Tributes paid to Ireland’s deputy ambassador to China who died on Sunday

Michael Hurley embodied all that is finest in diplomatic service – Simon Coveney

Ireland’s deputy ambassador to China, Michael Hurley, died on Sunday in Beijing following a short illness, Government officials confirmed on Monday.

The secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Niall Burgess, and the Irish Ambassador to China, Eoin O’Leary, said in a statement they were “deeply saddened to confirm the death” of Mr Hurley in the Chinese capital.

The statement said “the department and its staff throughout the world offers its deepest sympathy to Michael’s wife Anne-Marie, his children James, Niamh and Ciara and his entire family.”

Leading the tributes to the career diplomat, Simon Coveney, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, said “Michael Hurley was an exemplary representative of his country and a man who embodied all that is finest in Ireland’s diplomatic and public service.”


Diplomatic sources said his family and colleagues “were in absolute shock”.

It is understood that Mr Hurley (50), had an illness that worsened rapidly. His condition was not related to Covid-19, the sources said.

“It was totally unexpected. His family are devastated, as we all are,” one official said.

Mr Hurley was originally from Santry in Dublin and he joined the diplomatic service in 1988.

“The many of us in political life who worked with Michael in the course of his 32-year career saw at first-hand his extraordinary commitment and generosity of spirit, most especially in the vital work he was involved in at our embassy in Beijing throughout the current crisis,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Hurley’s first posting was to the permanent representation to the EU in Brussels in 1998. Before he moved to Beijing he was deputy head of mission at the Irish embassy in Ottawa, and he also served as deputy ambassador in The Hague.

Mr Burgess paid tribute to Mr Hurley’s compassion and kindness.

“Michael did big things, quietly and unassumingly. Never more so than in recent difficult months when he sustained high spirits among our team in Beijing and anchored our efforts to secure essential medical supplies for this country from China,” he said.

“We may never know how many people owe their health and possibly their lives to those efforts. We’ve lost a very special colleague – one of the best of us.”

Peter Goff

Peter Goff

Peter Goff, a contributor to The Irish Times, formerly reported from China