President and Taoiseach lead tributes to economist and 'national treasure' TK Whitaker

The former civil servant, known for his groundbreaking work at the Department of Finance, died at the age of 100

President and Taoiseach lead tributes to economist and 'national treasure' TK Whitaker

TK Whitaker. Image: RollingNews.ie

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described TK Whitaker as a 'national treasure'.

It was announced late last night that the former civil servant and economist had died at the age of 100.

He was best known for his groundbreaking work as head of the Department of Finance - which paved the way for Ireland’s economic expansion in the 1960s.

He served as head of the Department of Finance in the early 1960s, and later served as Governor of the Central Bank.

He was also appointed by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Taoisigh as a member of Seanad Éireann.

In 2001, the public voted Whitaker the Irishman of the 20th Century.

President Michael D Higgins said in a statement: "Born in 1916, TK Whitaker’s life’s work is stands as the embodiment of the finest qualities and aspirations of the Irish people. As an economist and as a public servant, he contributed enormously to the building of an independent Ireland.

"I had the privilege and also the great pleasure to know Dr Whitaker. His great energy and intellectual rigour was matched by an irresistible personal charm. He was as inspiring as he was impressive, and as fine an Irishman as there has been."

Enda Kenny said Whitaker "changed life, lives and generations in Ireland".

The Taoiseach observed: "TK Whitaker was in every sense a national treasure. He had an innate understanding of our patrimony - what we inherit from our ancestors - our ingenuity, our elegance, our intellect, our artistry, industry and kindness, and how we could put this to work for our country and our people.

"In modern Irish history, TK Whitaker is both incomparable and irreplaceable," he added.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan, meanwhile, said: "Whitaker provided a framework that would influence Irish economic policy for decades to come. By promoting free trade and encouraging inward investment, Whitaker’s influence helped to change the Irish economy for the better."

Fianna Fáil's Niall Collins said Ireland's economic success over the last half century "is down, in no small part, to Whitaker’s foresight, drive and ability".

IBEC CEO Danny McCoy, meanwhile, said: "During a dark period of modern Irish history, characterised by emigration and unemployment, Whitaker espoused a clear vision for the future.

"TK Whitaker will also be remembered for his efforts in fostering cross-border relations, consistently adopting an all-island economic perspective on issues and was central to opening up dialogue between the administrations on both parts of the island," he added.