It was with sadness we report the death of the former Minister for Education and EU Commissioner, Mr Richard (Dick) Burke, who passed away peacefully at his home yesterday morning, at the age of 83 years.
An Education Minister in the Fine Gael government led by Mr Liam Cosgrave from 1973 until 1976, Mr Burke was born in New York in the United States in 1932. He was raised in Upperchurch, Co. Tipperary and was educated here in Thurles at the Christian Brothers School (CBS). He later attended University College Dublin (UCD) and King’s Inns.
While occupied as a teacher he embarking on a political career, with his first political involvement being with the Christian Democrat Party founded by Mr Seán Loftus. Mr Burke later became a member of Fine Gael, becoming a member of Dublin County Council in 1967. Within two years he was elected to Dáil Éireann for the first time, becoming a TD for South County Dublin. In 1969 he was appointed Chief Whip by the then Fine Gael party leader Mr Liam Cosgrave.
It was during his time in office as Minister for Education, he relaxed the then strict requirement for students to pass Irish language exams in order to gain a Leaving Certificate qualification. It was he who first introduced the reforms of ‘Transition Year’ and ‘School Management Boards’ into the secondary school system.
Mr Burke was twice appointed as an EU Commissioner under two different governments, once succeeding Mr Patrick Hillery, latter who returned to become President of Ireland. He was also partially responsible for Fine Gael joining the European Christian Democratic movement, now the European Peoples Party.
Mr Burke is survived by his wife Mary and their five children; Mary, David, Audrey, Richard and Avila. He was predeceased by a sixth child, his son Joseph.
Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.