Recent passings in Ireland and Irish America.
1928 – 2016
Former Fine Gael leader, tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Peter Barry died in August at his home in Cork city. He was 88. Barry was an instrumental figure in the establishment of the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement, a treaty which contributed to the ending of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Barry was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael TD in the 1969 general election, and the party’s win of the 1973 election saw him become the Minister for Transport and Power. In 1976, he served as Minister for Education, and in 1979, he was elected the deputy leader of the Fine Gael party under Garret FitzGerald. After serving fleetingly as Minister for the Environment, he began his five-year tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1982.
As well as using his role of Foreign Minister to help negotiate the terms of the Anglo-Irish agreement, Barry became the first joint chairman of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a body concerned with political, legal, and security matters in Northern Ireland, as well as the promotion of cross-border co-operation. Following the Labour Party’s withdrawal from the coalition government in 1987, Barry became tánaiste for a brief period.
Barry was born and educated in Blackrock, Co. Cork. Despite wanting to become an engineer, he fulfilled family obligations by working in their tea shop, which was not doing well at the time. This business would recover to become Barry’s Tea, a nationally-loved brand, of which he was a major stockholder.
Current Minister of Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan paid tribute to Barry in the Irish Times, saying, “His deep commitment to public service and his humble and warm demeanor were admired by all.” He is survived by his children, Tony, Deirdre, Donagh, Conor, Peter Jr., and Fiona.
1928 – 2016
Bob Dunfey, an instrumental figure in the Northern Ireland peace process and native of Lowell, Massachusetts, died in August at the age of 88 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was a friend and campaigner of Senator Robert Kennedy and spent much of his career in the “back room” of the Democratic party’s political activities in Massachusetts, later applying what he learned to help repair relations in his ancestral home.
He played an essential role in Kennedy’s presidential campaign in Maine, during which the candidate would call him every Sunday to seek advice. He was also behind George Mitchell’s appointment as Senate majority leader in 1980, when he approached the man in question to fill Edmund Muskie’s vacated seat. He accompanied Mitchell when he was appointed President Clinton’s economic advisor on Northern Ireland in his first investigation. There, he met community leaders on the Shankill and Falls Roads in Belfast and witnessed the harsh reality of the Troubles.
Dunfey and his family, who owned Omni Hotels International, established the Global Citizen’s Circle in 1968 to create a space for international political progress, embracing Cuba, Central America, South Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. They reflected this space at the Washington/Boston American Ireland Fund’s annual events, bringing opponents of the peace process together in its early days to promote dialogue that could not be held at home in Ireland.
Dunfey bought a house Ballyferriter, a small Gaeltacht village in Co. Kerry, which allowed him to stay connected with his roots. He returned there every summer for 35 years, forging connections and friendships with figures such as Gerry Adams, John Hume, David Trimble, and Monica McWilliams during the bedrock period of the peace process.
Dunfey, who is survived by his wife, five children, and four siblings, requested his ashes be returned to Ballyferriter.
1927 – 2016
Political talk show host John Joseph McLaughlin died in August at the age of 89. Best known as the host of public affairs television show The McLaughlin Group, he missed only one broadcast in 34 years in the days leading up to his death. McLoughlin’s loud, brash, and unyielding style of hosting was emblematic of his show.
Born into a second-generation Irish American family in Providence, Rhode Island, McLoughlin prepared for a career in the priesthood from the age of 18, and in 1959, he was ordained into the
Jesuit order. After obtaining a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University, he became a writer and later assistant editor of America, the
Jesuit current affairs publication in New York.
During the Vietnam War, McLoughlin transitioned from affiliation with the Democratic party to supporting the war as a Republican. He returned to Providence in 1970 in order to run for the United States Senate to represent Rhode Island, but was unsuccessful in his efforts. He later became a speechwriter for president Richard Nixon. In 1975, he left the priesthood to pursue public relations, eventually rising to fame in the political media.
Mortimer B. Zuckerman, chairman and publisher of the Daily News and a regular panelist of The McLaughlin Group, said that “the liveliness [of the show] was a reflection of [McLoughlin’s] unique personality as well as his keen intellect, which helped to cover and uncover the numerous landscapes of opinions that steered his listeners to make qualified decisions.”
In the 2014 year-end award episode of his show, McLaughlin famously said: “Pope Francis – person of the year, especially now that he’s told us that animals can go to heaven. And Oliver is up there waiting for me.” McLoughlin’s Oliver Productions, Inc., is named after his beloved Basset Hound, who, fittingly, is shown in a brand logo animation at the close of each show.
1948 – 2016
Irish American policeman and law enforcement executive John Timoney died in August after a battle with lung cancer. Timoney, who was once named as America’s best cop by Esquire magazine, was 68.
Timoney gained national recognition during his seven-year placement as chief of police in Miami, during which he publicly advocated for the use of non-lethal force among police officers. Timoney took over the department as chief in 2003, the same year that the protests at the Free Trade Area of America occurred. To handle the crowds, Timoney invented the “Miami model” method, which consisted of preemptive arrests, heavily armed undercover cops, embedded police and intelligence gathered from protesters.
During his first 20 months in as chief commissioner of Miami, not a single shot was fired by a member of his force. This prompted the New Yorker to deem him “one of the most progressive and effective police chiefs in the country” in a 2007 profile. In 2003, the New York Times reported that to Miami officers who demanded an exception to Timoney’s ban on shooting at cars, he allowed only one: if he arrived at the scene to find a tire-track across a force member’s chest.
The starting point of Timoney’s path to Miami was reminiscent of countless other Irish immigrants. At 13, he moved with his family from inner city Dublin to Washington Heights, Manhattan, where he Anglicized his given first name, Sean, in order to fit in. By 1969, he had become a beat cop in the NYPD, and, soon after, the youngest four-star chief in New York. He was later named deputy commissioner under former NYPD chief Bill Bratton. Bratton’s 1996 resignation prompted Timoney to relocate to Philadelphia, where he was named police commissioner the following year. There, he oversaw new training techniques for officers and transformed internal affairs, despite Republican Convention complaints from the ACLU in 2000 regarding his non-lethal force policies.
After Miami, Timoney did some consulting work stateside, and since 2011 worked with the Ministry of the Interior of Bahrain to reduce casualties during the pro-democracy Bahraini uprising. He is survived by his wife, Noreen, and children, Christine and Sean. ♦