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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Rory Brady

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern pays tribute to a friend who was a great legal mind, a true republican and a foundation stone of the peace process

Last week I lost in Rory Brady one of my best friends and the State has lost a great legal mind. My thoughts are with Rory's wife Siobhán, his daughters Maeve and Aoife, and his mother, Teresa.

These strong women were the centre of his life and he was as proud of them as they were of him. This Sunday they are in the prayers of hundreds of people who are mourning Rory and who share his loss with them.

If the finest epitaph of a life well lived is the love of family and the regard of friends, Rory Brady already enjoys a eulogy beyond any words I can write.

Rory was hugely respected in Irish life for a reason. Yes, he held high positions of real responsibility as a Senior Counsel, as Chairman of the Bar Council and as Attorney-General. But the regard of the public man cannot be measured by the height of any office he held; instead it is understood by the achievements he accomplished.

All of those achievements were founded on values of decency and responsibility and on his immense charm as a man.

I was privileged to know him and more privileged to be able to call him my friend. He was a man of great intellectual ability and intelligence, who wore his learning lightly. He cared deeply about people and as a lawyer and as Attorney General he deeply believed in the obligation he had to the common good. He was generous, good humoured and was full of fun. He was a man of great success yet, he remained a modest man.

He was from the Liberties and he lived a life founded on the values of decency, hard work and being there for your neighbours, that he learnt growing up. Rory remained what he had always been, a Dubliner and a Liberties lad who took pride in his own people and where he came from. He travelled far, but he never changed.

Rory never tired of telling me how his grandfather had captained the Dubs. Rory was proud too that his father had worked for Guinness, a great Dublin institution.

The poet and adopted Dubliner, Patrick Kavanagh wrote "I have lived in important places, times when great events were decided."

In his time, when history was made, Rory Brady was there when great events were decided. As Attorney-General from 2002-2007, he was my closest and most trusted colleague at the cabinet table. He was never anything less than brilliant.

Before and during his time as Attorney General, he was my main adviser on the complex legal issues arising from the peace process. He was able to communicate with clarity and force what was constitutionally permissible, legally achievable and politically feasible. His contribution to milestones such as IRA decommissioning and the St Andrews agreement were immeasurable. Rory Brady is a foundation stone of the peace process and of the lasting benefit it has brought Ireland's people.

Rory was essential in the delivery of important public policies such as the smoking ban and mandatory alcohol testing. Legal and practical problems arose which sometimes seemed insoluble. Rory crafted practical solutions which have stood the test of time.

Rory Brady was not only a man of immense intellectual capacity; he was a problem solver and a do-er. He also initiated reform to sweep away thousands of outdated laws and give Ireland the modern statute book it deserves.

Rory was a true republican in the best sense. He cherished the memory of those who strove to establish this nation. It was Rory Brady who first raised the idea that we should mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising with full state honours. Rory would later tell me that the celebrations of Easter Sunday 2006 were the proudest day of his term as Attorney-General.

Rory also had a burning sense of the rights of individuals and the idea that, if such rights are to have meaning, they must be protected in law. When it was reported that a young Irish citizen, Tristan Dowse, had been left in a terribly difficult situation in Indonesia, Rory refused to accept that situation. His response was to use all ways available through the law to ensure this young man was properly provided for, and being Rory he found a way.

He brought his skills as a litigator and barrister to another level when he represented Ireland before several international courts in our cases against Sellafield. His achievement was to secure levels of cooperation and communication on issues of nuclear safety which had never before existed between Ireland and the UK.

I am reminded this weekend of Saint Paul's words -- "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith". Those words could have been written for Rory Brady. In life, in law, and in politics Rory fought the good fight, he kept faith, and in every race he carried not only himself, but so many others to the finish.

In a busy and a successful life, Rory kept the faith and the loyalty of his friends. He kept the faith and the love of his family. And he kept faith with the values he was brought up with.

Rory was a man of deep faith. It is of deep consolation to me to know that Rory is now reunited with all those who have gone to their eternal reward, including some of our other close friends who passed away recently.

Whatever the cause, Rory Brady always arrived armed with ingenuity, resilience and charm. In great political battles, no matter how bleak the outlook, Rory Brady would invariably say to me, in his broad Dublin accent; "we'll just have to keep going." And keep going we always did!

We always got to the finish, sometimes battered, sometimes bruised, but we always got there.

This weekend, so many people are saddened and shaken by Rory's premature death. But I am certain I know even now what his advice to everybody would be.

I can see him in my mind's eye, encouraging us with his reassuring smile, urging us to keep going, insisting we never lie down -- that we never, ever give up.

And, Rory, we will keep going. But it will be harder without you.

I for one, will miss your great friendship and your warm humour. For now my friend, God Bless. The good deeds you did live on.

Rory Brady was 52 when he died on Monday in the Beacon Hospital, Dublin. He was educated in Synge Street Christian Brothers School, UCD and the King's Inns.

Sunday Independent

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