Des O’Malley, the former leader of the Progressive Democrats (PDs) who also served as Minister for Justice in the 1970s, has died at the age of 82.
O’Malley (pictured), a solicitor who had been elected a Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick East in 1968, was appointed Minister for Justice by then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch in May 1970.
His appointment came amid the political turbulence of the Arms Crisis, which led to the sacking of Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney.
In 1972, he introduced legislation setting up the Special Criminal Court.
Coalition with Haughey
In the 1980s, O’Malley became increasingly disillusioned with Haughey’s leadership of Fianna Fáil, and founded the PDs in 1985. The party won 14 seats in the 1987 election, but fell to six in 1989.
O’Malley then led the PDs into an unlikely coalition with Charles Haughey, who had fallen short of achieving an overall majority for Fianna Fáil.
The PDs remained in government until 1992. O’Malley stepped down as leader in 1993, and remained a TD until 2002.
Taoiseach praises 'determination'
In a statement, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that he was “deeply saddened” by the news.
“As a TD, minister and party leader he represented the people of Limerick and our country as a whole with determination and a commitment to making Ireland a better place,” the Taoiseach said.
“As Minister for Justice he dedicated himself to facing down an illegitimate campaign of violence that directly targeted the institutions of the State,” he added.
Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys, said that O'Malley "never wavered in his duty and commitment to preserving our State and the safety and security of all its people".
She said that he had been appointed Minister for Justice at "one of the most difficult and threatening times in the State’s history".