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Key events during McCarthy's time at the helm

2000 -- IRA promises to put its weapons beyond use. Dermot McCarthy becomes secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach and secretary general to the government.

2001 -- Voters reject the Nice Treaty.

2002 -- Fianna Fail-PD government returns to office. Nice Treaty is passed by voters. The euro replaces the Irish punt. The benchmarking body recommends varying levels of pay increases for 230,000 public servants.

2003 -- New National Partnership Agreement is reached.

2004 -- New infrastructure projects like the Luas are completed. HSE is established to replace the health boards.

Finance Minister Brian Cowen, who has replaced Charlie McCreevy, introduces the first of three giveaway Budgets.

2005 -- Second phase of National Partnership Agreement provides for 5.5pc pay rises. Mr McCarthy again chairs the talks between unions and employers.

2006 -- Housing prices reach stratospheric levels. Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey dies. Mr McCarthy is named as one of the "Great Irish Heroes of 2006" by Fianna Fail Senator Martin Mansergh.

2007 -- Fianna Fail returns to office in coalition with the Green Party. A new power-sharing government is formed in the North, headed by Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness. Mr McCarthy is given an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the National University of Ireland in recognition of his contribution to public life. An expert group recommends that his salary should rise from €242,000 to €303,000.

2008 -- The economy officially goes into recession. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern steps down to be replaced by Mr Cowen. Lisbon Treaty is rejected by the voters. Mr McCarthy is involved in the efforts to resolve the Irish banking crisis. The state banking guarantee is brought in.

2009 -- The economic crisis continues. Lisbon Treaty is accepted despite efforts of Mr McCarthy and Mr Cowen. Talks on a new national pay agreement collapse. Public sector pension levy is introduced. Anglo Irish Bank is nationalised.

2010 -- The toughest Budget yet is introduced with €6bn of cuts and tax increases. The coalition government is on the brink of collapse.

2011 -- Fianna Fail suffers an electoral wipe-out. Mr McCarthy steps down as secretary-general after more than a decade in charge.

Irish Independent