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Thread: T.K Whitaker. Greatest Irishman ever ?

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    Politics.ie Member mmrebel's Avatar
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    Question T.K Whitaker. Greatest Irishman ever ?

    About time is man had a thread for himself even though he still alive i keep hearing where are the T.K Whitaker's of our generation ?
    Seeing as he was before my time all i can gather is whats on the web every politician that met seems to have held him in the highest esteem.
    So who was he and was he really that influential??


    Thomas Kenneth Whitaker was born in 1916 in Rostrevor, County Down. His Catholic mother, Jane O'Connor, came from Ballyguirey East, Labasheeda, Co. Clare, while his father was a local man. Due to his parents’ adherence to the Ne Temere decree,[citation needed] he was educated by the Christian Brothers in Drogheda and later obtained a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics, economics and Celtic studies. Whitaker also earned an M.Sc. Econ degree by private study from the University of London.

    Whitaker applied to join the Irish Civil Service and was successively awarded first place in four civil service exams: Clerical Officer (1934), Executive Officer (1935), Assistant Inspector of Taxes (1937), and Administrative Officer (1938). In 1943, he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Principal Officer, and in 1947, Principal Officer.

    In 1956 Whitaker was appointed Secretary at the Department of Finance at the age of thirty-nine, becoming the youngest ever person to hold this senior position. His surprise appointment took place at a time when Ireland's economy was in deep depression. Economic growth was non-existent, inflation apparently insoluble, unemployment rife, living standards low and emigration at a figure not far below the birth rate. Whitaker believed that free trade, with increased competition and the end of protectionism, would become inevitable and that jobs would have to be created by a shift from agriculture to industry and services. He formed a team of officials within the department (the "Whitaker Committee") and together they produced a detailed study of the economy, culminating in a plan recommending policies for improvement. The plan was accepted by the government and was transformed into a White Paper which became known as the First Programme for Economic Expansion, and somewhat unusually this was published with his name attached in November 1958. The programme, which became known as the "Grey Book", became a landmark in Irish economic history, primarily for its bold new ideas. This brought the stimulus of foreign investment into the Irish economy.

    His influence was not confined to things economic alone, however. In 1965 he liaised with Jim Malley, private secretary to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and was able to successfully organise the unprecedented meeting between Seán Lemass and Terence O'Neill.

    Although Whitaker had left the Department of Finance in 1969, he remained policy advisor to Jack Lynch on matters concerning Northern Ireland. As a result, a document entitled 'The Constitutional Position of Northern Ireland in IV parts' was created, which analysed the historical development of the situation in Northern Ireland, the pro-partition view, the anti-partition view, and possible reconciliation between North and South.

    Whitaker worked with the Ford Foundation to secure funding to launch the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland, and was its president from foundation for over fifteen years.

    In 1977, the then Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Jack Lynch nominated Whitaker as a member of the 14th Seanad Éireann from 1977 to 1981, where he served as an independent (i.e. non-party) senator. In 1981 he was nominated to the 15th Seanad by the Fine Gael Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, where he served until 1982. FitzGerald also appointed him to chair a Committee of Inquiry into the Irish penal system, and he also chaired a Parole Board or Sentence Review Group for several years.

    He also served as Chancellor of the National University of Ireland from 1976 to 1996. He was also President of the Royal Irish Academy .

    He has had a very strong love for the Irish language throughout his career and the seminal collection of Irish poetry, An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed 1600-1900

    He also won the "Greatest Living Irish Person" award in 2002 and In 2001, an RTÉ programme voted Whitaker the "Irishman of the 20th Century", beating all our illustrious revolutionary's hands down.

    T.K. Whitaker

    T. K. Whitaker - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    An interview with him from RTE

    RTÉ News: One to One


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    His intelligence came from his protestant father I would say...

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    I had the pleasure of meeting him last year.
    Happiness is a dry martini and a good woman … or a bad woman.
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    I don't like categorising people into who was the greatest. Whittaker was undoubtedly in my view one of the greatest.
    "In [Ireland] a wife is regarded as a chattel, just as a thoroughbred mare or cow." Mr Justice Butler in the Irish courts. 'Traditional Marriage' in the 1970s.

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    Moderator Cato's Avatar
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    One of the greatest recent Irishmen, but hardly THE greatest ever.

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    Fantastic that he is still alive. He has left much of his archive at UCD: T.K. Whitaker

    To appreciate his role check Paul Bew, Henry Patterson, Seán Lemass and the making of modern Ireland, 1945-66 (London, 1982). Its old but IMHO still the best book on this period.
    "The thing that always annoyed me about traditional Irish historiography was the paradox of its Anglocentrism. People are now prepared, I think, to confront the possibility that many Irish problems are, in a sense, indigenous to the Irish situation." Roy Foster (1989).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cato View Post
    One of the greatest recent Irishmen, but hardly THE greatest ever.
    No, that's Bertie's title. He has a mug with it on it and everything. Cowen gave it to him.
    Happiness is a dry martini and a good woman … or a bad woman.
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    Well I think that the FG front bench has some talent that may prove to be of a Whittaker standard.

    We need to get this government out asap though. The fact is that FF attract a mob with great ability at vote getting but little real intelligence.

    For the future I would keep an eye out on George Lee and Varadkar. Whatever anyone can say those two (especially Varadkar) are possessed of incredible intellects and could prove great servants to the nation if given the opportunity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drico View Post
    Well I think that the FG front bench has some talent that may prove to be of a Whittaker standard.

    We need to get this government out asap though. The fact is that FF attract a mob with great ability at vote getting but little real intelligence.

    For the future I would keep an eye out on George Lee and Varadkar. Whatever anyone can say those two (especially Varadkar) are possessed of incredible intellects and could prove great servants to the nation if given the opportunity.
    I agree to a certain extent. Both have shown they have a brain in their heads and that they're not afraid to use it, which is generally something you don't see often in Dáil Éireann.
    I like lee but I've not seen enough of him to make a call yet. Varadkar is an odious little whelp though. He's got a ferret like personality, which is not altogether useless combined with his onvious smarts but he's neither a diplomat nor a statesman the same way Whitaker was/is.
    Happiness is a dry martini and a good woman … or a bad woman.
    –George Burns

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    Politics.ie Member wombat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TommyO'Brien View Post
    I don't like categorising people into who was the greatest. Whittaker was undoubtedly in my view one of the greatest.
    Its an interesting concept but Irishmn who had a world influence but are rarely mentioned are Hamilton, Boyle, Reynolds, Parsons, Walton (all Protestants)
    Beer is proof that God loves us - Benjamin Franklin

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