Born May 16th, 1955
Died May 6th, 2023
Former Fine Gael TD, councillor and community activist Derek Keating has died, aged 67. Originally from Ballyfermot, the Dubliner spent most of his political career in Lucan and was a vocal campaigner for improved facilities in the area, particularly for young people.
His mother sparked his interest in community activism. He was the eldest of six children born to Rebecca and Seamus Keating on Kylemore Drive. His father was a carpenter with Dublin Corporation, while she organised children’s clubs and summer projects in Ballyfermot.
Curious about politics from a young age, he first joined Fianna Fáil and then the Progressive Democrats before finding his feet as an Independent candidate.
He stood for the first time in 1999 as an Independent candidate for the Lucan electoral area in the local elections for South Dublin County Council and was elected by a narrow margin. When the next elections rolled around in 2004, he received 3,680 first preferences votes – or 21.75 per cent of the vote.
He made another political pivot in 2008 when he joined Fine Gael. Dismissing accusations of being “politically promiscuous”, he said he believed he could better serve his community in Lucan and Palmerstown by becoming part of the Fine Gael party machine. The move paid off and he increased his share of the vote to 26.88 per cent in the 2009 election – one of the strongest votes in the country. This positioned him nicely to win a seat for Fine Gael in Dublin Mid-West in the 2011 general election.
A former colleague, Labour councillor Joanna Tuffy, described him as “a phenomenal local vote getter” who worked very hard for his constituency. A friend recalled Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny canvassing with Keating and being visibly taken aback by how everyone appeared to know him.
Independent councillor Paul Gogarty, who also served alongside him on the council said they enjoyed an intensely competitive political rivalry. Derek Keating kept him on his toes as he was “prolific and unrelenting and appeared to be everywhere all at once”.
He lived by the mantra that all politics were local. Lucan residents recalled his successful campaign to get a skate park built in the area. He was also involved in a campaign to get a library for Lucan and was a keen supporter of local sports clubs in the sprawling suburb. Before becoming a full-time councillor, he was a sports and fitness instructor and a FÁS community employment scheme supervisor.
He spearheaded the move to bring hundreds of children from Chernobyl to Lucan for holidays and was a director of Lucan Disability Action Group, which provides services including transport to residents with disabilities.
His former election agent David Ruddy remembered him as a very empathetic politician whose motivation lay in helping young people in particular. “But really he just wanted to improve the lot of everyone.”
He was a director of Pieta House, which offers support to people at risk of suicide. A keen singer and guitarist, in 2011 he brought his Dáil and Seanad colleagues together in a choir to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water to raise funds for the charity. Former colleagues in Leinster House described him as someone who was great company and a true gentleman. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who served alongside him in the Dáil, recalled that he was “rooted in his community” and a very hard worker.
Keating described himself as a devout Catholic and was active in his parish church and its folk group. He spoke about his hurt when he was asked to step aside as a Eucharistic minister because of his, and Fine Gael’s, support of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013. His home was also targeted by anti-abortion protesters, an act he described as intimidating and threatening. His former parliamentary assistant and schoolfriend, Gerry Kennedy, said he was an honourable man who stood up for his principles. “He was a strong advocate for marriage equality, gender recognition and the changing demographic of Ireland,” he said.
His funeral heard how his eyes lit up with delight when he talked about his daughters and his wife of more than four decades, Anne, a retired deputy school principal
Fine Gael always looked like it would struggle to hold on to its two seats in Dublin Mid-West, so it was not a huge shock when he lost his seat in the 2016 general election. He almost made a comeback in the local elections in 2019 when he ran in the Palmerstown Fonthill area, but the loss of that election drew a line under his political career. Noting the 10th anniversary of his election to the Dáil, in 2021, he said it had been “a wonderful privilege and a great honour” to become a TD, “however, today I am very happy to be out of politics”.
He was a sports fanatic, and friends recalled his array of jerseys supporting Dublin GAA, Leinster Rugby and Manchester United. He was also a lifetime fan of St Patrick’s Athletic FC. In recent years he dedicated himself to sport, running with Waterstown Warriors and enjoying time with his grandchildren. His funeral heard how his eyes lit up with delight when he talked about his daughters and his wife of more than four decades, Anne, a retired deputy school principal.
Despite being diagnosed with dementia, friends recalled that he was still doing 5k runs before Christmas. However, his health declined rapidly in recent months.
Derek Keating is survived by his wife, Anne; daughters Niamh and Sinéad; grandchildren; sisters Clare, Martina and Debora; and brother Seamus. He was predeceased by his sister Rebecca.