Tributes paid to 'incredible strategist and dynamo' Noel Whelan

Tributes paid to 'incredible strategist and dynamo' Noel Whelan
Noel Whelan at his home in Ranelagh, Dublin, in 2013. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

He was a respected commentator, a man of sharp intellect, an inspirational strategist and a driving force in modern politics.

These were some of the tributes paid to barrister and author Noel Whelan who passed away on Wednesday night after a brief illness.

Figures from across the political divide, campaigners for equality and President Michael D Higgins among others expressed condolences over the death of the 50-year-old.

Mr Higgins said: “Propelled by his social justice values, Noel was not only a commentator but a driving force in some of the most important political campaigns of recent times.”

Mr Whelan was previously an advisor for Fianna Fáil and later wrote a biography of the party. After the party's bruising general election in 2011, he had predicted its demise.

A renowned political commentator and tally master, he previously wrote a column for the Irish Examiner before later moving across to The Irish Times.

Tributes paid to 'incredible strategist and dynamo' Noel Whelan

Mr Whelan was a frequent attendee and speaker in the MacGill summer school in Donegal and in more recent years set up the successful Kennedy Summer School in his native county of Wexford.

He was also a leading figure in the recent campaigns to introduce same-sex marriage and to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Whelan saying that, while they came from different party backgrounds, "I feel this morning like Ireland has lost a friend".

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described Mr Whelan as a man "with a sharp intellect".

"He understood and knew every constituency and local electoral area across the country and could, of the top of his head, remember quotas from an election held back in the 80s,” he said.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone described him as "a man of enormous talent and capacity". The two had also worked together on the Democracy Matters campaign to save the Seanad, she recalled on RTE radio.

She said Mr Whelan was as "an incredible strategist and dynamo" with his campaigning skills.

Speaking in the Dáil, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said Mr Whelan was a respected commentator and his death at the age of 50 was a tragedy for his family.

Mr Whelan is survived by his wife Sinead and their son Seamus.

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