Labour Party stalwart Brendan Halligan dies aged 84

Party chief Alan Kelly pays tribute to leading light, while Taoiseach lauds ‘commitment’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has led tributes to Brendan Halligan, the former Labour Party TD, senator and general secretary who has died at the age of 84.

Mr Halligan had been a prominent figure in Irish life since the 1960s and led a number of State companies and agencies in a half-century career in public service.

He was chairman of Bórd na Móna for a decade, led the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for seven years and was also a founder and director of the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) think tank.

The Taoiseach said on Sunday: “It is with deep sadness that I have learned of the passing of Brendan Halligan. He was man who gave his life to politics and the public service with a deep commitment to the institutions of the state. Brendan was a European citizen who believed in the values of the European Union.”


Referring to the IIEA, Mr Martin said: “Brendan succeeded in facilitating a wide range of views on European and global issues.”

President Michael D. Higgins said the death of Mr Halligan would be received with great sadness by all who were interested in politics, economics and social justice, and particularly by his colleagues in the Labour Party.

“He brought to the Labour Party an emphasis on policy, an interest which he would hold for all of his life,” Mr Higgins said.

Mr Halligan, he added, took an early interest that never abated in European affairs and it was on his initiative that the Institute of International and European Affairs came into being.

The President said Mr Halligan had borne his illness with great courage and patience. “I last spoke to him after my video address on the future of Europe. His interest in European politics continued to that day.”

Mr Halligan gained a masters in economics from UCD in 1964, and worked in the public service for a number of years before being appointed as general secretary of the Labour Party in 1967. Then aged 31 he was to remain in the position for 13 years until 1980.

He became a political representative when he was one of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees to the Seanad in 1973. He served as a TD for a short period, winning a byelection in Dublin South-West in 1976, the year before the general election.

He also served briefly as a Member of the European Parliament, replacing Frank Cluskey between 1983 and 1984.

After leaving his Labour Party positionin 1980 Mr Halligan set up a consultancy in public affairs. He was appointed chairman of Bord na Móna in 1985 and guided the semi-state peat energy company for a decade. He later used his experience in energy by chairing the SEAI for seven years.

He was central in setting up and leading the expansion of the IIEA, where he served as director and president. Retaining a life-long interest in academic investigation, he was appointed Adjunct Professor of European Integration at the University of Limerick.

In more recent years he was a driving force of the Ireland China Institute, to help foster greater understanding of the relationship between the two States.

Labour leader Alan Kelly said Mr Halligan was a committed socialist and a proud Labour man with whom he enjoyed speaking until very recently about the future of the party.

“Brendan was a fascinating man with a formidable intellect and he was a leading light in the Labour Party who articulated the political vision for the party for more than a decade.”

IIEA chairman Ruairí Quinn said: “Brendan’s contribution to fostering greater understanding of European issues in Irish public life was second to none. For over six decades, serving as a Senator, TD and MEP, he sought to enhance public discourse on Ireland’s European identity.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times