Former minister Austin Deasy dies at the age of 80

Former Fine Gael TD dies in University Hospital Waterford following a short illness

Austin Deasy outside Leinster House, Dublin. File photograph: Moya Nolan

Austin Deasy outside Leinster House, Dublin. File photograph: Moya Nolan

 

Former Fine Gael TD and minister for agriculture Austin Deasy has died at the age of 80.

Mr Deasy died at University Hospital Waterford following a short illness.

A native of Dungarvan, he served as a TD for Waterford from 1977 until 2002, when he retired. He was succeeded as TD in the constituency by his son, John Deasy.

He studied to become a teacher at UCC, before teaching at St Augustine’s in Dungarvan, where he was elected a member of the local urban district council in 1967.

He ran unsuccessfully in both the 1969 and 1973 general elections, but was nominated to the Seanad by the then Fine Gael taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in 1973 and subsequently won a Dáil seat in 1977.

He was appointed minister for agriculture in 1982 and served in Garret FitzGerald’s cabinet until 1987, when the Fine Gael-Labour coalition collapsed.

He resigned from Fine Gael the following year in protest at party leader Alan Dukes’s Tallaght Strategy.

Mr Deasy returned to the Fine Gael frontbench in 1991 after John Bruton succeeded Mr Dukes, but he later introduced an unsuccessful motion of no confidence in Mr Bruton in 2000.

He is survived by his wife Kathleen and his children John, Sally, Jane and Jamie.

Mr Deasy will repose at Kiely’s funeral home in Dungarvan on Monday morning, followed by a requiem Mass in St Mary’s Church at 1.30pm.

Tributes

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Deasy, saying: “I wish to convey my deepest sympathies to the Deasy family on the news that Austin Deasy has passed away.

“Austin . . . was well-loved and respected by the people of Waterford, whom he was proud to represent, and of course the people of Dungarvan, which is my mother’s home-town.

“I met Austin on a number of occasions. The one that stands out though was one afternoon almost 20 years ago when he came to speak to us as students in the Trinity branch of Fine Gael.

“He argued that Fine Gael needed to be distinctive in terms of policy and have a clear mission and raison d’être in order to secure support and bring the country forward. It’s advice that has stuck with me ever since.”

Former Fine Gael TD Jim O’Keeffe described Mr Deasy as a very independent-minded politician who never feared speaking his mind.

“Austin said what he saw - he was a real straight-talker person who didn’t pull his punches - politics needs a mix of people and that includes straight-talking people who don’t finesse things.

“He made a great contribution to politics generally, but also to Fine Gael and to Ireland - he was a very able minister for agriculture, which is never an easy position to hold, but he did a fine job there.”

Former Cork North Central TD Bernard Allen said Mr Deasy was a formidable politician who served the people of Waterford for more than one-quarter of a century.

“Austin . . . said what he thought and often got himself into controversy . . . but he wouldn’t say one thing and do another - he was very straight and direct.

“He was straight up about his views and his political principles and was prepared to stand his ground in that regard - he was blunt and very courageous and served his constituents very well.”

Minister of Agriculture, Cork North West Fine Gael TD, Michael Creed said he was saddened to learn of Mr Deasy’s death.

“Austin was a significant presence in Dáil Éireann during my early career as a TD, and I always admired his robust forthright approach to politics,” said Mr Creed.

“He will be remembered fondly not only in Waterford but amongst the agricultural community across the country. My sympathies go to his family, particularly his son, our friend and colleague John.”