Thursday 22 February 2018

Tributes to 'courageous' minister Austin Deasy (80)

Former agriculture minister Austin Deasy died aged 80
Former agriculture minister Austin Deasy died aged 80
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Former agriculture minister Austin Deasy has been remembered as "robust" and "courageous" politician.

The ex-Fine Gael TD passed away at the age of 80 in University Hospital in Co Waterford on Saturday after a short illness.

A native of Dungarvan, Co Waterford, he served as a TD from 1997 until 2002. He was succeeded by his son John, who is still a member of the Dáil.

Mr Deasy's rise through Irish politics would not have been anticipated based on his family background.

His father, Mick, was a member of the IRA who fought in west Cork alongside Tom Barry, while his mother was likely to be seen attending British officer balls.

After the War of Independence, Mick Deasy came down on the anti-treaty side but the maternal side of Austin's family was steeped in Michael Collins's view of politics.

Austin Deasy went to UCC, where he studied to be a teacher before taking up a post at St Augustine's in Dungarvan.

He joined Fine Gael and was elected a member of the town council in 1967.

Having failed to get elected to the Dáil during the 1969 and 1973 elections, he was nominated to the Seanad by then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in 1973. Mr Deasy finally became a TD in 1977.

He was appointed agriculture minister in 1982 and stayed in Garret FitzGerald's Cabinet until 1987 when the Fine Gael-Labour coalition collapsed.

He resigned from Fine Gael a year later in protest at party leader Alan Dukes's Tallaght Strategy, but would return under John Bruton.

In 2000, he introduced an unsuccessful motion of no confidence in Mr Bruton but yesterday the former Taoiseach paid tribute to him as someone who was"forthright in his views and worked hard for Irish farmers".

"He was a courageous politician and will be greatly missed," Mr Bruton said.

Incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recalled a speech Mr Deasy gave to Trinity students some years back.

"He argued that Fine Gael needed to be distinctive in terms of policy and have a clear mission and raison d'être in order to secure support and bring the country forward. It's advice that has stuck with me ever since," he said.

Current Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said Mr Deasy was "a significant presence in Dáil Éireann during my early career as a TD, and I always admired his robust, forthright approach to politics".

"He will be remembered fondly, not only in his native Waterford but amongst the agricultural community across the country."

Mr Deasy is survived by his wife Kathleen, sons John and Jamie, and daughters Sally and Jane.

His funeral will take place at St Mary's Parish Church, Dungarvan at 1.30pm today.

Irish Independent

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