Saturday 20 April 2019

'Architect of the Irish economy' - 10 things you need to know about 'national treasure' TK Whitaker

TK Whitaker
TK Whitaker Newsdesk Newsdesk

Former secretary of the Department of Finance, Governor of the Central Bank and 'architect of the Irish economy', TK Whitaker has died.

Tributes have poured in from near and far, with President Michael D Higgins calling him "as fine an Irishman as there has been," while Enda Kenny said Dr Whitaker is "incomparable and irreplaceable" and a "national treasure."

1. Work life

Dr Whitaker, who was born in 1916, worked as both an economist and a public servant. In the wake of his death, President Michael D. Higgins described his work as "the embodiment of the finest qualities and aspirations of the Irish people."

Ex-Taoiseach Jack Lynch and Finance Secretary TK Whitaker board a plane for talks with then British PM Harold Wilson in 1966
Ex-Taoiseach Jack Lynch and Finance Secretary TK Whitaker board a plane for talks with then British PM Harold Wilson in 1966
The 1967 meeting between Jack Lynch and Terence O'Neill at Stormont, with TK Whitaker in the background. Whitaker had played a major role in making it happen.
The then finance minister Charles Haughey is formally presented with the first of Ireland’s new decimal coins by Dr TK Whitaker, who was governor of the Central Bank, in September 1969. Picture: Irish Photo Archive.
Two generations of government finance gurus come face to face as Brian Lenihan and TK Whitaker chat at a book launch
Something to smile about - Taoiseach Enda Kenny launching the memoirs of finance guru TK Whitaker. Photo: Mark Condren
DR. TK Whitaker, Ireland's 'greatest economic thinker'.
TK Whitaker outside the building at DkIT named in his honour.

2. Economy

He was 39-years-old when he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Finance in 1956. Mr Whitaker was one of the driving forces behind the First Programme for Economic Expansion 1958 - 1963.

3. Central Bank

Whitaker's role as Governor of the Central Bank, during a period of economic instability in the 1970s, has a relevance today in light of the recent banking collapse.

Maintaining the autonomy of the Central Bank vis-a-vis both the Government and the Commercial Banking system, in 1970 he successfully resisted Government attempts to obtain statutory control over the implementation of credit policy - a move, as he told the Minister for Finance, he "did not consider to be in the national interest".

4. Seanad Eireann

He was nominated by then Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Jack Lynch as a member of the 14th Seanad Éireann. He served as a non-party senator from 1977-1981.

5. Expertise

T.K. Whitaker was President of the Economic and Social Research Institute from 1974 until 1987 and Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into the Penal System 1983-1985

6. Northern Ireland

He was dedicated in search of peace in Northern Ireland. President Higgins even said that "The Good Friday Agreement would be unimaginable without T.K. Whitaker."

7. Achievements

Dr Whitaker also served as Chancellor of the National University of Ireland from 1976 to 1996. He also served as President of the Royal Irish Academy.

8. Love for 'Gaeilge'

His love for the Irish language was renowned, with the collection of Irish poetry, An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed 1600-1900, edited by Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella was dedicated to Whitaker.

9. Honour

Described by several Taoisigh as the State's finest public servant, he was named Irish Man of the 20th century in a public vote in 2001.

10. Death

He died around a month after his 100th birthday, which was in December 2016.

Whitaker married Nora Fogarty in 1941; with whom he had six children; Brian, David, Ken, Gerry, Catherine, and Raymond.

After the death of his first wife in 1994, he was wed to Mary Moore in 2005.

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