Remembering TK Whitaker


Sir, – Fintan O’Toole writes that TK Whitaker “took the idea of a united Ireland seriously” (“Supreme mandarin and good citizen”, January 11th). To say the least this statement needs qualification. It is clear from the thorough biography by Anne Chambers of this remarkable public servant that TK Whitaker was an advocate of the principle of consent for Northern Ireland unionists 30 years before the Belfast Agreement. In a document of 1971 cited in the biography, he proposed that a united Ireland might be accomplished by 2025 or 2050; in other words long after the deaths both of himself and of those he was advising. Contrast this with the boast of the late Brian Lenihan snr after the 1980 Dublin summit that reunification would be achieved within 10 years.

TK Whitaker was also sceptical about aspects of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and regarded the presence of the Maryfield secretariat in Belfast as an unnecessary provocation to unionists.

As advocates of a united Ireland go, TK Whitaker was both unusually cautious and unusually sensitive to unionist concerns. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Charlie Haughey told me that TK Whitaker strongly opposed free travel for pensioners, and on the day of its announcement, even followed him to the door of the Dáil in this regard. I asked TKW was this true, and with his customary good humour he replied that it was true, and CJH “never let me forget it”. CJH held TKW in great regard, though they were not friends. – Yours, etc,


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