Surgeon Maurice Neligan dies


Former heart surgeon and Irish Times columnist Maurice Neligan has died at the age of 73.

He was consultant cardiac surgeon at the Mater Hospital from 1971 until 2009 and at Crumlin Children's Hospital from 1974 until 2002. He was also one of the founders of the Blackrock Clinic.

Mr Neligan performed the first coronary artery bypass graft in 1975 and carried out Ireland's first heart transplant in 1985.

He wrote a weekly column for this newspaper's health supplement for the past eight years.

Mr Neligan is survived by his wife Pat, three sons and three daughters. Another daughter, Sara, died in 2007.

Enda Kenny said the State would be "much the poorer" for the passing of Mr Neligan. The former surgeon's "gentle nature, his realism and his colourful opinions on health and politics" will be missed by all across Ireland, the Fine Gael leader said.

"I am deeply, deeply sorry to hear of Maurice's passing today. I spoke at length to Maurice only last week. He was the first superstar of Irish medicine following his achievements as a leading cardiac surgeon. There are many who enjoy a normal lifestyle today because of his work."

"He was a deeply compassionate Irishman, proud of his profession and caring of his family. . . Ireland will be the poorer for his passing. I extend deepest sympathies to Maurice's wife, Pat, and their children. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Fine Gael’s health spokesman, Dr James Reilly described Mr Neligan as a leading champion of patients and a pioneer within the Irish health service.

“It is deeply sad that the country has lost a great servant to the public interest, and medicine has lost a great pioneer and a leading thinker,” Dr Reilly said.

“His friends have lost a close and cherished friend, but the greatest loss is to his wife Pat and their children to whom I offer my sincere sympathy. For his family and in so many other roles, he will be so sadly missed.”

In a statement, the Irish Heart Foundation said it deeply regretted Mr Neligan's passing.

"Mr Neligan pioneered the development of cardiac surgery in Ireland, and his contribution was outstanding. He will be remembered with great affection and admiration by all for whom he cared," Michael O’Shea, chief executive of the Irish Heart Foundation, said.

The board of Crumlin Children’s Hospital said Mr Neligan was "a giant figure in the history of Irish medicine".

"His energy, enthusiasm, skill and dedication have left a lasting impact on the hospital and generations of children who have received their care here," the hospital said in a statement.

"He was a lifelong advocate for children’s medical services and continued his support of the hospital long after his retirement."

Bryan Harty, chief executive of Blackrock Clinic, said his staff were very attached to Mr Neligan and very upset by the news of his death.

“He was a larger-than-life character,” he said. “It took people with his sense of drive and vision to get the hospital going.

“He was very, very focused on his patients and the relatives of his patients.