A former senior adviser to Bertie Ahern has died while travelling back to Dublin from Papau New Guinea with the former taoiseach.
Paddy Duffy, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, is understood to have been with Mr Ahern in Heathrow Airport, London, at the time of his death. The men were travelling on a transfer bus between flights at the time.
Mr Ahern has been working in the Bougainville region of Papau New Guinea ahead of an independence referendum next year and Mr Duffy is understood to have been assisting him.
Mr Duffy, originally from Meath, worked as an adviser to Mr Ahern when the former Dublin Central TD was minister for finance in the early 1990s.
He then went on to be Fianna Fáil chef de cabinet when Mr Ahern led the party in Opposition between 1994 and 1997. Mr Duffy served as an adviser to Mr Ahern in government between 1997 and 1999, and also worked on Mary McAleese's presidential election campaign in 1997.
On his departure from government in 1999, Mr Duffy founded a public relations company. In recent years, Mr Duffy also featured as a regular commentator on politics in the media.
In a statement, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin expressed his sorrow at Mr Duffy’s death.
"I was saddened to hear of Paddy's passing," Mr Martin said. "Paddy was an incredibly affable and creative person who put his heart and soul into whatever role he had.
“As chef de cabinet to Bertie Ahern, while leader of the Opposition between 1994 and 1997, Paddy assembled a determined, hardworking and creative team that ultimately led Fianna Fáil back into government in 1997.
"Subsequently, as special adviser and speechwriter to the Taoiseach, Paddy served his country and his party with distinction. In the late 1990s, Paddy was a driving force behind the Irish Government's 'Asia Strategy' which sought to open up new markets for Irish business in emerging Asian markets.
“Paddy was a Fianna Fáil man to his core. He will be missed by all who knew him in the party in north Dublin but also throughout the country.”
Mr Duffy, who lived in Swords, Co Dublin, also worked closely with Fianna Fáil Dublin Fingal TD Darragh O’Brien. Mr O’Brien called him a “great confidant and a trusted adviser”.
“I learnt so much from him I am just glad that I was able to call him a true friend,” he said, adding that his thoughts were with the Duffy family.
Assessing Mr Ahern after he stepped down as taoiseach, Mr Duffy said he had an unusual ability to understand how organisations worked and how people would vote on particular issues.
He said Mr Ahern and the people who gathered around him in the late 1970s and early 1980s were driven by a broad, deep-seated Irish Christian democratic viewpoint.
“Catholic, not socialist, but doing the right thing in terms of promoting equality of opportunity and fairness. Bertie would have had that, and we all would have had that from our own background. My own feeling is that Bertie actually developed his views as he did things.”