Sunday 25 February 2018

Tributes paid to former Dublin Lord Mayor Fergus O’Brien

Leinster House Photo: Getty Images
Leinster House Photo: Getty Images
John Downing

John Downing

Former Lord Mayor of Dublin and Government Chief Whip, Fergus O’Brien, has died aged 86.

Mr O’Brien was a life-long Fine Gael activist and began as a supporter of the former Taoiseach John A Costello in Dublin South East. He was eventually elected to this constituency as a TD in 1973, and successfully switched to the adjoining Dublin South Central constituency in 1977 after boundary changes.

In this constituency he and party colleague, Gay Mitchell, often competed for votes. Mr O’Brien was renowned for his direct approach to politics and did not shrink from conflict, preferring always to argue his case and that of the party and government.

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, paid tribute to Mr O’Brien whom he described as “a friend and mentor” especially in his own early days in politics. Mr Kenny described him as “the quintessential Dubliner” who loved engaging with working class people and helping resolve personal and community problems.

Fergus O’Brien served as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1981/82. He was always a popular street politician who loved his encounters with people.

“He was at his best campaigning in the Liberties where he had huge support in his day,” one former colleague recalled yesterday.

He lost his Dáil seat in February 1982, in the second of three general elections held within 18 months. But he regained the seat in November 1982 and held it at subsequent elections until his retirement from politics in June 1992. 

He is remembered as having a keen and enduring interest in all sports but especially rugby and he was a great supporter of St Mary’s RFC.

He was perceived as close to Garret FitzGerald, who led Fine Gael for the years 1977-87, though this relationship was described as “spikey at times.”  He served as Government Chief Whip in 1981/82 and again in 1986/87.

When Alan Dukes was elected party leader in 1987, O’Brien was among a number of TDs who did not get preferment. He remained an opponent of Mr Dukes and put down a successful no-confidence motion in the party leader after Fine Gael fared poorly in the 1990 presidential election.

Before politics he had been an executive in the ESB and he lived in Ranelagh with his wife Peggy and their six children. In February 2011 their family suffered a terrible tragedy when his daughter, Lynda, was killed by a falling tree in Dublin.

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