Peter Barry, former Fine Gael tánaiste, dies aged 88

Businessman played important role in Anglo Irish agreement during foreign affairs tenure

Peter Barry  in his office at Iveagh House during his time as minister for foreign affairs in 1985. Photograph: Jack McManus

Peter Barry in his office at Iveagh House during his time as minister for foreign affairs in 1985. Photograph: Jack McManus


Former Fine Gael deputy leader, tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs Peter Barry has died aged 88.

Taoieach Enda Kenny said Barry died peacefully in Cork on Friday morning surrounded by his family.

Among the most significant aspects of a long career was the important role Barry played in the creation of the Anglo-Irish agreement alongside then taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald.

A businessman as well as a politician, Barry pioneered the distribution and wholesaling of tea, first selling it to other shops in Cork, then expanding into the suburbs, and eventually putting it on supermarket shelves throughout the rest of the country.

After Fitzgerald’s resignation as Fine Gael leader in 1987, Barry was one of three candidates for the position, along with Alan Dukes and John Bruton.

Dukes won the leadership contest but Barry remained in politics for another 10 years, stepping down as a TD in 1997.

“Throughout his long and distinguished political career, Peter gave outstanding service to his country and to his native city,” said the Taoiseach.

“In particular, his central and pivotal role in negotiating the Anglo Irish Agreement in 1985 helped to create the foundations on which the peace process in Northern Ireland was built.

“In the coming days we will reflect on and salute Peter Barry’s extraordinary legacy, but today, our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved family at the loss of their father.

“We also remember at this time Peter’s late wife Margaret who was such a support to him throughout his career.”

President Michael D Higgins also paid tribute to Barry’s work on the Anglo Irish agreement as well as his business career.

“As a person he was immensely popular across all parties and, of course, he had a deep commitment to Cork city and its heritage.

“Peter Barry, in his non-political life, gained enormous respect internationally through his work in the family business,” said President Higgins.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said Barry would continue to be a role model for anyone who believes politics is about positive change.

“I will always remember him fondly as a great colleague totally committed to the highest standards in public office,” she said.

Current Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan also paid tribute. “I have known Peter Barry and his family all my life. Peter served for many years in the Dáil with my late father, Oliver, and they both served in cabinet together,” said Mr Flanagan. “His deep commitment to public service and his humble and warm demeanour were admired by all.”

Senator Jerry Buttimer said Barry left a “huge impact” on the people and city of Cork, where he was well loved. “He was an immense person of huge character and integrity and he will be sadly missed,” said Mr Buttimer.

Fianna Fáil leader and Cork South Central TD Micheál Martin offered his own and his party’s sympathies to Barry’s family.

“A distinguished minister in a number of government departments including transport and education, he will of course be best remembered for his stewardship of the department of foreign affairs and his role in negotiating the Anglo Irish Agreement,” said Mr Martin.