Saturday 24 September 2016

Former Education Minister Burke dies

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Dick Burke. Pic Tom Burke
Dick Burke. Pic Tom Burke

Former Education Minister Dick Burke has died at the age of 83.

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Mr Burke, who introduced the Transition Year to post-primary schools, passed away peacefully at home yesterday.

Among his most notable decisions was to remove the requirement for students to pass Irish in the Leaving Certificate.

He was born in New York to Irish parents in 1931 but they returned to Upperchurch in Tipperary in 1935.

Former Taoiseach John Burton led tributes last night, describing Mr Burke as "a very successful, reforming, Minister for Education, with concrete achievements to his name".

"We were elected to the Dáil on the same day in 1969," he said, adding: "He introduced the Transition Year and School Management Boards.

"To have persuaded the various 'establishments', that dominated education in Ireland at the time, to accept, and to successfully operate, these major reforms was a big negotiating achievement."

Mr Burke was appointed Minister for Education by Fine Gael Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in March 1973.

He gave what is now NUI Maynooth its independence and helped in the build up to the establishment of Dublin City University.

While minister he was also called to the bar and qualified as a barrister.

He was twice appointed as the EU Commissioner and helped form much of Fine Gael's policy on Europe.

He was responsible for Fine Gael joining the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament.

Although Mr Cosgrave first appointed him as commissioner in 1977, it was Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey who decided to allow him to stay on for a second term in 1982.

He went on to become vice president of the European Commission.

Between commissions, he lectured in European Law at Leverett House in Harvard, Boston.

He is survived by his wife Mary and children Mary, David, Audrey, Richard and Avila.

He was predeceased by his son Joseph.

Irish Independent

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