Eddie Collins, former Fine Gael TD and junior minister, dies aged 78

Collins came from ‘Redmondite tradition’, says former taoiseach John Bruton

Minister of state at the department of Industry and Commerce Eddie Collins (third from left, standing) with members of taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald’s cabinet in June 1982. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister of state at the department of Industry and Commerce Eddie Collins (third from left, standing) with members of taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald’s cabinet in June 1982. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Eddie Collins, the former Fine Gael TD and junior minister who died on Monday, was described by former taoiseach John Bruton as the “inheritor of the Redmondite tradition in Waterford City politics”.

Mr Collins (78), a former mayor of Waterford, was also a successful businessman and economist.

Indeed he lectured in economics in his later career after losing his Dáil seat.

However, he is probably best remembered in politics for having being sacked by another taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, after he refused to resign.

The dismissal occurred in September 1986 after Dr FitzGerald said Mr Collins had misled him in relation to his activities in connection with his family meat company.

He was a minister of state in the Department of Industry and Commerce during two Fine Gael governments until his dismissal by Dr FitzGerald.

As a minister Mr Collins was required to end all direct involvement with the running of the company, Collins Brothers Meats. However, an article in Magill magazine reported Mr Collins was still involved with the company. He denied that this was the case at the time.

Controversy

On foot of the controversy, Dr FitzGerald requested Mr Collins’s dismissal. When he refused to resign, the then taoiseach dismissed him from his post. His replacement as junior minister was Richard Bruton, then a 33-year-old first-time TD.

Mr Collins was born in 1941 and was centrally involved in the family meat business. From 1964 to 1981 he served on Waterford City Council.

His first effort to gain entry into national politics was in 1966 when he contested a byelection in the constituency. He was not successful but was then elected to the Dáil in the general election of 1969. He was a TD for 18 years until his defeat in 1987.

In a tribute to Mr Collins, the former Fine Gael leader John Bruton recalled canvassing for him in 1966. “It was an exciting old-style campaign with parades and rallies on behalf of the rival parties as well as intense local canvassing.”

Waterford City was the only seat that was won by the Irish National Party in the 1918 election which became a landslide for Fine Gael. The influence of the Redmond family continued in that constituency up until his time.

“Eddie was the inheritor of the Redmondite tradition in Waterford City politics,” said Mr Bruton.

Exceptionally hardworking

Mr Collins was the party’s education spokesman when Fine Gael was in opposition and was particularly interested in promoting adult education.

“I found him to be an exceptionally hardworking, creative, reliable and loyal colleague. When he lost his seat in the 1987 election, he continued his lifelong interest in education by becoming a lecturer in economics in the Tallaght Institute of Technology,” said Mr Bruton.

Mr Collins, who had been ill for some time, was predeceased by his wife Lelia, who died several years ago. He is survived by his daughter Elizabeth, son Edward, and five grandchildren. The Requiem Mass for his funeral will be at 12 noon on Thursday at the Sacred Heart Church at The Folly, followed by burial at Ballygunner Cemetery.