Taoiseach leads tributes to ex-minister Doherty

Tue, Jun 7, 2005, 01:00

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has led tributes to former minister for justice Seán Doherty, who died today after suffering a brain haemorrhage on Saturday night while on a weekend break in the north-west.

Mr Doherty (60) was in intensive care in Letterkenny General Hospital where he died at 10.45, surrounded by his family, including his wife and four daughters.

Speaking shortly after his death was announced, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, described Mr Doherty as a man of "very considerable ability".

In his tribute, Mr Ahern noted Mr Doherty had become a man of "renewed and deep religious belief" in recent years. "I know his faith was a very important part of his life," he added.

"After a promising early career in An Garda Siochána he entered politics and enjoyed a career that had its full share of controversy and that was seldom far from the centre of events.

"On my own behalf and on behalf of the Fianna Fáil party I wish to pay tribute to a colleague and a friend of nearly 30 years," Mr Ahern said.

Fellow Roscommon Fianna Fáil TD Michael Finneran said Mr Doherty was a household name in the county and affectionately known as "The Doc".

Mr Finneran said: "He served Co Roscommon and his constituents well and was a stalwart within Fianna Fáil. . . . He was a people's politician who was probably known the length and breath of the country. He had a brilliant wit and a quick turn of phrase."

Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten paid tribute to his former constituency colleague, describing him as a "political legend in his lifetime nowhere more so than in his native Roscommon where he was the last cabinet minister for the county."

Mr Doherty had concentrated on property interests since his retirement from politics in 2002.

He served as minister of state in the Justice Department from 1979-1981 before he was made minister for justice between March and December 1982 - in which time he authorised the tapping of the phones of two journalists.

He caused widespread shock on RTE's Nighthawksprogramme in January 1992 and in a later news conference when he insisted Mr Haughey  knew about the 'taps' and that he handed him regular transcripts of the taped conversations.

Mr Doherty, who was based in Cootehall, Boyle, Co Roscommon, was first elected to the Dáil in 1977.

He lost his seat in the 1989 general election but was later elected to the Senate, serving as Cathaoirleach before being re-elected to the Dáil from which he retired at the 2002 general election.

He earned great respect after he served as a member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee that carried out the inquiry into the evasion of Dirt tax.

Mr Doherty's mother died last month.