Former taoiseach Brian Cowen has paid warm tribute to Des O’Malley, who died last week, describing him as “one of the top parliamentary debaters of his or any era”.
Mr Cowen, who continues to make progress at home after suffering a serious illness two years ago, told the Sunday Independent the former Progressive Democrats leader “leaves behind a strong ministerial body of work including important legislation landmarks in the administration of justice and company law that are still operative here”.
Mr Cowen said he had maintained a good personal relationship with Mr O’Malley, who was expelled from Fianna Fáil in controversial circumstances in 1985, “throughout my time in politics whatever the 'state of play' was between himself and Fianna Fáil during that time”.
“Once you knew his form, he was a man who enjoyed conversation whether of a serious or jocose kind depending on the subject matter,” Mr Cowen said
“One thing was obvious: he had a sharp intellect and a quick turn of phrase designed to demolish an argument or acknowledge a point of view depending on his own opinions on the matter under discussion.
“His legal training was often used to good effect when marshalling his facts whether as a minister guiding important legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas or alternatively as an Opposition spokesman raising serious question of policy during strenuous parliamentary debates that left ministers in difficulty reeling in his wake.”
Mr Cowen suffered a stroke and bleed on the brain when he collapsed in July 2019 after he had attended hospital for a separate matter. He spent five months in recovery at St Vincent’s Hospital receiving treatment.
He was taoiseach from 2008 until 2011 when he stood down from politics.
Mr O’Malley will be fondly remembered in Limerick where he has been credited with playing a vital role in attracting investment to the region, Mr Cowen said.
“The continued support in Limerick East for his candidacy throughout his political career spanning a third of a century speaks volumes of the respect and esteem in which he was held, and which was replicated more widely and by political friend and foe alike.”