Tuesday 23 January 2018

TK Whitaker 1916 -2017: Tributes to the visionary who built the path to modern Ireland

Former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald and Dr TK Whitaker (right) at the ‘Economic Development – 50 years On’ conference in 2008
Former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald and Dr TK Whitaker (right) at the ‘Economic Development – 50 years On’ conference in 2008

Greg Harkin

The wide-ranging tributes to the architect of modern Ireland, TK Whitaker, across the political, economic and social spectrum of the country reflected the esteem in which he was held.

Mr Whitaker, who died on Monday aged 100, led the country's economic revival in the 1940s and 1950s and later became governor of the Central Bank.

President Michael D Higgins led the tributes, saying Mr Whitaker's life work "stands as the embodiment of the finest qualities and aspirations of the Irish people".

"I had the privilege and also the great pleasure to know Mr Whitaker," Mr Higgins said.

"His great energy and intellectual rigour was matched by an irresistible personal charm.

"He was as inspiring as he was impressive, and as fine an Irishman as there has been."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Whitaker was in every sense a national treasure.

"TK Whitaker changed life, lives and generations in Ireland," he said.

Dublin's Central Bank Governor Philip Lane said Mr Whitaker was a dedicated public servant.

"Governor Whitaker led the modernisation of the Central Bank and the expansion of its mandate, which enabled it to address challenges such as the first oil shock, the modernisation of the domestic financial sector, increased volatility in the international financial system and significant inflationary pressures," he said.

Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said Mr Whitaker had left a business legacy of promoting free trade, and a prosperous all-island economy.

"During a dark period of modern Irish history, characterised by emigration and unemployment, Mr Whitaker espoused a clear vision for the future," he said.

"This included building on the success of other initiatives of the time, including the nascent IDA and the export profits tax relief scheme, which formed the basis of our FDI policy."

"If it were not for his policies, Ireland would not have the modern economy that we have today. It is also reasonable to say that IDA Ireland, in its current form, would not exist were it not for the policies that he espoused in the 1950s and 1960s," Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, said.

"TK Whitaker's thinking facilitated the growth of the foreign investment community in Ireland - this community directly employs over 200,000 people in multinationals and indirectly supports many more jobs across Ireland today."

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin said the passing of Mr Whitaker was a major loss for the Irish nation.

"Under any metric, TK Whitaker was an Irish patriot. His 75 years of service to the Irish people...changed Ireland for the better, and that's a legacy his family can be rightly proud of," Mr Martin said.

"TK was a proud Gaeilgóir, and throughout his life retained a deep sense of love for Irish culture."

Mr Whitaker, a native of Co Down, never forgot his roots. He was instrumental in organising the first official talks between a Taoiseach and a Northern Ireland prime minister. He understood the importance of North-South co-operation and of partnership between the different traditions on this island, said SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood.

"More than any other public servant, he shaped the landscape of modern Ireland," he said. "A proud Down man, perhaps above all else, his life and career showed public service to be a worthwhile and noble profession.

"Although he lived to the great age of 100 years, Ken Whitaker achieved the work of two lifetimes. His was a life incredibly well lived."

Irish Independent

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