I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the death, after a long illness, of my close friend and former colleague, Eddie Collins. I extend heartfelt sympathy to his family.
Eddie was born in 1941. He served on Waterford Corporation from 1964 to 1981 and on Waterford County Council from 1979 to 1981. He was a distinguished economist and businessman.
I met Eddie Collins for the first time when I went to Waterford to campaign for him in the 1966 by election. It was an exciting old style campaign with parades and rallies on behalf of the rival parties as well as intense local canvassing. Eddie was the inheritor of the Redmondite tradition in Waterford City politics. While Eddie did not win the by election in 1966, he was elected to the Dail in the 1969 General Election and served in the Dail until 1987.
He represented Ireland on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for a number of years.
He was Fine Gael Spokesman on Education on the opposition benches from 1977 to 1981, and was exceptionally active in drafting new educational policies for the party. He proposed the establishment of local educational structures to give citizens more influence on education. He promoted an Adult Education Bill, which was strongly supported by Aontas, the national body for adult education.
When Fine Gael entered government in 1981, he became Minister of State for the Tanaiste, the late Michael O Leary, in the Department of Industry and Energy. This involved a very heavy work load.
In the 1982/87 government, he served as my Minister of State in the Department of Industry, Trade Commerce and Tourism. Again I found him to be an exceptionally hardworking, creative, reliable and loyal colleague.
When he lost his seat in the 1987, he continued his lifelong interest in education by becoming a lecturer in economics in the Tallaght Institute of Technology.
He was deeply affected by the death of his wife , Lelia, a few years ago.