Friday 20 January 2017

Obituary: Dick Burke, politician

Born: March 29, 1932; died: March 15, 2016

Published 20/03/2016 | 02:30

Visionary: Dick Burke introduced a number of far-reaching reforms to the education system.
Visionary: Dick Burke introduced a number of far-reaching reforms to the education system.
Dick Burke in the 1980s during his time as European Commissioner.

New York-born and Tipperary-bred, Dick Burke was an innovative, reforming and indeed pioneering Minister for Education, who also served two terms as Ireland's European Commissioner.

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Although the government of which he was part crashed, disastrously and infamously, at the subsequent election, his term in office from 1973 to 1976 is considered a strong success by posterity. Burke, who died this week, introduced Transition Year in secondary schools, relaxed the rules on Leaving Cert Irish and gave Maynooth its independence, among other notable achievements.

His former Fine Gael frontbench colleague John Bruton - the pair were first elected to the Dáil on the same day in 1969 - declared himself to be "really shocked to learn of the death of my friend. He was a pleasure to work for… supportive without being intrusive. I can never recollect him being angry, although he would have had reason to be sometimes."

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