WARM tributes have been paid to former Newcastle West politician Ned O’Dwyer, who passed away last week at the age of 88.
Mr O’Dwyer spent 17 years as a Labour Party county councillor, and was the last Newcastle West man to hold the post of council cathaoirleach. He has been remembered as a progressive, outgoing politician with a strong sense of social justice.
Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, Cllr Jerome Scanlan, said that Mr O’Dwyer “served Newcastle West with great distinction”
“The town was very dear to him, and he certainly made a difference. He served Newcastle West with great distinction, and had genuine concerns for people living in poor conditions, particularly on Lower Maiden Street”.
Mr O’Dwyer was educated at the Courtenay Boys national school and the old vocational school, before later earning a diploma in social studies at University College Cork.
Despite coming from a Fianna Fail family background, he joined the Labour Party and began his career as a public representative in 1962, when he was co-opted on to Limerick County Council to fill the seat left vacant following the resignation of Patrick Ahern. He would remain on the council until 1979.
Mr O’Dwyer contested a number of general elections and by-elections unsuccessfully in the old Limerick West constituency. He came third in the 1967 by-election, in which Gerry Collins was first elected to the Dail, and later ran in both the 1969 and 1977 general elections.
The highlight of his political career locally was his two-year tenure as county council cathaoirleach from 1970-1972, during which time he oversaw a number of far-reaching changes. He was the first cathaoirleach in Ireland to publish a local authority annual report, a leap forward in accountability of local government which did not become a legal requirement until almost twenty years later. The county council’s local area committees were also established during Mr O’Dwyer’s tenure.
Away from his political work, Mr O’Dwyer ran a very successful painting business with his brother. Mr O’Dwyer was pre-deceased by his wife, Sheila, and daughter, Sheila, and is survived by his sons Liam and Seamus, and daughters Annette and Marion. In his later years he lived in Hazelgrove, and spent a number of years in care at Beechwood nursing home, where he passed away last Wednesday.
Newcastle West county councillor Michael Collins described Mr O’Dwyer as a “highly regarded” and “very jolly” character, while Cllr Damien Riedy said that “growing up in Newcastle West, we all knew Ned O’Dwyer and the work he did for the town”.