He then turned to politics and joined Fianna Fail in 1957, was elected to the Seanad and served 1965-1969 before winning his first election for Tipperary North in 1969.

A year later he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of Education and in 1972 was appointed Minister without portfolio under former Taoiseach Jack Lynch, before being appointed Minister for Transport and Energy in 1973.

When Fianna Fail returned to power after the 1977 election, Mr Lynch appointed him Foreign Secretary, a position he held for two years.

His support of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey in the race for leadership of the party saw him appointed Minister for Economic Planning and Development and later Minister for Public Services before Haughey appointed him Minister for Finance, after which he became European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Personnel, administration and the statistical office was appointed.

However, he returned to politics after only 15 months in Brussels, again winning his Dail seat for Tipperary North in 1982. After the 1987 elections he was appointed Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under Charles Haughey. In 1991 he was appointed Secretary of Labor under Haughey.

When Haughey resigned as party leader in 1992 and Albert Reynolds took over as party leader and Taoiseach in 1991, he lost his cabinet seat in a reshuffle and eventually his Dail seat in the 1992 election, but was brought back to the Seanad as a senator.

He was re-elected to the Dail in 1997 and sought the nomination of Fianna Fail for election as President of Ireland, 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.

Michael O’Kennedy is survived by his wife Breda and children Brian, Orla and Mary. The Taoiseach pays tribute to the late former Cabinet Secretary and EU Commissioner Michael O’Kennedy (86).

Fry Electronics Team

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