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Des O'Malley: Founder of Progressive Democrats was a man of 'total integrity'

Former politician Des O'Malley has died at the age of 82

FOUNDER of the Progressive Democrats, Des O'Malley, was committed to "making Ireland a better place", the Taoiseach has said following the former Irish government minister's death at the age of 82.

Mr O'Malley was a major figure in Irish public life for more than 30 years.

Originally a member of Fianna Fáil, he held several ministerial posts over his political career.

Known for taking a hard line against the IRA, he was appointed Fianna Fáil's justice minister during the Arms Crisis of 1970 - just two years after he was elected for Limerick East in a 1968 by-election.

The arms crisis scandal saw Fianna Fáil's Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney dismissed as cabinet ministers for alleged involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle arms to the IRA at the start of the Troubles.

Mr O'Malley later established the non-jury Special Criminal Court and introduced the Offences Against the State Act.

He told the Late Late Show in October 2014 that he had been threatened by the IRA several times.

"I was told by the guards that I couldn't stay in the same place in Dublin for more than a week, so I used to have move around all the time," he said.

His career in Fianna Fáil effectively ended in 1985 when he refused to vote against a Fine Gael–Labour Party government bill to allow the selling of condoms, despite Mr Haughey ordering party deputies to do so.

Fianna Fáil charged him with "conduct unbecoming" and expelled him from the party.

He later set up the Progressive Democrats along with several co-founders including Mary Harney.

Mr O'Malley stood down as leader in 1993 and retired from politics in 2002.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Mr O'Malley had been a hugely influential figure.

"As Minister for Justice he dedicated himself to facing down an illegitimate campaign of violence that directly targeted the institutions of the State," he said.

"As Minister for Industry and Commerce at different times he led that Department in attracting critical investment in our country and helped to develop new industries.

"It was a record of real achievement of which he was rightly proud."

Mr Martin said Mr O'Malley's establishment of the Progressive Democrats had "helped set a new course for Irish politics".

"His was a life of courage and consequence," he said.

"He loved his country and was fearless in challenging those who used violence to undermine it."

Ms Harney, who succeeded Mr O'Malley as leader of the Progressive Democrats, said he was "a great friend and mentor".

 

"He spoke the truth and matched it with his actions," she said.

"At a very troubled time in our country, his bravery was rare. He was the finest public servant I have had the privilege to know.

"May he rest in peace with his beloved wife, Pat."

John Cushnahan, a former leader of the Alliance Party and an ex-Fine Gael MEP, said Mr O'Malley "displayed total integrity, courage, and a great sense of public service".

"He was extremely courageous and uncompromising in his opposition to the IRA campaign and his actions undoubtedly prevented the Northern Ireland troubles from being worse than they were," he said.

"His many contributions to political life in the Republic of Ireland on social and economic policy also laid the basis for the modern European country that we have now become.

"Generations of people on both sides of the border will forever be in his debt."

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