Belfast Agreement ‘unimaginable’ without Whitaker – Higgins

President leads tributes to Ireland’s most revered public servant who died on Monday

President Michael D Higgins said  late TK Whitaker  was “as fine an Irishman as there has been.” Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

President Michael D Higgins said late TK Whitaker was “as fine an Irishman as there has been.” Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

 

TK Whitaker, who died on Monday at the age of 100, contributed enormously to the building of an independent Ireland, President Michael D Higgins said yesterday.

Mr Higgins, who led tributes to Mr Whitaker following his death, said his life’s work “stands as the embodiment of the finest qualities and aspirations” of the Irish people.

“As an economist and as a public servant, he contributed enormously to the building of an independent Ireland,” the President said.

“TK Whitaker was equally dedicated to the search for peace. Just as his writing on economic development cast the mould for economic policies in Ireland, so did his paper on “Possible Solutions” define Government policy on Irish reunification by asserting the principle of popular consent. The Good Friday Agreement would be unimaginable without TK Whitaker.”

Mr Higgins also paid tribute to Mr Whitaker’s “profound” understanding of Ireland and its people.

“What is more, he loved Ireland deeply – its people, language and culture,” he said. “He was as fine an Irishman as there has been.”

Mr Whitaker, who served a seven-year term as governor of the Central Bank, was described by the bank’s current governor Philip Lane as having provided “the platform for Irish economic policy” for the last 60 years.

Modernisation

“During his tenure at the Central Bank, governor Whitaker led the modernisation of the Central Bank and the expansion of its mandate, which enabled it to address challenges such as the first oil shock, the modernisation of the domestic financial sector, increased volatility in the international financial system and significant inflationary pressures,” Mr Lane said.

“He was also a consistent voice in providing independent economic advice to the government throughout this period. In the Central Bank, he is also remembered for important initiatives such as increased opportunities for female staff and reformed management structures.”

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said Mr Whitaker was “instrumental in opening up Ireland’s economy to the world, positioning our course toward the single European market and fuelling our convergence with living standards of developed economies.

“TK Whitaker will also be remembered for his efforts in fostering cross-Border relations, consistently adopting an all-island economic perspective on issues and was central to opening up dialogue between the administrations on both parts of the island,” said Mr McCoy

Mr Whitaker, who was also a former chancellor of the National University of Ireland, was described by current NUI Galway president Jim Browne as having had a major impact on many facets of Irish life. More than 40 organisations benefited from his wisdom and leadership, Mr Browne said.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said Ireland had lost a true patriot in Mr Whitaker. “He was a visionary and an exceptional public servant who helped transform not only Irish economic policy, but the nation itself. Our country owes him a debt of gratitude.”

Mr Whitaker’s removal to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, will take place on Thursday at 5pm, ahead of a funeral Mass at 11.30am on Friday. He will be buried at Shanganagh Cemetery, Shankill, Co Dublin.