Taoiseach pays tribute to the late Dermot Nally
TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen last night paid tribute to former secretary to the government Dermot Nally (82), who died suddenly yesterday at St Vincent’s hospital, Dublin.
“Mr Nally is particularly remembered for his contribution over many years in relation to Northern Ireland. With key roles at Sunningdale and in the development of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, he continued to be involved after his retirement in December 1992,” the Taoiseach said.
Describing Mr Nally as “a pioneer and enthusiastic advocate of Irish membership of the European Union”, Mr Cowen said that “taoisigh, ministers and official colleagues alike had a high regard for his acumen and his advice”.
Mr Nally joined the Department of the Taoiseach in 1973, where he was assistant secretary under Liam Cosgrave, deputy secretary under Jack Lynch and secretary to the government under Charles Haughey, Dr Garret FitzGerald and Albert Reynolds.
He led officials in the negotiations leading up to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and was also involved in the negotiations preceding the 1993 Downing Street Declaration.
Born in Dublin in 1927, he was educated at CBS Synge Street and Belvedere College. He was awarded a science scholarship to University College Dublin but his academic career was curtailed by a hiking accident in which he almost lost a leg. He later graduated from the University of London.
After a brief spell with the ESB, he joined the Office of Public Works in 1947. He served in the Department of Local Government from 1952 and was promoted to principal officer before being brought into the Department of the Taoiseach in January 1973.
On the retirement of Dan O’Sullivan as the senior civil servant in the department in 1980, then-taoiseach Charles Haughey split the job in two, appointing Dr Noel Whelan as secretary of the department and Mr Nally as secretary to the government.
Mr Nally played a key role on Northern Ireland and European issues. His skill and integrity won him the respect of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her senior officials in the protracted negotiations that led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
In all, he served five taoisigh in 10 governments.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, brother Fergal, sister Sheila, son Brian and daughters Ailbhe, Maura, Sheila and Caitríona.