Thomas Kenneth (TK) Whitaker died on Monday at the age of 100. Eminent figures in politics, justice, and finance were among hundreds who thronged the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin, to pay their respects.
The late economist, credited with designing the blueprint of Ireland’s economic success, attended early morning Mass every day in the same church for decades, his friend and chief celebrant Fr Loman Mac Aodha told mourners.
“Asked how he’d like to be remembered, he replied: ‘As a civil servant, who did his best’,” said Fr MacAodha.
Born in 1916 in Rostrevor, Co Down, he developed in the 1950s a cornerstone policy that helped end Ireland’s economic protectionism and led to greater participation in world trade, with the aid of foreign investment.
He was one of the youngest secretaries of the Department of Finance when appointed aged 39, and played a prominent role in the country’s economic affairs for decades.
Mr Whitaker later became governor general of the Central Bank and a member of the Seanad and Council of State.
He is also credited with playing a key role in early events which led ultimately to the peace process in the North.
His funeral heard he also had an enduring love of fly fishing, golf, playing the piano, listening to classical music loudly, and the Irish language — while his eyes would light up any time one of his 27 grandchildren or 12 great-grandchildren walked into the room.
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, former president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, were among the mourners.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by aide-de-camp Commandant Kieran Carey. Government ministers Michael Noonan and Frances Fitzgerald; former Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan; Chief Justice Susan Denham; Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin; and former ministers Des O’Malley and Mary Hanafin also attended.
Mr Whitaker’s son Ken noted that his father is celebrated as a great patriot, but said: “He was to us, just our Dad. He was the most wonderful father, father-in-law, grandfather, and great-grandfather.”