Writer and former ‘Irish Times’ journalist Declan Burke-Kennedy dies

Noted novelist and playwright also co-founded Dublin’s influential Focus Theatre

Declan Burke-Kennedy who has died at the age of 72: his friend and colleague David Shanks described him as “perhaps the nicest man I’ve ever met”

Declan Burke-Kennedy who has died at the age of 72: his friend and colleague David Shanks described him as “perhaps the nicest man I’ve ever met”

 

The death has occurred of former Irish Times journalist, novelist and playwright Declan Burke-Kennedy, who was also a co-founder of Dublin’s influential Focus Theatre. He was 72.

In a career spanning over 30 years with The Irish Times, Burke-Kennedy worked as an assistant sports and foreign desk editor, while contributing articles on a variety of topics, latterly on contemporary Turkish politics.

His friend and colleague David Shanks described him as “perhaps the nicest man I’ve ever met” – a sentiment shared by many of those who worked with him.

Born in Co Offaly in 1944, Burke-Kennedy graduated from University College Dublin with a degree in English and then wrote part-time while working as a teacher.

Before joining The Irish Times, he co-founded Dublin’s Focus Theatre in the 1960s along with his wife Mary Elizabeth, Deirdre O’Connell and Dick Callanan.

The tiny theatre in Pembroke Place had a reputation for pushing the boundaries of Dublin theatre with a strongly international repertoire.

At the centre of its work was the Stanislavski Studio, where actors and directors were trained in the Russian director’s naturalistic performance technique known as the Stanislavski method.

Despite being dogged by financial troubles, the theatre had a strong artistic reputation and was closely associated with the careers of Gabriel Byrne, Sabina Higgins (wife of President Michael D Higgins), Johnny Murphy, Tom Hickey, Bosco Hogan and Gerard McSorley; and costume designer Joan Bergin.

Burke-Kennedy directed several of the its most successful productions including 1970 version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. His 1984 adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, directed by Mary Elizabeth, was also critically acclaimed.

He was also an original playwright, penning several successful dramas including The Trespasser (1973), Hoods (1976), Day of the Mayfly (1980) and The Wind that Shook the Barley (1981).

He was the author of two novels, Robert’s Alibi (O’Brien Press, 1988) and Leonie ( Poolbeg, 1995). The latter – a story of boys growing up in a small Midlands town in the 1960s – was praised for its fine awareness of the nuances of language and its psychological insight.

He is survived by his wife Mary Elizabeth, daughters Ruth, Emma and Niamh, grandson Tadhg and his siblings Paul and Helen.

Funeral arrangements: Reposing at his home in Carrigahorig, Tipperary on Wednesday December 7th from 6pm to 9pm. Then in Fanagans Funeral Home, Lower Kimmage Road, Harold’s Cross, Dublin on Thursday December 8th from 3.3pm to 5.30pm. Memorial service and cremation at the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome, Harold’s Cross on Friday December 9th at 2pm.