Tributes flow for 'courageous and committed' military chief
Earley inspired troops and teammates
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night led the tributes to former Defence Forces chief and GAA legend, Dermot Earley, who died yesterday afternoon.
Lieutenant General Earley (62) had been undergoing medical treatment for an undiagnosed illness.
He had been ill since late last year and was forced to step down earlier this month after 44 years service.
Lt Gen Earley had hoped to continue serving as Chief of Staff until his 63rd birthday, next February, when he was due to retire.
He died shortly after midday yesterday with his family at his bedside at the Drogheda Memorial Hospital in the Curragh, Co Kildare.
An autopsy to confirm the cause of death is expected to be completed today. His body will lie in repose at St Brigid's Garrison Church in the Curragh from 1pm to 7pm tomorrow.
Burial will take place at Newbridge Cemetery on Saturday after 11am Mass in St Conleth's Church, Newbridge, Co Kildare.
The Taoiseach last night described Lt Gen Earley as a champion of peace and said his career paid testimony to that.
He said the general was one of the country's most distinguished public servants and his commitment, intelligence, leadership and charisma brought great distinction to himself, his family and Ireland.
"His courageous work with the UN was rooted in a desire to bring peace to people in the parts of the world that had only known conflict."
The Taoiseach recalled that he recently had the honour of presenting Lt Gen Earley with a Distinguished Service Medal.
Mr Cowen said he would be fondly remembered and greatly missed, and extended his deepest sympathies to his mother Kitty, wife Mary and their six children.
President Mary McAleese said Lt Gen Earley's career was characterised by exceptional professionalism and dedication.
His premature retirement represented a huge loss to the Defence Forces and State. He was an inspirational leader held in the highest regard.
Defence Minister Tony Killeen said he had encountered evidence of Lt Gen Earley's outstanding leadership throughout the Defence Forces.
"To the wider community he will, of course, always be remembered as an outstanding sportsman," he added.
Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said the death was greeted with great sadness in his department, where staff worked closely with Lt Gen Earley.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy described Lt Gen Earley as a professional to his fingertips and a true friend who would be greatly missed.
Current Chief of Staff Lt Gen Sean McCann said his predecessor was a hugely talented officer, whose personal charm and charisma, together with his extraordinary leadership skills, won him universal respect.
Former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea said his approachability and respect for every member of the Defence Forces, ensured his tenure as chief of staff was one of greatness.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he was one of the most iconic chiefs of staff since Michael Collins.
Willie Webb, president of representative association, Pdforra said Lt Gen Earley had commanded the respect of all.
Among those paying tribute were FG defence spokesman, Jimmy Deenihan, FG sports spokesman and Mayo manger, John O'Mahony, Labour defence spokesman, Brian O'Shea, Kildare Fianna Fail TD, Sean Power and Defence Ombudsman, Paulyn Marrinan Quinn.
See also sport, page 64