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Obituaries of 2023: 50 people who died this year

From billionaire philanthropists to actors to sports stars, The Irish Times’s obituary writers have marked the deaths of more than 150 people this year. Here is a selection


Thousands of people die every month in this State but only a handful are singled out for an obituary in this newspaper. From billionaire philanthropists to actors to sports stars, The Irish Times’s obituary writers have marked the deaths of more than 150 people this year.

While they are remembered for different reasons, they have one thing in common – they all made an impact on Irish society or on the greater world. Many were household names, such as singers Sinéad O’Connor and Shane MacGowan, but others, such as Fr Brendan Forde, were not. The Franciscan priest spent more than 40 years helping the poorest communities in Latin America.

Others made huge strides in their chosen fields such as Prof Sarah Rogers, who was credited with modernising dermatological medicine in Ireland, or Michelin-star chef Colin O’Daly who cofounded Roly’s Bistro. There were people who had pushed their bodies to the limits, such as Noel Hanna who scaled Mount Everest 10 times, or Olympic bronze medal boxer Jim McCourt. And there were politicians such as Tras Honan, who broke glass ceilings, and Niamh Bhreathnach who introduced free third-level tuition.

Here is a reminder of some of those whose deaths merited an obituary this year.


Carol Anne Lowe

Opera singer and actor

Carol Anne Lowe, who died on January 5th, had many strings to her bow. The Dubliner was an acclaimed mezzo-soprano, an actor in the RTÉ soap Fair City and a businesswoman.

When she was 23, she won the £15,000 Lombard and Ulster Music Bursary – the largest music bursary at the time. She had starring roles with the Dublin Grand Opera Society and the Rathmines & Rathgar and Glasnevin Musical Societies and appeared in The Pirates of Penzance and as Josephine in Noel Pearson’s production of HMS Pinafore at the Gaiety Theatre. She also appeared many times at the Cork Opera House and at the Wexford Opera House and frequently graced the stage of the National Concert Hall.

She regularly performed in Hamburg’s Musikhalle and gave many recitals in London, New York and in South Africa. She later set up Blue Moon Communications, where she worked as a business strategist and mentor. In her role as Francesca de Silva in Fair City, she became the love interest of mechanic Ray, played by Mick Nolan, and this led to the couple marrying in real life.

Lowe died on January 5th, aged 59.

Ida Delamer


Leading Irish expert in silver Ida Delamer was the first woman member of the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin and later became master warden – the highest-ranking position in the governance structure. The company governs the assay office in Dublin Castle, which is responsible for hallmarking all items of gold, silver and platinum for sale in Ireland.

She was one of the first women to study architecture at University College Dublin but the ban on married women working meant she could not practise. However, her training ensured that she had excellent drawing skills and she put them to good use when producing the definitive chart of historical Irish silver hallmarks.

While chairing the Royal Dublin Society crafts subcommittee in 1996, she introduced the Company of Goldsmiths Award. She was also involved in the initial stages of the restoration of the Dublin lord mayor’s ornamental coach in the 1970s.

With pianist John O’Conor, she was one of the founders of the Dublin International Piano Competition in 1988. She was also a trustee of the National Library for several years and chairwoman of the Silver Society, an international group of collectors, dealers, researchers and working silversmiths.

Ida Delamer died on January 7th, aged 91.

Jerry Enright


Brig Gen Jerry Enright, who died on January 8th, aged 93, was lauded for his courage and decisiveness in an army career which included four tours of UN duty. He was the first officer on the scene of the aftermath of the Niemba ambush of Irish troops in 1960 in the Congolese province of Katanga.

When the platoon under the command of Lieut Kevin Gleeson failed to return from patrol, the then Lieut Enright was given the task of leading a rescue. He found that eight soldiers, including Lieut Gleeson had been killed, while the body of Trooper Anthony Browne was recovered almost two years later. Lieut Enright was praised for the courage and leadership he showed in leading his platoon at such a traumatic time.

He went on to do three other tours of UN duty, in Cyprus, Lebanon and as chief military observer of the UN mission on the disputed border between Pakistan and India.

Back at home, he was commanding officer of the 27th Battalion, based at Dundalk at the height of the hunger strikes. He also did several stints with the Equitation School, and as commanding officer of the Army Detention Centre with the Military Police.

Séamus Begley


Séamus Begley, who died suddenly on January 9th, aged 73, was credited with bringing the traditional music of west Kerry to a global audience and was described by President Michael D Higgins as one of Ireland’s finest accordion players.

A born collaborator, he made his first album with his sister Máire in 1973, and another one in 1989. But it was his collaboration with Australian guitarist Steve Cooney that produced the award-winning and seminal album Meitheal in 1992.

Begley was known for his gloriously boisterous performances when his fiery rhythms pushed his accordion to its limits. But he was also a singer of extraordinary tenderness, and he was described by Waterboys musician Mike Scott as “the finest of all Irish musicians, and perhaps the most beautiful singer I’ve ever heard”.

Actor and musician John C Reilly said he was a legend of a man and a virtuosic player. “Not only was he easy to play with but songs would just flow out of him like water, it was incredible.”

John Murray


John Murray held some of the most senior legal positions in the State including the roles of chief justice and attorney general. He was a judge of the European Court of Justice and a university chancellor and visiting lecturer. He died on January 18th, aged 79.

The Limerick-born senior counsel was twice appointed attorney general by taoiseach Charles Haughey, in 1982 and 1987. As attorney general, he drafted the wording of what would become the 1983 anti-abortion amendment, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. He also refused to extradite Fr Patrick Ryan to face terrorism-related charges in Britain on the basis that he would not receive a fair trial, a decision that was strongly criticised by prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

His work in the European Court of Justice developed European law affecting issues such as equal pay rights, and internal trade barriers. He became a Supreme Court judge in 1989 and was known for delivering carefully drafted judgments with much thoughtful analysis. He served as chief justice from 2004 until 2011.

Fr Micheál MacGréil


Jesuit, sociologist and campaigner Fr Micheál Mac Gréil was remembered as a voice for the marginalised and underprivileged when he died on January 21st, aged 93. He was a university lecturer, a trade unionist, and a campaigner for various causes including the rights of minorities, the promotion of the Irish language and the reopening of closed railway lines.

His friend Dr Michael Neary, former archbishop of Tuam, said he had led a life that was “radical, yet profoundly traditional”.

He was best known for his influential sociological research on prejudice, tolerance and pluralism. He denounced homophobia as one of the most invidious prejudices and said Ireland’s treatment of the Travellers must rank “as one of the most serious social embarrassments in the state’s 86 years of independence”.

In his memoir, The Ongoing Present, published 10 years ago, he wrote that some of his early research made Irish people aware of their prejudices and encouraged them to be more tolerant. But he warned that “we should not be under any illusion with regard to the persistence of racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, anti-Semitism, class or religious prejudice.”

Prof Michael O’Keeffe


Pioneering paediatric eye surgeon Prof Michael O’Keeffe was described by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association as “a true visionary in medicine” when he died on January 25th, aged 71. The Cork-born doctor was a founder member of the association and was a consultant ophthalmologist at the Mater Private Hospital and Beacon Hospital in Dublin. He previously worked as a consultant at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, the Mater hospital, the Rotunda and National Maternity Hospital. He was also a clinical professor of paediatric ophthalmology in University College Dublin.

But while he was highly respected by the medical profession, it was the tributes from his many grateful patients and their parents that were the most striking after his death. They told of how he saved the eyesight of so many babies, and in some cases, saved their lives when they were faced with the potentially fatal condition of retinoblastoma. Féach, the support group for parents with visually impaired children, said there was hardly a visually impaired child or parent in the group who had not encountered him. “Prof O’Keeffe was not only an expert in his field, he was a beacon of hope,” the group said.

Niamh Bhreathnach


Niamh Bhreathnach was the first Labour member to become a minister for education and she wasted no time in making her mark. Her time in the Dáil was short – she lost her seat in the next election five years later – but it was characterised by radical initiatives.

The former teacher left what President Michael D Higgins described as an “extraordinary” legacy of educational reform. “That legacy includes the abolition of third-level undergraduate tuition fees and significant increases in education spending, the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme, and making the transition year programme available to all second-level schools, any of which on their own would reflect a significant term of office,” he said.

She also introduced the RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) programme, encountering strong opposition from some conservative quarters; the Social, Personal and Health Education programme; and the new subject of Civic Social and Political Education.

Her “Breaking the Cycle” initiative targeted schools in disadvantaged areas and would later become the Deis programme. She also oversaw the designation of the Regional Technical Colleges as Institutes of Education.

Niamh Bhreathnach died on February 6th, aged 77.

James Flynn

Film maker

James Flynn was a key figure in the recent growth of the Irish film industry and an inspiration to a generation of young filmmakers. His death on February 11th, at the age of 57, came just weeks after The Banshees of Inisherin received nine Oscar nominations. He was co-producer on that Martin McDonagh film. Other film credits include Angela’s Ashes, The Secret of Kells, Ondine, Nora and Calvary.

Along with producer Morgan O’Sullivan, James Flynn brought productions such as The Tudors, Vikings, Vikings Valhalla, and Penny Dreadful to Ireland.

He was business manager and later deputy chief executive of the reconstituted Irish Film Board, now known as Screen Ireland. Colleagues talked about his open and honest nature and ability to work well with people to get things done.

Irish Times film correspondent Donald Clarke wrote in his obituary that one of his most significant legacies may prove to be the RTÉ series Love/Hate. It helped launch emerging actors such as Barry Keoghan, Ruth Negga, Charlie Murphy and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.

Co-founder of Element Pictures Andrew Lowe said he always found time to help others “and took genuine pleasure in the success of his peers”.

Deirdre Purcell


Deirdre Purcell (77) was one of Ireland’s best-known fiction writers, but she enjoyed success in many other fields. The Dubliner’s broadcasting career began as a continuity announcer with RTÉ and she went on to become the first woman staff newsreader on RTÉ Television’s Nine O’Clock News. She was an award-winning feature writer with the Sunday Tribune and, in her earlier life, an actress with the Abbey Theatre. In her wide-ranging work for RTÉ, she also presented It Says in the Papers for RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland for six years.

She ghostwrote RTÉ chatshow host Gay Byrne’s autobiography, The Time of My Life in 1989 and followed this with her first novel, A Place of Stones in 1991. It became an instant best-seller and many more books followed. One of her best-known, Falling for a Dancer, was made into a four-part BBC series in 1998 starring a young Colin Farrell. Her 1997 novel, Love Like Hate Adore, was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize, now the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her Hachette publisher Ciara Considine said she was “a formidable spirit and a leading light in Ireland’s literary scene for over 30 years”.

Deirdre Purcell died suddenly on February 13th.

Frank Feely

Dublin city manager

Frank Feely was a larger-than-life Dublin city manager who presided over the capital for 17 years until his retirement in 1996. “If anyone could be said to have ‘run’ Dublin... it is Frank Feely,” wrote Frank McDonald in this newspaper when his term of office came to an end. He was also Dublin county manager until the county was reorganised into three councils in the early 1990s.

Unlike previous city managers who were relatively anonymous, he was a public figure, revelling in major occasions such as the visit of Bill Clinton in 1995. He spearheaded the Dublin Millennium celebrations in 1988, which included commemorative milk bottles, the floating of a giant sculpture of Gulliver up the Liffey, the introduction of the Anna Livia fountain on O’Connell Street, and the unveiling of the Molly Malone statue. While the actual date of the city’s foundation was contested by historians, the celebrations for the millennium gave the city a welcome boost in a recessionary period.

He was also credited with initiating new housing schemes, city parks, pedestrian streets and the floodlighting of landmarks such as the Ha’penny Bridge. He died on February 20th, aged 91.

Camille Souter


Camille Souter was hailed as a giant of Irish art, after news emerged of her death on March 3rd. Maureen Kennelly, director of the Arts Council, said the 93-year-old had created an “extraordinary body of work over the course of almost 70 years” and said she had made a profound contribution to the visual arts in Ireland.

She initially trained as a nurse but contracted tuberculosis and decided to become an artist. She quickly gained a reputation for producing work of outstanding quality. Drawn towards unconventional subjects, she created abstract works with what has been described as a “statuesque elegance”.

She avoided the limelight yet still won a slew of awards for her work, including the Landscape Award at the Oireachtas Exhibition in 1973, the Gainey Award with Patrick Collins in 1975, the Prix de Ville de Monaco 1977 and first prize at the Claremorris Exhibition in 1978.

She received the highest accolade an artist can get in Ireland when she was elected saoi of Aosdána in 2008. Aosdána said her work was “reminiscent of the rich colouration, loosely painterly technique and straightforward gaze of French Realism”.

Rita O’Hare

Political activist

Rita O’Hare, who died aged 80 on March 3rd, was a former IRA member and one of the most senior and influential members of Sinn Féin. She was editor of An Phoblacht and was the party’s director of publicity. She was also Sinn Féin general secretary and the party’s representative in Washington, where she was photographed with the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

She was an active member of the IRA in the early 1970s and was arrested in 1972 for the attempted murder of British army warrant officer Frazer Paton. She absconded on bail to the Republic and efforts to have her extradited failed. She continued her IRA activities there and served a three-year sentence in Limerick Prison on explosives charges.

She was a central figure in the “on the runs” legislation, which was designed to ensure former republican paramilitaries could return to Northern Ireland without fear of prosecution.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said she had been an integral part of the Sinn Féin leadership. “Rita worked with great drive, energy and ability for the unity of Ireland, for a more just society, and for the cause of peace and reconciliation.”

Kenneth Montgomery


Described as the doyen of Irish conductors, Kenneth Montgomery was the first local musician as well as the first Irishman to become principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in 2007.

The Belfast-born conductor began his career with Glyndebourne Festival Opera, aged 20, and the English National Opera (then known as Sadler’s Wells Opera). He was later appointed assistant conductor to both the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonietta, and he made the first of three consecutive appearances at Wexford Festival Opera in 1971.

Much of his career was in Europe, particularly the Netherlands where he settled. He also enjoyed a long relationship with Santa Fe Opera, conducting numerous productions there between 1982 and 2014. In 1985, he was appointed artistic and musical director of Opera Northern Ireland and in 1991 he was made director of opera studies at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.

He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s new year Honours List in 2010 for services to music in Northern Ireland and he received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature in Music from Queen’s University Belfast in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music. He died on March 5th, aged 79.

Dr Moira Woods

Doctor and campaigner

Dr Moira Woods, who died on March 27th aged 89, was the medical director of Ireland’s first sexual assault treatment unit in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital and was a co-founder of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Ireland in the 1960s.

She was prominent in the movement against the 1983 constitutional amendment which gave the foetus equal rights to the mother. She was the doctor who cared for the 14-year-old rape victim in the 1992 X case, which led to the Supreme Court case establishing the right to an abortion if the pregnant woman’s life was at risk.

Dr Woods also worked in the Dublin Well Woman Centre and was codirector of the Irish Family Planning Association, giving women access to contraceptives at a time when many family doctors did not prescribe them.

In 1997, Dr Woods was subjected to a Medical Council Fitness to Practise Committee inquiry, following allegations of professional misconduct in relation to her diagnosis of sexual abuse of children in five families in the 1980s. The inquiry found her guilty regarding her diagnoses in three families, but not in two others. She was not struck off the medical register, but was advised to work in multidisciplinary teams in the future. She took sabbatical leave and thereafter moved to live in Italy for the next 26 years. She never appealed the verdict or spoke publicly about it, but many of her colleagues felt she was unfairly judged.

Freddie Scappaticci

IRA double agent

News of the death of Freddie Scappaticci, who was alleged to have been the British army’s top mole in the Provisional IRA, emerged in April after his funeral had been held. He was in his late 70s.

The west Belfast man had always denied that he was the agent known as Stakeknife. It was alleged that he had been the head of the IRA’s “nutting squad”, interrogating suspected informers during the Troubles. He had been described as the jewel in the crown of British military intelligence in Northern Ireland and is believed to have been responsible for at least 20 deaths.

The son of an Italian immigrant, he was believed to have been recruited in 1978 and was “outed” in 2003 in a report written by Belfast-based journalist Greg Harkin and by a man using the pseudonym Martin Ingram – a former member of the British army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) which ran Stakeknife.

An interim report from Operation Kenova’s investigation into his alleged activities is expected in early 2024. The inquiry has already forwarded files to the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS). It recently decided against prosecuting 16 people investigated, citing insufficient evidence but has yet to make a decision on other files.

Peadar Tomás MacRuairí

Irish language activist and journalist

Journalist and Irish language activist Peadar Tomás (PT) MacRuairí, died on April 20th, aged 83, after a brief illness, having spent his life working on his two passions.

He served as president of Conradh na Gaeilge, the social and cultural organisation which promotes the Irish language, from 1998 to 2003. He was a founder of the Craobh Bhréanainn branch of Conradh na Gaeilge, and also served as Conradh press officer, editor of Rosc magazine and co-ordinator of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. Conradh na Gaeilge’s Paula Melvin described him as “a giant in the Irish language and in Irish life”.

His journalism career began at age of 14 when he wrote an article for the Dundalk Democrat. He wrote in English and Irish for many outlets and was a highly respected as a fair and accurate court reporter with the Irish Press. When it closed in 1995, he continued this work on a freelance basis and went on to set up CCC Nuacht, a courts news agency.

He was also a driving force behind Near FM community radio station, and Raidió na Life, Dublin’s Irish language station.

Dr Mick Loftus

GAA past president

Dr Mick Loftus was remembered as one of the most active public figures to have held the office of GAA president after he died on April 22nd, aged 93. When he became GAA president in 1985, he was the first Mayo person to take on the role.

He was a member of the last Mayo senior football panel to win an All-Ireland final, in 1951. He was a sub on the team and did not play on the day. After his retirement from playing, he served as a referee at club and county level, refereeing the All-Ireland finals in 1965 and 1968. He was also chairman of the Connacht GAA Council and chaired the GAA centenary committee which organised the association’s 100th anniversary celebrations in 1984.

He ran a GP practice in Crossmolina and was coroner for north Mayo for many years. Dr Loftus was outspoken on the issue of alcohol abuse and questioned the level of involvement of the drinks industry in major sporting events and festivals.

An advocate of healthy ageing, he won four medals for Ireland in the 75-79 age category in the world Senior Games in St George, Utah, in 2006.

Mary Kerrigan

Journalist and political adviser

Mary Kerrigan enjoyed a storied career in politics, journalism, law and public service, before her death on April 25th, at the age of 64.

The Sligo-born journalist worked with the Independent and Press news groups, winning accolades such as an AT Cross Woman Journalist Award in 1984. She was deputy features editor at the Sunday Press when she left to become Fianna Fáil’s first woman press director in 1993. Tánaiste Micheál Martin remembered her as a sincere person who was great fun and lived life to the full. She returned to journalism to work at the Sunday Press just before it closed and served brief stints as deputy editor of the INN radio news service, and political correspondent of Ireland on Sunday.

She worked as a barrister on the Dublin and midlands circuit for almost a decade before joining the Brussels office of EU internal markets commissioner, Charlie McCreevy. She followed this with a move to the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg before returning home to work with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman in 2015. She also found time to write That’s Politics, a guide to the European and local elections, in 2004.

Johnny Fean


Horslips guitarist Johnny Fean was described as one of Ireland’s foremost electric lead guitarists when he died on April 28th, aged 71.

The band rose to fame in the 1970s with its distinctive blend of rock music fused with Irish traditional tunes. But it was his guitar playing on Dearg Doom that elevated him to the ranks of international guitar heroes. He later said Dearg Doom with its iconic guitar riff had “changed everything in Irish rock music”. Minister for Culture Catherine Martin said his guitar playing “was fundamental to Horslips’ groundbreaking trad infused rock music, still so widely loved to this day”.

Dearg Doom got a new lease of life when it was sampled for Put ‘Em Under Pressure – the official song of the Republic of Ireland soccer team during the 1990 World Cup.

Horslips created nine original studio albums between 1970 and 1980 before breaking up. He continued to perform with band members Eamon Carr and Charles O’Connor in The Zen Alligators, and The Host, before moving to the UK. He embarked on irregular live shows with the band when they reunited in 2004, and again in 2009, while also performing with Miami Showband bassist Stephen Travers.

Seán Keane


The death of The Chieftains’ fiddle player Seán Keane (76) on May 7th was described as a huge loss for traditional Irish music. Fiddle player Martin Hayes said he was “one of the finest traditional musicians to ever play this music” and was “a completely unique and virtuoso fiddle player”.

Liam O’Connor, director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, described Keane as “a beacon for our traditional art”. The archive holds a large collection of his recordings and in 2022 it released a documentary with him, Seán Keane: The Portrait of an Artist, which premiered at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay.

The Dubliner joined The Chieftains in 1968. Together they won six Grammy Awards as they brought traditional Irish music to new audiences in the United States and across the world. His three solo albums were described as seminal recordings in traditional music circles while his duet album with his fellow Chieftain Matt Molloy was also warmly received. He was named Traditional Musician of the Year at the TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards in 2004.

Keane performed with The Chieftains for US President Joe Biden when he visited Ballina in April.

Peter Brooke


The role played by former secretary of state for Northern Ireland Peter Brooke in the emerging peace process was highlighted after his death on May 13th at the age of 89.

As Northern Ireland secretary in 1990, he made a significant statement when he said Britain had no “selfish strategic or economic interest” in Northern Ireland and would accept unification if the people wished it. Around the same time, he initiated “talks about talks” to secure devolved government. The initiative did not immediately succeed but it was credited with shaping the process that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

He became embroiled in controversy in January 1992 when he sang a song, My Darling Clementine, on the Late Late Show on the night when seven Protestant construction workers were killed by an IRA bomb. He later explained that he had been disconcerted on the night when presenter Gay Byrne unexpectedly asked him about the traumatic death of his first wife, and he was then cajoled into singing the only song he knew.

He apologised unreservedly but was dropped from cabinet by prime minister John Major a few months later. He returned as heritage secretary and later lifted the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin.

Graham Knuttel


Graham Knuttel was one of the most successful and prolific painters of his generation before his death on May 27th, at the age of 69.

The Dubliner’s stylised paintings in bright colours were instantly recognisable and often imitated. He was known for creating shady looking figures in sharp suits and populating his work with birds, chefs, cats and sailors.

A student of Dún Laoghaire College of Art and Design, he initially drew attention for his sculptures, winning the Royal Canada Trust Award for Young Sculptors in 1976.

He later switched focus to figurative painting and became a household name during the Celtic Tiger era when some of his originals sold for six-figure sums. His collectors and admirers included Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Frank Sinatra and the Swiss Bank Corporation. His work hung in many fashionable restaurants such as La Stampa, which commissioned paintings from him.

Collaborations included two Knuttel-designed stamps for An Post to mark the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a ceramic tableware line with Tipperary Crystal, and a silver chess set with Viscount Linley (now Lord Snowdon).

Hugh Callaghan

Birmingham Six member

Hugh Callaghan, one of the Birmingham Six wrongly jailed for IRA bombings in 1974, died on May 27th, aged 93. Despite the trauma of being imprisoned for more than 16 years for something he did not do, he forgave his captors and remained positive.

A Belfast native, Mr Callaghan and the five other men were rounded up by police after the IRA blew up the Mulberry Bush and Tavern pubs in the centre of Birmingham on November 21st, 1974. Some 21 people were killed and a further 182 injured in the attack.

After beatings, long interrogations, deprivation of food and sleep and a mock execution, false confessions were extracted from the six men by West Midlands Police. They received life sentences in 1975 but serious doubts were cast on the convictions, and they were eventually declared unsafe and unsatisfactory in 1991, following a lengthy campaign.

Hugh Callaghan wrote his autobiography, Cruel Fate, with Sally Mulready, who had championed the men’s innocence. Her daughter Molly said she believed the secret of his latterly happy life was that he was able to forgive those who had mistreated him. “He was a remarkable, gentle soul. There was not a hint of bitterness in him.”

Peter Harbison


Dr Peter Harbison was one of the best-known archaeologists in this country, yet he never occupied a post in any Irish university school of archaeology. He had a long career working as an archaeologist for Bord Fáilte from 1966 and was remembered after his death for his skill in communicating of the sheer scale of the riches of Ireland’s cultural past. His work was credited with playing a key role in the development of cultural tourism in Ireland.

He was also a prolific author and his three-volume study, The High Crosses of Ireland, is regarded as the definitive work on the subject. In recognition of his work, he was elected an honorary member of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, an honorary fellow of Trinity College Dublin, an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and a member of the Royal Irish Academy. UCD awarded him an honorary PhD in 2022.

Dr Harbison also served as editor of Bord Fáilte’s Ireland of the Welcomes magazine. The magazine twice won special awards from the International Regional Magazines Association during his tenure. He died on May 30th, aged 84.

Michael Viney

Nature writer and illustrator

The former Irish Times columnist Michael Viney died on May 30th, mere months after penning his final Another Life column. He was 90 years old.

The journalist and illustrator submitted his first article to the newspaper when he left the Evening Standard in London to spend a year in Ireland in 1962. In that first article, he wrote of his plan to fish, cook, write and paint. “I’ll be a different person in a year’s time,” he predicted.

At first, he covered social affairs for the newspaper but in 1977, he moved with his wife, Ethna, and their daughter, Michele, from Dublin to Thallabawn, Co Mayo, to live as self-sufficiently as possible. He chronicled their experiences and wrote about nature in his Another Life column, accompanying the words with his meticulous illustrations.

He also trained as a producer/director with RTÉ in the 1970s and wrote and directed documentaries on Tim Robinson and Michael Longley. With his wife Ethna, he made several landscape-based films for RTÉ and TG4.

His final book, Natural world, was published four months after his death and was described by his daughter Michele as a celebration of his life.

Bronwyn Conroy

Beauty school founder

Bronwyn Conroy made history when she set up the first beauty therapy training school in Ireland in 1972, ensuring that her name would always be synonymous with the beauty business.

Originally from Galway, she was so determined to follow a career in cosmetics that she offered her services free of charge to Lydon’s pharmacy on Shop Street in order to learn the trade. Her ability to sell was noted and she was soon taken on as an employee. While she was working there, the US manager of Helena Rubinstein cosmetics brand visited the shop and was so impressed by her that he offered her a job. She later left Helena Rubinstein for Revlon and became its director of training in Ireland for 12 years.

She discovered that teaching was her forte and the experience led her to open her own training school on Dublin’s Mount Street Upper. She brought in international examiners to ensure that standards were high and in 1978 she founded the Society of Applied Cosmetology in Ireland to improve the standing of beauty therapy in this country.

She died on June 3rd, aged 85.

Jane O’Malley


Canadian-born artist Jane O’Malley was a still-life painter who used everyday objects such as bowls and jugs to show the beauty in the everyday. Her art was described as poised and elegant, with vibrant use of colour and a liking for clean, incisive lines.

While she was honing her craft in St Ives, Cornwall, she met her future husband, the Callan-born artist Tony O’Malley. They married in 1973 and settled in Kilkenny in 1990, making regular forays to the Isles of Scilly, the Bahamas and the Canary Islands.

She exhibited extensively with regular shows at Taylor Galleries in Dublin and a major retrospective at IMMA in 2005. Anna O’Sullivan curated a retrospective survey of her graphic work, Black and White: Works on Paper 1971-2017, at the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny in 2018.

Jane O’Malley worked tirelessly preserving her husband’s legacy after his death in 2003. She donated his estate to the Butler Gallery, which has dedicated the O’Malley wing to the work of both artists. In 2010, working with the RHA, she established the O’Malley Residency, an annual, year-long painting residency in her husband’s original family home in Callan.

She died on June 3rd, aged 79.

Teddy McCarthy

Footballer and hurler

Teddy McCarthy (57) who died on June 6th, was the only player in GAA history to win senior All-Ireland medals in hurling and football in the same year, but he was modest about his achievements.

The Cork man won his first senior All-Ireland hurling medal in 1986, despite going abroad on holidays just a fortnight before Cork faced Galway in the final. He was named Texaco Footballer of the Year in 1989, when he secured his first senior football All-Ireland medal.

1990 was his most talked-about year, as he was on the winning team when Cork hurlers beat Galway in the All-Ireland final and again a fortnight later when the Cork footballers beat Meath. The feat was even more impressive because he had spent July with his foot in plaster and had only returned to training in August.

Ever modest, he ran into the dressing room when the whistle sounded so he would not take attention from his team-mates. He was critical of both performances, saying: “I was nowhere near match fit in the hurling final, but I at least made a contribution with three points... I reckon the football final was one of the poorest matches I played.”

Christy Dignam


After a long battle with illness, Aslan frontman Christy Dignam died on June 13th, at the age of 63. The singer was diagnosed in 2013 with amyloidosis, a rare blood disorder associated with certain cancers.

Raised in Finglas, the Dubliner studied classical singing in his youth before going on to form Aslan in 1982. They were best known for hit singles such as Crazy world, This Is and Loving Me Lately.

He spoke openly about his chaotic lifestyle choices that led to his sacking from the band in 1988. He rejoined Aslan in 1993 and finally succeeded in overcoming his drug addiction in 2008. He released his debut solo album, The Man Who Stayed Alive, in 2021.

“The only time I feel alive is when I’m singing,” he once told this newspaper. Bono described Christy Dignam as “a pure signal in a world of noise. One of the greatest voices I ever heard.”

President Michael D Higgins said Aslan would be remembered in particular for their live shows and their remarkable connection with their audience. “Christy was central to that connection, with his passionate performances ensuring a memorable night every time Aslan played.”

Sr Cyril Mooney

Nun and educator

Loreto nun Sr Cyril Mooney (86), a pioneer in education and social justice in India, died in Kolkata on June 24th.

From Co Wicklow, she went to work in India when she was 20. On becoming principal of Loreto Day School at Sealdah, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), in 1979, she expanded access to this private school for middle-class girls to include street children and others from disadvantaged lower-caste backgrounds. Soon, of the 1,400 students at the school, 50 per cent did not pay fees. She also set up a home at the school for street children who had no family.

Her school model was credited with inspiring the rest of the country to follow suit and in 2010, a quota of 25 per cent for disadvantaged students became compulsory for all private schools in India. She also set up the Barefoot Teachers Training Programme, to provide teacher training for people who didn’t have the qualifications to get into teacher training colleges.

Sr Mooney received many accolades for her work, including the Padma Shri Award from the then president of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the distinguished service award from President Michael D Higgins, the NOMA Literacy prize from Unesco and several honorary degrees.

Sinéad O’Connor


The sudden death of Sinéad O’Connor (56) on July 26th led to vigils in Dublin and London and the unveiling of a giant installation honouring her on Bray Head. Crowds of thousands lined the streets as her funeral cortege made its way through Bray. Tributes recalled the Dubliner’s hauntingly beautiful voice, her striking stage presence and her strong sense of social justice.

Her 1987 debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. In all, she released 10 studio albums and had been working on an another when she died in London.

Her version of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U was named the number one world single in 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards and received three Grammy nominations. She was named artist of the year by Rolling Stone magazine in 1991.

She released a best-selling memoir, Rememberings, in 2021 and a documentary film on her life, directed by Kathryn Ferguson, was released in 2022.

In what would be her final public appearance, she was presented with the inaugural award for Classic Irish Album, for I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, at the RTÉ Choice Music Awards in March.

John Keating


John Keating was one of Ireland’s best known visual artists, receiving more than 25 awards in Ireland, Italy, China, Monaco and the United States for his work.

Much of the major work for which the Tipperary man was renowned was exhibited abroad, particularly in the US and Italy. When he was starting his career, he received a year’s scholarship at the Art Student League in New York in the late 1970s, and then won a Fulbright scholarship.

He first exhibited work in Italy in the 1990s, where he was represented by Compagnia Del Disegno in Milan. He was one of 500 artists selected to take part in the Olympic Fine Arts 2012 exhibition at the Barbican in London and his entry, Oriental Lilies, oil on canvas, won the Gold Medal for painting. Later that year, he was one of 100 artists invited to take part in the Olympic Water Cube Exhibition in Beijing.

He exhibited in joint shows with artists such as Lucien Freud, Giacomo Manzu and Igor Mitoraj. A month before his death, he was exhibiting in Italy in the Palazzo dei Priori in Assisi, in a group show of six artists. He died on August 17th, aged 70.

Peter Queally


Peter Queally, who cofounded one of Europe’s largest meat processors, died on August 19th, aged 83.

The Waterford businessman founded Dawn Meats with his brother John and business partner Dan Browne in 1980 to supply a range of supermarket, food service and restaurant businesses. Today it has a staff of 8,000 in 12 countries and annual revenue of more than €2.5 billion.

Along with his brothers John and Michael Queally, he also founded Arrow Group, one of the biggest meat processors in the State, which had an annual turnover of €617 million last year. As well as meat processing, Arrow operates in a range of businesses, including cold storage, dog food processing and bottled water production.

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said Peter Queally was an innovative leader within the Irish food sector. “He consistently championed Irish business and his absence will be deeply felt, not only within the food sector but also the wider business community.”

A successful racehorse owner, he chaired Tramore racecourse for more than 20 years and was a strong supporter of Waterford GAA. He was remembered by his family and those who knew him for his vision, humility and irrepressible sense of mischief.

Lady Chryss O’Reilly

Racehorse owner

Lady Chryss O’Reilly (73), who died on August 23rd, was a renowned horse owner and philanthropist and the wife of businessman Anthony O’Reilly.

The New York-born Greek shipping heiress worked in the family business for a while before branching into horse breeding. In 1978, she took over the running her uncle’s stud farm, Haras de la Louvière, in Normandy.

She bred horses in partnerships as well as under her own banners of Skymarc Farm and Petra Bloodstock Agency. Her many successes included Helissio, which won the 1996 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe; Lawman, which won the 2007 French Derby; and Latice, which won the French Oaks in 2004.

French horse racing newspaper Jour de Galop described her as “one of the great breeders of our time” in 2021, and after her sudden death, it carried lengthy tributes to her from the horse racing world.

She married Sir Anthony O’Reilly in 1991 and built a world class stud farm at Castlemartin estate in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, forging winning partnerships with leading Irish trainers. She was chairwoman of the Irish National Stud and was inducted into the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Hall of Fame in 2013.

Máirín Hughes

Ireland’s oldest person

Máirín Hughes lived through two world wars and experienced two pandemics. She died on September 5th, aged 109, and was widely held to be Ireland’s oldest person.

Born in Belfast, she moved with her family to Killarney for her father’s work as a customs and excise officer. She witnessed the Spanish Flu in Ireland in 1918 and recalled her mother taking food to people who were self-isolating. More than 100 years later, she lived through the Covid-19 pandemic.

She remembered patrols by the Black and Tans, brought in as reinforcements for the Royal Irish Constabulary during the War of Independence and she also bore witness to the arrival of members of the army of the Irish Free State in 1922.

In the early 1930s, she studied science in University College Cork and went on to work as a chemist in UCC’s medical laboratory for 16 years, giving occasional talks and presentations to students as part of her job. After she married her husband Frank in 1950, she moved to Dublin and later became a science teacher.

She said the secret to a long life was “to live life to the full ... not to waste any time”.

Dermot Keogh


Prof Dermot Keogh (78) was described by President Michael D Higgins as one of Ireland’s finest historians after his death on September 6th. Emeritus professor of history at University College Cork, he was the author of more than a dozen books, including a biography of Jack Lynch, and the seminal work, Jews in 20th Century Ireland: Refugees, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust.

After studying history in college, he worked as a journalist with the Irish Press and RTÉ, travelling to San Salvador with Bishop Eamon Casey to cover the funeral of murdered archbishop Óscar Romero.

He was offered a job with UCC in 1970 and enjoyed a 30-year career in the university’s history department. He was Jean Monnet professor, and later became head of the history department. He had a wide range of interests, from 19th and 20th century Irish politics and movements to church-State relations. He was also interested in international relations and had a particular interest in Latin American history.

He was described as “part of the fabric of UCC” by its president, Prof John O’Halloran. Among his students at UCC was Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who described him as a “great friend and a mentor”.

Breandán Ó Doibhlin

Academic and author

Very Rev Monsignor Breandán Ó Doibhlin, who died on September 19th, aged 92, was a French and Irish language scholar, author, editor and translator.

From Rousky, Co Tyrone, he was ordained as a priest in Rome in 1955, and, after studying at the Sorbonne, was appointed professor of modern languages at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He remained in that position until his retirement in 1996.

He edited Irisleabhar Mhá Nuad and was a strong believer in the importance of applying critical methods to the works of modern writers in Irish. The first of his three novels, Néal Maidne agus Tine Oíche (Morning Cloud and Night Fire), was published in 1964 and was remembered as quite unlike anything published in Irish before. He wrote for publications as diverse as An Sagart, Éire-Ireland, and The Bell and published three volumes of collected essays entitled Aistí Critice agus Cultúir (Critical and Cultural Essays). His six-volume anthology of Irish literature from 1500, Manuail de Litríocht na Gaeilge, helped cement his reputation as a hero of Irish-language literature.

A passionate Francophile, the French Government appointed him a Chevalier de d’Ordre National de Mérite and an Officer de la Légion d’Honneur.

Bride Rosney

Political adviser

News of the sudden death of Bride Rosney (74) on September 22nd was met with sadness among the many people in politics and public affairs who worked with her over the course of her high-achieving career.

She acted as principal adviser to former president Mary Robinson during her term of office in Áras an Uachtaráin. Mrs Robinson described her as “my indispensable friend, mentor and ally” and said her great skill as a strategist and advocate came from her understanding of people and how to motivate them.

The Kerry-born teacher was principal of Rosmini Community School in Drumcondra when she left to work with Ms Robinson after her 1990 election. She remained a key adviser for the next seven years and continued to work with her when she became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She was later both chief executive and then secretary of the board of trustees at the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.

She also worked at RTÉ as public affairs adviser and director of communications and sat on the boards of organisations such as the Irish Fiscal Policy Research Centre, Chamber Choir Ireland and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

Michael Gambon


Sir Michael Gambon, who died on September 27th aged 82, enjoyed a lengthy career that took him from the Gate Theatre to Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre to screen roles in The Singing Detective and the Harry Potter films

The Dublin-born actor’s first professional role was in a production of Othello at the Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1962, when he returned to Ireland following his move to the UK.

His roles in plays by Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and Alan Ayckbourn were lauded and he won an Olivier award for his performance as Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, in 1987.

He found success on the small screen with his 1986 turn as mystery writer Philip E Marlow, in Dennis Potter’s series The Singing Detective. Big screen success with Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover saw him take roles in major movies such as Sleepy Hollow, The Insider and Gosford Park.

But to younger viewers, he will always be remembered with a flowing beard and tassel hat, playing Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter blockbusters.

Edmund Lynch

LGBTQ+ activist

A true pioneer, a trailblazer, and a beacon of courage were just a few of the phrases used to describe LGBTQ+ activist Edmund Lynch, after his death on October 4th. The veteran gay rights campaigner, archivist, documentary-maker was 76.

The Dubliner was a founding member of the Sexual Liberation Movement (SLM), and was a key member of many organisations, campaigns, projects and activities that fought for, celebrated and collected the work of LGBTQ+ rights in Ireland.

He was employed as a sheet metal worker for the Dublin Gas Company and after developing an interest in amateur filmmaking, got a job in RTÉ's sound department in 1968. He would suggest guests for items on gay rights across programmes at a time when such people were ostracised from and criminalised within Irish society. “I was openly gay from the word go,” he once said.

One of his legacies is the LGBTQ+ Oral History Project, which features hundreds of LGBTQ+ people in Ireland across all walks of life, detailing their experiences, activisms and politics. He also produced and directed the documentary A Different Country, which told the story of what life was like growing up in Ireland before homosexuality was decriminalised.

Chuck Feeney


When the Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney died at the age of 92 on October 9th, he left behind an unrivalled legacy of philanthropy. During his lifetime he quietly gave away more than $8 billion (€7.5 billion) through his foundation Atlantic Philanthropies. He funded education, health and science projects in Ireland, the US and around the world and helped fund the peace process leading to the Belfast Agreement.

The billionaire made his fortune from Duty Free Shoppers and began giving away his money when he became uncomfortable with the trappings of wealth. His donations to Irish causes began with the National Institute of Higher Education in Limerick, now the University of Limerick, in the late 1980s. At first his donations insisted on anonymity, but his cover was blown in 1996 when the existence of the foundation was revealed in a legal action.

He co-operated with former Irish Times’ journalist Conor O’Clery on a biography, The Billionaire Who Wasn’t, to promote his ethos of giving while living.

Speaking after his death, Atlantic Philanthropies president Christopher Oechsli quoted civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, who said true wealth was not measured in money, status or power but in the legacy we leave. By these standards, Mr Feeney “will remain the wealthiest of men to have walked the earth”, he said.

Hugh Russell

Boxer and photographer

Champion boxer and award-winning photographer Hugh Russell died on October 13th, aged 63. Affectionately known as “Little Red”, the Belfast boxer won a bronze medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. He followed this with a bronze medal for Ireland in the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, 16 years after an Irish competitor had last won an Olympic medal. That was another Belfast boxer, Jim McCourt, who also died this year, in June.

Russell turned professional in 1981, winning British titles at bantamweight and then at flyweight. His most coveted professional award was being allowed keep a Lonsdale Belt for making three successful British title defences, while his proudest memory was his Olympic bronze medal. He bought a camera when he was in Moscow and that led him into his second career as a press photographer. Working for the Irish News, he captured award-winning images across decades of the Troubles, peace process and politics in Northern Ireland.

His editor Noel Doran said he was an outstanding photographer and a magnificent boxer. “It’s fair to say that Hugh was loved by everyone he worked with during his forty-year career at the paper,” he said.

Gerry McCaughey


Gerry McCaughey, who died aged 60 on October 18th, was best known as the co-founder of Century Homes in Monaghan in 1989. Over the following 15 years it became one of the largest manufacturers of timber frame houses in Europe, with three factories in Ireland and two in the UK. At its peak, it had more than 650 employees and produced timber frames for 8,000 homes a year, increasing the timber frame market from 2 per cent of housing to 40 per cent of housing in Ireland.

Century Homes was sold to building materials manufacturer Kingspan in 2005 for €98 million and the Monaghan man remained chief executive of Century Kingspan for a few years before moving to California with his family. In 2010 he set up Infinico, a consulting business promoting off-site timber frames in the American market. Seven years later, he cofounded the company Entekra to launch the production of off-site timber frames on the American market, where on-site timber frames was the standard approach.

Jeff Colley, editor of Passive House Plus magazine, said his legacy would be getting off-site timber-framed housing accepted into the mainstream building culture in Ireland.

Ben Dunne


Ben Dunne, who died on November 18th, aged 74, will be remembered as a larger than life businessman who survived a kidnapping and several very public scandals, but bounced back every time.

He played a pivotal role in the expansion of his family’s enterprise Dunnes Stores and became one of Ireland’s best-known business figures. In 1981, while en route to visit a newly opened Dunnes Stores branch in Newry, he was kidnapped by the IRA and held for a week before being released into a graveyard. He was back at his desk just days after his release. Two years later, he took over the running of the empire following the death of his father.

However, he was ousted from the business following his highly publicised arrest in Florida. His acrimonious departure inadvertently sparked a series of tribunals as it gradually emerged that he had given company money to former taoiseach Charlie Haughey and used company money to fund building work on the home of then minister for communications Michael Lowry.

After his departure from Dunnes Stores, he embarked on several new business ventures, the most successful of which was the profitable chain of gyms that carry his name.

Tras Honan


Tras Honan, who died on November 25th, aged 93, was the first woman cathaoirleach of the Seanad and she made history with her sister Carrie Acheson when they served in the Oireachtas at the same time, Carrie as a TD and Tras as a senator.

Tras Honan was one of the founders of Ennis and District Soroptimists, and the club’s campaigning work was instrumental in the opening of St Clare’s and St Anne’s schools for children with special needs. She won a seat on the administrative panel of Seanad Éireann in 1977 and became the first woman elected to Ennis Urban District Council two years later. She sat on the council until 1994, holding the positions of chairwoman and vice-chairwoman during that time.

Her career as a senator ended when she lost her seat in the 1993 elections. During her time there, she was twice elected cathaoirleach, in 1982 and 1987 and she was leas-chathaoirleach in the intervening period.

Her sister Carrie, who died on January 16th, was a Fianna Fáil deputy and councillor, chairwoman of the Irish Red Cross and mayor of Clonmel. She was also the long-standing voice of the National Ploughing Championships in her role as continuity announcer.

Shane MacGowan


Shane MacGowan, the lead singer and songwriter of The Pogues, died on November 30th at the age of 65, after battling ill-health for many years. His almost three-hour-long funeral Mass in Nenagh will be remembered as one of the most extraordinary ceremonies to be held in an Irish church, with a stellar list of mourners and performers.

The Pogues carved out a distinctive sound by fusing traditional Irish airs with frenetic punk energy. The poetic nature of his song lyrics would ensure that, in Bruce Springsteen’s words, his words would still be sung in 100 years.

A cover of Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town got the Pogues on Top of the Pops, but it was Fairytale of New York, recorded with Kirsty MacColl, that will forever be associated with him.

His drink and drug-fuelled lifestyle led to his sacking from the band in 1991 but he rejoined The Pogues in 2001. His later years were characterised by serious ill-health but also by a growing public appreciation of his songwriting legacy. In 2018, he won the Ivor Novello songwriting inspiration award and President Michael D Higgins presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rosemary Smith

Motor racing driver

Motorsport pioneer Rosemary Smith died on December 5th, aged 86.

Originally from Bray, she learned to drive when she was 11 and became a household name because of her feats in the male-dominated sport.

She won the Dutch Tulip Rally outright in 1965, the equivalent of a world Rally Championship round today. She competed in eight Monte Carlo rallies and finished some of the most arduous long-distance events such as the London to Sydney rally and the 1970 London to Mexico rally. She rubbed shoulders with Hollywood stars Paul Newman and Steve McQueen when she competed in the 24-hours race at Daytona and the 12-hour Sebring race.

At 79 she became the oldest person to drive a current specification Formula One car, as she successfully tested the Renault Sport F1 car at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France.

She set up a driving academy at Goffs, Co Kildare, and ran a transition year course to encourage teenagers to develop good habits behind the wheel. Last year FIVA, the international heritage car movement, welcomed her into its Hall of Fame, the only Irish person to be bestowed with this honour.

Thomas Kilroy


Playwright, novelist and academic Thomas Kilroy (89) who died on December 7th, was described as a unique artistic voice and one of the most distinguished and groundbreaking Irish writers of his time.

His radio play Say Hello to Johnny won a BBC Northern Ireland prize in 1967 and his theatrical debut came a year later when The Death and Resurrection of Mr Roche, had its premiere in the Olympia as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. The play was rejected by the Abbey but he went to have a long relationship with the theatre as a script editor, writer-in-association and board member. It produced many of his plays, including Talbot’s Box and The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde.

He was a central figure alongside Brian Friel and Stephen Rea in the establishment of the Field Day company, for which he wrote Double Cross and The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre. He also wrote literary criticism and screenplays for television and film. He was presented with a Special Achievement Award for his contribution to theatre at the Irish Times/ESB Theatre Awards in 2004. His novel, the Big Chapel, won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1971 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Jonathan Irwin

Bloodstock agent and philanthropist

Jonathan Irwin (82) who died on December 10th, was co-founder of the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation and one of the most colourful figures in the bloodstock industry.

He became managing director of the Goffs bloodstock sales company in 1975 and oversaw its move from the RDS, Ballsbridge, to Kill, Co Kildare. He was also responsible for the introduction of the valuable Cartier Million race, which is confined to graduates of the Goffs sales ring. A statement from Goffs said he had introduced revolutions in bidding and marketing that were copied by auction houses such as Sothebys and Christies.

With his wife Mary Ann, he set up the Jack & Jill charity after their newborn son Jack suffered brain damage and died in 1997, aged 22 months. His illness exposed the lack of home nursing supports for seriously ill children and since then the foundation that bears his name has supported almost 3,000 children.

Irwin gave his time to many other philanthropic causes, such as the Special Olympics and the Horses for Hope initiative at Castlerea Prison. He received many awards for his work, including Irish and Global Fundraiser of the Year and a People of the Year Award.