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Niamh Bhreathnach Eamonn Farrell/

Tributes paid following death of former Education Minister Niamh Bhreathnach

Bhreathnach worked as a Labour party Councillor in Blackrock, Dublin and later as a TD for Dún Laoghaire.

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid following the death of former Minister for Education Niamh Bhreathnach at the age of 77.

Bhreathnach worked as a Labour party Councillor in Blackrock, Dublin and later as a TD for Dún Laoghaire. 

Her first appointment to Cabinet was in 1993 when she became Minister for Education.

She is well known for the abolition of tuition fees for third level education.  

Paying tribute to her, President Michael D Higgins said Bhreathnach was appointed as Minister for Education on the same day he became Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. 

“I can recall that we were all possessed of a great sense of anxiety that we must take our opportunity to get changes done and Niamh set about that task with gusto,” Higgins said. 

“She remained deeply interested in the education sector and broader public affairs up to recent weeks. She will be deeply missed,” the President added. 

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Bhreathnach’s passing.

“Throughout her political life, Niamh was dedicated and committed to education, particularly in the area of reform. She had a focus on addressing disadvantage through the Breaking The Cycle scheme, and the Leaving Cert Applied programme,” Martin said.

“Niamh was a committed Labour party member, and as shadow spokesman on education, I enjoyed our many exchanges in the Dáil. Niamh was always courteous and kind, and thoroughly committed to public service.

“My sympathies to her husband Tom, her children, family and friends.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik has also paid tribute to Bhreathnach, calling her a “true feminist and socialist, and an unstoppable campaigner for equality”.

“Niamh was always a wonderful personal friend and it was my great pleasure to work with her over many years,” Bacik said. 

“She played a critical internal role in the growth and transformation of the Labour Party through the 1980s and 1990s serving as party chairperson in the early 1990s. Further, she played a vital role with Labour Women and was a passionate advocate for gender equality in our politics,” she said. 

Bacik added that Bhreathnach’s “vision for education was the central role of the child and ensuring an accessible and high quality education system to allow children to develop and reach their full potential”.

“Our hearts are broken to hear of her death, but her legacy of achievement will be remembered by all who knew her,” she said. 

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