Those We Lost

From left: Desmond Connell, Frank Delaney, Ronan Fanning, Dermot Gallagher, Mary Tyler Moore, and Magie Roche.

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
April / May 2017

Recent passings in Ireland and Irish America.


Desmond Connell

1926 – 2017

Former archbishop of Dublin Cardinal Desmond Connell, who stepped down from the position during the 2004 furor over the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse cases perpetrated by members of the clergy, died in February at the age of 90.

Ordained at Clonliffe College, Dublin in 1951, Connell served as dean of the philosophy faculty at University College Dublin before being appointed archbishop in 1998. In 2001 he became the first archbishop in over 120 years to be elevated to a cardinal. Despite being one of the earliest Irish prelates to speak out on behalf of refugee rights, he was also a staunch defender of church doctrines regarding homosexuality, contraception, and divorce.

In late 1998, it emerged that Connell had lent archdiocesan money to an abusive priest in order to silence a survivor. Connell was brought under public scrutiny, but, in 2004, still mounted a Dublin High Court challenge to block access to files on 5,500 priests and abuse allegations dating back to 1975. This led to national outrage and in 2009 judge Yvonne Murphy concluded that the Dublin Archdiocese had failed to protect children and abuse victims due to self-preservation and avoidance of scandal. Connell then arranged for compensation payments to be made from a “stewardship trust” that was kept secret from the archdiocese’s parishioners until 2003.

One survivor, Marie Collins, told RTÉ that Connell’s death had brought back painful memories. “He was a man without any pastoral background,” she said, arguing that his academic background was no substitution for experience with parishioners’ everyday lives.

Frank Delaney

1942 – 2017

Frank Delaney, one of the foremost experts on James Joyce’s Ulysses and once dubbed “the most eloquent man in the world” by NPR, died in February at the age of 74. Delaney, also an author and broadcaster, was born in County Tipperary, though was based in Connecticut with his wife, New York advertising executive Diane Meier, by whom he is survived, since 2002. He had three sons from a previous marriage.

Delaney discovered his first copy of Ulysses abandoned on a Dublin bus seat by an American tourist. After his first perusal of Leopold Bloom’s famously dense Odyssean sojourn through Dublin, however, he dismissed it as unreadable. It wasn’t until 1980 when, working as a BBC arts broadcaster in London, he happened across it again. “I began to read it aloud, and it started to make sense,” he said later, “because it’s not a novel, it’s a prose poem.” This was the genesis of Delaney’s passion to open Ulysses up for the average reader.

His first novel, James Joyce’s Odyssey (1981), was a bestseller in Ireland and the U.K. He also created BBC Radio programs Bookshelf and Word of Mouth, as well as The Book Show for Sky News.

“Infectious enthusiasm was the rare, special quality that Frank Delaney brought to the work of James Joyce,” said a spokesperson of the James Joyce Center, Dublin. An innovative user of digital media, Delaney began the weekly podcast Re:Joyce on Bloomsday 2010, a page-by-page analysis of allusions and historical context in Ulysses, which by the time of his death comprised 368 episodes reaching over 2.5 million listeners.

Ronan Fanning

1941 – 2017

Celebrated historian and professor emeritus of modern history at University College Dublin Ronan Fanning died in January after a battle with cancer at the age of 75.

The author behind many noteworthy books such as Will to Power, a biography of Eamon de Valera, and Fatal Path, a comprehensive study of Anglo-Irish relations in the 20th century, Fanning was described in an official tribute by President Michael D. Higgins as “an admired and respected historian whose extensive research and writings delivered a rich legacy to Irish scholarship.”

Between 1977 and 1976, Fanning served as Fulbright professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. There, he developed a keen sense of the effect of Irish American nationalism on Irish politics in the 20th century, as shown in chapter seven of Fatal Path, “Blood in Their Eyes: The American Dimension,” a reference by the British ambassador to the U.S. regarding Irish American attitudes to the U.K.

A respected journalist, too, Fanning wrote weekly on current affairs for the Sunday Independent. Last June, he discussed Brexit in the Irish Times, calling it “Ireland’s biggest policy test since the Second World War.”

“Professor Fanning was a brilliant teacher, researcher and writer,” RTÉ broadcaster and historian David McCullough told the Irish Times. “His lectures in UCD were always accessible, illuminating, and entertaining.”

Born to an Irish doctor and English preschool teacher, Fanning received his undergraduate degree from University College Dublin and his doctorate from Cambridge University. He is predeceased by his wife, Virginia, and survived by their three children.

Dermot Gallagher

1944 – 2017

Former secretary general at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs Dermot Gallagher died in January at the age of 72. Said by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to have left “an indelible mark on the diplomatic and public service landscape,” Gallagher was an instrumental figure in the peace process.

Appointed to the Department of External Affairs as Northern tensions peaked in 1969, Gallagher was approached on weekend duty by nationalist MPs from the North, who demanded to meet Taoiseach Jack Lynch to obtain arms for the Catholic presence on Falls Road in Belfast. Gallagher promised to convey their request.

He obtained a post at the San Francisco Irish consulate in 1971, and in 1985, acting as Irish ambassador in Lagos, Nigeria, said he learned “a great deal about what matters in life.” He returned to Dublin soon after to take charge of Northern Irish policy in the Anglo-Irish division. Working under Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1987, Gallagher assured the Anglo-Irish Agreement was implemented to its utmost potential.

In 1991, he was appointed as Irish ambassador to the U.S. and quickly befriended Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, who later helped secure a travel visa for Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in aid of the peace process. Returning from the U.S. in 1997, Gallagher amassed a team of officials for negotiations at Stormont, and after the success of the Good Friday Agreement, became secretary general for the Department of the Taoiseach, later moving on to secretary general for the Department for Foreign Affairs, a position he held until his death.

Born in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Limerick, Gallagher is survived by his wife, Maeve, and three children.

Mary Tyler Moore

1936 – 2017

Comedy icon of the 1960s and ’70s Mary Tyler Moore, famous for her starring roles in The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died in January. She was 80 years old. Credited by many as the mother of the female-driven television comedy, Moore helped define a new vision of womanhood in the entertainment industry.

Making her debut as The Dick Van Dyke Show’s Laura Petrie in 1961, Moore destabilized the dichotomy of the television housewife – Laura was neither impossibly perfect nor a bumbling caricature, but her husband’s equal in an otherwise patriarchal sitcom world. Further walls were demolished when, in 1970, Moore became the star of her own half-hour special, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which centered around the unmarried, work-centered life of Mary Richards, a character whose iconic spunk inspired a generation of American women to seek out a career.

By show’s end in 1977, it had won 29 Emmy awards. Moore continued to act on both screen and stage, wrote two memoirs, and advocated for diabetes research since her own diagnosis in 1969.

“I think a lot of young women got a lot of inspiration from her,” said her former co-star, Dick Van Dyke. “She was way ahead of her time.”

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Moore was part Irish on her father’s side, with her great-great grandmother, Margaret Cline Clooney, hailing from County Westmeath. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Robert Levine.

Maggie Roche

1951 – 2017

Irish American singer Maggie Roche, the elder sister of Terre and Suzzy Roche, with whom she formed folk-rock trio The Roches in 1973, died of cancer in February.

Roche grew up in Park Ridge, New Jersey, in an Irish Catholic family. Her father, John Roche, was an actor and also wrote political jingles for local candidates, which Maggie and Terre would sing. Maggie, who wrote songs on the guitar she received for her 13th birthday, made her first big break when she and Terre were signed as backup singers on Paul Simon’s 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. Two years later, they released an album of their own, Maggie and Terre Roche. Shortly after, Suzzy completed the trio and the group frequented Greenwich Village’s folk venues, becoming known for their complex harmonization of Maggie’s contralto with Terre’s soprano while Suzzy filled in the mid-range.

In 1979, they released the first of their 12 albums recorded over 28 years as trio, The Roches, which included “The Married Men,” later recorded by The Phoebe Show. In “We,” the first song on The Roches, they established the offbeat charm that would become their calling-card: “We are Maggie and Terre and Suzzy / Maggie and Terre and Suzzy Roche / We don’t give out our ages, and we don’t give out our phone numbers / Sometimes our voices give out. But not our ages and our phone numbers / And as a point of interest, we spell our name R-O-C-H-E.”

“[Maggie was] authentic – not a false bone in her body,” Suzzy said in a statement, adding that her sister was “a brilliant songwriter, with a distinct, unique perspective, all heart and soul.”

In addition to her sisters, Maggie is survived by a brother, David, her partner Michael, and son Ed. ♦

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