Hundreds mourn ‘true public servant’ TK Whitaker

Civil servant revolutionised the Irish economy, says Archbishop

The scene at the removal of TK Whitaker at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dr Ken Whitaker was a “a true public servant, a man of integrity, a family man and a Christian”, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told mourners at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.

Dr Whitaker, Ireland’s most influential civil servant, described as the architect of modern Ireland, died on Monday, a month after his 100th birthday.

Hundreds attended the removal ceremony for the former secretary of the Department of finance, former governor of the Central Bank and senator, renowned for his major policy reforms in the mid-20th century to move Ireland from protectionism to free trade.

British Ambassador to Ireland Robin Barnett with Vice Admiral Mark Mellet at the removal of TK Whitaker. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Former president Mary McAleese and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan at the removal of TK Whitaker. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dr Whitaker’s coffin was carried into the church by six of his grandsons to be received by Dr Martin and a number of clergy including administrator of the parish Monsignor Lorcan O’Brien, Dr Whitaker’s brother-in-law Fr Paschal Moore, and his friend Franciscan priest Fr Lomán Mac Aodha.


A crucifix and a bible were placed on his coffin as the service began. His grandchildren read prayers of the faithful during the 40 minute ceremony.

Reflecting on his life, Dr Martin said he was a true public servant by virtue of his willingness to place his talent at the service of the wider public and the common good, “and indeed by doing so with remarkable enthusiasm in an oft cynical and sceptical culture”.

The Archbishop described Dr Whitaker as a “servant of the public good, the common good. He revolutionised the Irish economy, not through being an proponent of this or that economic theory, but through focusing economic reflection on what it really should be about: the good of men and women and children of this country in their fight for a better life” without having to emigrate.

Dr Martin said economics was “not just an intellectual discipline about the proper utilisation of resources: it is a moral science, driven by service always prioritising the good of the human community”.

He added: “Ken Whitaker was a man of intelligence and creativity, but he was above all a man of integrity and therefore a free man, with an integrity never constrained by party allegiance or personal gain.”

The Archbishop added: “God blessed him with a long life, a full life and above all a good life in the true sense of that word, a life of seeking what goodness means, what truth and integrity mean.”

He told his family they could enjoy the realisation that his long life and the wisdom of age made him even more a model and inspiration for them, and for society especially the younger generation of Ireland.

At the end of the service, Dr Whitaker’s son Raymond told the congregation that his father never specifically expressed an underpinning driving principle or motto.

“I think he would not disagree that it was at least partly captured in the prayer of St Ignatius: Lord, teach me to be generous, teach me to serve you like you deserve, to give and not to count the cost.”

The centenarian’s chief mourners were his surviving sons Kenneth, Raymond, David, Brian, his daughters-in-law and son-in law, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Also among the mourners were Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, former presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen was also in attendance as was former tánaiste Mary Harney and her husband Brian Geoghegan. British ambassador Robin Barnett was among the mourners as was SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan.

Former IDA chief executive Páraic White also attended as did Aisling Nic An tSithigh of Enterprise Ireland. Broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and barrister and former director general of the Department of the Marine Fionnán Ó Muircheartaigh were among the mourners.

Sons of former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald - Mark and John, formerly of the ESRI also attended as did former minister of state Eithne Fitzgerald and former governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan.

Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council Cormac Devlin and retired parish priest of Kilbarack, Co Dublin Father Paul Lavelle were also among the mourners.

Dr Whitaker will be buried Friday at Shanganagh cemetery after 11.30 Mass.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times