Tributes were tonight paid to Independent TD Tony Gregory who died at the age of 61 after a long illness.
The longest serving independent deputy in the Dáil was remembered as a community champion who fought tirelessly for the deprived and disadvantaged living in Dublin’s inner city.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen described Mr Gregory as a proud Dubliner, a great advocate for his community and a diligent public representative.
“The people of Dublin Central consistently voted for Tony because of his well-deserved reputation for hard work and his commitment to the disadvantaged in our society,” he said.
“He had an insightful knowledge of many issues especially social deprivation and the problems caused by drugs.”
Born in 1947, Mr Gregory was a secondary school teacher before entering politics. He joined Dublin City Council in 1979.
Although he started out as a member of Official Sinn Féin, and was later a founder member of the breakaway Irish Republican Socialist party, he was elected to the Dáil in 1982 as an Independent TD.
It was after that election Mr Gregory was thrown into the spotlight when he brokered a deal – known as the Gregory Deal – with Fianna Fail leader Charles Haughey in return for his support for the minority Government.
A massive cash injection was promised for Gregory’s disadvantaged inner city constituency.
Although he has never held a Cabinet position, Mr Gregory was regarded as one of the country’s most recognised Dáil deputies.
He was vocal on a number of key issues such as drugs and social justice, and most recently campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty.
Mr Gregory, who is survived by his partner Annette and his brother Noel, lost his battle with cancer at St Francis Hospice, Raheny, this morning.
Dublin’s Lord Mayor Eibhlin Byrne described him as a true servant of the people who elected him.
“Tony was a pragmatic politician who dealt in reality rather than political grandstanding and his legacy can be seen throughout the inner city,” she said.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said Mr Gregory was one of the hardest working TDs in the Dáil and played an honourable part in securing progress right across Dublin.
“For almost 30 years we have been constituency colleagues, political opponents and always good friends,” said Mr Ahern, Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Central.
“Today, I want to pay tribute to a politician who gave total commitment to his constituents and made an undoubted difference to the city he loved.
“Any economic and social history of Dublin over the last 30 years will be incomplete without reference to the determined work of Tony Gregory.
“He will be remembered as a man of integrity and a hardworking public representative.”
Labour’s Joe Costello said Mr Gregory was a legend and a good friend and colleague.
“He was deeply committed to the eradication of poverty in the north inner city and much of his political life was spent on seeking to improve the quality of housing and education and on combating unemployment, particularly in the north inner city,” he said.
“He was a champion in the fight against drugs in the 80s and 90s when whole communities were threatened by heroin and cocaine.”
Fellow Independent Deputy Finian McGrath said Ireland had lost a great TD and a champion of the weakest sections of society while Green Party leader John Gormley described the Independent TD as a man of deep principle.
Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny said Mr Gregory was the original mould breaker, both in creating the Gregory Deal – influential in transforming inner city Dublin – and in refusing to wear a tie in the Chamber of the Dáil.
“Tony Gregory was a fearless defender of his inner city constituents, proud of his heritage and absolutely courageous in standing up to drug barons and drug pushers,” he added.
“He bore his illness with great dignity. I admired his conviction and his total commitment to his people.”
Meanwhile Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams described his death as a “painful blow to his family, friends and the wider community of Dublin Central.”