Tributes paid to respected surgeon


THE DEATH has occurred of the pioneering heart surgeon and Irish Timescolumnist Maurice Neligan. He died suddenly at his home in Dublin early yesterday, aged 73 years.

Mr Neligan leaves behind a rich legacy having performed the first coronary artery bypass graft in Ireland in 1975 and Ireland’s first heart transplant in 1985. He also pioneered the development of open heart surgery in children.

He grew up in Booterstown, Dublin, and studied at Blackrock College before moving on to UCD to study medicine. After graduating in 1962, he went to work at the Mater hospital where he joined the cardiology team.

He was consultant cardiac surgeon at the Mater 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. With his wife Pat, also a doctor, he had seven children, three sons and four daughters, one of whom – Sara, an intensive care nurse – was murdered in 2007. He is survived by Pat and children Maurice, John, David, Kate, Lisa and Lucy.

Son Maurice said last night his father had died suddenly but very peacefully at home. “Whilst we did not have enough time with him we are certainly celebrating a life rich with achievement,” he said.

Mr Neligan had attended a 55-year reunion of Blackrock College students on Thursday and was due to address GPs in Kilkenny today. In recent years he enjoyed playing golf, reading, visiting his holiday home in Kerry and writing a weekly column for the Irish Timeshealth supplement.

Many tributes were paid to him yesterday. Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he was a very distinguished surgeon, and there were many families in Ireland who were deeply grateful for his work.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he was deeply sorry to hear of his passing, adding that his “gentle nature, his realism and his colourful opinions on health and politics will be missed by all”.

Dr James Reilly, Fine Gael’s health spokesman, said Ireland had lost a leading champion of the patient and the health service. “He pioneered developments in cardiac surgery and trained many of the current leading experts in that field,” he 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. The Irish Heart Foundation said it deeply regretted his passing.

Mr Neligan’s remains will be removed to the Church of the Assumption, Booterstown, at 5pm on Monday and his funeral Mass will be at 11.30am on Tuesday.