Tributes paid to former minister

Tributes have been paid following the death of former minister and ceann comhairle Dr John O’Connell.

The politician, who served as health minister in Albert Reynolds’ government in 1992, was 83.

Serving Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett expressed his sincere sympathy to the O’Connell family.

“John served as ceann comhairle in the 22nd Dáil in 1981 and in the 23rd Dáil in 1982 and also had a distinguished career as a medical doctor, as founder of the Irish Medical Times, minister for health, MEP, senator, and, most importantly, represented his constituents with dedication over a long period of time, being elected for the first time in 1965,” said Mr Barrett.

“I wish to extend my sincere sympathy to his family on this sad occasion.”

Dr O’Connell’s political life began in Labour as a TD for Dublin South West before he stood as an independent in Dublin South Central and joining Fianna Fáil in the 1980s. He lost his seat at the 1987 election.

Dr O’Connell served in the Seanad until being re-elected to the Dáil in 1989.

President Michael D Higgins said Dr O’Connell was a colleague deeply committed to his constituents in Dublin.

“His concern for the socially deprived was there from the beginning and continued through the various offices he held,” he said.

“He will also be remembered for his significant work both in medicine andmedical publishing. He served as an early Irish member of the European Parliament, as part of a political career that spanned three decades.

“I extend my deepest sympathy to his family and friends.”

Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said Dr O’Connell always held on to his core political beliefs.

“Although he parted company with Labour in 1981, he always endeavoured to remain on good terms with his former colleagues and retained a sense of shared values, particularly when it came to social issues,” said Mr Gilmore.

“As a legislator, his success in continuing the work initiated by Barry Desmond in the process of liberalisation of contraception, will be his lasting legacy.”

Dr O’Connell was responsible for allowing condom vending machines to be placed in certain premises for the first time in the early 1990s.

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