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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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Barrister and political commentator Noel Whelan has died aged 50

Whelan was highly involved in the referendum campaigns to legalise same sex marriage iand to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Whelan - left - played a significant role for the Yes side of the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum.
Whelan - left - played a significant role for the Yes side of the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid on the death of Noel Whelan – the barrister, political writer and former advisor – who has died, aged 50. 

Whelan was a regular columnist for the Irish Times and played an important role advocating for a Yes vote in 2015′s marriage equality campaign. 

The Irish Times confirmed that Whelan died yesterday evening after a short illness. 

A barrister for 19 years, Whelan was also a former advisor to Fianna Fáil and ran for the party as a general election candidate in 1997. 

He was well-known for his Irish Times column and featured regularly as a commentator on radio and television. 

Whelan was highly involved in the referendum campaigns to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015, and to Repeal the Eighth Amendment in 2018.

His well-researched, astute articles dealt with the arguments from the No side and outlined the cases for a Yes vote. 

Whelan also set up the Kennedy Summer School, which takes place in New Ross, Co Wexford and focuses on Irish-American history, culture and politics.  

Whelan was touted as a potential candidate in last year’s presidential election, but ruled himself out of the race when it became clear that sitting president Michael D Higgins was going to contest. 

Tributes

Tributes are being paid to Whelan this morning. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his sympathies, saying that “Ireland has lost a friend”. 

“So sad to hear that Noel Whelan has passed away. We come from different party backgrounds but I feel this morning like Ireland has lost a friend. Such a sharp intellect. So articulate and effective on marriage equality,” Varadkar tweeted. 

Journalist Dearbhail McDonald said Whelan’s death was “heartbreaking news to wake up to” and expressed her condolences with his family and friends.

“Noel Whelan was a mighty kindness, beyond generous with his support, insights & advices. I’ll miss his conversation and great wit,” she said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was “so sorry to learn of the death of Noel Whelan”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,” she said. 

Irish Times columnist and author Fintan O’Toole said Whelan’s death was “a terrible loss to his family, friends, and the public sphere”.

Whelan is survived by his wife Sinead McSweeney and his son Séamus. 

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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