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Statement on the resignation of former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Raphael Burke


It is with profound regret that I have today accepted, on behalf of the Government, the resignation of the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Raphael P. Burke and his resignation from Dáil Éireann. Pending the appointment of a successor I, as Taoiseach, will assume responsibility for the Department of Foreign Affairs pro-tem.

It is a double tragedy for Ray and his family that he should feel compelled to tender his resignation at a time of bereavement and great personal stress.

His outstanding record of public service over the past thirty years, first as a County Councillor and later as a T.D., as well as the remarkable twenty nine years service of his late father Patrick J. Burke, demonstrate in real terms the deep commitment of the Burke family to the people of Dublin North and Dublin County.

In recent times, as Minister for Foreign Affairs he was deeply involved on behalf of the nation, in the difficult and demanding search for agreement in the Northern Ireland Peace Process and he showed all the superb professional skills of organisation, communication and vigour, for which he was so rightly renowned. Both he and his family can feel immensely proud of the major role he played in Government, in successfully achieving the breakthrough which resulted in today's historic events in the North. I thank him for the consummate professionalism with which he always fulfilled his Ministerial duties.

Ray Burke always distinguished himself in the Ministries to which he was appointed, by his great managerial capabilities and his high work-rate:

  • he introduced a series of initiatives in law reform and structural changes while in the Department of Justice, as well as tackling the whole area of serious offences against children;

  • he opened up a whole new era of local broadcasting when he legislated for the now successful local radio network which has changed the face of Irish broadcasting;

  • he stood four square with the strategically important development of Dublin Airport in good times, and when times were tough; and

  • he was in turn an excellent Minister for the Environment, for Energy, for Communications, for Justice and for Foreign Affairs.

He brought further distinction to his proud family tradition, to his family and friends, to his colleagues and constituents. This country owes him a debt of gratitude for his work on behalf of the nation, and his constant commitment to quality performance in his allotted tasks.

Those who choose politics as a profession, know from the outset that they are putting their lives on the line in their determination to serve the public. They have to accept the criticism which attends their decisions and their every action. Their families too learn to take the brunt of stinging remarks, which often overstep the boundaries of civility and courtesy.

In the case of Ray Burke, I see a much more sinister development: the persistent hounding of an honourable man to resign his important position, on the basis of innuendo and unproven allegations. Some who would class themselves as protectors of basic civil rights have harried and hounded this man without according him the basic right of due process, which deems us innocent unless proven guilty. I believe personally that the according of due process is not just a basic right, but the very essence of common decency.

There has been a sustained campaign of incremental intensity. When this debate first began there were calls for Ray Burke to make a public statement. Then there were demands for a Dáil Statement, followed by Questions and Answers. But when it was agreed that a special Tribunal would deal with all the issues fairly and comprehensively, that was still not enough.

There comes a time when even the strongest shoulder bows, when even the stoutest heart falters, when even the very best can resist no longer.

I regret the resignation of Ray Burke, my party colleague for twenty years and my Cabinet colleague for most of that period.

I deeply regret the reasons for his resignation and the pain and anguish caused to Anne, his family and friends. It is an indictment of those involved in forcing him to this pass, that they clamoured for his resignation without giving him the proper opportunity of proving his case before a properly constituted Tribunal or otherwise.

I always found him to be a proud honourable man, loyal and true, persevering and principled, caring and committed but tough and a person who often lost friends very easily. On behalf of the Government and particularly on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I thank him for his distinguished years in the service of his constituents and his country.

7 October 1997