Independent TD Tony Gregory died today [Friday] at the age of 61 after a long illness.
The Dublin Central TD died in St Francis Hospice, Raheny, this morning, after a long battle with cancer.
Tributes to Mr Gregory have described him as “a legend in his own time” and “a hero of the people of the north inner city”. Prior to his passing, he was one of the longest serving independent deputies in the history of the Dail.
Mr Gregory rose to national prominence when as a newly-elected Independent TD he struck a deal with Charles Haughey to return Fianna Fail to government.
The multi-million pound “Gregory deal” is now part of Irish political folklore. The Dublin Central TD received detailed written commitments from Haughey, in February 1982, which it was estimated could cost the exchequer #80 million in a full year.
Had that government lasted, the face of a deprived area of the north inner city could have been transformed, but Haughey lost power in December and much of the deal became history.
He consistently highlighted the drug problem in his constituency. In 1984, he said he had no misgivings about the then concerned parents against drugs movement. The community response was the main reason for the decline in addiction, he added.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he was saddened to learn of Mr Gregory’s death. “He was a proud Dubliner, a great advocate for his community and a diligent public representative,” he said.
Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny said Mr Gregory was “an original mould breaker” who disrupted the “cosy comfort” of Dail tradition when he refused to wear a tie in the Dail chamber.
Fellow Independent Deputy Finian McGrath said Ireland had lost a great TD and a champion of the weakest sections of society. “Tony was also a close friend and advisor for 25 years,” said Mr McGrath. “I would not be in the Dail without the support and guidance from Tony.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams described the death of Gregory as a “painful blow to his family, friends and the wider community of Dublin Central.”
He said his death following a long illness had deprived his constituents and the wider body politic in Ireland of a socialist, a republican and a true community activist.
Mr Adams said, “It was his community activism - his skilful defence of the people of Dublin Central, whom he represented in Leinster House for more than two decades, that ensured his grassroots popularity and continued electoral success. But for Tony it wasn’t just about being popular. He was a man of principle and integrity. He was a genuine champion of justice and equality issues - not just in his own constituency - but across Ireland and beyond.
“On behalf of the Sinn Féin I would like to extend our sincere condolences to Tony’s family, friends and comrades.
Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain also expressed his sympathy a to the family and friends of Mr Gregory.
“He was committed to social and economic justice and took his stand with the marginalised and the oppressed in Ireland and worldwide. He was a believer in Irish unity and national sovereignty and gave his support to many progressive campaigns over the years.
“Tony played a key role in helping to put together the Technical Group in the last Dail, providing a platform for the smaller parties and Independents. His voting and speaking record in the Dail was consistently progressive and his passing is a significant loss to Irish politics.”
DEATH OF SEAN McKENNA
Sean McKenna, a former IRA volunteer, who spent 53 days on Hunger Strike in 1980 died before Christmas.
Mr McKenna died at his home in Dundalk on December 29th at the age of 56.
Originally from Newry, Mr McKenna spent 53 days on the first hunger strike in the October 1980 protest.
Against the wishes of the IRA army council Mr McKenna went on the fast with six other republican prisoners including Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes, Tommy McKearney and Raymond McCartney.
He had slipped into a coma but before he died, the strike was called off and he was revived.
Mr McKenna never fully recovered his eyesight and suffered ill health since his release from prison. Many hunger-strike survivors have suffered a shortened life as a result. Mr McKenna’s premature death follows that of Brendan Hughes earlier last year.
Mr McKenna had been illegally arrested, along with his father, and hundreds of others, by the British army on 9th August, 1971. His father was one of the ‘hooded men’ and died whilst in his early forties as a result of being tortured.
Father and son were both interned in Long Kesh. After his release Sean returned to active service but lived in County Louth at Edentubber.
On 12th March 1976 members of an SAS undercover team crossed the border and abducted Sean, again illegally, without any protest from the Dublin government at the breach of its sovereignty. Sean was sentenced in a Diplock Court and was on the blanket for several years prior to the hunger strike.
He was buried on Monday, 22nd December, in Calvary cemetery, Ravensdale, County Louth, after Requiem Mass in nearby St Mary’s Church.
Republicans from across Ireland, including Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, many former prisoners and surviving hunger strikers, attended the funeral.
* Conor Cruise O’Brien, considered to be Ireland’s leading reactionary and the inspiration behind ‘Section 31’ censorship in the 26 Counties, also died in the week before Christmas, aged 91.
As Minister for Posts & Telegraphs in the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government of 1973, he helped to engineer a crackdown on Irish nationalism and republicanism. An open supporter of police brutality and torture, O’Brien was admired by unionists and the extreme right, although he represented the Irish Labour Party.
In 1996, he formally joined Robert McCartney’s hardline UK Unionist Party and campaigned for election alongside McCartney. He was involved in the talks process that ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement until the party withdrew on the involvement of Sinn Féin.
He is survived by his second wife, the Irish-language writer and poet Maire Mhac an tSaoi.
* The death also occurred last Friday of Mai Fahy (98), one of the last surviving members of Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women’s military organisation.
Mrs Fahy (nee O’Dea) delivered despatches in the War of Independence. Her husband, John Fahy, was a member of the IRA. A Tricolour covered her coffin at her funeral Mass in Labane.