Wednesday 11 December 2019

'A true patriot' - tributes paid to former Attorney General Peter Sutherland

Peter Sutherland. Photo: David Conachy
Peter Sutherland. Photo: David Conachy

David Young

Tributes have been paid to former Irish Attorney General, leading businessman and international statesman Peter Sutherland, who has died at the age of 71.

Mr Sutherland, a former European Commissioner and United Nations' special representative on international migration, died in hospital in Dublin on Sunday after a long illness.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins said he had left an "important legacy".

"Tirelessly campaigning for global solutions to human trafficking and forced migration, he became a passionate and influential voice for the rights of the 65 million people who have been forced to flee their homes and homelands," he said.

"All of this came after a lifetime of contributions to public life at home and abroad.

"A passionate European, throughout his career Peter Sutherland remained deeply committed to peaceful co-operation and integration in Europe, promoting greater awareness of the importance and possibilities of Irish engagement in European decision making."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also paid tribute.

"He was a statesman in every sense of the word; an Irishman, a committed European and a proud internationalist," said the Fine Gael leader.

Peter Sutherland has died aged 71
Peter Sutherland has died aged 71

"Throughout his life he was a champion for individual and economic freedoms."

Businessman Denis O'Brien, who is the majority shareholder of Independent News and Media, which publishes, said he was very saddened to hear of the death of Mr Sutherland.

He said: "Peter was one of the most outstanding personalities in modern Irish life. A man of great intellect he was peerless in every role from Attorney General through to European Commissioner and subsequently as WTO negotiator and then as chairman of Goldman Sachs."

Mr O'Brien said the former Attorney General was the commentator that business leaders most sought out and listened to on the subject of Brexit.

"He will be a major loss as Ireland faces into Brexit as he was one of the most brilliant minds available to the business community in Ireland on this topic.

"Everybody is deeply saddened that he has been taken far too soon," said Mr O'Brien.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he was saddened by Mr Sutherland's death.

"I knew him as a compassionate, driven, global thinker, always willing to challenge views," he said.

Mr Coveney hailed Mr Sutherland's intellect, adding: "He used his talents to be one of Ireland's most influential people, in business, politics and human rights globally."

Read More: Peter Sutherland obituary: Ireland's best-known international statesman dies after long illness

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Mr Sutherland had given "outstanding public service".

"A true patriot who had the interests of Ireland at heart," he said. "Sincere sympathies to his family."

Born in 1946, Mr Sutherland was educated at Gonzaga College, Ranelagh in Dublin and University College Dublin.

A barrister by profession, he was appointed Ireland's attorney general in 1981 at the age of just 35.

During his tenure he clashed with then justice minister Michael Noonan over the wording of the 1983 referendum on abortion.

Mr Sutherland went on to serve as Ireland's representative in the European Commission.

In 1993 he became the first director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), having overseen its formation out of another body he headed, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

In a glittering business career, he also fulfilled roles as non-executive chairman of both Goldman Sachs and BP.

In his later life, he focused on his work on migration issues with the UN.

The former Allied Irish Bank chairman also acted for a period as financial adviser to the Vatican.

He also served as chairman of the board of governors of the European Institute of Public Administration and was honorary president of the European Policy Centre.

Accolades he received during his career included the French Legion d'Honneur, Spain's Grand Cross of Civil Merit and Belgium's Grand Cross of Leopold II.

In 2013, UCD's Law School was renamed the Sutherland School of Law in honour of one of its most famous students.

Mr Sutherland is survived by his wife of 46 years Maruja, and his three children Shane, Ian and Natalia.

PA Media

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