Former senior diplomat Padraic MacKernan dies


FORMER SENIOR diplomat Padraic MacKernan, who served as secretary general at the Department of Foreign Affair from 1995-2001, has died.

Born in Limerick in 1940, Mr MacKernan was educated at Crescent College and University College Galway. He graduated with a BA in French and English in 1962, and studied at the Sorbonne and the Bibliotheque National in Paris.

He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1964, and the following year was posted to the United States where he served in the consulates in Boston from 1965-1969 and New York from then until 1974.

During his term as secretary general, Mr MacKernan was involved in an unprecedented public dispute with the then minister for foreign affairs, David Andrews, over staffing issues. The dispute, which became public in October 1998, was only resolved after extensive media coverage.

When crisis in Northern Ireland erupted in 1969, he was involved in the drafting of the Irish case when minister for foreign affairs Patrick Hillery addressed the UN Security Council. After Bloody Sunday he accompanied Dr Hillery to Washington and Ottawa in an effort to enlist the support of the US and Canada for the Irish position.

Mr MacKernan returned to Dublin in 1974 and helped develop Ireland’s role in Europe. In 1980 he was appointed assistant secretary and political director of the department. In 1985 he was appointed Irish ambassador to the United States and played a pivotal role in securing the overwhelming support of Congress for the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr MacKernan was appointed as Ireland’s permanent representative to the EU in 1991, and represented the country in negotiations for the Maastricht Treaty.

He returned to Dublin in 1995 as secretary general of the department and oversaw the opening of more than 20 missions in Europe, Latin America and Asia. His final posting in 2001 was Ambassador to France, where he served until his retirement in 2005.

Mr MacKernan was awarded an honorary doctorate by UCG last summer. Delivering the introductory address, Prof Patrick Finnegan said during his diplomatic career Mr MacKernan had displayed courage and wisdom, while his political judgements were delivered with erudition and wit.

He is is survived by his wife Caitríona, and sons Dónal, Colm and Dara.