Peter Barry: Former Irish deputy prime minister dies

Peter Barry Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Enda Kenny said Peter Barry had given "outstanding service to his country"

Former Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Peter Barry has died at the age of 88.

Taoiseach (prime minster) Enda Kenny said Mr Barry passed away in his home town of Cork surrounded by his family.

Mr Kenny said Mr Barry had given "outstanding service to his country and his native city".

He added that the former Irish foreign minister had played a "central and pivotal role" in negotiating the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Image caption Peter Barry (left) during the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement


The current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, said he had known Mr Barry all his life and had "always been inspired by his tremendous dedication in office, in particular his commitment to Northern Ireland".

"Peter will forever be remembered with respect and gratitude for the crucial role he played in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement nearly 31 years ago.

"This seminal agreement formed the basis of the peace process in Northern Ireland and laid the foundations that ultimately led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 13 years later," Mr Flanagan added.

Outside politics, Mr Barry was a successful businessman with the family firm, Barry's Tea, serving as chairman of the Cork-based company, which claims to have 40% of the tea market in the Republic.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said Mr Barry would be deeply missed.

"His view of Irish history was a long one and he brought all that wisdom to bear in his contributions to achieving the Anglo-Irish Agreement," said Mr Higgins.

"As a person he was immensely popular across all parties and, of course, he had a deep commitment to Cork city and its heritage."

'Special friend'

Seamus Mallon, a former deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and ex-deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, also paid a warm tribute to Mr Barry.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Peter Barry in Belfast with former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon

"He had a very clear picture of the problems in the north and he had that well-ordered expertise at the negotiating table," Mr Mallon said.

"If you ally that to his great tenacity, I think it adds up to a very substantial reputation for a man."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Peter Barry pictured meeting former Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King at Stormont

Former SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said Mr Barry had been a "special friend to Northern Ireland during some of the most challenging days of the Troubles".

"Peter towered above his peers in terms of his integrity, sincerity and commitment to ensuring that we could break free from the cycle of political instability and violence," Dr McDonnell added.

"Peter played a massive role in moving the north away from conflict and his personal kindness to all of us that dealt with him will never be forgotten."

'Critical contribution'

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed on 15 November 1985 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

The deal gave the Republic of Ireland a consultative role in Northern Ireland for the first time, a move opposed by many unionists.

It is credited as the beginning of co-operative talks that would eventually lead to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Micheál Martin, the leader of the Republic of Ireland's biggest opposition party Fianna Fáil, said Mr Barry had distinguished himself in a number of ministerial roles during his tenure in government.

He also paid tribute to the part Mr Barry played in Anglo Irish relations, saying "at a time of great violence and uncertainty, his role in helping to chart a way forward was critical and his contribution will stand the test of time".