THE late Des O’Malley was an inspirational political leader who transformed Irish politics.
That is according to former Progressive Democrats party chairman John Minihan, who paid tribute to Mr O’Malley after his death was announced this morning.
Mr O’Malley was 82. He served as a member of Fianna Fáil before founding the Progressive Democrats in 1985. He was a TD from 1968 to 2002.
Mr Minihan, who is a former Senator, said: “Des was an inspirational leader in Irish politics. He transformed Irish politics. He was a man of huge political ability, moral courage and determination in doing what was right for the people of this country.”
He continued: “He was certainly of the most influence that made me and other people like me take responsibility and become involved in politics in this country. That was a testament to the huge following he had both on a personal basis and across the political divide.”
Máirín Quill, who was a founding member of the Progressive Democrats after membership of Fianna Fáil, kept in touch with Mr O'Malley up until recent weeks.
She recalled: "Ireland has lost one of its brightest and bravest and most remarkable politicians of my generation. He should be remembered as an outstanding politician with a great brain who brought the country into modern times. He was interested in industry and commerce, and in bringing industry into Ireland. It took courage on his part to found the Progressive Democrats."
She added: "The Progressive Democrats were a force of Irish politics and stood for decency and public service, not for self service."
She said he was elected in 1968 in a by-election following his uncle Donogh O'Malley's death and said the country owes much to both Des and Donogh.
And she said: "Right up to the end, Des stood for decency and defended what was good in life."
The Taoiseach, Mícheál Martin, paid tribute to him on Twitter. He said: "I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Des O’Malley. His was a life of courage and consequence. He loved his country and was fearless in challenging those who used violence to undermine it. We remember him at Government meeting today and my thoughts are with his family."
The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, tweeted: “He broke the mould of Irish politics and left a lasting and positive legacy.”
The Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys, said in a statement: "I would like to offer my condolences to the family, friends and former colleagues of Des O'Malley. Aged just 31, Des O'Malley was appointed Minister for Justice at one of the most difficult and threatening times in the State’s history. Des, his late wife Pat and their family endured great risk including threats from those who sought to undermine the authority of this State but Des never wavered in his duty and commitment to preserving our State and the safety and security of all its people."
She added: "The steadfast service Des O’Malley gave to our State will never be forgotten by all those who cherish law and order. He was a republican in the truest sense of the word, one who broke the mould of Irish politics and helped modernise our society and our economy. May he rest in peace."
Mr O’Malley was appointed Minister for Justice during the Arms Crisis of 1970. He was a vocal opponent of Charles Haughey, who expelled him from Fianna Fail in 1984. He then went on to establish the Progressive Democrats a year later.
Four years later, he led his party into a coalition with Fianna Fáil.
He stepped down from the leadership of the Progressive Democrats in 1993.