Prof Martin O'Donoghue, the economist and former government minister, was remembered at his funeral on Tuesday as a courteous and gentle man who used his gifts in public service and not out of any sense of ambition.
In his homily, Fr Richard Sheehy, a close family friend, said O'Donoghue was a "wonderful husband to Evelyn", his wife of almost 60 years, a good father to his children and "a citizen of some distinction" to Ireland.
The State was represented at his funeral Mass in the Church of St Paul of the Cross at Mount Argus, Dublin, by President Michael D Higgins while the Government and Taoiseach were represented by Comdt Pádraic Kennedy.
O'Donoghue, who died last Friday aged 85, was educated in Crumlin and began his working life as a waiter in Jammet's, Dublin's first haute cuisine restaurant. He later enrolled as a mature student in Trinity College, Dublin, from where he graduated a scholar with first class honours. He went on to earn a doctorate, become a lecturer and was eventually elected a Fellow.
In the 1960s, he was an economic adviser to two government departments, a role that drew his attention to then Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch.
He helped write the party’s 1977 general election manifesto, a much-criticised catalogue of promises that secured Fianna Fáil a 20-seat majority (and a seat for O’Donoghue) and delivered to the new TD for Dún Laoghaire a rare distinction in politics – being appointed to ministerial office on his first day in the Dáil.
Turbulent Haughey years
Lynch made him minister for economic planning and development, a position he held until December 1979, when Lynch was ousted by Charles Haughey. The new leader and taoiseach abolished the position but dispatched a present to O'Donoghue shortly after – a dead duck, accompanied by a note from Haughey saying: "Shot on Saturday."
O’Donoghue’s political career in turbulent times was recalled by his son, Raphael.
“Working with Jack was an honour and pleasure for all our family,” he said.
O'Donoghue helped negotiate Ireland's entry to the (then) European Economic Community and later into the Exchange Rate Mechanism of the European Monetary System, a forerunner of the euro.
“Dad trusted Jack implicitly and I believe that trust was fully reciprocated,” said Raphael. “Of course, the years that followed were very different. However, even when marching out of step with distant crown, Dad always adhered to the Shakespearean line: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’.
“Ultimately, of course truth would win out.”
This was by taken by many in the funeral congregation to refer to the exposure of corruption regarding Haughey and also to O’Donoghue’s own brush with controversy.
In Haughey’s 1982 government, O’Donoghue was made minister for education, a post from which he resigned after five months as scandal hit in the cabinet.
Shortly afterwards, O’Donoghue was secretly bugged by the then tánaiste, Ray MacSharry, using eavesdropping equipment obtained from the Garda via the then minister for justice Seán Doherty. The bugging was exposed in early 1983, by which time O’Donoghue had lost his Dáil seat.
Former political colleagues who attended included Des O'Malley and Brian Geoghegan (representing himself and his wife, Mary Harney, who was abroad), Martin Mansergh, Dr Michael Woods, Mary Hanafin and Stephen O'Byrnes; former trade union leader David Begg; leading academic economists included former Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan, a predecessor, John Hurley; and academic colleagues former senator Seán Barrett, Patrick Drudy, Dermot McAleese, Andrew Somerville, John Bristow and John O'Hagan; and journalists John Bowman, Geraldine Kennedy, Vincent Browne, Deaglán de Bréadún and John Cooney.
O’Donoghue’s remains were cremated after his funeral. He is survived by his widow Evelyn, children Audrey, Raphael and Tressan, by his brother Tom and by his grandchildren.