Saturday 23 February 2019

Tributes to 'global thinker' Sutherland who opened country to tourism success

International statesman Peter Sutherland has died aged 71
International statesman Peter Sutherland has died aged 71

Tributes have been paid to Ireland's best-known international statesman, Peter Sutherland, who died after a long illness, aged 71.

Mr Sutherland, who was credited with leading a successful drive for cheap air fares, had a glittering career, and political leaders spoke about the important contribution he made over many decades.

President Michael D Higgins led the tributes.

"It is with sadness that I have learned of the death of Peter Sutherland, former attorney general, European commissioner and director general of the GATT/World Trade Organisation," he said.

"In recent years in particular, Peter concentrated on what were some of the important global issues of the day, and he leaves an important legacy through his work as UN special representative of the secretary-general for international migration, having brought the importance of migration to the forefront of public thought and policy."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was a "statesman in every sense of the word, an Irishman, a committed European and a proud internationalist".

"He played a very important role in Irish public life throughout the 1980s, first as attorney general and then as EU commissioner," Mr Varadkar said.

"Among his achievements was the creation of the Erasmus exchange programme, which allows European students to study in other EU countries and which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year."

He said that Mr Sutherland's work on the Open Skies policy helped make low cost air travel across the continent possible and opened up Ireland to its tourism success.


"Peter Sutherland had a passion for public affairs and made a significant contribution to Ireland, Europe and the world over a number of decades," he said.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said: "I knew him as a compassionate, driven, global thinker who was always willing to challenge views. His intellect was extraordinary, and he used his talents to be one of Ireland's most influential people, in business, politics and across human rights globally.

"I would like to extend my condolences to his wife Maruja, his children Shane, Natalia, and Ian, and his grandchildren, at this sad time," Mr Coveney added.

Mr Sutherland's successes over the course of his distinguished career were recognised by a host of awards and honorary doctorates from all across Europe, the USA and further afield. A native of Dublin, he was educated at Gonzaga College, University College Dublin and King's Inns, and quickly established himself as an accomplished barrister. He had a long association with Fine Gael and taoiseach Garret FitzGerald appointed him attorney general in June 1981, at the age of 35.

A keen sportsman, Mr Sutherland loved rugby, captaining Landsdowne RFC, and was also a keen tennis player. He had a number of health issues in recent years.

In 2010 he spoke of his battle with throat cancer, and more than a year ago he suffered a major heart attack which curtailed his activities.

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