'Committed to doing his best for Ireland'

 

Maurice Roche, who has died aged 49, was senior policy adviser to the Tánaiste, Ms Harney. His death was as a result of a horse-riding accident at Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow.

Having joined the Progressive Democrats in 1994 as chief research co-ordinator, he was appointed special adviser to Ms Harney, with responsibility for economic matters, immediately after the PDs entered government in 1997. He was re-appointed following the general election last year.

Highlighting his "outstanding intellect", Ms Harney said: "His contribution to public policy in so many fields over the last decade was immense."

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, described him as a patriot of the old school, "committed to doing the best for Ireland and its people".

He was born in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, on April 17th, 1954, the son of John and Peggy Roche; the family later moved to Kilworth. His father died when he was a child, and his mother and stepfather, Larry Quinlan, afterwards reared him and his sisters.

Educated by the Christian Brothers in Mitchelstown, in 1972 he enrolled in the Classics department at University College, Dublin. There he obtained his BA, majoring in Latin and history. He then began work on a Master's degree, but his thesis was of such a high standard that he was encouraged to expand it and submit it for a PhD. The thesis, on Laurence O'Toole, was partly written in Latin.

His career spanned education, journalism and economics. He qualified as a secondary-school teacher and taught for a time at Scoil Éanna, Rathfarnham. He later switched to journalism and wrote for Magill magazine, where editor Vincent Browne rated his work highly. Entering the Department of Foreign Affairs as a third secretary, his duties included writing for the information booklet Facts about Ireland. Moving to the Department of Finance, he worked as a policy analyst.

He secured an MSc in public sector analysis at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1985, after which he worked for Goodbody Stockbrokers, Anglo Irish Bank and MMI. Following a stint as a financial journalist with the Reuters news agency, he took up his position with the PDs.

His political outlook was greatly influenced by a period of unemployment early in his career, and he came to believe that liberal economics was the way to achieve social justice. He strongly rejected the notion that the PDs were a right-wing party.

The former PD leader, Des O'Malley, credited him with making "an enormous contribution to the whole change in taxation in this country that took place from 1997 onwards", and regarded him as being a public servant on a par with the best graduates of France's elite École Normale d'Administration. Another PD colleague saw him as "the Rolls Royce of speech-writers".

Maurice Roche would have shied away from such tributes. Modest and unassuming, he never sought the limelight. He was comfortable with people of all backgrounds, and knew the homeless as well as those who were at home in the corridors of power.

A soccer enthusiast, he was a passionate supporter of the Republic of Ireland team and had a deep knowledge of the game. Seeing Ray Houghton score against England in the European championship match in Stuttgart in 1988 was a memory he cherished. He was in Basel last month to see Ireland play Switzerland. Always close to his immediate and extended family, his wife, Eileen, sisters, Rita and Nellie, and nieces and nephews survive him.

Maurice Roche: born April 17th, 1954; died October 28th, 2003