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Thursday, 18th April 2019

Bust of one of Drogheda’s greatest sons unveiled at Scholars Hotel

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The late TK Whitaker photographed at his home in Dublin with a painting of his beloved Drogheda in the background. Photo: Andy Spearman.

An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD unveiled a plaque to the memory of one of Drogheda’s greatest sons, the late Thomas Kenneth (TK) Whitaker, at Scholars Townhouse Hotel yesterday, Wednesday April 17th.

Whitaker was born on December 8th 1916 in Rostrevor, County Down, to a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother, his family moved to Drogheda when he was very young and he was reared in a house in William Street Drogheda.

He attended the Christian Brothers School which in those days was in the building which is now the Scholars Townhouse which was purchased by the Mc Gowan family in in 2001.

Whitaker’s son Kenneth and daughter in law Maeve attended the event representing the Whitaker family. Local Fine Gael Councillor Richard Culhane welcomed the guests in attendance before presenting a synopsis of Whitaker's life and public service.

An Tánaiste Mr Simon Coveney TD spoke of the tremendous contribution Dr Whitaker made leading to a revolution in the economic, social, political and cultural evolution of the country.

In 1956, at the age of 39, Whitaker was appointed Secretary of the Department of Finance. His appointment took place at a time when Ireland's economy was in deep depression. Economic growth was non-existent, inflation apparently insoluble, unemployment rife, living standards low and emigration at a figure not far below the birth rate.

He formed a team of officials within the department which produced a detailed study of the economy, culminating in a plan recommending policies for improvement. The plan was accepted by the government and was transformed into a White Paper which became known as the First Programme for Economic Expansion, and quite unusually this was published with his name attached in November 1958.

The programme which became known as the "Grey Book" brought the stimulus of foreign investment into the Irish economy.

Whitaker received many national and international honours and tributes for his achievements during his lifetime, most notably the conferral of "Irishman of the 20th Century" in 2001 and Greatest Living Irish Person in 2002. 

He served as Chancellor of the National University of Ireland from 1976 to 1996. He was also President of the Royal Irish Academy and as such, a member of the Board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland, from 1985 to 1987.

He died on 9 January 2017, a month after his 100th birthday. Mr Whitaker’s contribution to public life will be remembered and preserved on the plaque unveiled by An Tánaiste, etched in bronze on the building which was built in 1867.

Martin Mc Gowan of Scholars Townhouse Hotel, Fergus O' Dowd TD, Simon Coveney TD, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade , Ken and Maeve Whitaker , Sculptor  Yoram  Drori and Cllr Richie Culhane at the unveiling of the bust to the Late Ken Whitaker at  Scholarstown Hotel Drogheda.  Photo: Jimmy Weldon.

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